What is the “National Diabetes Prevention Program” (DPP) Anyway?

The National Diabetes Prevention Program, or NDPP, is a nationwide network of organizations aimed at lowering the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the US. Eligible DPP participants have been diagnosed with prediabetes or display at least 5 of the risk factors identified by the CDC’s Risk Quiz. With access to a health coach and evidence-based lifestyle change programs, participants reduce their risk of diabetes by as much as 58% — or 71% for those 60 years old and older.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 88 million American adults have prediabetes, and 84% of them are unaware. These individuals are at an increased risk of full-fledged type 2 diabetes, along with developing heart disease or experiencing a stroke. The statistics are staggering and scary — but the disease is 100% preventable. As is the case with most preventable health phenomenons, awareness is key to turning numbers around.

Enter the CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program, or NDPP for short.

National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP) Overview

The CDC introduced the National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP) initiative in 2010. NDPP is essentially a framework that gives Americans access to evidence-based, affordable lifestyle change programs that delay or reverse the onset of type 2 diabetes. Partner organizations in the National DPP network include federal agencies, health professionals, employers, and others in the public and private sectors; and their shared goal is to reduce the prevalence of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes in the United States.

National Diabetes Prevention Program Curriculum & Requirements

The Diabetes Prevention Program is delivered by CDC-recognized providers around the United States. All lifestyle change programs are one year in duration and share the following key elements:

  • Approved content following the CDC’s “PreventT2” curriculum
  • A Lifestyle Coach trained and certified by the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists (ADCES)
  • Tracking of participants’ weight, food intake, physical activity, and coaching sessions attended
  • A designated Program Coordinator to represent each CDC-accredited NDPP provider
  • Standard operating procedures and data submission requirements for Diabetes Prevention Recognition Program (DPRP) providers

Offered both online and in-person, the Diabetes Prevention Program promotes lifestyle changes aimed at preventing diabetes.

As participants progress through a one-year journey, they learn to incorporate physical activity into their daily routine, choose healthier foods, and practice coping skills for healthier stress management. Weight loss is used as the primary measure of success in the program, as losing 5% of your body weight can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes by 58%. However, DPP participants will tell you the impact on their life is far greater than the number they see on the scale.

MDPP vs. NDPP: Medicare & National Diabetes Prevention Program

While researching the Diabetes Prevention Program, you’ll notice a few flavors of abbreviations. We’ve already covered the National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP); its lesser-known sibling is the Medicare DPP, or MDPP, offering. The Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program is simply a variation of the CDC’s behavior change intervention made available to Medicare beneficiaries.

The program requirements are slightly different for MDPP. For example, in addition to the NDPP requirements, individuals must also not have end-stage renal disease (ESRD) to be considered eligible for MDPP; the program also lasts up to 24 months, and you may only participate once in your life.

Do I Qualify for the National Diabetes Prevention Program?

To qualify for a Diabetes Prevention Program referral, you must be at-risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Your diabetes risk increases if you are male, have high blood pressure, have a family history of diabetes, or had diabetes while pregnant. African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, and Pacific Islanders are also at increased risk, according to the ADA.

You know you’re at risk, and therefore eligible for DPP participation, if any of the following three criteria apply:

  1. In the last year, you’ve had been diagnosed with prediabetes based on a blood test result:
    • Hemoglobin A1C: 5.7–6.4% or
    • Fasting plasma glucose: 100–125 mg/dL or
    • Two-hour plasma glucose (after a 75 gm glucose load): 140–199 mg/dL
  2. You’ve scored “high risk” on the CDC’s Prediabetes Risk Quiz
  3. You were diagnosed with diabetes while pregnant (i.e., gestational diabetes diagnosis)

The program eligibility guidelines also require that individuals:

  • Are overweight as defined by body mass index (minimum BMI of 23 for Asian Americans; BMI of 25+ for all others)
  • Are not pregnant
  • Are at least 18 years of age

Those who have diabetes or were previously diagnosed with diabetes — types 1 or 2 — are not eligible for the Diabetes Prevention Program.

Who Offers the National Diabetes Prevention Program?

Lifestyle Change Programs, a key component of the DPP initiative, are offered throughout the United States — online, in-person, and in combination delivery formats.

The class schedule, size, and cost vary by provider, so search the DPRP registry for a program that meets your needs.

Some of partner organizations may sound familiar to you. The YMCA, Baptist, Florida Blue, and USPM are on the list.

USPM Offers a Free Online Diabetes Prevention Program

USPM is fully recognized as a DPRP provider. We’re proud to deliver the Diabetes Prevention Program to populations throughout the US. If you’re interested in participating, reach out to learn about our DPP offering. As a DPP provider, USPM partners with employers, health insurance payors, and other organizations to make our lifestyle change program available to as many at-risk individuals as possible. In many cases, your participation may be 100% free to you. A representative from our Member Care team would be happy to walk you through a quick questionnaire to determine whether you are eligible for our offering.

USPM's National Diabetes Prevention Program stats
USPM maintains Full Recognition status as Diabetes Prevention Program provider.

