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A Healthier Thanksgiving

November 1st, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Live Well, Work Well

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Thanksgiving meals usually include an abundance of unhealthy food options, making it easy to stray from proper nutrition until the start of the new year. But if you opt for a healthy Thanksgiving meal instead, it doesn’t mean it can’t also be enjoyable. With a few changes, you can make your “Turkey Day” an extension of your year-round commitment to good health.

Begin with the elephant in the room: food. You can probably stand to forgo a luxury or two come turkey time. But don’t worry; you can still enjoy a delicious meal with the added bonus of feeling much better afterward. Plus, Thanksgiving is just the start of the holiday season, so there will be a lot of large meals to come.

Start by having breakfast. While many Americans make it a habit to wait to eat until the holiday meal is set out, eating a small meal in the morning can give you more control over your appetite, allowing you to be more selective in your food and beverage choices later on. Keep in mind that you can always have leftovers the next day.

When moving on to Thanksgiving’s centerpiece—the turkey—be sure to go skinless. Just 1 ounce of turkey skin contains 80 calories and 2 grams of fat. Also, be sure to use fat-free chicken broth to baste the turkey and to make the gravy.

Next, turn your attention to the side dishes. Substituting skim milk or half-and-half for whole milk and cream in recipes is an obvious choice, as is omitting bacon and cheese from any casseroles, but how about complementing these sides or ignoring them altogether in favor of steamed or roasted vegetables and cornbread?

If you must have a holiday favorite, make sure it is just that, and not something you consume regularly during the year. And be sure to police your portions, since there are definite consequences to having too much of a good thing.

Once you’ve made smarter choices regarding your turkey and your side dishes, you may be wondering if there is anything else you can do. There is!

Take a walk early in the day and then again after dinner. It is a wonderful way for families to get some physical activity and to enjoy the holiday together. For those who have the day off after Thanksgiving, plan an additional workout. You will feel like your old self in no time, ready to manage your diet and exercise regimen right away, instead of waiting until Jan. 1.

View more Live Well, Work Well tips here.

Electrical Safety

November 1st, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Family Health & Safety

Home Energy Checklist Home Energy Checklist

Facts About the Flu

November 1st, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Family Health & Safety

FluThough influenza can appear at any time, the typical flu season in the United States is during winter, with peak flu activity between November and March. Every year, anywhere from 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu. Around 200,000 people are hospitalized due to its complications, and another 36,000 die from it. Yet some myths still remain about its origination and transmission. It is important to be correctly informed about the disease in order to remain healthy during the flu season.

The flu is an infection of the respiratory tract caused by the influenza virus. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can cause complications leading to death.

Flu Symptoms
People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever or chills
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Cough and/or sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Stomach ailments such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea (this is more common in children than adults)

How the Flu is Spread
The flu is spread primarily when coughing, sneezing or talking close to others. It can also be spread if an individual touches a surface that was touched by an infected person, and then touches his or her own mouth, eyes or nose. People are typically contagious from one day before symptoms start to seven days after symptoms appear.

If Bitten by the Flu Bug
If you contract the flu, it is important to take good care of yourself. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following:

  • Stay home from work! It’s your best chance for recovery, and you will avoid spreading the disease to others.
  • Get lots of sleep.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Take over-the-counter (OTC) medications appropriate for your symptoms.
  • Most people do not need medical care, but consult your doctor if you are concerned. Also, seek immediate medical attention if you have any of the warning signs discussed on the next page.

Prevention
It is possible for serious complications to arise from the flu, including bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical conditions. This is why it is crucial to do all you can to prevent the virus from attacking you in the first place.

These simple steps should be taken in order to avoid the flu:

  • Get a yearly flu vaccine. It is the most important step in protecting against the disease.
  • Take preventive actions. Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough. Try to avoid close contact with sick people and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Wash your hands often or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Take antiviral drugs if your doctor recommends them. These are prescription drugs that fight the flu by keeping the viruses from reproducing in your body.
  • Maintain a healthy immune system by eating healthy food, exercising, taking a daily multivitamin, getting adequate sleep, controlling your stress level and not smoking.

