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Updated: 40 min 31 sec ago

The growing burden of diabetes

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Next time you're looking around in a crowd, there is something you won't see that will be there - Type 2 diabetes. Most Americans have heard of the condition, but very few understand just how prevalent it has become across the nation. In fact, Type 2 diabetes affects at least one in every 10 Americans. That’s about 9.3 percent of the population or 29.1 million people and a dramatic increase from 2010 when 25.8 million people, or 8.3 percent, were living with diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If this growing health problem isn’t addressed, the CDC estimates it will affect one in every three Americans by 2050.

Diabetes also affects loved ones and places an unsustainable burden on the health care system. With current medical costs at $176 billion annually as reported by the American Diabetes Association, people with diabetes have, on average, 2.3 times higher medical expenditures. Factor in the $69 billion in indirect costs – disability, work loss, premature death – and you can understand the substantial burden diabetes represents in this country. Diabetes remains the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Many of those who die are vulnerable because they are low-income, uninsured or under-insured individuals with limited access to quality health care. 

What’s being done?

Initiatives like the Alliance to Reduce Disparities in Diabetes, supported by the Merck Foundation, are helping tackle this problem. The Alliance works to improve the delivery and quality of care for people most affected by the disease. Working with national, regional and community partners, the Alliance is implementing programs to educate the public about diabetes prevention and teach people living with diabetes how to manage their condition and take charge of their health. Programs include diabetes management classes, home visits and cultural awareness/communication training for health care providers as well as innovative health care system changes to ensure that programs are sustained over time.

The Alliance is delivering hope to people with diabetes across the country with program sites in Camden, New Jersey; Chicago; Dallas; Memphis, Tennessee; and the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. People with diabetes who are enrolled in the Camden program have already seen a substantial reduction in the number of preventable hospital and emergency room visits. Patients enrolled across all five sites have also shown a decrease in blood sugar – an important step in preventing complications from diabetes. If similar programs were established across the country, cost savings could be considerable.

Know your risk

As the saying goes, you can’t manage what you don’t measure - so understanding your risk of diabetes is half the battle. Type 2 diabetes can affect people of any age in any region, but certain ethnic groups are more likely to be diagnosed with the disease than others.

In particular, African Americans are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as non-Hispanic whites and more likely to experience complications. Diabetes is more prevalent among Hispanic populations as well. On average, Hispanics are 1.7 times more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanic whites. Native Americans and Alaska Native adults are also twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as non-Hispanic white adults.

While many vulnerable, underserved populations are at increased risk of diabetes, there is hope. Diabetes is a serious condition, but one that can be effectively managed by medication adherence, proper diet and exercise and receiving more coordinated health care. Initiatives like the Alliance are working to close gaps in access and improve the quality of health care for vulnerable populations. To learn more about diabetes and the work of the Alliance, visit the Alliance to Reduce Disparities in Diabetes website at

Simple tips to lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes
It is essential to seek advice from a medical professional if you feel you may be at risk for Type 2 diabetes. However, these steps presented in The Nutrition Source by the Harvard School of Public Health, may lower your chances of being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes:

* Stop smoking

* Lose excess weight

* Exercise for 30 minutes each day

* Eat healthy foods and limit excess sugar and processed meats

Categories: Lifestyle

Teaching kids to give back

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - One of the most rewarding reasons to get involved in your community is to set a good example for your kids. Whether you donate money or time, giving back is beneficial, and not just for the recipients. The reward for your selfless acts can be a beautiful thing for both your community and your children’s future. But what are some of the ways you can teach kids to give back and what age should you begin encouraging them?

Giving back is just as much about volunteering as it is about philanthropy. Dr. Lois Winchell, child and family therapist at Argosy University, Sarasota, believes it should be a combination of both. “If we want our children to give back, our families need to be involved in multiple activities,” says Winchell. “These include volunteering resources and time and giving money when possible. Learning how to donate time can be a very powerful lesson for children because it is a giving of ourselves. This intimate experience can be significant and can often reap a more personal reward than the offering of money and things.”

As with everything else in life, kids learn best by example. The closer you can bring your child to the recipient of the gift, the more personal the experience becomes.

“Nurturing a sense of giving and making sure this is a value for your children starts as early as age 3 or 4,” says Winchell. “At this developmental age, we can teach them that others have feelings and that your child has an impact on those feelings. This sense of empathy is the underpinning of charity. The most significant impact on our children is what they actually see us doing as it relates to a giving spirit. As we engage in specific projects, we can have conversations with our children regarding why the project is important and who will benefit.”

