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Top 4 nutrition predictions in the New Year

(BPT) – Several food and nutrition trends were in the spotlight this year, including the continued rise of plant-based diets, non-dairy ice creams and superfoods that are blasts from the past — legumes, apples and cabbage. It can be easy to experience nutrition whiplash in the New Year, but don’t be a victim. Get a jump-start on understanding the top nutrition trends that will impact quality of life and make it easier to add important vitamins and nutrients to the body.

“The start of a fresh year always ushers in new opportunities to make one’s health better,” said Elizabeth Somer, MA, RD and author of “Eat Your Way to Sexy.” “Study after study consistently finds that most Americans don’t meet even minimum standards of a balanced diet, so it’s important to be aware of advances in nutrition, so you can optimize your health all year long.”

There are four key nutrition predictions that will top 2018.

No. 1 — Personalized nutrition

A one-size-fits-all approach that can be applied to vitamins, minerals, omega-3s and other essential nutrients doesn’t align with what research reveals about individual nutrient needs. Many factors tweak the basic recommendations, including age, gender, health status, medication use, stress level, sleep habits, exercise routines and more.

For example, when the body is exposed to ultra violet (UV) light, it manufactures vitamin D; however, as we age, the body becomes less and less efficient at making vitamin D. This is when dietary and supplement sources become increasingly more important while the needs for the vitamin increase.

It is no wonder there will be a growing trend and demand for personalized nutrition recommendations in 2018. Nutrition innovators — like www.vitaminpacks.com — are already responding by developing comprehensive nutritional assessments to curate unique combinations of vitamins and nutrients designed specifically to the individual consumer.

No. 2 — Awareness of drug nutrient interactions

According to a recent paper published in the European Journal of Nutrition, vitamins and other nutrients play a crucial role in metabolism — the process in the body that supports overall health. How vitamins and phytonutrients interact with prescription medications can impact metabolism.

In one example, antacid medications can interfere with vitamin B12 and calcium absorption, so requirements for these and other nutrients may increase, yet people don’t make the adjustment in their supplement plans. Therefore, it is important to consult a health care practitioner before adding a dietary supplement, so prescription medications and vitamin supplements can live in harmony.

No. 3 — Go with your gut

Probiotics are live bacteria that are good for health, especially the digestive system. It may be easy to think of bacteria as something that causes diseases, but the body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are the “good” or “helpful” bacteria because they have been known for years to help keep the gut healthy. What’s more, research has shown that the benefits of probiotics may span more than the gut, including the circulatory, hormonal and nervous systems. Probiotics are naturally found in the body to varying degrees, and there are high levels of probiotics in some foods and supplements.

Encouraging the growth of probiotic bacteria is important in maintaining an effective intestinal barrier, enhancing nutrient absorption and blocking toxins and pathogens. A focus on gut health and spotlighting food and dietary supplements that support a healthy belly will top 2018 nutrition trends.

No. 4 — Vitamin K2

Don’t confuse this K2 with the mountain in the Himalayas. Vitamin K2 is an overlooked vitamin that helps control calcium movement in the body and supports healthy arteries and bone health. It is found at sub-optimal levels in the traditional diet, but can be found at high levels in fermented foods, like sauerkraut and the Korean dish kimchi. Vitamin K2 will no longer be overlooked in 2018. Ask a health care practitioner about adding this important vitamin to the diet, especially if fermented foods aren’t served regularly for dinner.

It doesn’t take a crystal ball to predict what will be the hottest nutrition trends in 2018; it only requires a look at the latest nutrition research and connecting with a health care provider or registered dietitian.

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Infuse life into the bath for a spa-like oasis

(BPT) – Today, more than ever, homeowners gravitate toward design elements that transform the bath into a spa-like oasis. Designers look to incorporate pieces inspired by the natural world to bring renewed energy into the room and create a soothing environment. From fixtures inspired by booming waterfalls, to neutral color schemes and natural light, nature infuses life back into luxury bath design for a serene sense of calm.

