Health Beat – February 2014


Dr. Lesley Fernow writes a column called “Senior Matters” for the Piscataquis Observer in Dover Foxcroft. Valley Grange is privileged to have permission to use her past columns for our  “Health Beat” Feature and for the information to be reposted to the Maine State Grange website. Address your questions or comments  to, 207-992-6822. Please note that information is general in nature and specific questions should be addressed to your health care professional.

I often hear people joking about middle age “senior moments,” as though this is something to be expected as we age.  Behind these jokes is a natural worry:  am I developing dementia?  While it is true that our memory declines as we age, experts in aging have discovered that there are straightforward ways to delay this process and improve quality of life.

Since aging of the brain is closely related to cardiovascular health, the most important strategies involve maintaining heart health.  This means controlling blood pressure, exercising regularly, and controlling weight and cholesterol.  Preventive practices focused on these areas not only prevent heart attacks and stroke, but also are likely to reduce risk of developing cognitive (thinking and memory) decline substantially.

Other important brain health tools include eating a “heart healthy” diet, often also called a “Mediterranean diet”.  This means eating mostly plant-based food: fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and legumes and seasoned with spices and herbs instead of salt.  Fats should be limited to olive or canola oil.  Fish and seafood should be eaten at least twice a week, and poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt should be eaten in moderate portions occasionally.  Meat and sweets should be eaten not more than a few times a month.  An optional glass of red wine once a day (not more) may also protect.   Following such a diet has been shown to reduce Alzheimer’s disease by 40% as well as heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease.

Other important factors in maintaining brain health include getting adequate sleep, reducing stress, and “exercising the brain” by increasing social interactions, especially conversation.

We will be exploring some of these factors in more detail in future columns.  Next column we will address the health benefits of growing and eating fresh vegetables and local resources.

December 2013 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is usually written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share! Due to extra demands at work, Karen is on a bit of a “Sabbatical” and this month’s column is written by Walter Boomsma.

When Karen and I discussed Health Beat for the holidays I mentioned that I might do something on the topic of “depression” — a topic we both agreed is timely for the holiday season. In some ways it seems incongruous–this is a meaningful, warm and charitable time of year. One would think festive moods would be the order of the day. And yet, for many different reasons many people get a version of the “holiday blues” or find themselves feeling depressed.  

So for this month’s Health Beat I’m going to ask you to visit my website and read the post, “Helping With Boots.” It’s a job I often have at  school when I substitute in the lower grades. I don’t want to give away the ending, but suffice it to say that I think we can learn a lot about the holiday blues, depression, SAD (seasonal affective disorder), PMS–all of those moments in life when we think we are “less” but we are really just being human–by thinking about the reality that there are times when we all could use a hand–holiday season or not.

Whether you need some help or are asked to give it, you might think about the reality that boots do not always go on easy, zippers some times break, and mittens can be tricky. When it happens we can feel frustrated, but the struggle doesn’t define us any more than a festive season means we have to be happy. “We’re people, and we have problems. We’re not perfect, and that’s okay.”

Of course I hope your holidays are happy… but perhaps a better wish is that your holidays be meaningful because that covers the range of emotion available to us as imperfect human beings living in an imperfect world. And if you are having trouble with your boots, find someone who’ll say “that’s okay” and then help you get them on.


October 2013 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share! This month’s column is written by Walter Boomsma as Karen is very busy with her work!

October is Farm to School Month!

FTS LogoFarm to school is broadly defined as any program that connects schools (K-12) and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers. Farm to school programs exist in all 50 states, but since farm to school is a grassroots movement, programs are as diverse as the communities that build them. In fact, the collaboration “GrowME” might qualify as we attempt to create agricultural literacy with classroom activities.

I’m willing to bet it’s not a coincidence that this is the month when many families make trips to pumpkin patches and apple orchards. Fall is a great time to think about the role farming plays in our health and in our communities. In the broadest sense, the harvest season starts with county fairs and may not end until spring when we open the last jar of veggies canned from our garden.