Start by expanding their sense of environment, from the immediate family to their local community and eventually the world around them. A sense of awareness of something greater than themselves is important in raising a compassionate individual. This sense of responsibility to others and the environment as a world citizen can be supported by making children aware of others’ needs whether in visiting a shelter or a food banks with family members or simply helping younger siblings.

“From infancy to about 5 years old, children aren’t necessarily capable of thinking outside of themselves. Even so, parents need to foster their child’s sharing with others,” says Winchell. As children grow older they can begin volunteering and supporting community projects more directly. Whether they donate toys to a children’s shelter or simply participate in a walk for charity, these years are important for a child to learn the art of giving back. When they become teenagers, they can do even more for the community by assisting an elderly neighbor with his yard work or helping out at a local food bank or soup kitchen.

Additionally, it is important to convey the message that “giving back” does not include an expectation of getting something in return. Instead, highlight the sense of joy in being able to make someone happy and how those feelings are the greater gift.

“When a child experiences sharing and the serving of others, an internal sense of contentment and self-worth is experienced,” says Winchell. “This self-enhancement and sense of belonging is coincident with their giving and results in a benefit that cannot be gained any other way. This sense of happiness and accomplishment then contributes to their positive sense of self.” In other words, teaching kids to give back is one of the best things a parent can do for the community and the child.

Categories: Lifestyle

Simple steps people with diabetes can take to improve their quality of life

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - One of the ways people with diabetes can help manage their disease is balancing food with physical activity, according to the American Diabetes Association (Association). By maintaining a balanced diet with regular exercise, you have the ingredients needed to help live a quality life.

There are many ways you can approach a balanced lifestyle and incorporate regular exercise. Here are five tips from the Association to help you get started:

1. Create a healthy plate – It’s easy to put together healthy meals when you use the diabetes plate method. Start with drawing an imaginary line down the middle of the plate. On one side, cut the section in half again. Fill the largest section with non-starchy vegetables like green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, and carrots. In one of the smaller sections, put grains and starchy foods, and put protein foods in the last section. Add a serving of fruit, a serving of dairy, or both as your meal plan allows. To complete your meal, add a low-calorie drink like water, unsweetened tea or coffee.

2. Healthy snacks – When it comes to snacking, think beyond chips and cookies. There are better choices that will give you a nutrition boost and keep you feeling satisfied until your next meal. Some good ideas are small portions of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and low-fat dairy.

3. Exercise and blood glucose – With diabetes, safely exercising while maintaining healthy blood glucose levels is important. The Association recommends you have a plan on how to treat hypoglycemia, especially if you have type 1 diabetes. Having a fast-acting carbohydrate like glucose tabs or glucose gel available during your exercise routine can help you to quickly treat hypoglycemia. Test your blood glucose levels (if prescribed) to see how different types of exercise affect you.

4. Aerobic exercises – Aerobic exercise is important for everyone. For good health, it is recommended that you aim for 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic exercise at least 5 days a week or a total of 150 minutes per week. Examples of aerobic exercises include brisk walking, biking, dancing, rowing, playing tennis, swimming and climbing stairs. These kinds of exercises help lower blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol. Aerobic exercise also makes your heart and bones strong, lowers stress and can improve blood circulation.

5. Strength training is also important – Aim to do some type of strength training at least two times per week. Lifting weights or using weight machines, resistance bands and calisthenics are all great options. Strength training helps lower your blood glucose and builds stronger muscles and bones.

For those with diabetes who are interested in getting active, and their friends and family who want to support them, the Association has 108 Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes signature fundraising walks happening across the country. These walks have raised more than $20 million a year to support the Association’s mission to prevent and cure diabetes, and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes.

Walking this year are Mitch and Carly Lenett, a father-daughter team of Red Striders. Red Striders are walkers living with type 1, type 2 or gestational diabetes. They are a reminder of why this walk exists.

“As a person who has lived with type 1 diabetes for 45 years, and a father to Carly, who is also living with type 1, walking side by side with other Red Striders is an empowering experience,” Mitch says.

Though the pair has raised thousands of dollars for their local Step Out walk, the family wanted to raise even more for the Association, so Carly combined her love of swimming with fundraising. In the last two years, she has raised more than $20,000 in pledges just for swimming laps. In 2013, at 8 years old, she swam 110 laps, more than 1.5 miles, with Olympic silver medalist Kristy Kowal by her side all the way.

“Carly is such an inspiration, not just to me as a father, but as a fellow person with type 1 diabetes,” Mitch says. “She is a true demonstration that diabetes doesn’t have to stop you.”

