Smart Cookie

Finally, a baked good that’s good for you. The Omega Cookie, made by Venice-based Ambo Foods, delivers dessert-quality flavor with no high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats or artificial preservatives (it’s gluten-free, too). Made with only all-natural sweeteners (think honey, applesauce, banana purée and fruit juice), the Omega Cookie actually has less sugar than you’d find in an apple. And don’t let its 220 calories scare you off; this cookie packs a nutritional wallop that many full entrées can’t touch—including 20 percent of your daily fiber and enough Omega-3 to potentially reduce triglycerides while increasing good cholesterol.

Omega Cookie by the numbers: 220 calories 35% calcium RDA 20% fiber RDA 200% vitamin D RDA 41 patents pending
Take Your Sunshine

New government guidelines for vitamin D—otherwise known as “the sunshine vitamin”—increase the recommended daily allowance three-fold (1,000 mg for most adults). Vitamin D improves calcium absorption for healthy bones and may also deter heart disease and diabetes. But be careful about taking more than that: Many doctors believe overuse of supplements can damage kidneys.

Here in the Sunshine State, we get more sunlight than most parts of the country, and we also tend to be outside more, so our bodies have more opportunity to generate vitamin D naturally. On the other hand, our older population may need extra vitamin D; the new guidelines specify higher recommended levels (1,200 mg) for women over 50 and men over 71 in order to fight osteoporosis.

Bottom line? Ask your doctor what these new numbers mean for you.
The Pain Problem

It’s been 20 years since the American College of Rheumatology declared fibromyalgia an official syndrome, but the condition, defined by chronic, sometimes debilitating pain, is “still somewhat of a mystery,” according to Sarasota physician and pain management specialist Dr. Donald Erb.

To diagnose fibromyalgia, doctors look for at least 11 out of 18 specific parts of the body that are painful to the touch; they also have to rule out conditions like hypothyroidism, lupus and multiple sclerosis. “It isn’t like treating a heart attack where you have a clot,” says Erb. “It can come about for no apparent reason.”

When fibromyalgia does occur, highly functioning people (statistically, women are more susceptible) develop fatigue and insomnia, then pain throughout their bodies. They have trouble concentrating and accomplishing seemingly simple tasks. Diagnostic difficulty can mean months of doubt, frustration and even depression, which can in turn exacerbate the symptoms.

“By the time they come to me,” says Erb, “these patients are very upset. They’re being told there’s nothing wrong with them. They begin to wonder if they made it all up.” And for many years, even after diagnosis, fibromyalgia treatments were experimental at best.

But three years ago, medications emerged that were specifically indicated for fibromyalgia. Locally, Sarasota Memorial Hospital’s pain care center is unique to the area and includes a research center. The key, says Erb, is to remember that there is help available: “People with fibromyalgia can help themselves with positive thinking and education,” he says, adding that it’s important to find an empathetic doctor who understands the disease. “This is a treatable condition,” he stresses.
Run and Fun

The Manasota Track Club/New Balance Racing Series opens its race season Jan. 22 with the four-mile New Balance Ringling Bridge Run. This marks the eighth year for Sarasota’s most popular road race, which offers runners, walkers and joggers a scenic course over the Ringling Bridge, culminating in a free family festival. Registration is $20 for adults, $10 for children and $50 for families (two adults and up to four children), benefiting the Sarasota YMCA’s healthy families programs. (Registration fees increase by $5 starting Jan. 15.)

“There’s a 98-year-old woman in my aquatic arthritis class. We work on balance, flexibility and strength, but just being in the warm water helps. That keeps her moving.” —Julie Rowell, AEA aquatics instructor, Sarasota


Mold Alert!

You may think of a mold problem as a foul smell and some unsightly spots. But summertime water damage can lead to serious wintertime health risks—especially if you’ve just returned to a vacation home that sat closed up during the warmest, stickiest, rainiest months. Even if you don’t see it or smell it, you still could be breathing in mold. The resulting health problems range from allergic reactions and irritations to liver and nervous system damage, trichoderma (mold growing in lungs), pulmonary hemorrhage and brain damage, according to Suzette Jones, head of the Florida division of Emergency Cleanup. To prevent mold before it starts, immediately seal leaks in windows, pipes and bathrooms, maintain air-conditioning systems and moisture-generating appliances like dryers and refrigerators, and thoroughly dry water-damaged areas within 48 hours.

For more from Hannah Wallace, click here to read her GenXtra blog.