IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  August 1, 2005

Paddling a Canoe

Paddling a canoe by yourself can be difficult. But with these skills, you can be assured of making it back upstream or across the water to camp.

Before you start, get into the right position. Turn the canoe around and sit backward in the bow seat. This puts you closer to the middle of the craft. Bring the boat to near trim with a daypack or a few water bottles tossed into what is now the bow. If the canoe is too wide to paddle comfortably, kneel on the bottom and scoot closer to the gunwale on your stronger side.

Writing in Field and Stream, T. Edward Nickens says a 12- to 14-degree bentshaft paddle is best for soloists. It is most efficient just forward or beside the paddler.

The C stroke will keep you going straight. Turn the paddle face to a 30- to 45-degree angle to the canoe and plant it forward and out from the gunwale. Carve a C-shaped arc, bringing the blade under the gunwale beside your seat, then away from the boat. The forward sweep is longer and used to point the canoe away from your paddle side. It begins and ends closer to the canoe.

The reverse sweep steers you in the other direction. It begins in back and close to the canoe and ends in front of the paddler and close to the gunwale.


Test for Radon Gas

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has raised its estimate of annual U.S. lung cancer deaths from exposure to radon gas based on new data from the National Academy of Sciences.

Radon is a radioactive gas found in rocks, soils, and water. It's generally harmless outdoors where it mixes with air. Indoors, it can collect in greater concentrations by seeping through cracks in a home's foundation and joints. Lower levels of the house are more vulnerable.

You can't see, smell, or taste radon, but the EPA says it's the second-leading cause of lung cancer. About one in 15 homes has elevated levels. While there are professional testing services, inexpensive home testing kits are widely available. Sales are up since the Surgeon General's advisory.

The EPA ranks states and counties by their "radon potential" on its Web site, epa.gov/radon. Click on EPA Map of Radon Zones along the left side to get an idea of the radon level in your area.

Most tests cost $10 to $20 and require you to take air samples and send them to labs. One kit features a digital monitor designed to beep loudly when it detects higher radon levels. It's more expensive, $94.90, and can be bought at radon.biz.

According to the EPA, higher-risk states include Colorado, Kansas,Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. Lower-risk states include Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Texas. The EPA standard is 4 pCi/L (pico curies per liter of air). They recommend taking steps to reduce any higher reading.


Avoiding Traveler's Diarrhea

Aside from sending sufferers frequently to the bathroom, it can cause fever, cramps, and nausea. You don't have to go to a foreign country to get it. Whether you are traveling by ship, plane, car, or foot, you are a potential target. While there are several possible causes, the main culprit is the bacteria E. coli. It causes about 80 percent of all cases. Whatever the cause, these steps can help you avoid food borne illness:

  • This famous caution still applies, "Boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it." Particularly in foreign countries, don't eat anything that isn't thoroughly cooked.
  • Boil the water or drink bottled water. Carbonated water is even better. Skip the ice. It's frozen water that may not be pure.
  • Order the meat well done. Even at the best hotels, meat can be contaminated and cause infections.
  • At a buffet, make sure food is hot. Bread and potatoes are the safest.


  • Food Help for Summer Sun

    These foods help your skin tolerate the summer sun

    Wearing sunblock with a sun protection factor (SPF) 30 is the best way to avoid sunburn. Unfortunately, people don't do it when they will be out in the sun for only a short time.

    Often, that short period drags on and there they are in the sun without protection.

    There is a form of sun block that's always on duty, won't wash off when you sweat or swim, and has other healthful benefits. It's created by foods that block the effects of the sun.

    Tomatoes. Think lycopene, the same substance that protects against some forms of cancer. Studies reported in the Journal of Nutrition show that when you consume just six ounces of tomato juice or a quarter cup of spaghetti sauce, you get enough lycopene to reduce the risk of sunburn by up to 40 percent.

    Sweet potatoes or carrots, baby carrots included. Think beta-carotene, it's what gives these foods their orange color. If you eat a helping every other day, you will collect beta-carotene in your skin. Studies reported in Men's Fitness show that this vitamin can shield your skin from certain UV rays. That means you can stay in the sun longer without burning.

    Lemons. Make a pitcher of lemonade and have a glass. Researchers at the University of Arizona report that lemons (also limes and grapefruit) contain d-limonene, an antioxidant known to lower skin-cancer risk. Freshly squeezed juices are the best and contain about 20 times as much d-limonene as commercial varieties. Add some peel or zest to salads. Just one tablespoon of zest a week can reduce the risk of skin cancer by up to 30 percent.