Chances are there are some activities taking place in your child’s school that fall under the “farm to school” heading. But it’s also a good time of year to consider the concept of “farm to family.” An outing to select pumpkins for the traditional jack-o-lanterns can be a healthy family event because it includes fresh air, sunshine, and an opportunity for the family to simply “be together.” These opportunities become increasingly important as the societal trends pull us in different directions or have us sitting silently together while we stare at our cell phones and tablets.

Visit a farm market–not only for the fresh produce but also for a chance to talk with the people who have grown what you’re purchasing. Most of these folks are happy to share information–some are very entertaining–and you’ll often get recipes and suggestions for preparation.

Most dictionaries define harvesting as the gathering of crops and, with a little creative thinking, we can find much to harvest. When we rake the leaves in our yards, we might be harvesting–as long as we are putting those leaves to some good use–perhaps as compost. (Personally I think a big pile for jumping in would qualify.) Rainwater collection systems allow us to “harvest” rainwater–not something we’d traditionally think of as a crop, certainly.

What can you harvest this fall to improve yours and your family’s health? Henry David Thoreau found much to harvest. ““The true harvest of my life is intangible – a little star dust caught, a portion of the rainbow I have clutched.

Some resources:

University of Maine Cooperative Extension

National Farm to School Month Information

National Farm to School Network

Eat Maine Foods Coalition

Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association





September 2013 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share! Because this topic is especially timely and important, we are repeating a previous column… All adults (including school volunteers and Bookworms) have an opportunity and responsibility to be sensitive regarding this issue!

September has arrived and Maine children are returning to school. It is an exciting time! Some children will be riding on a school bus for the very first time. There are new teachers and new friends to meet. There are old friends to see again after summer vacation.

However, many children are not looking forward to going back to school. According to the 2009 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, over forty-seven percent of middle school children report being bullied on school property and over twenty-three percent of high school students report being bullied on school property. Children are also bullied away from school property and on computers and other electronic devices. Twelve percent of high school students report receiving comments that are offensive regarding race or ethnicity and over nineteen percent report receiving offensive sexual comments related to sexual orientation, masculinity, and femininity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, bullying is a form of youth violence. Bullying includes attack and/or intimidation with the intention to cause fear or to cause harm that is physical, verbal, or psychological. There is a real or perceived imbalance of power between the bully and the victim. The bullying involves repeated attacks or intimidation between the same children over a period of time. The most common form of bullying is verbal bullying.

Bullying does affect health. Bullying can result in physical injury, social and emotional distress, and even death. Children who are bullied are at increased risk for mental health problems and substance use. They have higher school absenteeism rates. Children who are bullied do not feel safe in their schools. Victims are more likely to experience headaches, sleep problems and stomach ailments. They also have higher rates of suicidal thoughts.

Children who are bullied often do not tell a teacher or another adult because they fear retaliation by the children who are doing the bullying. Children who are bullied are victims of abuse and often do not have the confidence or the skills needed to stop the bullying behaviors on their own.

Bullying is not about “kids being kids.” Bullying only occurs when there is a power imbalance where one child has a hard time defending herself/himself and is not simply a disagreement. A child who is bullied should be told that bullying is wrong, no one deserves to be bullied, and everything that can be done will be done to stop the bullying.

Research suggests that the best ways to deal with bullying are through school wide programs that discourage bullying, developing consistent rules against bullying, identifying and utilizing a consistent disciplinary program related to bullying behavior, developing and implementing classroom activities related to bullying and bullying prevention, individual and group work with children who are bullied and for children involved in bullying others, staff training to learn to recognize and respond to bullying, improving the supervision of students, and involving parents in bullying prevention and intervention activities.

For more information, visit ,, and

The goal is to STOP bullying before it starts!

Eat and Learn with Extension

Saturday, September 7 Valley Grange hosts the UMaine Extension Piscataquis County Annual Supper and Meeting and it looks like there’s going to be something for everyone!

logo-piscataquis-santaAnother yummy supper is prepared by Penquis Volunteers and all proceeds will benefit Piscataquis Santa, served from 5 PM until 7 PM by donation to benefit Piscataquis Santa. The meal deal includes baked stuffed chicken, Angus beef tips, mashed potatoes with gravy, mac and cheese, glazed carrots and string beans, dinner rolls, fruit pie and vanilla ice cream, coffee, tea, and lemonade! Suggested donation is $8 for adults, $4 for kids 3-12, under 3 eat free! 100% of the proceeds benefit the Piscataquis Santa Fund! (There will only be 109 days until Christmas from this event!)