Carly is now in training for her 3-mile swim with Kowal on Sept. 20. Her goal is to raise $15,000.

For more information about the Step Out walks or to register for a walk in your community, visit or call (888) DIABETES (888-342-2383).

Categories: Lifestyle

Hospice reminds grieving children they are not alone

Wed, 08/20/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Imagine feeling suddenly sad, angry, alone, confused and worried, without really understanding why. This is how 75 percent of grieving children claim they feel after losing a loved one, according to the National Alliance for Grieving Children. While the journey to acceptance of a loss is difficult for everyone, a child’s limited ability to understand death can make his or her way of grieving much more difficult. Children of all ages grieve differently than adults, and hospice professionals can provide the help they need.

Regardless of whether or not a child’s loved one received hospice care, grief and bereavement services provided by hospice for children can help them realize that feeling this loss is normal. In addition, hospice can provide tools to help parents, guardians and teachers of grieving children. Hospice resources can include individual or family counseling and referral information if another form of help is needed. Some also offer support groups for families with children of any age with any type of loss and grief groups that can be facilitated through schools to target children of a specific age. Some hospices also host camps, like Hospice Savannah’s Camp Aloha, where children can learn to grieve and heal together.

Hospice Savannah (Georgia) hosts Camp Aloha every year as a way to bring children ages 6 to 17 together and remind them that they are not alone. The name, Camp Aloha, comes from the dual meaning of the Hawaiian word, acknowledging that life is about both hello and goodbye. The concept of death is difficult for many children to fully understand, so the goal of Camp Aloha is to help them come together to learn that grieving is normal and healthy, not something that should make them feel isolated.

Here are three main ways that childhood grief differs from adult grieving, and how hospice can help:

1. Children have a tough time accepting that death is forever.

To young children, death can seem temporary or reversible, especially if their current perception of life is the day-to-day consistency of care from a lost loved one. Grief camps can help children work through this confusion in subtle ways, such as allowing children to write letters or create art in remembrance of their lost loved ones. This can help children work toward an understanding that while that person may no longer have a physical presence, there are other ways to communicate, thus altering the meaning of forever.

2. Children tend to act out in physical or unrelated ways.

Young children may have short, intense grief bursts that are followed by normal play and activities, while older children can experience severe shifts in mood or in the quality of school work. With such contrasting behaviors, it can sometimes be difficult for adults to identify these as normal symptoms of grief. Hospice can provide additional resources and counsel to help parents identify how to best manage these moments, and recognize when and if additional support is needed.

3. Children require an explanation in order to prepare for a loved one’s death.

Many parents find it difficult or uncomfortable to explain to their kids that a sick grandmother will not get better. They may steer clear of the words death or dying to avoid scaring young children. In reality, it is important to prepare children for the death of a loved one, if possible. Hospice support groups and counselors can provide creative, gentle ways to teach this to youngsters, or provide parents with the tools to explain death to their children themselves.

Of children who have attended grief groups or counseling, 76 percent said that their favorite part was meeting people who are sharing a similar experience according to the National Alliance for Grieving Children. The groups and camps offered by hospice remind children that they are not alone. Hospice can help children understand their path to a new normal, meaning more moments of life and joy in remembering their loved one.

For more information on coping with grief and loss, visit

Categories: Lifestyle

Don't make these common mistakes when something hurts

Wed, 08/20/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Managing pain can be tough, whether you’re one of the 100 million Americans with chronic pain, or only suffer from the occasional backache or headache. September is National Pain Awareness Month, the perfect time to make sure you’re managing your pain the best way possible.

While many people can manage pain on their own, or can be helped by a primary care physician, those with unrelenting, challenging pain should consider seeing a pain medicine specialist.

“One of the biggest mistakes patients make is not visiting a pain medicine specialist such as a physician anesthesiologist when they experience persistent, complex pain,” says Dr. Richard Rosenquist, chair of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) Committee on Pain Medicine and chairman of the Department of Pain Management in the Anesthesiology Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. “Physician anesthesiologists and other pain medicine specialists can fully assess a patient’s pain and prescribe a treatment plan. This may incorporate medications, injections that can control pain for up to a year, spinal cord stimulation, physical and psychological therapies and alternative therapies, such as acupuncture.”

The ASA and its physician anesthesiologist members note these five mistakes patients in pain often make:

1. Taking medication incorrectly. Whether you’re taking opioids (narcotics) for chronic pain or an over-the-counter pain remedy such as ibuprofen for a sore back, don’t take more than prescribed or recommended by the manufacturer. With prescription pain medication, taking more than directed can lead to addiction or even accidental overdose. It’s critical to follow your physician’s instructions carefully. If you’re still in pain after taking the prescribed dose, contact your physician to discuss other pain relief options.

