A World of Hurt: How to Deal with Migraines

Steady, throbbing pain in your head.  Sensitivity to light and sound.  Nausea, and maybe vomiting.  If these symptoms sound familiar, you’ve probably suffered from a migraine headache.  The symptoms can be so miserable, it’s no wonder that doctors and patients refer to them as migraine “attacks.”

Nearly one in five Americans experience migraine headaches, and they are more common in women than in men.   The pain of a migraine usually comes on gradually.  Some people experience an “aura.”  No, that’s not a lovely glow; it’s the changes in vision, tingling limbs, or numbness that comes before a headache.  Migraines typically last a few hours, although some people experience them for an excruciatingly long time (up to 72 hours!).

There’s a looooong list of things that can provoke migraines.  Some of them are pretty common in college life:  chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, changes in sleeping patterns, skipping meals, irregular physical activity, oral contraceptives, and stress.  I don’t know about you, but most of my friends are exposed to at least one of those triggers while school is in session.

If you experience symptoms of migraine headaches, read on for a few things you can do to figure out what might be causing your headaches and how to make them feel better. Continue reading

Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy!

In the past year or so, the news media started talking about “drunkorexia.”  That’s a catch-all term for a variety of unhealthy eating habits that are related to binge drinking.  For example:

  • Skipping meals or slashing your energy intake during the day so that you can drink more when you go out;
  • Feeling compelled to exercise more to burn off the calories you drank last night;
  • Forcing yourself to throw up after drinking or eating too much.

It’s hard to say whether this is a problem at UNC.  Most students at UNC drink moderately, if they drink at all, so it’s not an issue for the majority of students.  But lately I’ve been hearing some concerns from a few students about the calorie content of alcohol, so it seemed like a great time to blog about eating, drinking, and staying in balance.

Continue reading

Headed for a Health Career?

So you want to help people get healthy?  Awesome!  According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 10 of the 20 fastest growing occupations are related to healthcare.  But the US population is changing, and so is the health care industry.  Here are some tips to make you a more competitive applicant for graduate school and a better future healthcare professional:

Get back to basics

Those traditional prerequisites are still absolutely necessary, and the pre-health advising office can help you sort them out.  Do you want to go into medicine, nursing, pharmacy, dentistry, dietetics or veterinary medicine?  You need a well-rounded education with a strong science background.  Interested in public health?  Depending on your subfield, you may want to strengthen your skills in physical science, social science, or math and computers.

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Party like a Dragon: Healthy Heels Weekend

The Healthy Heels are pretty psyched to expand our cultural horizons (and taste some delicious goodies) on Saturday at the Chinese New Year celebration.  Then we’ll balance it out with a hike with Campus Rec on Sunday.  Sounds like a perfect weekend to us!  What are you up to this weekend?

Top Picks

Chinese New Year Festival
Performances, music, and food to celebrate the year of the dragon!
Saturday, January 28, 10AM – 5PM
State Fairgrounds, Raleigh

UNC Habitat for Humanity Fundraiser
Silent auction for a good cause: Habitat projects in Honduras
Saturday, January 28, 1-7 PM
Open Eye Café, Carrboro

Campus Rec Expedition to Little River
A half-day hike, just beyond your backyard
Sunday, January 29, 10AM-2PM
North of Durham

We’ll also be checking  out…

Memphis the musical at Durham Performing Arts Center, January 24-29 * B-Ball vs. NC State on Thursday at 7 PM * Jimbo Mathus and the Tri-State Coalition at Local 506 on Saturday at 9 PM * Dessert-making class SWEETS at A Southern Season, $35, on Sunday at 6 PM  * Donna the Buffalo at Cat’s Cradle, Thursday at 8:30 PM * Mark Twain Now opening Saturday at 8 PM at The Arts Center

Long Runs, Short Runs, and Pie: Healthy Heels Weekend

Our awesome Laura Greenhow is running the Outer Banks half marathon this weekend, and lots of the Healthy Heels staff will be there to cheer her on.   If you’re also headed out for a 13.1 or 26.2 mile run by the beach, have fun!  For the rest of us, here’s what’s happening on the home front:

Top Picks

31st Annual Turkey Trot 5K
Chase turkeys. Win a turkey.
Saturday at 10 AM
Start at Rams Head Plaza

Farmers’ Market Pie Cookoff
Mmmm…pie.
Saturday, 8AM – 12 PM
University Mall

Eating Animals by The Performance Collective
By the UNC Communications Department
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights
Great Hall @ The Union

International Friends Thanksgiving Dinner
International students, sign up at internationalfriends.org.
Friday at 6:30 pm
Michael Hooker Building

We’ll also be checking out…

Ackland Film Festival at the Varsity on Thursday night * Iraqi and Sufi Music Concert at the FedEx Global Center on Friday night * Guys and Dolls all weekend at ArtsCenter in Carrboro * Anarchist Bookfair in Carrboro on Saturday * Women’s Basketball vs. Gardner-Webb on Saturday afternoon

Love Your ‘Hood, It’ll Love You Back

Chapel Hill is a great place to call home, and UNC students help keep it that way!  In that spirit, here are some tips on following the law, keeping your home pretty, and becoming the most popular neighbor around, whether you live on campus or off.

On Campus

  • Share the love. Got a care package of freshly baked deliciousness from home?  Walk down the hall and offer some to your neighbors.  You’ll be the most popular one on the floor.
  • Learn something new.  If you spot someone from your floor toting a yoga mat or carrying a guitar case, ask about it.  Whether it’s a hobby you share or something you’ve always wanted to learn, it’s a great chance to ask for advice or share tips.
  • Respect your shared home.  Close quarters are great for making life-long friends.  But they can also cause major conflicts.  You and all your neighbors have the right to be safe, happy, and healthy in your space.  So before you invite ten people over on Thursday night, blast Ke$ha tunes, practice your trumpet solo, or borrow your roommate’s iPod, ask if it’s okay.  It should go without saying, but vandalism, theft, and putting others in danger are NOT okay, and will likely plant you in front of the Honor Court, if not the police.