Our DPP participants’ health outcomes speak for themselves. Those who actively engage in our Prevent T2 program for at least one year lose an average of more than 7% of their starting body weight — cutting their risk of type 2 diabetes in half and improving their quality of life.

Diabetes Prevention Recognition Program (DPRP) Requirements

The CDC established the Diabetes Prevention Recognition Program Standards. Organizations undergo a rigorous accreditation process to achieve Full Recognition status as a DPRP provider. The CDC requires all DPP providers to submit cohort data every six months to earn and maintain their recognition status; that data is used to evaluate whether the provider “demonstrates effectiveness” by hitting the program targets outlined in the DPRP Standards.

Join the National Diabetes Prevention Program

After participating in USPM’s Prevent T2 program for several months, Elizabeth shared her testimony: “I have lost weight, developed added strength and muscle tone, and more than that I feel stronger and more energetic than I have in years.” As amazing as her story is, it’s not the only one we’ve seen.

Individuals who participate in a CDC-recognized Diabetes Prevention Program have more energy, more stable blood sugar levels, and less stress as they enjoy the benefits of a healthier lifestyle. Take the quiz today — and take the first step toward a healthier you!

Getting the Most out of GLP-1 Agonists

GLP-1 agonists have quickly become a popular treatment for weight loss and type 2 diabetes. However, is successful treatment really as simple as starting a new medication? Let’s take a closer look at the relationship between GLP-1 agonists and lifestyle changes.

GLP-1 Agonists

GLP-1 agonists, or glucagon like peptides, have been around since the FDA approved the first one in the U.S., exenatide (Byetta & Bydureon) in 2005. While quite a few have been approved since then, we have seen their popularity increase substantially in the last few years. In fact, in 2022 alone we saw over 5 million prescriptions written for this class of drugs, a 2000% increase since 2019. Researchers are still learning about their potential benefits and uses, but their main function remains as a treatment for type 2 diabetes, and more recently, weight loss. There’s also a growing sentiment among researchers that GLP-1 efficacy can be greatly improved with companion programs centered around lifestyle modification and behavior change.

Before you Begin GLP-1 Agonist Treatment

For anyone considering taking GLP-1 agonists, laying a sturdy foundation for behavioral changes is the key to maximizing results. GLP-1 agonists fundamentally change how users view and crave foods. It stands to reason that making dietary modifications, such as embracing whole foods and moderating sugar intake, will serve you well in preparation for beginning GLP-1 agonist therapy. By incorporating an array of nutrient-rich foods—such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins—your odds of success increase greatly.

Equally essential is the integration of regular physical activity into one’s daily routine. Exercise not only aids in weight management, but also enhances insulin sensitivity, allowing for more efficient glucose utilization by the body. Getting into the habit of regular exercise early on is paramount to increasing your chances of sustained weight loss. From brisk walks to strength training sessions, finding activities that bring joy and fulfillment can make exercise a long-term habit. Moreover, cultivating healthy habits, such as getting adequate sleep, managing stress levels, and abstaining from tobacco use, make achieving optimal wellness that much easier.

A group of individuals headed to an exercise class. Exercise combined with the use of GLP-1 agonists is far more effective than the medication by itself.

Maximizing the Benefits of GLP-1 Agonists

Lifestyle changes and GLP-1 agonists intertwine harmoniously, amplifying each other’s efficacy. These medications, when aligned with dietary alterations and regular exercise, exhibit enhanced glucose-lowering effects vital to weight loss. While GLP-1’s alone are effective, GLP-1’s with positive and lasting change are even more so.

Jason Balette, a bariatric surgeon at Memorial Hermann Medical Group in Houston, Texas, had this to say on the matter, “Studies demonstrate that a GLP-1 agonist along with a diet and exercise program will result in up to 15% body weight loss.”

To put that into perspective, 15% of weight loss on a 195lb adult would leave them around 165lbs. That’s roughly a 30lb reduction in weight. The key to long-term wellness when it comes to weight loss is avoiding regression. Without making the necessary lifestyle modifications, your chances of regression once off of GLP-1 agonists, become significantly higher. Click here to learn more about the regression of GLP-1 users without the support of a lifestyle modification component. Ultimately, commitment to healthy habits remains indispensable in realizing long-term health goals.

The Value of Companion Programs

We’ve established that lifestyle modifications and behavior changes play a large role in increasing success with GLP-1 agonists. So, what resources exist that can be utilized while taking GLP-1 agonists? The answer is companion programs, which we are seeing more and more of being offered each day.

You should check with your health care provider about what programs or opportunities you can take advantage of. If your health care provider does not offer this option, there are alternative companion programs available through various other sources. These companion programs typically provide educational components that outline the benefits of lifestyle modifications. Others have gone so far as to offer cost savings benefits. MetaOne, an offering from U.S. Preventive Medicine, even provides continued support for when participants come off of GLP-1 agonists.

Life After GLP-1 Agonists

The journey to wellness extends far beyond the realm of medication. When it comes time to stop using GLP-1 agonists, a foundation of healthy habits can make all the difference. Strategies for navigating post-treatment life are important, from setting realistic goals to cultivating resilience in the face of challenges. Your relationship with your prescribing physician is invaluable, and you should discuss with them their recommendations for sustaining results.