    Old fashioned lemonade

    Mix the juice of six lemons with a cup of sugar syrup and a quart of water. Substitute part granulated sugar and part artificial sweetener if desired.


    Prevent Heat-related Illness

    Don't let hot weather put you down

    If you're working or playing outside, the easiest way to avoid heat stroke and other heat disorders is to keep your body well hydrated. That means drinking plenty of water before, during, and after exposure to the heat.

    Wear light colored, loose fitting clothes that let your body breathe and cool itself. Wearing a hat can shield you from the sun, but when you feel hot, take the hat off. It keeps heat trapped inside your body.

    Limit your outdoor physical activity on hot days. Don't overdo it. Heat stroke can set in after less than an hour of exposure. If you feel yourself getting overheated or light headed, take time out and rest in the shade.

    Heat cramps are associated with lack of fluid, heat, and lack of physical conditioning. They are painful but not life threatening.

    Heat exhaustion is caused by heat and dehydration. Symptoms include paleness, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, light-headedness, vomiting, fainting, and cool, clammy skin. The victim should be moved to a cool place, be given liquids, and cooled with a fan and wet cloths.

    Heat stroke is a medical emergency caused by lack of body fluids and overexposure to the elements. Victims have a high temperature but don't sweat. They may have a rapid pulse, headache, seizures, or be unconscious.

    Call for immediate medical help and do what you can to cool the patient before help arrives.

    If you are active outdoors, doctors recommend drinking at least one big glass of water every hour during a very hot day.


    Pre-surgery Antibiotics

    A recent discovery shows that giving patients antibiotics an hour before surgery greatly reduces post-surgical infections.

    About 3,000 hospitals took part in the study, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They found that If antibiotics are given more than one hour before surgery, the effect has worn off by the time surgery begins. If antibiotics are given after surgery begins, an infection might already have set in.

    Of about 15 million surgeries performed each year in the U.S., 300,000 patients develop surgical site infections. The study provides an opportunity for hospitals to reduce that number significantly.

    Siblings and Heart Health

    While parents' heart health has been considered a strong predictor of whether a person was at risk for heart disease, researchers at Johns Hopkins suggest looking to siblings instead.

    A new study of people at an average age of 52 with no coronary heart disease (CHD) indicates that CHD in later life is more frequent among subjects whose siblings had heart disease before age 55 (65 for women).

    For siblings of early CHD patients, screening can help determine how to treat risk factors.

    New Stroke Treatment

    A hemorrhagic stroke is the most devastating kind, causing many thousands of deaths each year. Now, doctors at Columbia University Medical Center say a drug used for treating hemophilia could save thousands of these patients.

    Called Factor VIIa, it reduced deaths by 38 percent. Bleeding in the brain was reduced by half, compared with a placebo. This means less pressure and less damage to brain tissue.

    The result could be a better chance of returning to a normal life. Now, only 20 percent of hemorrhagic stroke patients can return to a normal life.


    Advice for Type 2 Diabetes

    Doctors know that type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease. It affects the body more and more as time goes by.

    Many people with type 2 are not prescribed insulin until 10 to 15 years after their diagnosis. Often it is prescribed only after complications have set in.

    Doctors at Johns Hopkins Diabetes Center say that situation is changing. The trend now is not to delay insulin treatment but rather to begin it as soon as people have trouble keeping blood glucose under control.

    The worst tragedy occurs when patients don't take care of their diabetes, get complications, then wish they had taken insulin.

    If you have type 2, you probably monitor your glucose levels with an at-home blood glucose monitor. In addition, your levels should be checked quarterly by your doctor.

    The doctor checks your A1c level, an average of overall blood glucose control over several months. The American Diabetes Association says the A1c level should be 7 percent or less.

    The closer you can keep your blood glucose to target levels, the less likely you are to develop complications such as nerve damage, amputation, vision loss, and kidney failure.

    People are often reluctant to begin insulin therapy, but eventually most type 2 cases should have it, the researchers say. If other medications aren't working well enough, insulin will help.

    People with type 2 diabetes must be aggressive about managing care. They should improve their diets, exercise more, and take oral medications as prescribed.

    If these steps are not effective in keeping their A1c levels under 7 percent, insulin will be.