Neutral calm

Light colors such as cool grays and muted blues evoke tranquility and peacefulness. Neutral colors for walls and fabrics create a soothing aesthetic that fosters relaxation in the space. To create visual interest within a neutral palette, incorporate varying shades of earth tones to serve as complementary accents throughout the room — from decorative rugs and plush towels to cabinetry and tiling.

Nature’s inspiration

Elements inspired by nature work together to produce a sense of relaxation in the home’s oasis. Intuitive in design, the Vettis Bath Collection by Brizo combines solid proportions and angular architecture with an optional four-sided open chamber that mimics the sensory experience of a waterfall. Inspired by the strength found in nature, the defined edges of the spout create a balanced aesthetic, while subtle facets offer visual depth. Paired with natural stone accents, this collection evokes elements of natural inspiration.

Stone serenity

A freestanding stone tub makes a luxurious statement to enhance the spa atmosphere. Sleek, oval architectures provide an organic contemporary touch, while rectangular basins deliver a strong geometric focal point. Take the spa-like experience even further and incorporate the use of essential oils. Lavender and chamomile reduce stress and encourage sleep, while peppermint and lemon oils increase focus and mental alertness in the morning. From modern to transitional aesthetics, a freestanding, natural stone tub paired with the sensory infusion of essential oils creates the perfect at-home getaway.

Living accents

Natural lighting and live plants blur the line between the great outdoors and the enclosed space. Large floor-to-ceiling windows and skylights serve as eye-catching accents while also naturally illuminating the room. Hanging succulents and potted bamboo plants are additional decor options to bring nature indoors without sacrificing clean, simple design.

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Healthy eating at holiday parties? It’s possible

(BPT) – The holidays bring a lot of temptations from every direction if dieting or watching your weight. Holiday parties and get-togethers can be a healthful-eating challenge. Caught up in conversation among friends and family, surrounded by tasty food and drinks, it’s easy to lose track of what and how much is being eaten. Registered Dietitian Sarah Galicki offers tips for staying the course through the holidays.

“There are a lot of calories packed into this time of year. You’re doing your holiday baking, people are dropping off candy and treats, there are parties with all-you-can-eat buffets and creamy drinks like eggnog, so it’s important to be prepared. It is possible to navigate the holidays without gaining weight by doing these things.”

Eat first. Never go to a party hungry. If you do, chances are you’ll wind up eating too much, too fast. Eat a snack before you go, such as some Greek yogurt, which is loaded with protein and calcium. Add fruit for extra taste and nutrients, and top with pistachios for crunch and good fats.

Drink wisely. If you want to indulge a little bit, have some champagne or white wine. A 4-ounce glass has approximately 100 calories. By comparison, a cup of traditional eggnog has 344 calories and 19 grams of fat (11 grams saturated fat). Skip the creamy drinks. The best bet is to avoid alcohol altogether if possible. Drink a spritzer made with sparkling water, cranberry and a lime instead. It looks festive, tastes great and has hardly any calories.

Fill up on finger foods. Bite-size appetizers limit the calorie impact. A good option? Pistachios. They’re great to snack on; 49 have exactly 150 calories, and they satisfy that crunchy craving. Plus, they’re full of nutrients and fill you up. The healthy fats will help regulate your blood-sugar level throughout the night, which is helpful if you’re drinking. Wrap some up decoratively and take along for a hostess gift to be sure there’s a healthy choice on hand.

Survey your options. Mindful eating is always key in any situation. Once the buffet table opens, take a visual sweep past it before jumping in line and making your selections. This way you’ll avoid piling one of everything onto your plate needlessly when you eventually pass through.

Don’t be first in line. The food in a buffet line looks pretty in the beginning. Once people serve themselves, it’s not as appealing and you’ll eat less.

Get a small plate. This trick helps limit portion size.

Avoid the white stuff. Given other options, skip the white rice, white pasta and white bread. They’re loaded with calories but no nutrients. Choose items with whole grains instead. They’re full of nutrients and have fiber, which will fill you up so you won’t eat as much.

Delight in dessert. Dessert is probably the toughest temptation of all. But there’s no reason to skip. Most of us have a sweet tooth. Satisfy that sweet craving with some fresh fruit. To make sure it’s available, bring some as a hostess gift; it’s always welcome.