2. Choosing the wrong medication. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help you manage the pain of a sprained ankle or twisted knee without seeing a doctor. But choosing the right pain relief medication can depend on your health history. If you have liver problems or consume three or more alcoholic drinks a night, avoid acetaminophen which can cause liver damage. And anti-inflammatory pain relievers such as ibuprofen and naproxen can make high blood pressure and kidney disease worse, so ask your physician or a pharmacist for an alternative recommendation.

3. Demanding an X-ray. Studies show tests such as X-rays and MRIs do not do a good job of pinpointing the cause of pain. For example, you might have pain, but nothing shows up on the image. And vice versa – sometimes things show up on X-rays that aren’t causing problems or pain. That’s why it’s so important to see a physician who can assess your symptoms and order the most effective tests when necessary.

4. Not thinking outside the pill box. Many treatments that don’t involve taking medication help people in pain find relief. For example, spinal cord stimulation uses electrical signals to short circuit pain in the lower back and legs. Other alternative treatments that may help include injections, acupuncture, massage, meditation and physical therapy.

5. Neglecting your overall health. Studies show people who smoke are more likely to have chronic pain, so if you smoke get the help you need to quit. Also, be sure to eat healthy. Studies show following an anti-inflammatory diet of wholesome, unprocessed foods (vegetables and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as wild salmon and walnuts) may help reduce pain. The healthier you are, the better you’ll feel and the less pain you’ll have.

For more information about pain treatment and finding a pain medicine specialist, visit

Categories: Lifestyle

Passion pays off: No-kill movement saves millions of animals per year

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Americans like to think of themselves as a pet-loving society; today, nearly 70 million dogs and 74 million cats live in U.S. households, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Yet as recently as 30 years ago, animal shelters across the country routinely killed an estimated 17 million companion animals a year as a means of population control.

Today, the no-kill movement – which advocates adoption and spaying/neutering, rather than euthanasia to control the companion animal population – has helped reduce significantly the number of animals killed in shelters, saving about 13 million per year. The handful of passionate activists who helped launch the movement three decades ago say there is still work to be done, and that everyday Americans, working together, can help end the killing of shelter animals altogether.

“All life has intrinsic value,” says Francis Battista, a co-founder of Best Friends Animal Society, which has been at the forefront of the no-kill movement for three decades. “By relating with kindness and unconditional love toward the most vulnerable members of our society, we are celebrating the intrinsic value of life, uplifting society as a whole, and moving us all toward the better, kinder and more loving community we all aspire to live in.”

In 1984, when a group of 28 passionate activists founded the first Best Friends Animal Society no-kill sanctuary in Utah, American shelters practiced killing as the primary means of controlling the country’s population of unwanted companion pets. Five years later, no-kill advocate Ed Duvin wrote a revolutionary article, “In the Name of Mercy,” that challenged conventional wisdom about the “kindest” way to manage homeless animals, appealed for a new ethic in animal sheltering and set the philosophical stage for the no-kill movement.

Just 10 years after the founding of Best Friends, the city of San Francisco became America’s first “no-kill city,” when the San Francisco SPCA and the city’s Department of Animal Care and Control established an adoption pact for homeless animals. Today, communities across the country have adopted the no-kill philosophy., a website that tracks the progress of the no-kill movement, currently lists 264 communities that either credibly report they have a “live release rate” of 90 percent or more – meaning the majority of animals taken into their shelters are saved – or that approach that percentage.

Since the inception of the no-kill movement, millions of homeless animals have been saved. Still, animal advocacy groups estimate that just 3 million to 4 million of the 6 million to 8 million animals that enter shelters each year are adopted. What’s more, Best Friends estimates that 90 percent of all the animals that enter shelters each year could be adoptable.

Adoption and spay/neutering programs are key alternatives to killing homeless animals.

In addition to adopting from animal shelters, you can support the no-kill movement by:

* Volunteering or financially supporting your local no-kill shelter.

* Donating supplies or your time.

* Choosing not to do business with pet stores that get their animals from puppy mills.

* Having your pets spayed or neutered to help control the animal population.

* Founding a capture, spay/neuter and release program if your community has a feral cat population.