Off Campus

  • Ask for help.  Can’t figure out how to re-light the pilot light in the oven?  Want to know the best way to build a charcoal fire for the grill?  Your neighbors might be experts!  They’ll probably be more than happy to help, and you can repay them with some oven-baked treats or an invitation to your cookout.
  • Learn the law.  You are expected to keep your property free of trash and other debris and to avoid creating “nuisance noise” (see below).  Alcohol is not allowed on public property, which includes streets and sidewalks around your house. If you’re under 21, possessing and consuming alcohol is still illegal everywhere (sorry).  Find all town ordinances here.
  • Keep it down.  Your friends think you’re hilarious, but your neighbor with the 3-year-old might not, especially if you’re doing your stand-up comedy in the street at 2 AM.  Shouting, whistling, playing amplified music, honking horns, and setting off fireworks (!) are just a few examples of nuisance noise that can get you in trouble with police.

Find more Good Neighbor tips from UNC here and here.


Carolina in My Mind

Soldiers from Fort Bragg lend a hand in a Fayetteville neighborhood

On April 16, parts of North Carolina were hit by severe storms, tornadoes, and flooding.  FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, declared 18 counties in NC major disaster areas.   Throughout the state, the storms killed 24 people and wounded 133.  Over 6,000 homes and over 100 businesses were destroyed or damaged. In areas that depend on agriculture, there is so much debris in the fields that farmers are unable to plant.  KateNC’s flickr album shows the type of devastation facing some of our neighbors in other parts of the state.

Two weeks later, recovery efforts are steadily moving forward, and there are lots of ways you can get involved.  Volunteering is not only invaluable for the people you help, it’s great for your own health and well-being.  (Check out The Health Benefits of Volunteering.)

1) Help friends and family in the disaster areas.  If you have family or friends in the counties that FEMA has declared disaster areas,they can receive assistance from the federal government if they lost property or possessions that are not covered by insurance.  Help them sort through the paperwork at http://www.fema.gov/assistance/index.shtm.

2) Volunteer your time.  Many counties in North Carolina will need volunteers.  You can email ncdisasterrelief@ncmail.net or call the NC Governor’s Hotline at 1-888-835-9966 to find out about volunteer opportunities. The hotline will be staffed daily from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

3) Donate money or hold a fundraiser.  There are many private organizations that are accepting monetary donations.  Community groups and churches in the affected areas are great places to donate, if you know of them.  If you don’t have personal connections, two big places to donate are the N.C. Disaster Relief Fund and the Red Cross:

The NC Disaster Relief Fund is managed by the Governor’s office in partnership with the United Way of North Carolina.  Donations are tax deductible and 100 percent of donated funds will go to survivors.

The North Carolina Red Cross provides people with shelter, meals, emotional support, casework, and supplies to help with recovery efforts.  Since the storms hit on April 16th, more than 400 people have stayed in Red Cross shelters, over 80,000 hot meals have been served, and 1,344 clean up kits have been distributed.

Happy Earth Day!

Under all that Tar Heel blue, UNC has a heart that’s green.  On the College Sustainability Report Card, an independent sustainability evaluation of 300 public and private colleges, UNC earned an A-.

We got kudos for having a university Sustainability Office, purchasing EnergyStar equipment, using energy-efficient lighting, buying local and organic food, and decreasing water use by 57% per square foot of building since 2005.  Other big winners?  The Report Card loved the Tar Heel Treasure yard sale during move-out in the spring, which generated 13 tons of stuff to sell for worthy causes.  We also got big points for all of our sustainability-focused student groups and the Sustainability Living Learning Community.

So what do we need to work on?  Continue reading

Stop Dialing & Driving!

(Flickr, Creative Commons)

I admit it, I’m guilty of talking on my cell phone while driving.  I never thought twice about it.  That is, until last semester, when I studied distracted driving for a class project.  I learned that while I was chatting away on my iPhone, I was just as dangerous as a drunk driver with a blood alcohol content of 0.08.  Believe me, I am just as attached to my phone as every other student I know, and I am tempted to use it every time I get in the car, but now I keep it out of reach while I’m at the wheel.  Continue reading

Health Policy: Way More Than Medicare

CC Image courtesy of Amy the Nurse on Flickr

Did you know that having a social support network helps you live longer?  That living in a poor neighborhood makes you more likely to die young?  That discrimination is hazardous to your physical health, as well as your mental health?

We’re not exactly sure why these things are true, but they are.  The world you live in has a huge impact on your health.  Your house, your job, your friends, your gender, race, sexual orientation, income…they all matter.  That means that “health policy” goes way beyond Medicare and Medicaid.  It includes affordable housing policies, economic policy and labor laws, social welfare and civil rights.  In my graduate program, we call these things the social determinants of health.

Just how do health care reform, farm subsidies, and same-sex marriage affect our health?  Stay tuned to my blog updates!  In the meantime, get up-to-date on current events with my favorite sources.  Almost all of these have a Facebook page to like or a Twitter account to follow:

For extra credit, sign up for email updates from Kaiser Health News for smart, non-partisan, and in-depth coverage of health policy debates.

If that seems too much like homework, try Slate’s Weekly Gabfest.  Hosted by contributors to slate.com, it’s a lively podcast with snarky titles about the week’s political news.