“Overall, pace yourself,” advises Galicki. “Enjoy the food and festivities.”

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From cancer nurse to cancer patient: One woman’s story

(BPT) – Throughout her career, Lindsay Norris had a close connection with cancer, helping others battle the disease. Then one day, it became even more personal.

The 33­-year-­old oncology nurse still remembers the moment she heard the news of her own diagnosis — Stage 3 colorectal cancer. “I’ve been in those conversations so many times,” she said. “I’ve shared a plan of care so many times. I’ve explained this stuff so many times.” Lindsay knew the cancer journey but now she was the one on the receiving end of the conversation.

Living with cancer

While the magnitude of a cancer diagnosis cannot be denied, a Pfizer-sponsored survey of over 1,500 cancer patients and caregivers to assess resources, tools and general perceptions of cancer shows nearly 85 percent of the patients surveyed have a positive outlook on cancer and 83 percent have been inspired to make positive changes in their life following their diagnosis. In fact, nearly 90 percent of patients surveyed believe cancer has forced them to prioritize important things in their life and 3 in 5 patients surveyed said cancer allowed them to discover the “real me.” That said, day-to-day life with cancer is challenging and the same survey shows a majority of those patients and caregivers surveyed say it would be helpful to have an all-in-one mobile tool or app while managing life with cancer, stating some of the most helpful resources would be the ability to keep track of questions that come up during the day (77 percent) and during medical appointments (76 percent), keeping track of medications (71 percent) and being able to communicate with loved ones (71 percent). Pfizer recently launched LivingWith(TM), a free mobile app to help patients and their loved ones manage life with cancer and organize certain important information in one place, which may help to address some of these tasks and communication challenges.

While Lindsay has adjusted some things in her life since her diagnosis, her commitment to her work as a nurse has remained steadfast and each day she comes to the hospital as both patient and professional. “I figured I have to come every day for treatment anyway, so I might as well work,” she said of juggling care for her patients with her own treatment schedule. “I’ve always taken pride in my job and taking care of my patients. I have always tried to put others before myself.”

Of course, like most people with cancer, Lindsay, a mother of two young children, has her good days and her bad days. On her good days she can go without taking a nap and is able to make dinner for the family and enjoy bath time. But on her bad days, she simply can’t enjoy these activities and that’s when her husband steps in to help. The missed opportunities sadden her, but she understands these struggles are part of living with cancer and refuses to let them define her.

She still remembers breaking the news of her diagnosis to her family and her 3­-year-­old son Harrison referring to the disease as mom’s “cancer owie.” He said to me, “Mom, after your cancer owies are all gone and you’re done taking your special medicine, you can have a sleepover in my boys­-only fort.” Lindsay keeps this goal in mind, and while her battle with cancer is far from over, she’ll have her sleepover in that fort.

Chronicling a patient’s story

Lindsay’s story is one of several featured now on ThisIsLivingWithCancer.com, a novel program sponsored by Pfizer that allows people to share inspiring stories and follow along on Facebook and Instagram to receive and share daily stories of inspiration. Lindsay is extremely proud to be part of the campaign and is hoping the LivingWith(TM) app and her story connects with others. “I want to make it a positive experience. And hopefully when my son is an adult he’ll look back and be proud of the way his mom handled it. The best piece of advice I received is to ‘do everything you can today, and then do everything you can tomorrow.’”

Lindsay and others involved in the campaign are interested in the possibilities of the LivingWith app, particularly how it may give patients and caregivers a sense of control when it comes to managing the many aspects of life with cancer such as building a network of support from friends and family to get help with daily tasks, recording and remembering important information from doctor visits and finding information about local events and nutrition articles. It even provides a section to track those “cancer-owies” that Lindsay’s son noted, to help people provide an accurate assessment during their doctor visits. Join Lindsay and others affected by cancer who have downloaded LivingWith(TM) from the Apple App store or Google Play and visit ThisIsLivingWithCancer.com to help you or a loved one manage life with cancer.