To learn more about the no-kill movement, visit

“It’s important for people to understand that the no-kill movement is deeply rooted in the basic principle of kindness,” says Gregory Castle, a Cambridge-educated philosophy major who built the roads and electrical systems for the original Best Friends sanctuary in 1984 and is now the organization's CEO. “If we dismiss the importance of being kind to animals, we won’t be successful in our efforts to be kind to each other. By caring for animals, we’re learning how to better care for each other.”

Categories: Lifestyle

Giving back to the everyday heroes who inspire you

Fri, 08/08/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - When you think of public servants or people who do heroic jobs, do you picture police officers, firefighters and soldiers? While all those people selflessly serve the public, they’re not the only everyday heroes whose jobs contribute to the greater good. The field of public service is broad, encompassing teachers, health care workers, law enforcement professionals and social workers.

Demand is high for caring, trained professionals to fill a growing number of jobs in public service fields. In fact, job opportunities are expected to grow 22 percent for social and human service assistants, 7 percent for firefighters, 6 percent for high school teachers and 5 percent for police officers and detectives, across the nation by 2022 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Some of the professionals to fill those jobs will come directly from colleges like Kaplan University, where first-time students will pursue coursework designed to specifically prepare them for public service careers. Others will be career changers, like Arthur Chapel and Melissa Bowermaster, who entered public service after enduring personal challenges and were inspired by the caring help of other public servants.

“I was in a bad place, and someone helped me,” says Arthur Chapel, who successfully completed substance-abuse treatment and then decided to change careers to become a counselor. “Now I give back by helping others who need it. I have the satisfying career I always wanted and I get up every day eager to go to work because I know I’m helping people who need it.”

“Working in law enforcement, I saw every day the caring of the human services people I came into contact with,” says Melissa Bowermaster, executive director of Citrus County Child Advocacy Center in Florida. Her interaction with these professionals, especially those who worked with children, inspired her to return to school to pursue a human services degree. After graduating from Kaplan University with a bachelor’s degree of science in human services, Bowermaster went to work advocating for children in need in Citrus County.

Chapel and Bowermaster aren’t alone in finding inspiration from the everyday heroism of public servants. Each day, these professionals have a positive effect on thousands of people across the country. In honor of Public Service Recognition Week, May 4 to 10, Kaplan University is inviting the public to salute the everyday heroes in their lives.

Post a photo and story of your everyday hero – police officer, firefighter, EMS, early childhood teacher, social worker or other – using the tag #PublicServiceStars through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or Google+, and then register at the #PublicServiceStars Wall of Heroes. As a thanks for submitting your story, you’ll have the chance to make a difference in the lives of others. Kaplan University will make a $500 donation to the favorite charitable cause of one lucky participant.

To learn more about public service career opportunities, visit or the Center for Public Service website.

Categories: Lifestyle

Tips to successfully transform from graduate to employee

Thu, 08/07/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - With the start of summer comes warm weather, vacation planning and an influx of recent graduates on the job hunt. In fact, during the 2013–14 school year, colleges and universities are expected to award nearly 5.3 million degrees, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. All those recent grads can easily translate to a highly competitive job market.

As students begin planning for their future outside the classroom and preparing for the next chapter of their lives - finding a job, apartment hunting, paying back student loans - many realize that graduation is an opportunity to refresh one’s persona and digital reputation. This can include social media makeovers, refreshing your tech skills and upgrading your outdated email service to something more suitable for the next phase in life.

“Think of your digital footprint – your email address, social media and even the results of a search of your name – as the first impression you make on a company or recruiter. An excellent one will open doors,” says Karen Elizaga, executive coach and author of Find Your Sweet Spot: A Guide to Personal and Professional Excellence. “Because recruiters and executives receive hundreds of inquiries a day, they need easy ways to weed people out. Many recent grads overlook the importance of their digital footprint and use amusing, old email addresses that undermine the professional image they want to convey, or their social media pages reflect a candidate who is irresponsible, profane or disrespectful, any of which quickly moves someone to the ‘no’ pile. Jobseekers first task: clean up their digital image and make sure it makes a positive impression.”

There are several mail tools and features recent grads should leverage when making the transition from student to newly employed, including:

* Manage your email reputation: Your email says a lot about you. In fact, it can be thought of as your first impression to employers. Whether you need to migrate over from an outdated email address or upgrade to a more professional email username,’s import wizard allows you to import and manage your mail from Yahoo Mail, Gmail and many other email providers. You can even keep your old email addresses, but manage them all from one place.

Additionally 81 percent of all email users are using multiple email services, making it hard to keep up with numerous or old accounts, a recent study by Radius Global revealed. Consider consolidating to one personal email address to keep you connected and manage your contacts in one place.