Flu Vaccination
In 2010, the CDC changed its recommendation regarding flu vaccination—it had previously suggested that children and high-risk individuals get vaccinated. Now the official CDC recommendation is that everyone six months of age and older get a yearly flu vaccine. Vaccination is especially important for people who are at high risk for serious flu complications, such as young children, pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions and people 65 years and older.

For the 2013-2014 flu season, several new vaccines will be offered for the first time, although their availability may be limited. Previously, when picking a vaccine, you could choose between a shot containing three dead virus strains and a nasal spray containing live, weakened virus strains.

In addition to those options, this year’s offerings include a new four-strain vaccine; a high-dose flu shot; two egg-free versions; and a shot that does not go beneath the skin.

All vaccines will protect against both Type A strains of influenza (H1N1 and H3N2), as well as a Type B strain. The four-strain, or quadrivalent, vaccine protects against a second strain of Type B influenza in addition to the first one and the Type A strains. In the past it has been difficult to predict which B strain would become dominant in any given season, so the quadrivalent vaccine protects against two strains instead of one.

Also being offered this year are two egg-free shots for people who are allergic to eggs. Until now, all vaccines were developed from chicken eggs and could not be given to people with egg allergies.

Additionally, a high-dose flu shot containing four times as the usual dose will be offered to older adults and other people with weakened immune systems as a way to boost their body’s response to the virus.

Finally, people with an aversion to needles can choose to receive a “micro-needle” version of the vaccine delivered into the skin instead of the arm muscle.

For many vaccine recipients, more than one type or brand of vaccine may be appropriate. Where more than one type of vaccine is appropriate and available, no preferential recommendation is made by the CDC for use of any influenza vaccine product over another.

Contrary to popular belief, you cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine—but sometimes side effects mimic those of the flu, such as a headache, low fever and/or runny nose. These will only persist for a day or less, however.

Certain people should NOT get a flu vaccine without first consulting their physician, including:

  • Those who have had a severe reaction or have developed Guillain-Barre syndrome within six weeks of getting an influenza vaccination
  • Children under six months of age

Emergency Situations
Occasionally, the flu can cause serious medical complications. It is important to seek immediate medical treatment if someone with the flu displays any of these signs.

In children, emergency warning signs include:

  • Fast breathing (or difficulty breathing)
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or interacting with people
  • Being so irritable the child does not want to be touched
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

In adults, emergency warning signs are:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

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Nov. Festivals and Events

November 1st, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Spotlight on the Community

thanksgivingThe Washington, DC area and its surrounding communities in Maryland and Virginia host lots of annual festivals and special events. All dates, prices, and activities mentioned are subject to change, so please check the official website or call to confirm information.

Day of the Dead
October 31-November 1, 2014. Day of the Dead / Los Días de los Muertos is a Mexican custom honoring and remembering those who have died. Find a few celebrations around the Washington DC area. Note that some will be held the weekend before.

Fall Theater in Washington DC
With dozens of performances around the region, here is the schedule of the top shows for the 2014 season.

Washington Craft Show
October 31-November 2, 2014. Washington Convention Center. The annual craft show features contemporary crafts created by more than 190 artists including metal, leather, basketry, jewelry, ceramics, glass and more.

Capital Maritime Music Festival
November 1, 2014. Naval Heritage Center, Washington DC. The event includes a noontime concert, workshops and cameo performances featuring the music, folklore and history of sea warriors, merchant sailors, recreational sailors, maritime communities, canals and inland waterways.

Kids Euro Festival
October 24-November 9, 2014. The event staged through the cooperation of the 27 Washington-based European Union embassies and more than a dozen major local cultural institutions will include more than 200 free performances around the city. Geared to children ages two through twelve.

DC Mayor 2014 Election
November 4, 2014. Voters will elect a new mayor. See voting details and learn about the candidates. Voters will also vote for or against marijuana legalization in Washington DC (Initiative 71).

Washington Redskins
Enjoy the football season and cheer for DC’s team.