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Understanding Spasticity After Stroke

(BPT) – In the United States, someone has a stroke every 40 seconds.[i] Though stroke death rates have declined in recent decades, it is a leading cause of serious long-term disability,[ii] taking a toll on both survivors and their caregivers. It’s important to understand the many ways strokes can impact survivors, including a disabling yet often overlooked condition known as spasticity.

It is estimated that approximately one million adult stroke survivors in the United States are living with some form of spasticity,[iii] a condition in which they experience an abnormal increase in muscle tone or stiffness of muscle.[iv] Stroke survivors may not experience spasticity immediately; in fact, it could occur weeks to months afterwards – long after a patient leaves the hospital.[v]

“The focus after someone has experienced a stroke is so commonly on preventing a second stroke that rehabilitation goals can leave patients and their caregivers feeling unprepared for a larger discussion about the post-stroke symptoms they may be experiencing, including spasticity,” said Dr. Atul Patel, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation physician, Kansas City Bone & Joint Clinic. “It’s critical that patients and caregivers understand that even if a person has been experiencing spasticity for years, there are ways to help manage the condition.”

Spasticity is caused by damage to nerve pathways of the brain or spinal cord that control voluntary movement,[vi] and can impact limbs in both the upper and lower body. Upper limb spasticity (ULS) can affect the thumb, elbow, wrist and fingers,[vi] while lower limb spasticity (LLS) produces muscle stiffness in the ankle and toes.[vi]

Patients with symptoms of spasticity can be treated by a multidisciplinary team of healthcare experts that may include a neurologist, physiatrist (specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation), physical therapist, occupational therapist, or other specialists depending on the cause of the underlying disorder. Depending on the severity of the condition and the patient’s treatment goals, treatment options for spasticity include oral medications to reduce the tone in the muscle; physical therapy regimens, such as muscle stretching and range of motion exercises, to help prevent shortening of muscles; or an injection of botulinum toxin to help reduce muscle stiffness.[vii]

Indications
BOTOX® is a prescription medicine that is injected into muscles and used:

  • to treat increased muscle stiffness in elbow, wrist, finger, thumb, ankle, and toe muscles in people 18 years and older with upper and lower limb spasticity.

It is not known whether BOTOX® is safe or effective to treat increased stiffness in upper limb muscles other than those in the elbow, wrist, fingers, and thumb, or in lower limb muscles other than those in the ankle and toes. BOTOX® has not been shown to help people perform task-specific functions with upper limbs or increase movement in joints that are permanently fixed in position by stiff muscles. BOTOX® is not meant to replace existing physical therapy or other rehabilitation that may have been prescribed.

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION

BOTOX® may cause serious side effects that can be life threatening. Get medical help right away if you have any of these problems any time (hours to weeks) after injection of BOTOX®:

  • Problems swallowing, speaking, or breathing, due to weakening of associated muscles, can be severe and result in loss of life. You are at highest risk if these problems are pre-existing before injection. Swallowing problems may last several months. Spread of toxin effects. The effect of botulinum toxin may affect areas away from the injection site and cause serious symptoms including: loss of strength and all-over muscle weakness, double vision, blurred vision and drooping eyelids, hoarseness or change or loss of voice, trouble saying words clearly, loss of bladder control, trouble breathing, trouble swallowing.

Please see additional Important Safety Information below

BOTOX®, a prescription injectable therapy, works by blocking signals from nerves to muscles, reducing those contractions caused by spasticity.[viii] In adult patients diagnosed with upper or lower limb spasticity, BOTOX® is injected by a trained medical specialist – such as a neurologist or physiatrist – using a fine needle directly into the affected muscles. Patients or caregivers who want to learn more about spasticity and where to find a BOTOX® specialist can visit www.botoxspasticity.com.

Living with spasticity can make some of the simplest tasks more challenging. Below are a few tips to help survivors and their caregivers:

  • Stay physically active. Find an exercise routine that can be performed easily.
  • Manage stress. Practice relaxation exercises, breathing exercises, gentle stretching, and other techniques to help reduce stress.
  • Join a support group. Support groups can allow survivors and caregivers opportunities to share experiences with others dealing with spasticity.