* Utilize a shared calendar to organize your networking schedule: Having an always up-to-date address book and shared calendar available across your phone, tablet, and other devices makes networking easier because you aren’t tied to any one device where information might be saved. Your calendar is accessible right from your inbox, so it’s easy to stay up-to-date, subscribe to online calendars, import events from your other calendars, or share your agenda with family to keep everyone in sync. You can also send invitations, track RSVPs, and set notifications to stay on schedule.

* Leverage the tools employers care about most: A recent Microsoft survey looked at the job and skill requirements from 14.6 million job postings from the second and third quarters of 2013 and identified the 20 most common skills required for those positions. Proficiency in Microsoft Office was among the top five skills employers look for in a prospective new-hire. allows consumers to create, open, edit and share Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote for free using Office Online, accessible from your inbox. It’s a great way to create, access and share your resume and there’s no need for you or those you share with to install Office, and your formatting stays intact.

* Remember that’s it’s all about who you know: As the old saying goes, “it’s all in who you know,” so working off one set of contacts that pulls in information from your social networks allows you to check your contacts’ recent status updates, profile pictures, and Tweets while you email them. Additionally, many recent graduates are looking for jobs outside of their current residence. Don’t let distance be a factor in the job hunt by staying connected with Skype chat and video calls right from your inbox.

Staying organized and being informed can be the difference between landing a job and a missed opportunity. For more tips, visit to learn more.

Categories: Lifestyle

Fun kids' activities reverse summer learning loss

Thu, 08/07/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - School-aged kids count down the days to summer vacation when they can play outside and take a break from homework duties. However, being out of the classroom isn’t all fun and games – summer learning loss is a real issue that parents worry about every year.

Research shows students can lose two to three months of learning over the summer break, which means teachers spend more time in the new school year revisiting topics from the year past. Kids deserve time off, but that doesn’t mean learning should fall by the wayside. Parents today have more options than ever to keep kids learning and having fun throughout the summer months.

Make math practice fun
Parents can keep math skills fresh and make learning fun by pairing math and technology this summer. Games and customized learning activities engage kids to fight math learning loss and even get a head start on the upcoming year. For example, the TenMarks Summer Math Program ( is a customized program for students in grades 1 through Algebra 2 and Geometry. Students work at their own pace – just one hour a week – through a personalized program that features hints and video lessons to refresh topics they’ve learned and introduce new math concepts for the upcoming year. Levels, points and customized rewards provide a motivating and fun environment. TenMarks Summer Math Program is free this summer (previously $39/student).  Also new this summer, the TenMarks Summer Math Program is available as a Kindle App; as well as on any browser or iPad.

“Using TenMarks over the summer definitely had a positive impact on my daughter – it helped her move up a grade in school,” said Renee Lennon, mom of 4 kids from Maryland. “By having videos and helpful hints, my children were able to use TenMarks independently all summer long.”

Research reading titles that inspire
Instilling a love for reading is important for all kids, whether infants or teenagers. That’s why the summer months are the perfect time for children to read books of their choice or start a fun new series. Reading programs are plentiful during the summertime, but with so many books to choose from, it can be overwhelming for parents and kids to narrow down options. To ensure kids select books they’ll love, it’s smart for parents to have the inside scoop on which titles are popular. Amazon’s Summer Reading for Kids site ( offers curated lists that will keep young readers turning the pages all summer long, as well as other themed booklists, such as Graduation Gifts for Little Scholars and Nature Nonfiction, to encourage learning enrichment. It’s simple to search for books by age group so parents can find the perfect read for their children.

Find science learning opportunities locally
Inspiring curiosity through hands-on activities helps to strengthen science skills during summer break.Fortunately, there is a multitude of scientific opportunities that allows kids to go outside and explore. For example, planting a vegetable garden helps children learn how photosynthesis works. Investing in a magnifying glass or microscope can also provide endless hours of activity for little explorers. For children of all ages – consider visiting a local zoo or science and technology museum. Students can also explore specialized science summer camps where kids can create their own science experiments and build their understanding for subjects such as physics, biology and engineering.

Combating summer brain drain doesn’t have to be difficult for parents or students. With a few creative ideas and engaging programs, children will be ready to go to the head of the class come fall.

Categories: Lifestyle

Reading and playing can increase your child's imagination

Thu, 08/07/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” It’s a pretty amazing statement when you consider just how much knowledge Einstein possessed. Today’s world always has a spot for creative, imaginative people. Whether they are designing the next dot com or the latest menu sensation, imaginative people are thriving everywhere.