By embracing the benefits of the lifestyle changes you’ll have already made, you can safeguard yourself against regression. There are other strategies as well, like taking advantage of continued support from programs offered by your healthcare provider. Transitioning from weight loss assisted by GLP-1’s to going it alone can be difficult. Another program from U.S. Preventive Medicine, The Preventive Plan, offers weight loss pursuits that can also help participants sustain healthy habits while coming off of GLP-1 agonists.

2 individuals, man and woman, smiling as they work on losing weight by going for a jog. Continued exercise after using glp-1 agonists is key to sustaining results.

Looking Back

As we reflect on the symbiotic relationship between GLP-1 agonists and lifestyle modifications, it becomes evident that successful treatment extends beyond the mere administration of medication. GLP-1 agonists have emerged as powerful tools in the management of weight loss and type 2 diabetes, yet their effectiveness is greatly enhanced when coupled with behavioral changes. By laying a sturdy foundation of healthy habits before embarking on treatment, individuals can optimize their outcomes and pave the way for sustained wellness.

The Key to Unlocking Quality Sleep

In our fast-paced society, sleep often takes a back seat to other priorities. However, National Sleep Awareness Month serves as a timely reminder of the importance of quality sleep for our overall health. Sleep is the cornerstone of our overall well-being. When you aren’t getting quality sleep, your body is not able to function at an optimal level.

Understanding Quality Sleep

First, there is more to quality sleep than just the number of hours one spends in bed. Quality sleep encompasses the depth and restfulness of our sleep cycles, including stages vital for our physical and mental restoration. It is a complex process that takes place in stages that we cycle in and out of throughout the night. The two main stages of sleep are REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and NREM (non-REM) sleep. There are also sub-stages of each, that we experience before the process starts over and repeats.

The Stages of Sleep

Stage one is considered the “dozing off” stage, which typically lasts one to five minutes. At this point, your body has yet to full relax and it’s very easy to awaken at this time. Stage 2 is when physiological changes begin, like the slowing down of your breathing, heart rate, and a drop in body temperature. Your brain activity will also decrease, although you may have noticed short bursts of activity at this stage. These bursts of activity are called “sleep spindles” and are thought to be associated with memory stabilization.

Stage 3, or deep sleep, is thought to be when the restorative qualities of restful sleep begin to take effect. This stage lasts roughly 20-40 minutes in each cycle and will be repeated throughout the duration of your sleep. Finally, after about 90 minutes we reach the final stage, REM sleep. REM sleep is critical to our cognitive functions like memory, how we learn, and creativity. Ideally, this is a stage we reach multiple times in a night, with each time lasting longer than the previous.

The Importance of Quality Sleep

Successfully getting through all the different stages is vital to obtaining quality sleep. Interruptions disrupt our ability to progress to the deep and REM stages of sleep which are critical to waking up feeling truly rested. Quality sleep plays a major role in maintaining both physical and mental well-being. Physically, it boosts our immune system functionality, supports heart health, and aids in weight management by regulating hormones responsible for hunger and metabolism. Mentally, it enhances cognitive function, promotes emotional well-being, and helps manage stress effectively, thereby improving overall resilience and mental acuity.

Picture of a man who appears to be getting restful, quality sleep.

Factors Affecting Sleep Quality:

Several factors can influence the quality of our sleep. Lifestyle habits such as diet, exercise, and screen time can either facilitate or hinder our ability to achieve restful sleep. Additionally, environmental factors like bedroom ambiance, external temperature, background noise, and stressors like work or relationship issues significantly impact sleep quality. The more we can limit external factors the better our sleep hygiene will be. There are also medical concerns that can prevent us from getting the restful sleep our bodies require to properly function. The presence of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or insomnia are incredibly impactful on our quality of sleep. Understanding these factors empowers us to make informed decisions to improve our sleep hygiene.

Tips for Improving Sleep Quality:

Improving sleep quality requires a multifaceted approach encompassing healthy habits and a conducive sleep environment. Establishing a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day regulates our internal body clock, promoting better sleep quality. Almost everyone has heard of the Circadian Rhythm, or the physical, mental, and behavioral changes in our bodies that follow a 24-hour cycle. These changes that occur within us are extremely important when it comes to preparing the body for sleep. Aptly named, it is a rhythm that has to be maintained if quality sleep is a personal goal.

Additionally, our external environment is equally important as our internal one. Optimizing the sleep environment involves creating a comfortable and tranquil setting free from distractions such as harmful noise and light. It may take some experimenting, but finding out what works for you is key. White noise machines may be distracting for some, while being the missing ingredient to falling asleep for others. Moreover, practicing stress management techniques and seeking medical assistance for sleep disorders are essential strategies for enhancing sleep quality and overall well-being.

Sleep Awareness Campaigns and Resources:

National Sleep Awareness Month serves as a platform to raise awareness about the importance of quality sleep and disseminate valuable information and resources to the public. Various campaigns and initiatives aim to educate individuals about healthy sleep habits and provide support for those struggling with sleep-related issues. If you feel like you may be suffering from a sleep related disorder, mental or physical, visit the American Sleep Apnea Association’s website to find more information on what resources are available to you. Another option more and more people are turning to is that of sleep studies. If you’re curious about what kind of insights a sleep study can provide, check out this article from the Sleep Foundation.