Washington Wizards Basketball
See NBA games live at the Verizon Center or enjoy the national broadcasts throughout the season.

Alexandria Film Festival
November 6-9, 2014. The festival includes a variety of films screened in and around the City of Alexandria, Virginia.

Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show
November 8-9, 2014. Washington Convention Center. Attend a consumer event focusing on food and entertaining with more than 150 exhibitors including specialty food companies, caterers, party planners, personal chefs, kitchen planners and appliance manufacturers.

FotoWeek DC
November 8-16, 2014. The annual celebration of photography in Washington, DC, will feature programs including a photo contest and juried exhibition, gallery openings, lectures, educational workshops, portfolio reviews, book signings and more.

Manassas Veterans Day Parade
November 8, 2014, 11 a.m. Manassas, Virginia. The community parade includes military and high school bands, pipe and drum corps teams, military units from the various Armed Services, military vehicles, and members from local veteran organizations.

Veterans Day
November 11, 2014. This year, a huge concert will be held on the National Mall featuring some of the country’s biggest stars. Honor American veterans at this event and/or attend a wreath-laying ceremony at one of the monuments in Washington, DC. See the schedule of this year’s events.

Holiday Craft Shows
Throughout the month of November, you will find lots of arts and crafts shows ideal for shopping for unique holiday gifts. Find here a variety of craft shows in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia.

Museum Shop Around at Strathmore
November 13-16, 2014, Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Shop at 16 museum shops under one roof at the Mansion at Strathmore, 10701 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda, Maryland (301) 581-5100.

ICE! – Christmas at the Gaylord National Resort
November 14, 2014- January 4, 2014. The award-winning holiday attraction is a winter wonderland created entirely of 5,000 BLOCKS of ice weighing 1.5 MILLION POUNDS! hand-sculpted by 40 international artisans and kept at a chilling nine degrees Fahrenheit. This is an interactive holiday attraction you won’t want to miss.

Gettysburg Remembrance Day Parade and Illumination
November 15, 2014. Gettysburg, PA. Abraham Lincoln’s famous “Gettysburg Address” and the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery are commemorated with a special ceremony, a parade and an illumination of the cemetery.

DC Craft Beer Festival
November 22, 2014. Washington Convention Center, Washington DC. The American craft beer tasting event focuses on winter harvest editiions from approximately 75 breweries with a special focus on breweries from Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia.

Turkey Trots in the Washington DC Area
Various Dates. A variety of organizations in DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia sponsor walks and runs to raise money for charity.

Christmas at Mount Vernon
November 28, 2014 – January 6, 2014. Learn about the Christmas traditions of George Washington and his family, meet historic characters and tour the Mount Vernon Estate by candlelight.

Presidential Turkey Pardon
Each year, the President pardons a turkey and spares its life in celebration of Thanksgiving. See photos!

Thanksgiving Parades
Attend the annual Thanksgiving parades in Reston, Virginia and Silver Spring Maryland.

Thanksgiving Weekend in the Washington, DC Area
Thanksgiving weekend kicks off the holiday season and many wonderful activities and events begin in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia. Here are some ideas of fun things to do during the Thanksgiving weekend.

Black Friday in Washington DC
November 28, 2014. The day after Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year. Many stores open early and offer big sales for the holidays. See the schedule of store openings in the DC area.

City of Alexandria Holiday Tree Lighting
November 28, 2014, 7-9 p.m. Musical entertainment with a visit from Santa Claus in Market Square, 301 King St. (703) 838-4844

Nutcracker Performances
Enjoy the Christmas holiday classic ballet at a theater in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia. Schedules vary, but many theatres begin their performances in late November.

Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremonies in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia
Find dates and times for Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremonies in the Washington, DC area.

Christmas Light Displays
Celebrate the holiday season with a drive or a stroll through one of the Washington, DC area’s spectacle of lights at a local park in DC, Maryland or Virginia.