So how can you help to strengthen your little one’s imagination and ensure they are as creative as possible? From analog to the digital, there are more fun, innovative ideas that can foster imagination than ever before. The following tips can help you grow your child’s imagination while creating some enjoyable, long-lasting memories along the way.

* Create the scene. Playing dress-up doesn’t have to be exclusive to tea parties. Encourage your child to dawn a costume and create a character based on that costume. The costumes can be lavish enough to include make-up or as simplistic as a new hat or mask. The important thing is that your child creates a new character or takes an existing character – depending on the costume – in a new direction using his or her imagination. Just make sure you dress up, too; this production needs a supporting cast.

* Travel with them to a faraway place. The genre-defining Skylanders video game series is best known for the innovation of bringing toys to life with games like Skylanders SWAP Force, Skylanders Giants and Skylanders Sypro’s Adventure. Now coming in October, Skylanders Trap Team, will continue to expand the bounds of your child’s imagination with an all-new adventure that reverses the magic of bringing toys to life and enables kids to pull characters out of the digital world into the physical world.

With Skylanders Trap Team you and your child have the opportunity to play together to seek out and defeat the most wanted villains in Skylands, pulling them out of the game and into living rooms by capturing them in magical Traps. Players can then send villains back into the game where they play as them in the fight for good.  You’ll enjoy exploring and working together to capture each villain and you’ll see your child’s imagination grow as the gameplay options expand.

* Encourage ad-libbing during story time. Reading to your child is a great way to strengthen their love of books and their reading comprehension skills. If you want to grow their imagination as well, make reading more interactive. Before you flip the page, ask your child what they think will happen next. They’ll create the story in their own mind and the answers may amaze you.

* Give them room to make their masterpiece. Art is one of the easiest ways to allow your child to develop their imagination. Create an environment that supports their artistic interests by setting aside space for a mini-studio. Make sure to include paints, crayons, markers and a big roll of paper to serve as their canvas. Line the area with newspaper because even the most determined little artists still make a mess from time to time.

* Take time to explore. These warm-weather months are the perfect opportunity for that nature hike or trip to the park. Turn the trip into an expedition by asking your child to create their own archeological adventure. This will make the warm-weather journey more enjoyable for both of you.

A child’s imagination opens their mind to limitless possibilities and no matter where their imagination takes the two of you, you’ll enjoy spending the time together.

Categories: Lifestyle

Home safety tips that put families at ease

Wed, 08/06/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - While summer is most looked forward to for warmer weather, more time spent outdoors and family vacations, when the weather heats up, burglaries and home invasions increase as well. It is essential that families and individuals learn to protect themselves and their homes from unwanted intruders. With burglaries taking place every 14.5 seconds across the U.S., according to American Police Beat, it is essential to no longer push home safety aside. Instead, be aware of the increased likelihood of a break-in and take preventative action.

Jennifer Cassetta, a nationally recognized martial arts and personal safety expert, encourages conversation, awareness and education surrounding the issues of home and personal safety.

“Unfortunately in today’s society, break-ins and burglaries are something that people often feel invincible from, but also don’t like to talk about. The simple fact is that with today’s growing crime rates, it is more likely than we would like to think that something could happen to us,” says Cassetta.  “Because of this, it is essential that we don’t walk around in fear but that we become educated, aware, and informed about our home and personal safety.”

As far as overall home protection, Cassetta recommends the SABRE Home Series, a new series that includes a wireless protection system as well as several standalone door and window alarms that are now available nationwide at Target stores. She believes that the line is not only effective in warding off intruders but with the easy DIY installation and affordable price points, it provides an approachable and effective means to superior home safety that is accessible to everyone.

In addition, families and individuals should consider the following steps to ensure their homes are as safe as possible:

* Today the tendency is to post all whereabouts on social media, including vacations. However, posting about summer vacations or utilizing any location-based apps on social media can alert potential burglars of a vacant house that will be safe and ideal for them to enter. Refrain from posting about whereabouts on the Internet until after returning home.

* With over 50 percent of intruders entering through first floor windows and back doors according to, it is crucial to be aware of vulnerable entry points throughout the home in order to protect them efficiently.

* Ensure your first floor windows and front door are completely visible from the street.  Do not block them with trees, bushes, or plants so criminals can hide behind them while trying to gain access to your home.

Do you have home safety tips that have worked for you and your family? Share your advice on staying safe at home or while away via social media using the hashtag #SafeIsSmart. For every use of the #SafeIsSmart hashtag in June, SABRE will make a $1 donation to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).

