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The University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Ophthalmology will establish the Research to Prevent Blindness/Susan and Dowd Ritter Endowed Chair in Ophthalmology Research with a $3.75 million endowment, one of the largest in UAB history.

The endowment will enable the department to recruit a world-class scientist to join its existing roster of international experts in the study of blinding diseases such as macular degeneration and glaucoma.

The endowment is funded by Research to Prevent Blindness, the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to funding eye research in the world, the EyeSight Foundation of Alabama, the department’s and university’s largest donor, and Susan and Dowd Ritter. Both RPB and ESFA have a long history of support for UAB and recognized that they could leverage their individual philanthropic impact with equal matching support from an additional private philanthropic partner.

Dowd Ritter, former CEO of Regions Bank, and his wife, Susan, agreed to become that private partner and pledged to provide the crucial third matching gift.

“We’ve gone to the Department of Ophthalmology for family eye care for years, and all the doctors we’ve encountered have been fabulous — it’s a stellar part of UAB, and as it grows is going to be a real jewel for the city,” said Susan Ritter. “We liked the fact that this is a public and private partnership that’s going to allow UAB to bring top ophthalmology researchers to Birmingham to improve vision care for the entire world.”

Christopher A. Girkin, M.D., chair of the UAB Department of Ophthalmology and holder of the EyeSight Foundation of Alabama Endowed Chair of Ophthalmology, says UAB researchers have made many significant contributions to vision science, many of them funded by RPB, an organization that has been associated with nearly every major breakthrough in the understanding and treatment of vision loss over the past 50 years.

“RPB’s partnership with the Ritters and the EyeSight Foundation provides an opportunity at a critical juncture for expansion of the department’s research program,” Girkin said. “Having a $3.75 million endowed chair will enable us to recruit another stellar individual who will add even more depth and breadth to our already outstanding research faculty.”

RPB has awarded grants and pledges totaling $2.18 million to the School of Medicine at UAB since 2008.

“RPB is interested in supporting upward trajectory in vision science, so this concept of a highly leveraged endowed research chair with potential to attract a truly excellent national vision researcher to UAB was appealing to us,” said RPB President Brian F. Hofland, Ph.D. “We see this project at UAB as an effort that may well prove to be a model for other such partnerships in other parts of the country.”

The ESFA is also supportive of Girkin’s vision for the department’s research goals, according to Torrey DeKeyser, executive director of the organization.

“Under his leadership, there is an emphasis on research that is generating excitement among the scientists, and this collaborative endowed chair will help boost and continue this momentum,” she said. “The EyeSight Foundation board and staff could not be more pleased to be part of this strategic funding collaboration with the Ritters and Research to Prevent Blindness.”

From UAB News




If you’re like many other digitally connected people these days, you probably rely on smartphone applications, or “apps”, throughout the day. Mobile apps help us easily check the weather, search for the cheapest gas prices, listen to music, play games, and communicate with friends.  But those tiny icons on your screen also have the potential to transform your health in creative and powerful ways.

Wellness companies and app developers have teamed up to create mobile apps for fitness tracking, healthy eating, vital signs tracking, sleep, meditation, and so much more. The sheer number of health and wellness apps available for download on iTunes and Google Play can be overwhelming, especially if you’re new to the world of apps.

So, here’s a helpful roundup of some of our favorite health apps to get you started. Some offer a basic version for free, while others require a nominal fee to unlock the full set of features.

MINDBODY

Available for download on Google Play and the iTunes App Store, the MINDBODY app allows you to find fitness and wellness services in your home community and elsewhere when you travel. With a few clicks, it’s easy to book your spot in a yoga, Pilates, or CrossFit class nearby, or maybe even a salon or massage appointment. With MINDBODY, you can read reviews about studios and instructors, sync classes to your calendar, and connect the app with your Fitbit to view workout activity data.

Pact

Would you like to earn money for sticking to your exercise goals? Pact is an app that lets users actually make cash for being active, which is paid for by members who don’t. To start, you’ll make a weekly pact to exercise more or eat healthier and see how much you’ll owe other app users if you don’t reach that goal. Money can be a good motivator for some people, and users are notified about their earnings or losses each week. You can connect Pact with other apps such as MapMyRun and MyFitnessPal as well.