Most importantly, talk to a healthcare provider about symptoms after a stroke. People who experience symptoms of spasticity should continue to seek treatment from a healthcare provider who specializes in the condition to help manage the impact of post-stroke symptoms, as well as to prevent another stroke.

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION (continued)

BOTOX® may cause loss of strength or general muscle weakness, vision problems, or dizziness within hours to weeks of taking BOTOX®. If this happens, do not drive a car, operate machinery, or do other dangerous activities.

Do not receive BOTOX® if you: are allergic to any of its ingredients (see Medication Guide for ingredients); had an allergic reaction to any other botulinum toxin product such as Myobloc® (rimabotulinumtoxinB), Dysport® (abobotulinumtoxinA), or Xeomin® (incobotulinumtoxinA); have a skin infection at the planned injection site.

The dose of BOTOX® is not the same as, or comparable to, another botulinum toxin product.

Serious and/or immediate allergic reactions have been reported, including itching, rash, red itchy welts, wheezing, asthma symptoms, or dizziness or feeling faint. Get medical help right away if you experience symptoms; further injection of BOTOX® should be discontinued.

Tell your doctor about all your muscle or nerve conditions such as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, myasthenia gravis, or Lambert-Eaton syndrome, as you may be at increased risk of serious side effects including difficulty swallowing and difficulty breathing from typical doses of BOTOX®.

Tell your doctor if you have any breathing-related problems. Your doctor may monitor you for breathing problems during treatment with BOTOX® for spasticity. The risk of developing lung disease in patients with reduced lung function is increased in patients receiving BOTOX®.

Bronchitis and upper respiratory tract infections (common colds) have been reported. Bronchitis was reported more frequently in people receiving BOTOX® for upper limb spasticity. Upper respiratory infections were also reported more frequently in people with prior breathing related problems with spasticity.

Tell your doctor about all your medical conditions, including if you: have or have had bleeding problems; have plans to have surgery; had surgery on your face; weakness of forehead muscles; trouble raising your eyebrows; drooping eyelids; any other abnormal facial change; are pregnant or plan to become pregnant (it is not known if BOTOX® can harm your unborn baby); are breastfeeding or plan to (it is not known if BOTOX® passes into breast milk).

Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Using BOTOX® with certain medicines may cause serious side effects. Do not start any new medicines until you have told your doctor that you received BOTOX® in the past.

Tell your doctor if you received any other botulinum toxin product in the last 4 months; have received injections of botulinum toxin such as Myobloc®, Dysport®, or Xeomin® in the past (tell your doctor exactly which product you received); have recently received an antibiotic injection; take muscle relaxants; take allergy or cold medicines; take sleep medicine; take aspirin-like products or blood thinners.

Other side effects of BOTOX® include: dry mouth, discomfort or pain at injection site, tiredness, headache, neck pain, and eye problems: double vision, blurred vision, decreased eyesight, drooping eyelids, swelling of eyelids, and dry eyes.

For more information refer to the Medication Guide or talk with your doctor.

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

Please see BOTOX® full Product Information including Boxed Warning and Medication Guide.

© 2017 Allergan. All rights reserved. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

BNO111874 11/17


1) Centers for Disease Control. “Stroke Facts.” Available at https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/facts.htm. Accessed November 27, 2017.

2) The Internet Stroke Center. “Stroke Statistics.” Available at http://www.strokecenter.org/patients/about-stroke/stroke-statistics/. Accessed September 19, 2017.

3) Data on File, Allergan, Inc. Global Safety and Epidemiology: Spasticity and comorbidity following five disorders: stroke, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, and cerebral palsy in adults, 2009.

4) Esquenazi A. Falls and fractures in older post-stroke patients with spasticity: consequences and drug treatment considerations. Clin Geriatr. 2004;12(8):27-35.

5) Wissel J, Schelosky LD, Scott J, Christe W, Faiss JH, Mueller J. Early development of spasticity following stroke: a prospective, observational trial. J Neurol. 2010;257(7):1067-1072.