A LOGOThe program parts include lots of exciting things! Prior to and during supper there will be Extension exhibits and demonstrations including a working bee hive and opportunity for the kids to make “bee hummers,” information on gardening, farming and nutrition. Bring your gardening, farming, nutrition, 4-H questions! There will also be lots of material available… The annual meeting starting at 7 PM will feature highlights of local programming and a feature presentation by Dr. Lois Stack, UMaine Extension Ornamental Horticulture Specialist, “Native Plants in the Home Landscape.” All exhibits, demonstrations, and the program are free!

This is collaboration and cooperation at its best! You can come to one thing or you can come to everything!

August 2013 Healthbeat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share! This month’s column is a “Guest Column” provided by “Mr. Boomsma.”

Back to School Tips

back_to_school_supplies_800_clr_9051When it comes to getting ready for back to school, the one area we get a lot of help with is shopping! Not only are the displays overwhelming, there are often school supply lists available that will help you decide what items your child needs to have in his or backpack. But there’s a lot more to getting ready for school than pencils and rulers. You can help your child prepare physically, mentally, and emotionally as well.

Time was when a trip to the doctor was part of the annual ritual and, while no longer an absolute necessity, a review of any health concerns just makes sense. Annual checkups for children are recommended—making it part of the back to school plan will serve as a reminder. You’ll also want to inform the school of any required medications and allergies.

Re-establish routines and schedules—the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer are almost over. Don’t wait until the day before school starts to establish bedtimes and other routines—the recommendation is that families should start forming these new habits at least a week before school starts. If reading hasn’t been a regular activity, you might consider established a pre-bedtime routing of reading. Routines can include establishing places to keep backpacks and lunch bags.

Talk with your child—formally and informally. During the summer one of my standard questions for the kids I meet is “Are you ready to go back to school?” Since this usually evokes only a yes or no answer, if time permits I’ll ask “why?” Obviously the conversation varies depending on age. I recently met a young lady who is excited because this will be her first year in high school. But she also admitted she’s scared. When I asked about her fears, she explained she’s had issues with one older boy while riding the bus and now they are going to be in the same school. We discussed a couple of her options and, while I’m not naïve enough to think the problem is solved, I think we both feel a little better.

These conversations become even more important when school starts. The bullying issue is an important one but the answer is not simply “tell the teacher.” It’s also important not to over-react. We need to allow children to share their concerns and try to teach them coping skills. Younger children especially need support during the transition back to school. Be quick to ask them about their day, take an interest in their work, and understand their nervous. Remember your first day on that new job?!

Partner with the school and teacher. The first weeks of school are busy and unsettled for teachers and staff too. A little patience will go a long way, but teachers do want parents involved. If concerns develop, do not hesitate to contact the teacher and let him or her know of your interest and concern. Take full advantage of things like open houses when parents are encouraged to visit school with their children.

The internet offers a wealth of resource information—a search for “back to school tips” may actually be a great project to start with your child. If there’s a trick, that’s it—to make getting ready for school a family effort with everyone contributing to making this the best year yet!

July 2013 Healthbeat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share! 

bicycle_racer_5606Now that school is out for the summer motorists will see many more bicycles on the roads. About 85 million adults and children ride their bicycles for recreation and fitness every year. Unfortunately, adults and children can be injured or killed in bicycling accidents. More than 600 children die in bicycle accidents every year. It is important to follow bicycle safety rules.

Maine bicycling laws can be found at Bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle operators. They may use public roads, designated bike paths, and bike lanes. Bicycles are not required to be on shoulders or in bike lanes/paths in Maine. Sidewalk riding is not prohibited by state law but may be prohibited by local ordinances. Bicyclists must stop at red lights and stop signs. They must yield to pedestrians in marked crosswalks. Bicyclists must ride with traffic and obey lane markings. Almost one-fourth of all bicycle-car crashes result from bicyclists riding against traffic.