Headspace

Committing to a meditation routine can be hard, but the Headspace app makes it easier with guided meditations that take the guesswork out of calming your mind. It breaks meditation sessions into easy, 10-minute increments to help you improve your focus, relieve stress, and be more mindful throughout the day.

Yonder

This is a great app for outdoor enthusiasts and people who want to spend more time in nature. It helps users discover and share outdoor trips based on interests and location. You can see what others have written about and photographed regarding locations near your home or when you travel. Hiking, kayaking, skiing, and rock climbing are just a few of the adventures that you’ll be inspired to do while using this app.

CraveMate

Food cravings are a challenge for many of us, but the CraveMate app can help you control food cravings to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. You start by establishing your goals and setting reminders, and then the app encourages you to resist cravings by expressing yourself creatively with captions, photos, and videos. You can even share your journey and progress with friends and family on social media.

BlockFit

One of the best things about exercise is that you can do it anywhere and don’t necessarily need a gym to get your body moving. The BlockFit app offers fast and simple exercises that you can do at home, in the office, or outside – all in the form of a game. You don’t need any fancy equipment, just this mini-routine that will get you up and moving for an active daily lifestyle.

Track Your Vitals

If you have trouble keeping track of all of the medical records and lab results for you and your family, this app may be able to help. It’s designed to reduce paperwork hassles and keep important medical information at your fingertips, so you’re not searching through stacks of paper when you need it quickly. With this app, it’s easy to share lab reports, prescription records, blood pressure history, blood sugar measurements, and other key data with new doctors and specialists.

Strava

Runners and cyclists love Strava because it keeps track of all your exercise data and lets you analyze your progress. If you feel like getting competitive, you can even compare your performance to other people who have done the same route or improve upon your personal best. The basic app to track your runs and rides is free, but there is a premium option that includes personalized coaching, detailed activity analysis, and performance feedback.

Fooducate

This comprehensive nutrition and weight loss app helps you track your calorie intake, hunger levels, mood, exercise, and sleep. You can scan product barcodes to access personalized nutrition recommendations and even analyze information found in nutrition panels and ingredient lists. Fooducate is particularly useful if you want to follow a low-carb, low-sugar, paleo, or non-GMO diet, and it also has a feature to get feedback and tips from fellow users.

Yoga Studio

Some people think that you have to pay for pricey studio classes just to keep up with a yoga routine. However, Yoga Studio is a great app to use if you want to do classes on your own and wherever you are. It has class options for beginner, intermediate, and advanced yogis and allows you to create custom classes as well. Just choose a duration of 10-60 minutes and whether you want to focus on balance, strength, flexibility, relaxation, or a combination of each of those objectives.

It may be getting chilly in some parts of the country, but this is the perfect time of year to get outside and be active in the South. Temperatures are more pleasant, the humidity is lower, and the leaves are beginning to change color. This is a perfect recipe for outdoor activities, and there are so many family-friendly ways to enjoy the milder weather.

Fall is an ideal time to combine exercise with family time and learning opportunities to build healthy habits for everyone under your roof. So pull out your calendar and start planning for the weekends ahead. Here are 10 fun ways to bond with the family and get your bodies moving outdoors.

1. Hiking Trails: One of the easiest and most accessible ways to get the whole family outside and active is to simply go for a hike. All you need is a pair of sturdy shoes and a thirst for adventure to hit the trails and discover new things along the way. The Official Travel Site of Alabama has some great recommendations for local trails to experience the vibrant fall colors. Challenge your kids to play a game of “I spy” by pointing out different colors, types of leaves, or interesting insects along your hike. Don’t forget to bring your family dog along to sniff new smells and give those four legs some exercise, too.