Moving Forward Towards Quality Sleep

Whatever you decide to do, remember that quality sleep is a fundamental pillar of good health and wellness. As we observe National Sleep Awareness Month, let’s recognize the profound impact of sleep on our physical and mental well-being. By prioritizing sleep and adopting healthy sleep practices, we can unlock the transformative benefits of quality sleep and embark on a journey toward enhanced vitality and overall well-being.

Accessibility to GLP-1 Agonists: How Hard is it?

In the realm of diabetes management and weight loss, GLP-1 agonists have emerged as promising treatment options. However, navigating the hurdles of accessibility presents significant challenges for individuals seeking these medications. Understanding the barriers to access is crucial for addressing disparities in diabetes care and obesity treatments.

Understanding GLP-1 Agonists in Weight Loss & Diabetes Treatment

To begin, let’s explore the role of GLP-1 agonists in diabetes treatment and weight management. These medications mimic the action of glucagon-like peptide-1, a hormone that regulates insulin secretion and blood sugar levels. Beyond glycemic control, GLP-1 agonists have shown efficacy in promoting weight loss, making them valuable tools in the management of both diabetes and obesity. From a weight loss perspective, the way these drugs work is crucial to understanding how they aid in losing weight. GLP-1 Agonists have been shown to change appetite and eating habits altogether by slowing down the duration of digestion, leaving GLP-1 users feeling fuller and more likely to consume smaller portions.

A plate depicting word tiles reading "weight loss", one of the more common reasons people seek out the use of GLP-1 agonists, which has led to accessibility issues for some.

The Rising Costs of GLP-1 Agonists

Transitioning to the financial aspect, the rising cost of diabetes treatment compounds the challenge of accessing GLP-1 agonists. Factors such as escalating medication prices and healthcare expenses contribute to the financial strain faced by individuals and healthcare systems. As a result, affordability becomes a significant barrier to accessing these essential medications. Employer funded health care plans have experienced a meteoric rise in claims costs since the introduction of GLP-1 agonists to the market. For more on the impact of the introduction of GLP-1 agonists to healthcare costs, check out Boom in Weight-Loss Drugs to Drive up US Employers’ Medical Costs in 2024 – Mercer.

Accessibility Challenges

Moreover, accessibility issues further exacerbate the hurdles faced by individuals seeking GLP-1 agonist therapy. The current demand for these medications is becoming increasingly difficult for suppliers to keep up with. Additionally, insurance coverage limitations, formulary restrictions, and high out-of-pocket costs create barriers to accessing these medications. These challenges disproportionately affect marginalized communities and those with limited financial resources, widening health disparities in diabetes care.

While the price of GLP-1 agonists remains relatively accessible for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, for those whose insurance plans cover it, those who don’t have coverage are left to pay steep out of pocket costs. Individuals seeking the help of GLP-1 agonists for use as a weight loss aid likely find their insurance also does not cover it, or they don’t meet the requirements for coverage, and they too must deal with staggering prices. Currently GLP-1 agonists cost, on average, between $900-$1,350 per month, leaving health plan sponsors in a precarious position. Most are forced to choose between providing competitive coverage or constraining rising claims costs.

Strategies for Affordability

Despite these obstacles, some strategies do exist to help patients navigate the cost of GLP-1 agonists. Researching insurance coverage options and formularies can provide insight into available benefits. Some health plan sponsors have shifted to the use of educational and companion programs as requirements before providing coverage for GLP-1 agonists. This strategy has shown to increase the likelihood of success for GLP-1 users and the sustainability of their results. Those seeking coverage of GLP-1 agonists can even stand to benefit from lowered co-pays upon completion of these programs.

Exploring patient assistance programs and prescription savings cards can also mitigate out-of-pocket expenses. Engaging in candid discussions with healthcare providers about affordability concerns may also lead to alternative treatment options that better align with patients’ financial circumstances.

Depiction of information pamphlets on diabetes, which GLP-1 agonists were primarily designed to treat.

Patient Perspectives

To gain a comprehensive understanding of the impact of accessibility barriers, it’s essential to consider patient perspectives. Personal stories and testimonials from individuals navigating the complexities of diabetes care shed light on the human side of this issue. GLP-1 agonists have also been useful in treating those with prediabetes.

One such example would be the married couple of Susan and Michael Dixon. Susan, a prediabetic, and Michael, a type 2 diabetic, shared their successful experience with GLP-1 agonists in this article. While prediabetes patients can benefit from GLP-1 agonists, there are other ways to manage or arrest it without the use of GLP-1’s. To learn more about Prediabetes check out one of our earlier posts, Prediabetes: What you Need to Know.

What to Remember

The hurdles to accessing GLP-1 agonists for diabetes treatment and weight loss are multifaceted and impactful, but not insurmountable. As more benefits are discovered about this medication, more will likely be done to for accessibility. Although hurdles do exist to obtaining this medication, there are programs out there that aim to address these issues. Talk to your physician, find out if you meet coverage requirements, and start making lifestyle changes today in preparation. No medication is a silver bullet, and making changes that lead to a healthier life will always serve you well.