Cyclists under the age of 16 must wear bike helmets. All bicyclists should wear properly fitted bike helmets every time they ride. A helmet is the most effective way to prevent a potential head injury. Football helmets can’t be substituted for bike helmets. The majority of bike crashes happen near home, in driveways, or in designated bike paths. So wear a bike helmet all the time, not just when  bicycling on streets. Help your child to develop “the helmet habit”! Replace bike helmets every five years. Always replace a bike helmet if it has had an impact.

Hand signals should be taught to children before they are allowed to ride in the street. Always signal your intent to turn and to stop.

It is never safe for a child to ride a bicycle at night. Adult bicyclists must have and use headlights, rear reflectors and pedal reflectors at night. Wear bright reflective clothing.

All bikes must have brakes that work.

For more information visit, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, or the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety.

June 2013 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share! 

hikers_400_clr_9598School is almost out for the summer. Many parents are planning various summer activities for their children. One of these activities might be a summer camp. Parents should research prospective camps for their children and then talk with and meet with camp officials and staff. Make sure adequate supervision will be provided. Find out how you will be notified if your child is ill. Find out how the camp will care for your child if he or she is ill.

To help prevent injuries pack protective gear like helmets and life jackets if the camp does not provide these items. Pack insect repellent containing DEET and sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher to protect against mosquitoes, ticks and the sun. A check list of things to pack is helpful and should include things like sleeping bags and bedding, extra blankets, hats and sunglasses, healthy snacks and water, hand sanitizer, and any needed medical information.

Teach kids to avoid wild animals that can carry diseases that are harmful to people. Teach kids to avoid hair to hair contact, to avoid sharing combs and brushes, and to avoid sharing hats to prevent head lice.

Campers may get sick during their time away because of the close living conditions at camps. Make sure your kids vaccinations are up to date. Getting vaccinated is one of the best ways to keep your child and other campers healthy at camp. Teach kids to wash their hands frequently with soap and water and to use a hand sanitizer. Tell children to notify camp staff if they become sick or if they notice that another camper is not feeling well. Keep your child home if he/she is sick.

Homesickness is very common. Try to involve your child in choosing a camp and in preparations for camp. Be positive about the camp experience but also be honest about homesickness. If your child has not had many sleep-overs, do practice sleep-overs with friends and family before your child goes to camp.

For more information visit,, or

April 2013 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share!  This month’s column is provided by Vic Morin of the JD Foundation.

The JD Foundation created the Connecting with Spirit program to give people the opportunity to come together, form community bonds, exercise their bodies, and to take advantage of the natural healing effect that nature has on the mind, body and soul.

Think of what has happened to us as a society over the past few centuries  the movement from a rural lifestyle to one where most of us live and work indoors with little or no contact with nature. Studies indicate that the lack of exposure to sunshine, fresh air and hands-on contact with the outdoors negatively impact those suffering from depression. A sunny day may do more than just boost your mood  it will also increase your levels of Vitamin D and adequate levels of Vitamin D have been linked to less depression symptoms, as well as a reduced incidence of osteoporosis and several types of cancer. Having suffered from depression off and on throughout my life, I know first-hand how important sunshine, exercise and contact with nature are to mental health.

The JD Foundation is located on an interval between the Piscataquis River and the Kingsbury Stream, providing a beautiful location for some of our walks. Standing under a 200-year-old oak tree along the shores of the stream, gazing upward through its outstretched branches, allows the mind to wander, and wonder, at what that tree has seen during all those years. We walk those same shores in the spring as the wildflowers make their first appearance and in late summer when the mushrooms explode from their underground homes on warm, rainy days.

Each fall, we hike to Little Wilson Falls after a heavy rain to experience the rushing water tumbling 45 feet into a gorge lined with towering walls of moss-covered slate. Each winter we do a walk to Houston Brook Falls, frozen solid in the below-zero temperatures. This allows us to walk to the outlet stream and stand touching the frozen falls while rushing water is visible beneath the clear blue-tinted ice. Experiences like this help put day-to-day troubles into perspective and restore our sense of awe. In conducting these walks, we are sharing the gifts that I and other volunteers have experienced over the past 50 years spent in the Maine woods.