2. Biking Trips: Another wonderful way to exercise in the great outdoors is to go biking on a trail, around the park, or in your very own neighborhood. If you don’t have a bike, stop by one of the Zyp bike share stations in Birmingham to explore the city on one of these 400+ shared bikes. Biking is fun for kids and adults of all ages, and even young children can come along in a bike carrier until they’ve learned to pedal for themselves. If you don’t want to leave your dog behind, you can even buy bike trailers specially designed to carry dogs

3. Pumpkin Patches: Visiting a pumpkin patch is a quintessential part of fall and a wonderful way to get outside with your family. Take some time to learn about how pumpkins are grown and pick a few to eat, decorate, and carve. Also, there’s usually much more to these traditional fall festivities than just pumpkins. Make a whole day of a pumpkin patch adventure with hayrides, corn mazes, and maybe even a pig race!

4. Apple Orchards: Aside from pumpkins, apples are the other big produce favorite of the season. Visit a local apple orchard with your family to learn about how apples are grown, and pick fresh ones to take back home.

5. Farmers Markets: After seeing where local fruits and vegetables are grown, take a trip to a nearby farmers market for a wider selection and a fun family outing. Many local farmers markets stay open after the summer and throughout the fall. The Alabama Farmer’s Market, for example, is open 365 days a year and is one of the oldest farmer-owned and operated markets in the country.

6. Food Co-ops: To take healthy eating a step further, consider joining a food co-op. They are excellent resources for finding fresh, local produce and healthy, sustainable projects that you can feel good about enjoying with your family. By supplementing your regular grocery shopping with a co-op membership, you also can reduce your environmental footprint and support local agriculture.

7. Water Sports: Just because summer is over doesn’t mean that water sports have to be, too. Fall is a great time to take a rafting trip and experience the thrill of whitewater rapids. Other fun ways to get out on the water with your family include renting a canoe or kayak and leisurely paddling around for the day.

8. Weekend Camping: Family travel is often associated with summer vacations, but fall is the perfect time to go camping in the South. Pick a weekend to disconnect from technology, enjoy the great outdoors, and spend quality time as a family. Whether you pitch a tent or load up the RV, camping is a fun and affordable way to switch up your weekend routine. There are plenty of great Alabama State Park campgrounds, and Good Sam lists even more campgrounds in the area to choose from.

9. Picnicking: Backyard barbecue invitations may be few and far between now, but as long as the weather allows, there’s no bad time for a picnic. Picnics help families get out of food ruts and inspire culinary creativity. Besides, this is where you can put all those goodies you picked up at the farmers market to good use.

10. Local Vineyards: Whether you’re looking for an afternoon activity with your partner or a weekend getaway with friends, local vineyards offer a glimpse into the winemaking process and are loads of fun to visit in the fall. Many vineyards and wineries offer tours, tastings, and bottles for purchase. This fall, experience the beauty, sophistication, and unique qualities of Alabama Wine Country. The North Alabama Wine Trail runs along the southern tier of the Appalachian Mountains, and the Shelby County Wine Trail loop starts just south of Birmingham.

 


Healthy Resolutions

In addition to shopping for gifts and making holiday party plans, the end of the year is also a time when many of us begin thinking about New Year’s resolutions. If you fell short of accomplishing your resolutions last year, this might be a bit of a sore spot. Less than 8% of people actually stick to their resolutions each year, according to some estimates, yet millions of Americans continue to set goals with high hopes of a better year ahead.

Whether you want to lose weight, get organized, or achieve anything else in 2019,it’s all about sticking to your goals. Here are 10 common traits, characteristics, and habits of people who keep their resolutions for self-improvement.

1. Start with specific micro-goals: Goal-setting and resolutions are typically more of a marathon than a sprint. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and give up when your resolution is something big, such as losing 50 pounds, finding your dream job, or traveling around the world. People who actually achieve their resolutions tend to set much smaller micro goals that are ultra-specific and realistic. If your resolution is to eat healthier, one micro-goal might be to start blending fruit and vegetable smoothies for breakfast each day. If your goal is to take up a new hobby, you might resolve to sign up for a class at a local art studio before the end of January.

2. Set resolutions for the right reasons: It’s important to make resolutions that have a deep importance to you rather than things that are expected of you or what someone else wants. Before the end of the year, put some serious thought into what improvements or changes truly matter to you and what you want out of life in 2019. These are the ideas that should guide your resolution-setting behavior, because they are more likely to stick with you and always be in the back of your mind.