Accountability in Wellness Through Technology

In today’s world there are more ways than ever to pursue weight loss and wellness. However, among the newest technology and trends, a common theme persists: Accountability. Let’s delve into the concept of accountability in health and wellness. As individuals strive to adopt healthier habits and achieve their wellness goals, accountability still serves as a guiding principle. With the rise of technology, particularly health tracking apps and wellness tech, accountability has taken on a new dimension. These innovative tools empower individuals with more useful information than ever before, allowing them to take charge of their health journey.

Understanding Accountability in Wellness

First and foremost, let’s define what accountability means in the context of health and wellness. Essentially, accountability involves taking responsibility for one’s actions and choices concerning health behaviors. It entails setting clear, measurable goals and actively tracking progress towards those goals. The tracking of progress via technology has specifically breathed new life into how we maintain true accountability. We have access to more information relative to our wellness journey than ever before, illuminating our path to a better self. By holding oneself answerable to healthy practices, individuals can foster a new sense of ownership over their wellness journey.

The Role of Health Tracking Apps & Wellness Tech

Transitioning to the role of technology in promoting accountability, health tracking apps and wellness tech are revolutionizing how we approach health. These tools offer a comprehensive overview of an individual’s health status and behaviors. Additionally, apps like The Preventive Plan from U.S. Preventive Medicine, actually encourage us to do the little things that often go overlooked. Things like Health and Wellness Assessments or blood panels, that provide the insight we would otherwise go without, can lead to breakthroughs like why we haven’t been able to lose those few stubborn pounds. From tracking physical activity and nutrition to monitoring sleep patterns and stress levels, these apps provide invaluable awareness to various aspects of health and well-being.

Benefits of Tracking your Health

Moving forward, let’s explore the benefits of using health tracking apps and wellness tech for accountability. First, they promote increased awareness of behaviors and habits, empowering users to make more informed choices. Additionally, these tools serve as constant motivators, offering encouragement to stay on track with health goals. They also provide data-driven insights that enable individuals to make evidence-based decisions about their health. Lastly, many apps feature social support and community features, fostering a sense of accountability among users. Anyone who has ever tried pursuing a lifestyle or behavior change by themselves can attest to the increased difficulty of going it alone.

Accountability demonstrated through a group of people not only working out, but also checking the data gathered from their fitness app.

Testimonials on the Power of Accountability in Wellness

Transitioning to real-life experiences, success stories abound among individuals who have embraced health tracking apps and wellness tech. There are even instances where app users who adhered to the prompts suggested to them have made potentially lifesaving discoveries.

Shannon, a man from Jacksonville, FL, had this to say about his experience, “The Preventive Plan’s routine labs and biometric screenings found I had dangerous levels of glucose, and I was not aware I was diabetic. I changed my entire lifestyle and now have normal glucose levels and am hoping to come off the diabetes medication.”

Similarly, a woman named Teresa from Urbandale, IA, also found the accountability offered by her chosen wellness app helpful in making material changes to her lifestyle, stating “Thanks to The Preventive Plan, I am more conscientious of my daily walk of 2 miles. It helps curb my appetite and reminds me to make healthier choices on my snacks and meals.”

These success stories underscore the transformative power of accountability through technology.

Tips for Effective Tracking

Now, let’s delve into some practical strategies for effective health tracking. To make the most of health tracking apps, it’s essential to follow some key strategies. First, set specific, achievable goals that align with your health objectives and utilize the opportunities for accountability in the app of your choice when creating those goals. Consistently logging data and progress ensures that you have a clear picture of your health journey. Be sure to make use of reminders and notifications to stay on track and maintain consistency in tracking. Finally, regularly review and analyze your data to identify trends and areas for improvement. Data serves no real purpose if it is not analyzed and used to draw meaningful and applicable conclusions.

Challenges and Considerations

Transitioning to potential challenges, it’s essential to acknowledge certain considerations when using health tracking apps and wellness tech. Data accuracy and privacy concerns are valid considerations that users should address when using these apps. For more information on the ethical considerations to keep in mind while choosing a fitness app, check out Fitness Trackers’ Ethical Use of Data from North Carolina State University’s Institute for Advanced Analytics. Another consideration would be that the reliance on technology in pursuit of fitness may sometimes lead to obsession or burnout. To mitigate these risks, users should practice mindfulness and balance when utilizing health tracking apps and wellness tech.

Final Considerations for Accountability

In conclusion, accountability is a powerful catalyst for achieving and maintaining health and wellness goals. Through the use of health tracking apps and wellness tech, individuals can take control of their health journey with newfound vigor. By setting goals, tracking progress, and leveraging technology for support, anyone can embark on a path to improved health and well-being. We can all improve by embracing accountability and harnessing the transformative potential of health tracking apps in the pursuit of optimal wellness.

We’ve All Heard of Them…What are GLP-1 Agonists?

Managing diabetes requires a multifaceted approach, most often involving medications to regulate blood sugar levels. One class of medications gaining attention is GLP-1 agonists. These drugs play a pivotal role in controlling blood sugar levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Understanding the function and significance of GLP-1 agonists is vital for effective diabetes management.