For more information, visit or

Categories: Lifestyle

Keeping your teens healthy this back to school

Wed, 08/06/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Tommy Kent was an average 19-year-old who loved life and surfing. When he developed flu-like symptoms, no one could have guessed that this otherwise healthy teen would enter the hospital at 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve and lose his young life by 12:50 a.m. on Christmas to a disease called meningococcal meningitis.

“I considered myself an educated mom about my children’s health, but I was shocked and confused when my son was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis,” says Robbin Thibodeaux, Kent's mother. “I didn’t know that a simple vaccination might have saved his life.”

Thibodeaux is not alone. According to a survey conducted on behalf of the Voices of Meningitis campaign; more than two in three mothers have little to no knowledge of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations to prevent meningococcal meningitis. The recommendation advises that a child receive one dose of the vaccine at age 11 or 12 years, followed by a second vaccination at age 16. Voices of Meningitis, an initiative from the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) and Sanofi Pasteur, aims to address the survey findings and educate people about meningitis.

Meningococcal meningitis is a serious bacterial infection that includes the swelling of the tissue around the brain and spinal cord. Although rare, meningococcal meningitis can be potentially fatal and an otherwise healthy person can die within 24 hours of the first symptoms appearing. According to the CDC, 10-15 percent of those who contract the disease die from it each year, while nearly 20 percent of survivors suffer amputation of arms, legs, fingers or toes; neurological damage; deafness; or kidney damage.

“With the new school year around the corner, it is a good time for parents to talk to their child’s health  care provider to make sure their child is up-to-date on his or her meningitis vaccinations – both the initial and the second vaccination,” says, Beth Mattey, MSN, RN, NCSN, the National Association of School Nurses’ President Elect and Voices of Meningitis spokesperson.

Meningococcal meningitis strikes young people, particularly those 16-21 years of age, possibly because they tend to spend time participating in common everyday activities that can facilitate the transmission of the bacteria that can cause the disease, such as kissing and sharing items that result in the transfer of saliva and living in close quarters (e.g., dormitories) with other young people.

“I don’t want any other parent to lose a child to this terrible, but preventable disease. Protect your children and ask your doctor for the vaccine, even if it’s not required in your state,” says Thibodeaux.

Parents can visit to learn more about meningococcal meningitis, hear stories from families who have been impacted by the disease and find educational materials and resources.

Categories: Lifestyle

The ABCs of a good balanced diet

Mon, 08/04/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Good, nutritious meals are essential for children to grow healthy and strong, but you may be surprised to learn that millions of children suffer from “hidden hunger,” because they lack the essential vitamins and minerals needed for development. This can lead to permanent physical and mental impairments.

You might think vitamin deficiencies only happen in third-world countries where children don’t have access to balanced meals. Unfortunately, children in the United States also experience health-related problems because they lack certain minerals and vitamins.

Vitamin A deficiency is one of the most pronounced: 190 million children worldwide suffer from lack of vitamin A, which can lead to childhood blindness and death. For children under 5 years old, having enough vitamin A in the diet reduces mortality rates by about 24 percent and reduces the risk of precursors to childhood blindness by 68 percent. This information comes from Vitamin Angels, a non-profit working  to help expectant mothers, new mothers and small children gain access to needed vitamins. Sweet potatoes, carrots, green leafy vegetables and dried apricots are some of the foods that contain high amounts of vitamin A.

Vitamin D deficiency is also a growing problem for children in the U.S., especially those who don’t spend a lot of time outdoors, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. A shortage of this vitamin can harm bone and muscle development in children, leading to potential fractures or reduced bone growth later in life. Vitamin D is found in many species of fish as well as milk, and it is often added to orange juice.

Often parents don’t consider that vitamins may be beneficial to children as well. Over-the-counter vitamins and minerals help give children the nutrients they need to grow healthy and strong. Many adults will take a multivitamin for the minerals they need to help balance out their regular diet.

When shopping for vitamins, you might find it useful to know that Walgreens has donated $5.5 million to Vitamin Angels to provide more than 21 million children with vitamins and nutrients in the United States and abroad. Now Walgreens is committed to providing 100 million children with life-changing vitamins by the end of 2017. One percent of all vitamin retail sales will be donated to Vitamin Angels with the help of Walgreens manufacturing partners.

As you plan your weekly shopping trips and menus, be sure to keep the nutrients your family is consuming at the top of your mind. Having a balanced diet of micronutrients like vitamin A and multivitamins can prevent disease and help children grow and prosper.

Categories: Lifestyle
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