3. Document your progress: It’s hard to stay focused on goals if you don’t see yourself making progress. Writing down your successes and challenges on a regular basis helps you stay focused on keeping your resolutions. Jotting down thoughts in a journal or keeping a simple spreadsheet of milestones allows you to assess where you are in your journey and adjust your efforts accordingly.

4. Practice patience and forgiveness: Even with the best of intentions and motivations, it is all too common to lose sight of resolutions when life gets hectic and your attention is needed elsewhere. It takes time to make lasting change, but sometimes all you need is an unexpected breakthrough to make your resolution a reality. Through the ups and downs, practice patience and forgiveness with yourself, acknowledging that no one is perfect and that you are on the right path.

5. Schedule in time to achieve goals: Time is elusive and often slips away from us with busy schedules and competing interests. Chances are that you schedule in time for work tasks and family obligations, so make this the year that you schedule in time for your resolutions, too. This could mean blocking off an hour each day to exercise, occasionally declining social invitations to focus on self-care, or dedicating a Saturday morning each week to searching for a job.

6. Embrace the buddy system: One of the biggest mistakes people make when setting New Year’s resolutions is trying to achieve them alone. Having a buddy alongside you who has similar goals or simply wants to support you can make a huge difference in whether you achieve your resolutions in 2019. If possible, find someone you trust who is reliable and can commit to joining you for healthy meals, exercise, or new hobbies or activities.

7. Consider your budget: You could be the most motivated individual in the world and still not be able to stick to your resolution if finances get in the way. As you are thinking about which resolutions to focus on in 2019, consider your budget and current financial obligations. If money is a concern, consider adjusting your resolution of traveling the world to exploring nearby towns you’ve never visited, or choose new hobbies to pursue that are within your means.

8. Slow down and meditate: It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and excitement of a new year and lose sight of why you set resolutions in the first place. People who stick to their resolutions tend to be good at slowing down the pace of life, which allows for greater mental clarity. Meditation is a great tool for slowing down the mind and bringing your focus to just one thing, such as the resolution you’re striving to achieve. Take a few deep breaths and make a point to clear your mind and think about your resolution for at least a few minutes each day.

9. Reward yourself for achievements: Resolutions shouldn’t be all about hard work and no fun. That’s why it’s important to reward yourself for achievements you make, no matter how big or how small. If you’ve stuck to your resolution of saving $1,000 a month for the past three months, treat yourself by buying something small that you’ve been wanting for a long time. Occasional rewards provide tangible proof that your resolution plan is working well and that you are improving yourself little by little.

10. Ask others to keep you accountable: People who stick to their resolutions ask others to keep them accountable so that it’s more difficult to fall back into bad habits. Tell as many people as you feel comfortable with what your resolutions are, and encourage them to check in with you periodically for updates on your progress. Simply knowing that a loved one might ask you about your goal and that you’ll feel obligated to provide an honest answer may be enough help you stick to the new goals you’ve set for yourself.


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paul mutnerAn additional 31 million people are now classified as hypertensive, or having high blood pressure, according to a study that looks at the impact of the new American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association hypertension guideline. The guideline, released by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association in November, lowered the blood pressure levels used to define hypertension from 140/90 mm Hg to 130/80 mm Hg.

The study, led by Paul Muntner, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology in the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, found that, under the new guideline, approximately 103.3 million people in the United States will be categorized as having high blood pressure. Muntner says the increase isn’t meant to scare people, but make people aware of the risks.

“The guideline represents a fundamental shift in treating high blood pressure,” Muntner said. “High blood pressure is not a disease, but rather a risk factor for heart disease, stroke and kidney disease that can be managed through lifestyle and medication.”

The guideline also changes the number of people who will be on blood-pressure-lowering medication. Out of the 31 million adults who will be newly diagnosed with hypertension under the new definition, only 4 million people will be recommended drug treatment.