What are GLP-1’s?

GLP-1 agonists, short for glucagon-like peptide-1, are medications designed to mimic the action of a hormone produced in the intestines. GLP-1, is a naturally occurring hormone with several important functions, including regulating blood sugar levels. By mimicking GLP-1’s action, GLP-1 agonists help stimulate insulin secretion and inhibit glucagon release, thereby lowering blood sugar levels. This ability makes GLP-1’s an extremely effective tool for treating type 2 diabetes. According to the CDC, out of the approximate 38 million Americans with diabetes, 90-95% of them suffer from Type 2 diabetes. To learn more about type 2 diabetes, and how to avoid it, check out one of our earlier posts, Prediabetes.

Mechanism of Action

The primary mechanism of action of GLP-1 agonists lies in their ability to activate GLP-1 receptors in the body. This activation stimulates insulin secretion from pancreatic beta cells in response to elevated blood sugar levels. Essentially, blood sugar levels begin to rise after the ingestion of food. GLP-1’s kick in after ingestion by stimulating the receptors that release the insulin to lower sugar levels in the blood. Additionally, GLP-1 agonists suppress the release of glucagon, a hormone that raises blood sugar levels, further aiding in glucose control. Furthermore, GLP-1’s slow down gastric emptying, leading to increased feelings of fullness and reduced food intake. Those increased feelings of fullness contribute greatly to the effectiveness of GLP-1’s as weight loss aids.

GLP-1’s Benefits in Treating Type 2 Diabetes

GLP-1’s offer several benefits for individuals with type 2 diabetes. One of the key benefits is their ability to improve blood sugar control by enhancing insulin secretion and inhibiting glucagon release. This can lead to reductions in HbA1c levels, a measure of long-term blood sugar control. Convenience is another benefit of GLP-1’s in treating type 2 diabetes. Administered once daily or weekly, this increases the likelihood of patient adherence to the GLP-1 medication regiment. Additionally, GLP-1’s promote weight loss, making them particularly valuable for overweight or obese individuals with diabetes.

Depiction of items commonly associated with the treatment of type 2 diabetes, including GLP-1 Agonists.

The Different Types of GLP-1 Agonists

There are several types of GLP-1 agonists available on the market, each with its unique characteristics. The two main categories of GLP-1 agonists are short-acting and long-acting. Short-acting GLP-1 agonists are typically administered before meals to help control postprandial blood sugar levels. Examples include exenatide and lixisenatide which have to be administered more frequently because they achieve relatively shorter GLP-1 receptor activation. In contrast, long-acting GLP-1 agonists, such as liraglutide and dulaglutide, are administered once daily or weekly and provide sustained blood sugar control throughout the day. It is their ability to generate continuous GLP-1 receptor activation at their recommended dose that makes their infrequent dosage possible.

Medication Safety & Side Effects of GLP-1 Agonists

While generally well-tolerated, GLP-1’s may cause side effects in some individuals. Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort, particularly during the initial weeks of treatment. These side effects can vary in intensity based on dietary choices. However, these side effects often diminish over time as the body adjusts to the medication or as the necessary dietary changes are made. It’s essential for individuals using GLP-1 agonists to be aware of potential side effects and consult their healthcare provider if they experience any concerning symptoms. If you’re considering taking GLP-1’s, you should consider researching all the potential side effects and their risks.

Looking Back

GLP-1 agonists are valuable medications in the management of type 2 diabetes. They work by mimicking the action of GLP-1, a hormone that plays a crucial role in regulating blood sugar levels. By enhancing insulin secretion, inhibiting glucagon release, and slowing gastric emptying, GLP-1 agonists help improve glycemic control and promote weight loss in individuals with diabetes. Understanding the mechanisms and benefits of GLP-1 agonists is essential for effective diabetes management and improving overall health.

Health Literacy: The Truth is Out There

In a world inundated with health information, navigating the complexities of healthcare can be daunting, especially in the United States. Yet, amidst the abundance of resources, one critical skill stands out as essential: health literacy. Health literacy empowers individuals to obtain, understand, and apply health information to make informed decisions about their health and well-being. In this post, we’ll explore the significance of health literacy and its transformative impact on individual and public health.

The Basics

Health literacy encompasses a spectrum of skills, from reading and numeracy to comprehension and critical thinking. All must be applied within the context of health information to successfully navigate decisions we face regularly. It’s not just about understanding medical jargon or deciphering complex health literature; it’s about equipping individuals with the tools they need to navigate the healthcare system effectively and advocate for their own health needs. Furthermore, it is no secret healthcare information can be extremely complex and requires some contextual knowledge.

The Impact on Health Outcomes: Bridging the Gap

Although the link between health literacy and health outcomes is undeniable, a large gap still exists. Individuals with higher health literacy are more likely to engage in preventive health behaviors, adhere to medication regimens, and seek timely medical care. Conversely, limited health literacy is associated with poorer health outcomes, increased healthcare costs, and higher rates of hospitalization and mortality. By bridging the gap between knowledge and action, health literacy plays a pivotal role in shaping individual and population health. Therefore, it falls on us as individuals to equip ourselves with the necessary tools to start to close the gap that currently exists.