National Harbor Christmas Tree Lighting
November 28, 2014, 5-7 p.m. Waterfront Plaza, National Harbor, Maryland. The waterfront community will kick off the holiday season by lighting up the sky with fireworks and a 65ft Christmas tree decorated with 20,000 lights. Sip some hot chocolate and enjoy story-telling, an ornament-making workshop and holiday music.

Small Business Saturday
November 29, 2014. This day has been designated to help fuel the economy by asking Americans to shop at their favorite local stores and support small businesses. The Washington DC area has plenty of wonderful shopping destinations.

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Be Prepared – Winter Storms

November 1st, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Family Health & Safety

Emergency Action Plan

Privacy Safeguards

November 1st, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Family Health & Safety

Thankful-for-privacy-300x199During this season of giving, our gratitude usually focuses on the year’s blessings of friends and family, health and happiness . . . and maybe even the cook behind the holiday feast.

But we’d be remiss to ignore some technical marvels that help protect your online privacy and security—providing their own “bite” with plenty of meat.

Password Managers

Using strong passwords—and different ones on different accounts—is much-repeated advice for online security and privacy. Problem is, it’s not easy remembering all those hard-to-crack passwords without a cheat sheet that could be pilfered.

The solution: A dedicated password manager, software that helps you store and organize different passwords and PIN codes. Some even allow you to create one master password, and then update variations and/or work as form fillers to automatically enter log-in information.

Most password managers start at about $20 a year, but some offer scaled-down free versions—including PasswordBox, LastPass and RoboForm.

Password Strength Checkers

What exactly is a strong password? Ideally, those that contain at least 12 characters and mix uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols such as &, >, * and @. Although passwords with at least eight characters have long been advised, studies show that hackers using automated programs and their own ingenuity can break an eight-character password in a few hours, whereas adding four keystrokes could raise that to a theoretical 17,000 years.

No matter how long, it’s also wise to gauge password strength with free checkers. Perhaps the best-known is from Microsoft, but others include PasswordMeter and Ask the Geek.

Security Software

Without some type of anti-virus or anti-malware software, your Internet surfing may take you into dangerous waters without protection. At the very least, protect online privacy with free downloads, including those from AVG, Avast, BitDefender or MalwareBytes.  (PC Magazine makes recommendations here.)

But for the best protection, opt for more comprehensive security suite products that may be labeled as “total,” “platinum” or “360” vs. those simply noted as anti-virus or anti-malware). Although they often retail for $100 or more, prices tend to drop for the holiday shopping season.

Don’t forget to install security software on your smartphones and tablets, which are increasingly vulnerable to malware attacks. Some service providers like AT&T are pre-installing antivirus software on android devices. So, before buying, call or check your Internet or cell phone provider’s website for details. Many provide free antivirus and malware protection software, but some offer no-cost security suite products, especially for customers who bundle various services.

Firewalls and Router Security

A firewall is software or hardware that checks information coming from the Internet or a network, and then either blocks it or allows it to pass through to your computer, depending on the computer’s settings. Computer operating systems typically come with a built-in firewall. Here’s how to check your settings for Windows and Apple’s OS, but security software may offer even stronger defense.

If you have a home network (read: several computers using the same service provider), a router is used to link the modem to each. Routers usually also have a built-in firewall for added protection but it’s worth spending time reading its manual or visiting the manufacturer’s website to educate yourself on its setting options. When buying a new router, change the password from its factory default.

Virtual Credit Card Numbers

One unique benefit offered by many credit cards is the opportunity to generate a one-time number for an online transaction. This virtual credit card number is useful because if hacked or you provide it at a scammer-run website, it has no value to crooks beyond that one transaction.

Check with your credit card issuer about this offering and how to use it, such as installing a program on your computer. If your issuer doesn’t offer virtual credit card numbers, online payment services such as PayPal also protect your card number.

Privacy Settings

When was the last time you checked the privacy settings on Facebook, Google Groups, Windows or anywhere else?

Never? It’s a good time to start. Virtually any website can track your online activity without your knowledge, and many online services offer different levels of control to prevent the potential sharing of your online searches and website visits.

Although setting up privacy controls at individual websites can be time-consuming and confusing, this page is a good first step.

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