“The big focus on this guideline is non-drug treatment,” Muntner said. “The majority of people who are newly diagnosed as having high blood pressure won’t be recommended medication. Instead, we recommend lifestyle changes such as weight loss if the patient is overweight, improving one’s diet and physical activity.”

Before the new guideline came out, approximately 79 million Americans were recommended medication to treat high blood pressure.

“While we estimate that many people will need a second or third blood-pressure-lowering medication to achieve the new blood pressure treatment goal, there are benefits in lowering the risk for a heart attack or stroke with achieving a lower blood pressure,” Muntner said.

The new guideline also places an emphasis on improving how to measure blood pressure.

“Clinicians need to make sure the equipment they use is validated,” Muntner added. “They also need to take the measurement after the participant rests for five minutes. The patient’s legs need to be uncrossed with their feet flat on the floor.”  

Muntner says the final takeaway from the guidelines is a team-based approach to care. The guideline recommends having the doctor involved with the patient’s treatment, and includes others such as a pharmacist and a nutritionist.

The study, Potential U.S. Population Impact of the 2017 American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association High Blood Pressure Guideline, was published in Circulation and the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Source: UAB News


March is National Nutrition Month®! To get you started on the healthy path, use the following tips to Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.

 

Focus on fresh foods. Many foods in their original form (such as fruits, vegetables, fresh meats, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, milk, yogurt, and grains like rice) are naturally low in sodium. Include these foods more often in meals and snacks.
Eat processed and prepared foods less often. Highly processed and ready-to-eat foods tend to be higher in sodium. Eat these foods only occasionally or in smaller amounts; especially cheesy foods, cured meats, and ready-to eat foods.
Cook more often at home. Enjoy home-prepared foods where you are in control of how much salt is added. Use little or no salt when cooking. Even if package instructions say to add salt to the water before boiling, it isn't required and can be omitted. When using canned vegetables with salt added, be sure to drain and rinse the vegetables to reduce the amount of salt.


Try new flavors. Skip the salt and try salt-free seasonings such as herbs, spices, garlic, vinegar, black pepper, or lemon juice. Make your own salt-free seasonings by combining herbs and spices.
Read food labels. Read the Nutrition Facts label and ingredients list to find packaged and canned foods lower in sodium. Compare the amount of sodium listed and select the product with the lower amount. Look for foods labeled low sodium, reduced sodium, or no salt added.


Use caution with condiments. Foods like soy sauce, ketchup, pickles, olives, salad dressing, and seasoning packets are high in sodium. Try low-sodium soy sauce and ketchup. Sprinkle only a small amount from a seasoning packet, not the entire amount.


Allow your taste buds to adjust. Like any change, it can take time for your taste buds to adapt to less salt. Foods lower in sodium may taste differently at first, but over time it's possible to acquire a taste for foods with less salt.


Think ahead and plan where you will eat. Consider what meal options are available. Look for restaurants or carry-out with a wide range of menu items.


Read restaurant menus carefully for clues to fat and calorie content. Menu terms that can mean less fat and calories include: baked, braised, broiled, grilled, poached, roasted, or steamed. Menu terms that can mean more fat and calories include: batter-fried, pan-fried, buttered, creamed, crispy, or breaded.


Order the regular- or child-sized portion. Mega-sized servings are probably more than you need. For a lighter meal, order an appetizer in place of a main course.


Split your order. Share an extra large sandwich or main course with a friend or take half home for another meal.
At the sandwich shop, choose lean beef, ham, turkey, or chicken on whole grain bread. Ask for mustard, ketchup, salsa, or lowfat spreads. And, don't forget the veggies.


At the salad bar, pile on the dark leafy greens, carrots, peppers, and other fresh vegetables. Lighten up on mayonnaise-based salad dressings and high fat toppings. Enjoy fresh fruit as your dessert.


Ask for sauces, dressings and toppings to be served on the side. Then you control how much you eat.


Always eating on the go? Carry portable, nonperishable foods with you for an on-the-run meal. Some suggestions are peanut butter and crackers, granola bars, a piece of fresh fruit, trail mix, single-serve packages of whole grain cereal, or crackers.