Health Literacy Rates: The Scope of the Issue

Despite its importance, health literacy remains a challenge for many individuals worldwide. According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), only 12% of adults in the United States possess proficient health literacy skills, while nearly half have basic or below-basic skills. Moreover, disparities in health literacy persist across demographic groups, with marginalized communities disproportionately affected. These sobering statistics underscore the urgent need to address health literacy as a public health priority.

Barriers: Identifying the Challenges to Health Literacy

A number of factors contribute to limited health literacy, including educational attainment, language proficiency, cultural beliefs, and socioeconomic status. Complex health information, inadequate communication between healthcare providers and patients, and limited access to healthcare services further aggravate the problem. As a result, individuals with limited health literacy face barriers to understanding their health conditions, navigating the healthcare system, and making informed decisions about their care. Additionally, there is no single entity recognized as the primary source for equipping the general public with the necessary health literacy skills. So, where do we go for help?

Young adult woman sitting at her laptop visibly frustrated, due to issues with health literacy, while navigating her way through complex healthcare decisions.

Health Literacy Resources for Empowerment

Fortunately, there are resources and strategies to promote health literacy and empower individuals to take control of their health. Clear communication, patient-centered care, and health education programs are offered by a lot of the players in the healthcare space. These resources and opportunities, when taken advantage of, can enhance understanding and facilitate informed decision-making. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources has compiled a wonderful list of resources to empower individuals to improve their health literacy. Also, the CDC has a directory detailing what each state in the U.S. is doing for Health Literacy initiatives.

What Options Exist?

Additionally, leveraging technology, such as health apps and digital health platforms, can provide accessible, user-friendly resources to support health literacy efforts. Also, for those that prefer a more personal touch, there are wellness providers like U.S. Preventive Medicine that offer Health Coaching Services. These coaches can have a tremendous impact on health literacy, and so much more. For more information on what a Health Coach can do for you, check out How a Health Coach Will Change Your Life(style). By leveraging these programs or applications, investing in health information literacy, and utilizing the services available to us, we can equip ourselves with the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in today’s healthcare landscape.

Going Forward

Ultimately, health literacy is a fundamental skill that can empower individuals to make informed decisions about their health and well-being. By understanding the basics of health literacy, recognizing its impact on health outcomes, acknowledging the barriers to health literacy, and utilizing strategies for empowerment, we can work towards a future where everyone has the knowledge needed to lead healthy, fulfilling lives. Let’s harness the power of being health literate to create a healthier, more equitable world for all.

Unmasking Hypertension: The Silent Killer

Hypertension, also referred to as high blood pressure, is a silent yet widespread health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Despite its prevalence, hypertension often goes undetected until serious complications arise. In this post, we’ll delve into the causes, its devastating effects on the body, and the importance of early detection.

Understanding Hypertension: What Causes High Blood Pressure?

Hypertension occurs when the force of blood against the walls of the arteries is consistently elevated. While the exact cause is often unknown, several factors can contribute to its development. These include genetics, lifestyle choices, such as diet and physical activity levels, underlying medical conditions, such as kidney disease and thyroid disorders, and environmental factors, such as stress and excessive alcohol consumption. Understanding the underlying causes of hypertension is crucial for effectively managing and controlling blood pressure levels.

The Devastating Effects of Hypertension on the Body

Uncontrolled hypertension can wreak havoc on various organs and systems throughout the body, leading to serious health complications. One of the most significant associated risks is cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure. Additionally, long term high blood pressure can damage the blood vessels in the kidneys. This increases the risk of kidney disease and kidney failure. Furthermore, high blood pressure is a leading cause of vision loss, as it can damage the blood vessels in the eyes and lead to retinopathy and other ocular complications. Understanding the potential consequences of untreated hypertension underscores the importance of proactive management and regular blood pressure monitoring.

Man laying in hospital bed, an example of what can happen when hypertension goes untreated.

Identifying the Silent Killer: The Importance of Regular Blood Pressure Checks

Hypertension is referred to as the “silent killer” because it typically doesn’t cause noticeable symptoms until advance stages are reached. Many individuals are unaware they have it until they experience a serious health event like heart attack or stroke. Regular blood pressure checks are essential for early detection and prevention of high blood pressure-related complications. Healthcare providers recommend routine blood pressure screenings for adults, starting at age 18. More frequent checks are recommended for individuals with high risk factors. Factors such as obesity, diabetes, and a family history of the condition being the most common.

Elderly gentleman having his blood pressure checked, an important step in the prevention of hypertension.

Lifestyle Modifications and Treatment Strategies for Hypertension

Fortunately, hypertension is a highly manageable condition, and lifestyle modifications can play a significant role in controlling blood pressure levels.

Lifestyle Modifications for Reducing Hypertension

These modifications include:

  • Reducing sodium intake.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Limiting alcohol consumption.
  • Engaging in regular physical activity/exercise.
  • Adopting a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
  • Managing stress through relaxation techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises. (For more information on stress management techniques, check out Journey to Better Stress Management).