Since our initial snowshoe walk on New Years Day three years ago, we have been able to see what a great affect these outings are having on those who participate. We have witnessed introverted people become more outgoing through sharing these experiences with others; seen those who knew nothing of the flora and fauna in our area now yearning to learn the names of wildflowers and birds; and most importantly; we have seen the amazement of young people after spending time in the woods  some for the first time in their lives.

To date we have conducted 55 walks averaging 10-12 persons per walk, accomplished through volunteer efforts, and donations from people who believe in what we are doing. As a leader on these walks, I feel that this effort shows our dedication to making a difference for those who suffer from depression, and for those who now have a safe, healthy alternative to remaining cooped up indoors all winter, which could lead to depression.

Our walks have included two men in their 80s, children as young as 2, and everyone in between. Everyone benefits from these walks, and we will always include all ages groups, but we do want to do more walks specifically for school-aged children. We feel that there are many benefits to working with this age group beyond just the mental health aspects, such as exercise to combat Maines rising obesity epidemic, and establishing that vital spiritual connection to all living things in the young people who will grow up to be the stewards of our forests.

The JD Foundation
107 Main Road
Abbot, Maine 04406

March 2013 Health Beat

Reducing Lead Poisoning Risks…

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share!

Hazard WarningEvery year hundreds of children in Maine are poisoned by lead. Lead poisoning is hard to detect and many times there are no signs or symptoms until dangerous levels have accumulated. Lead can be very harmful to children under the age of six. Increased amounts of lead in children often build up over a period of months or even years. More than half of Maine homes may have lead paint in them. Lead was used in many products, including paint, before the risk to children was known. Paint purchased before 1978 still has lead in it. Exposure to lead is most common in buildings built before 1950 and in homes built before 1978 where repainting and/or remodeling was done.

Lead dust from old paint is the most common way children get lead poisoning. Lead dust can come from opening and closing old painted windows, peeling or chipped paint, repair and renovations done that disturb old paint like sanding or scraping, and worn painted floors and stairs. Less common places to find lead are in the soil around the foundations of old buildings, on old painted furniture and toys, imported painted toys and jewelry, lead pipes found in old plumbing, while participating in hobbies like stained glass and furniture refinishing, and in certain jobs like metal-cutting and recycling, construction work, and auto repair-especially with auto batteries.

Lead dust is found on many surfaces where children put their hands and play with their toys. Children then put their hands into their mouths. Lead dust enters their bodies and causes damage. Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, behavior problems, hearing damage, speech delays, and lower intelligence. Lead can have serious and permanent effects on a child’s growth and development.

All children should have blood lead tests done at age 1 and at age 2. Your child may be at risk for lead exposure if you live in an older home, if your child spends a lot of time in an older home-like at day care, if your child puts everything into his or her mouth, if there is chipping or peeling paint close to where your child plays, or if your child is exposed to lead dust from a person living in the home working at a high risk job.

By law, lead hazards are identified by a Maine licensed lead inspector while doing a lead inspection. Maine DEP regulations define the paint conditions and amounts of lead in dust, soil, and water that may be considered a lead hazard. It is possible to have lead paint in a home without it being a lead hazard.

There are many things a parent or caregiver can do to reduce a child’s exposure to lead dust. Don’t scrape or sand old paint. If possible, avoid old house renovations until children are older. Pick up paint chips and throw then away. Wet mop floors where children play. Place barriers like furniture in front of old windows so that your child is not able to reach these areas. Wash the wood around windows and doors. Avoid opening and closing windows when possible. Vacuum with a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner. Don’t let children play in the dirt next to the house. Provide covered sand boxes and grassy areas to play in and around. Wash children’s hands, toys, and pacifiers frequently. Feed children at a clean table or in a high chair. Do not allow children to eat food off the floors. Wet clean vehicle interiors and child safety seats. If you work in a high risk environment, take your work clothes and shoes off in an enclosed area that is separate from the living area of your home. Put your work clothes in a covered container and wash them separately from other clothes. Shower before interacting with your child. Do not allow children to play with work shoes. Lead in water is not usually a problem but you can have your water tested for lead. Always use cold tap water for drinking and cooking. Always run your water for a few minutes if the tap has not been used in a while like first thing in the morning.

Go to to get more information or to request a free lead dust test kit. At your child’s 1 and 2 year old well child checks be sure to discuss lead testing with your child’s doctor.