Winter starts to settle in around this time each and every year, yet many homeowners still find themselves unprepared when the temperature drops and the first snowflakes begin to fall. The winter season can pose serious hazards to your health and safety, but with a little advance planning you can enjoy the holidays with confidence and peace of mind.

There are many things to check on and do around the house this time of year to provide a safer and healthier home for your family. Here are a few of the most important:

1. Winterize the Swimming Pool

Swimming pools are lots of fun in the summer, but when it becomes too cold to take a dip it’s time to winterize. Start by cleaning leaves and debris from your pool, managing the water level, balancing the pool chemistry, and disconnecting the pump and filter. A secure cover will protect both your pool and your family over the winter.

2. Clean Out the Gutters

Autumn leaves have mostly fallen off the trees now, so take this opportunity to clean out your gutters of all debris. While you’re up there, this is also a great time to repair any roof leaks to prevent excess moisture from seeping in over the winter.

3. Install Weather Stripping & Insulation

Not only will weather stripping and insulation help keep you warm on chilly days inside your home, they will also save you money on your monthly heating pills. Storm windows can also be installed to keep you cozier.

4. Clean the Chimney

There’s nothing better than gathering around the fireplace during the holidays. Keep your fireplace working well and prevent potential fires by cleaning out your chimney.

5. Replace Smoke Detector Batteries

We rarely think about smoke detectors until we really need them. Be prepared for whatever the winter brings by testing your smoke detectors once a month and replacing the batteries as needed. While you’re at it, install a carbon monoxide detector, too.

6. Check Backup Generators

Winter storms often bring power outages, which can put your family at risk of extreme cold exposure, food poisoning, and carbon monoxide poisoning. Position a backup generator at least 20 feet from your home and test it to ensure that it’s functioning properly.

7. Practice Space Heater Safety

Space heaters provide targeted warmth in an efficient way to warm certain rooms of the house and office spaces. To minimize the risk of fire, leave three feet of space between space heaters and anything that could catch on fire, such as bedding and curtains. Never place a space heater near water or on top of furniture.

8. Prepare Your Vehicle for Emergencies

Remember that your home isn’t the only valuable asset that needs a little extra care before winter. Check your tire tread or upgrade to all-weather tires for the winter months. Make sure that your vehicle’s antifreeze levels are maintained and that you keep a full tank of gas during cold temps to prevent ice from forming in the fuel lines and gas tank. It’s also smart to keep an emergency kit in your vehicle that’s equipped with jumper cables, blankets, a first-aid kit, a flashlight with extra batteries, and some food and water.

9. Plan Travel Wisely

Holiday travel is just around the corner, so keep an eye on weather conditions and be prepared to adjust your plans if necessary. Try to keep your schedule flexible, have a contingency plan in place, and always let someone know when and where you’ll be traveling.

10. Exercise Safely Outdoors

Just because it’s cooler outside doesn’t mean that you can’t still get out and exercise. Outdoor exercise is a great way to prevent winter weight gain and fight seasonal depression, but it does require a few special precautions. How you dress in the winter is more than just a fashion statement, so dress in waterproof layers and beware of icy patches to prevent falls. Make sure to warm up and cool down before and after exercise to help your body transition, and don’t forget the sunscreen!

11. Eat Well-Balanced Meals & Stay Hydrated

Nutritional deficits and seasonal illness are common in the winter for people who spend more time indoors and eat a limited variety of foods. To compensate for fewer hours in the sunshine, make sure to eat foods rich in vitamin D, such as salmon, tuna, and fortified milk and grains. If you begin to feel sick, don’t delay seeking medical treatment.

Just because you don’t feel thirsty doesn’t mean your body doesn’t need water. Water helps regulate body temperature, making it very important to stay hydrated in the colder months. Also, limit your consumption of alcoholic beverages over the holidays to prevent dehydration.

12. Care for Seniors, Children, & Pets

While you may have no trouble taking care of yourself in the winter, not everyone is so fortunate. Check on older adults, especially those who live alone, and limit the amount of time that children and pets spend outdoors in cold weather. This is the season to be thinking of others, so take a moment to consider the needs of those in your community.


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