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Better to prevent it than treat it.

On January 6, 2014 Gov. Mark Dayton ordered all schools be closed due to extreme cold temperatures that blanketed the state.

Fast forward one year later and Minnesota is again facing double digit air and wind chill temperatures for much of this week. When wind chill values of 20 to 40 below zero are forecasted it is time to think about protecting yourselves, children and pets from frostbite.

The temperature the morning of January 5, 2015 was -11 and with the wind chill it felt like -25. Kids headed out the door with extra layers to keep them warm while waiting for the bus and plumes of exhaust filled the air as cars were warmed for the chilly drive to work.

While bundling up when you know you have to be outside is a good idea, it is important to note that frostbite can occur within 30 minutes when temperatures are as low they were on Monday. Dress in layers and go inside immediately if you get wet.

There are three degrees of exposure – frostnip, superficial frostbite and deep frostbite. People with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease are at increased risk for frostbite. Certain medications also increase the risk.

“Superficial frostbite results in very little tissue loss and heals quickly with little to no need for medical treatment. Deep frostbite has greater consequences; one can expect significant tissue loss and often results in amputations to manage the injury. Do not rub the skin and do not pop blisters,” said Carrie Lager, Manager of Emergency Services at River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic.

Frostbite most often occurs in areas furthest from the body’s core – fingers, hands, ears, nose, feet and toes. It begins when blood vessels in the affected area begin to contract, reducing blood flow and oxygen to the area. Loss of feeling in the area occurs then color changes – pale to blue –will begin.

“Avoid alcohol before going out in the cold weather or during as it may keep you from recognizing the symptoms of frostbite,” Lager said.

Treatment of frostbite includes a physical exam of the exposed area. In some cases the patient is admitted to the hospital for observation. Warming of the exposed area is done by placing the frostbitten area in warm water (100-105 degrees Fahrenheit). In 3-5 imaging of the area is done to identify any tissue damage after rewarming. If getting immediate medical attention is not an option, get out of the cold as quickly as possible and, if there is no risk of refreezing, warm the area in warm water to thaw the exposed area. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.

River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic provides quality health services that value all dimensions of health including mind, body and spirit. Our goal is to improve the health of all individuals we serve through continuous, measurable improvement in patient satisfaction, clinical quality, patient safety and operational effectiveness.

By Stephanie Hill

On January 1 I, like many of the 45 percent of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions, made a New Year’s resolution. My resolution was to take charge of my health and focus on being more active.

I have tried this same thing over and over again. I go fast out of the gate and lose interest and motivation after about 6 weeks.

This time is going to be different. I set reasonable goals and am staying motivated. So what is the difference? It’s my FitBit. According to Business Insider, 3.3 million wearable fitness trackers were sold in 2014. Some of the most popular are the FitBit, Jawbone and Garmin. These devices also have mobile app that syncs with the device to record your progress toward your goals.

I am not endorsing the Fitbit as the best wearable device, but I do love mine. It tracks my steps, my sleep, calories burned and it has an alarm clock. The mobile app and desktop application allow me to set calorie intake goals and log the food and I water I consume. I can also specifically track activities – like using the treadmill or elliptical machine at the gym.

The Journal of the American Medical Association said in a recent article that wearable devices are designed to facilitate health behavior change. The idea is that by tracking the things I listed above, the user becomes educated about their health and will be motivated to make better choices.

SPOILER ALERT: The Fitbit or any other wearable fitness tracker is not a magic device that suddenly gets you moving more and makes pounds disappear into thin air. You have to start it and keep doing it.

Okay, that sounds a little harsh but it’s true. As a chronic stopper and starter I know from experience. The best way sustain physical activity and healthy eating is to change your habits.

Notice I did not say “create new habits.” CHANGE the ones you have. In the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life & Business by Charles Duhigg, habits are described as a three step loop – the cue, the routine and reward. You should use the same cue and the same reward but change the routine.

“Attempts to give up snacking, for instance, will often fail unless there’s a new routine to satisfy old cues and reward urges,” Duhigg writes.

So what does that mean? When you feel hungry are you really hungry? Most likely you’re not. The cue is your stomach rumbling. The old routine is grabbing the bag of chips and eating half of what’s left. The reward is the growling from your gut is gone. Let’s switch it up – you feel hungry (cue). Instead of chips you walk to the water cooler and fill your cup with 8 ounces of cool, filtered water (new routine). The reward – your stomach is full and you’ve increased your water intake by 8 ounces.

You can do this with activity as well. At the end of a long work day the first thing you want to do is kick off your shoes and put your feet up. RIGHT? I know I do. Well, kick off those shoes and put on your tennis shoes and take a walk around the block (or two). Your heart will start pumping and you’ll have more energy for the evening.

Of course you can change your bad habits without having a fitness tracker around your wrist. For me it was a personal decision. I need to see my results to stay motivated. When I reach my daily step goal before bed each night I am motivated to do it again the next day – but get them in sooner.

How and what you change to be healthy is up to you. Stick with it – no matter how many times you stop and start.

Stephanie Hill is the Director of Marketing at River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic. The information and suggestions contained in this blog are not intended to replace advice, diagnosis or treatment of qualified medical professionals. Consult with your primary care provider before starting a new diet or fitness program.