6) Mayer NH and Esquenazi A. Muscle overactivity and movement dysfunction in the upper motoneuron syndrome. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am 2003;14:855-883.

7) Mostoufi SA. Spasticity and its management. Pain Manage Rounds. 2005;2(5):1-6.

8) BOTOX® (onabotulinumtoxinA) Prescribing Information, April 2017.

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Entertaining tips: Worry-free ways to clean before your guests arrive

(BPT) – For many of us, this is the best time of the year to spend with friends, family and lots of food. The weather has turned colder, the clocks have shifted back and we’re ready to invite guests over to eat, laugh and make new memories for the new year.

Let’s face it, because you spend more time indoors this time of year, you’re also probably a bit more anxious when it comes to keeping the house tidy and making sure you’re keeping yourself and your guests healthy. So, what’s the best approach to cleaning up before your get-together starts? You’ve likely heard this before, but it’s true: Clean only what your guests see. There’s no need to push all your furniture into the middle of the room to clean your baseboards or grab those dust bunnies from underneath the china cabinet. Of course, you want the guest bathroom to be shipshape, as well as a few of the following areas, before guests arrive.

Home is where the oven is: Most people like to mingle in the kitchen (hello bacon-wrapped dates!), so you want it to smell like all your wonderful food, not harsh chemicals. While you might be tempted to clean every inch of the kitchen, keep it simple and remember to clean as you go, especially during food prep. From raw cookie dough to chicken wings, you want to be careful not to cross-contaminate surfaces, so disinfect and clean those food-prep areas often, including cutting boards. (Use a product like PURELL(R) Multi Surface Disinfectant, which contains no harsh chemicals, to keep those counters and prep stations worry-free.) Don’t let those dirty mixing bowls pile up, either. Rinse as soon as you can and load them into the dishwasher.

The hangouts: After the kitchen, you probably know where your guests will gravitate. Maybe the kids hit the basement or rec room and sports fans huddle in the family room around the TV. Vacuuming and dusting are a must, and put away all the non-essential items. Place anything you don’t need into your laundry basket and stash it in the laundry room.

So many things to touch: Now think about all those hands touching surfaces like doorknobs, remotes, toys or playpens, especially if you have little ones crawling about or you’re expecting lots of toddlers. No one wants to be sick, especially when there is fun to be had. To prevent the spread of germs, disinfect those often-touched items and surfaces with PURELL(R) Multi Surface Disinfectant, which not only kills 99.99 percent of germs on hard surfaces, but also sanitizes soft surfaces and other areas in the house where you normally wouldn’t use traditional products.

Runny noses: For every hostess gift or side dish people bring, you should also expect some sniffles and sneezes. Keep your guests comfortable by putting out some boxes of tissues and an alcohol-based hand sanitizer in key areas, like near the buffet line and next to the tissue box.

A little elbow grease and some targeted cleaning should leave you plenty of time for the really important stuff: cooking, eating and enjoying time with your loved ones.

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4 great gifts for your green-living friend

(BPT) – Here’s a stat for you: More than 145 million Americans report being alarmed or concerned about climate change, according to the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Yes, over 145 million. That’s more than a third of the nation’s total population. Are you one of them? Whether you are or not, it’s a safe bet someone on your holiday shopping list is and you’d love to find the perfect gift that matches their passion.

Living an environmentally healthy, sustainable lifestyle is a personal thing and one every environmentally conscious person does a little bit differently. To complement that, Cool Effect is offering you the chance to personalize a great gift for those eco-conscious Earth lovers this holiday season. With a wide variety of carbon-cutting projects and flexible options, you can personalize the perfect gift package for anyone on your list. Cool Effect, a non-profit, has already done the work for you and created the holiday gift bundles below.

Breathe deep, breathe clean

Share the gift of clean air, literally, with The Cuckoo Combo. This pack, named for the threatened bird, supports efforts to capture methane and reduce nitrous oxide emissions while generating income for local communities.

Through your gift of this package, your loved one will be able to support the Native American Methane Capture program in Colorado that is converting this otherwise harmful gas to clean energy. They will also support technology initiatives to keep nitrous oxide emissions in check through the Mississippi-based Nitrous Oxide Abatement initiative.

Blown away with options

Most people have heard about the potential power opportunities that exist in wind harvesting, but it’s those living a more sustainable lifestyle that are especially excited about it. Support that enthusiasm with The Big Fan gift pack.

Your gift will support the creation of renewable energy wind turbines in Costa Rica, leading to long-term clean energy independence and jobs for local workers.

The wind turbines created through this initiative will provide power to 50,000 people and save 11,000 metric tons of carbon emissions. Your gift can help make it happen.

The power of poo

Initially this might seem like a white elephant present, but the aptly named Poo Package is actually a very real, important environmental project that anyone on your list would be grateful to support.

Using biogas digesters, animal waste — a source of harmful methane emissions — can now be turned into clean, usable energy. Your gift helps farmers in India build their very own biogas digesters that reduce these emissions while providing enough energy to power a neighborhood of Indian homes.

A brew-tiful gift

What’s the perfect gift for the environmentally conscious coffee drinker in your life? How about a package that supports the long-term sustainability of their favorite beverage? The Brew-tiful Gift package supports efforts to reduce logging in coffee growing regions, which reduces Earth-warming emissions and the hotter, drier climate they create that hinders coffee growth.

Through support of this gift pack, your loved one will be working to protect nearly 450,000 Peruvian acres from deforestation while also reducing firewood use in Honduras by nearly 50 percent — and those are initiatives everyone can drink to.

Pick the perfect project for your loved one today

These four projects are just a sample of the myriad environmentally conscious efforts your family and friends can support through your gift. To learn more about any of these projects or to shop other options and find the perfect gift, visit CoolEffect.org. Each project you find there can be customized to your price point and the passions of your loved one and they all support the same ideals of making this planet a greater, greener place to live during these holidays and all that will come after them.

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The first rule of the road: Focus on driving

(BPT) – Have you noticed that traffic seems to be worse lately? There’s a good reason for that — there are more vehicles on the road than at any time in recent history. Unemployment is low and gas is affordable, which means more people are driving more miles. And more drivers means an increased risk of getting into a collision, which impacts the number of auto insurance claims and, potentially, the cost of insurance premiums.

There is some good news, however, because vehicle technology has advanced significantly in the past decade, with features like backup cameras, active braking and pedestrian detection, which employ radar, camera, lidar and other sensors to detect and track vehicles, pedestrians or objects around the vehicle. Many of these enhancements are designed to help prevent collisions and make driving safer, but that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down. When you’re driving, the road should get your full and complete attention, because as great as all of this new technology is, it’s not perfect and collisions can still occur.

“Rear-end collisions are the most common claims we see nationwide. We had nearly 60,000 customers report they were involved in rear-end collisions last year,” said Vice President of Claims at Mercury Insurance Kevin Quinn. “People are surprised to find out they’re at fault if they hit the vehicle ahead of them, even if the other driver brakes suddenly. This is why active braking technology, which can slow down your vehicle while using cruise control or even stop it completely if someone walks in front of your car or you aren’t able to react quickly enough to hit your brakes, is a great development. But, even if you have this technology, you still need to focus on the road to avoid getting into collisions.”

The most common auto collisions to be aware of, according to Mercury Insurance, include:

1. Your vehicle is rear-ended by another vehicle;

2. Your vehicle rear-ends another vehicle;

3. Another vehicle hits your parked car;

4. Another vehicle fails to yield in an intersection and hits your vehicle;

5. Collision with a fixed object;

6. Glass damage;

7. Another vehicle hits yours while changing lanes;

8. Your vehicle hits a parked car;

9. You fail to yield in an intersection and hit another car; and

10. You back into another vehicle.

“Most of these collisions are avoidable if people pay attention to their surroundings. Cars are safer, but drivers are more distracted than ever, especially by phone apps, texting and taking calls. And it’s not just drivers who are distracted, we’re also seeing more pedestrian accidents, because they have their heads buried in their phones and aren’t paying attention while they’re walking,” said Quinn. “No message, photo or phone call is more important than your safety and the safety of others, so please drive — and walk — responsibly.”

Drivers should annually review their auto insurance policy with a local independent insurance agent. Knowing what is and isn’t covered will help in the event you’re involved in one of the common auto insurance collisions.

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Squash the pests, not your holiday spirit, with these pest-prevention tips

(BPT) – The holiday season and guests go together like twinkling lights and fir trees, or peppermint and chocolate. However, while you might be eager to welcome family and friends to your home, you’ll probably be less excited to receive a visit from another all-too-common type of holiday “guest” — pests.

Pesky insects invade houses through a number of routes during the holidays. Indian Meal Moths can ride in with grains you purchased to make baked goods. Merchant Grain Beetles, despite their name, can take up residence in cake mixes and boxes of pasta. Spiders and other insects can hitch a ride indoors on Christmas trees. Boxes of decorations that were stored in attics, garages or outbuildings during the rest of the year can yield up a variety of insects — and even rodents — when you bring them inside for the holidays.

The National Pest Management Association offers some tips for keeping your home pest-free during the holiday season:

Ditching pests before decking the halls

Holiday decorations evoke the spirit of the season, and decorating the house is a fun tradition for many families. Take steps to ensure that when you deck the halls, your decorations are pest-free.

Greenery like trees, wreaths and garlands can harbor spiders, mites, moths and other pests, as well as their eggs. Holly boughs, pine branches, pine cones and other natural items commonly used in holiday DIY projects may also host insects. Before bringing anything indoors, give it a good shake outside. Then, inspect items for pests or eggs that may be hiding in branches, or on leaves and needles. These steps will help ensure you don’t bring anything into the house with natural decorations.

Decorations you reuse — and store from year to year in the attic, garage or outbuildings — can also become infested. Insects and rodents can find their way into storage areas and boxes throughout the year, so when you bring decorations out of storage, unpack boxes outdoors first. Check for pests like mice. Rodent droppings and gnaw marks — especially on light strands — are evidence of mice. Discard any decorations that appear to have been chewed on, especially electrical items.

At the end of the year, give yourself a head-start on a pest-free holiday next year by storing decorations properly. Use sturdy, hard plastic containers with secure lids to store decorations in the garage, basement, attic or outbuildings. This will help ensure rodents and insects can’t get into the decorations throughout the year.

Feasting is for family, not pests

Cookies, gingerbread houses and even fruit cake — many families love the tradition of holiday baking. However, nothing spoils holiday baking plans faster than finding bugs in a box of flour. Beetles, ants, earwigs, weevils, pillbugs, moths and a variety of other critters can get into stored food and infest an area in a short amount of time. Flour, dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, grains and other baking items are at risk.

Fortunately, you can take steps to ensure pantry pests don’t dim your holiday spirits:

* Did you know that most pantry pests ride home in items like paper grocery bags, cardboard or plastic bags? When you shop for groceries, inspect the packaging of all items before putting them in your cart. If a package is open or shows even slight signs of damage, don’t buy it. Promptly recycle any grocery bags you bring home, or — even better — use your own washable cloth grocery bag to carry items. You’ll not only have peace of mind knowing that no pests are riding home in shopping bags, you’ll also be doing something good for the environment!

* Before baking season begins, go through your pantry and cupboards to visually check for signs of pests. Sift through powdered ingredients to ensure they haven’t become infested while in storage. Check expiration dates and throw away anything that’s been stored too long.

* When you bring new ingredients home, store them securely in plastic or glass containers with tight-fitting lids.

* Clean up spills and crumbs on countertops, tables, floors and shelves right away, and don’t let trash build up in the kitchen trash container. Dispose of garbage regularly in sealed containers outdoors. From time to time throughout the year, empty cupboards and the pantry, and clean shelves with soap and water.

* Check around your kitchen and pantry for any cracks or holes where pests could get in. Seal openings around stovepipes and water pipes. Eliminate sources of moisture, like leaking pipes or clogged drains.

If you catch pests early, you may be able to prevent an infestation. But if an infestation has taken firm root in your home, consult a licensed pest professional to inspect and treat the problem.

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