In addition to lifestyle modifications, healthcare providers may prescribe medication to lower blood pressure levels and reduce the risk of complications in individuals with hypertension.

Empowering Individuals to Take Control of their Blood Pressure

Empowering individuals to take control of their blood pressure is essential for preventing hypertension-related complications and improving overall health outcomes. This includes educating individuals about the importance of regular blood pressure monitoring, promoting healthy lifestyle choices, providing access to resources and support services, and encouraging open communication with healthcare providers. Changes You Can Make to Manage High Blood Pressure from the American Heart Association is a great example of just one such resource that has a wealth of information on Hypertension and blood pressure related issues. By working together to raise awareness about high blood pressure and its risk factors, we can empower individuals to take proactive steps towards better cardiovascular health and well-being.

Takeaways

In conclusion, hypertension is a silent yet serious health condition that requires attention and proactive management to prevent complications and improve outcomes. By understanding the causes of high blood pressure, recognizing its devastating effects on the body, prioritizing regular blood pressure checks, adopting healthy lifestyle modifications, and seeking appropriate medical treatment, when necessary, individuals can take control of their blood pressure and safeguard their long-term health. Let’s unmask hypertension, raise awareness, and work together to promote better cardiovascular health for all.

Summer’s Here: Beat the Heat with Hydration

As the temperature rises and the sun shines brighter, staying hydrated becomes more crucial than ever. Properly hydrating is essential for supporting bodily functions, regulating body temperature, and maintaining overall health, especially during the summer months. We’ll explore the importance of hydration, common causes of dehydration, and practical tips for staying hydrated. By the end of this post, you’ll have all the tools to ensure a healthy and enjoyable summer season.

Why Water Matters

Water is essential for life, accounting for a significant portion of our body composition. Water plays a crucial role in various physiological processes. Adequate hydration is essential for supporting cellular function, facilitating nutrient absorption, lubricating joints, and regulating body temperature. During the summer, perspiration rates increase due to higher temperatures and the body’s need for hydration becomes even more pronounced.

Middle aged man on basketball court maintaining hydration with water.

Common Causes of Dehydration: Recognizing the Signs

Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluids than it takes in, leading to imbalances in electrolytes. This imbalance can have a profound effect on vital bodily functions. Common causes of dehydration include excessive sweating, prolonged exposure to heat and sun, inadequate fluid intake, excessive alcohol consumption, and certain medical conditions, such as diarrhea and vomiting. Recognizing the signs before it’s too late is paramount. It takes far longer to rehydrate than most people think. Signs such as thirst, dark urine, fatigue, dizziness, and dry mouth, are critical indicators for needing to take prompt action. When you start seeing these signs, it’s time to rehydrate if you want to prevent further and more serious complications.

Staying Hydrated: Essential to Beating the Summer Heat

Staying hydrated during the summer months requires proactive measures to ensure adequate fluid intake and electrolyte balance. Many people make the mistake of waiting until the day of, or right before physical activity, to hydrate. This can be deadly as it takes time for your body to properly absorb the fluids you’ve consumed. Another common misconception is that sports drinks are superior to water for staying hydrated. This is not exactly true, while sports drinks can be helpful for rehydrating, their best suited for when your body has depleted a large number of salts, sugars and electrolytes. Take a look at Stop Drinking Your Calories for more information on why water is preferred over sugary sports drinks for hydration.

Tips for Proper Hydration

  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day, aiming for at least 8-10 glasses or more, depending on activity level and environmental conditions.
  • Incorporate hydrating foods into your diet, such as fruits and vegetables with high water content, including watermelon, cucumber, oranges, and strawberries.
  • Avoid sugary beverages and caffeinated drinks, which can contribute to dehydration. Opt for water, herbal teas, or electrolyte-rich beverages, such as coconut water or sports drinks, to replenish fluids and electrolytes lost through sweating.
  • Set reminders to drink water regularly, especially during outdoor activities or prolonged periods of sun exposure.
  • Monitor urine color as a simple indicator. Pale yellow or clear urine indicates adequate hydration, while dark yellow or amber-colored urine may signal dehydration.
  • Be mindful of alcohol consumption, as alcoholic beverages can increase urine output and contribute to dehydration. Alternate alcoholic drinks with water or non-alcoholic beverages to stay hydrated.

Hydrating for Specific Populations: Catering to Individual Needs

Certain populations may have unique hydration needs that require special attention. This includes older adults, who may have decreased thirst sensation and kidney function. Also, children may be more susceptible to dehydration due to higher water requirements relative to body weight. Another vulnerable cohort is individuals with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or kidney disease, who may require careful monitoring of fluid intake and electrolyte balance. Tailoring your strategies for hydrating to meet your specific needs is essential for promoting optimal health and well-being. For more information on how to properly hydrate relative to your specific needs, check out Get the Facts: Data and Research on Water Consumption provided by the CDC.

Older gentleman keeping up with his hydration by drinking water while exercising.

The Bottom Line: Prioritizing Hydration for Health and Wellness

In conclusion, staying hydrated is essential for maintaining health and well-being, especially during the summer months when the risk of dehydration is higher. By understanding the importance of hydrating, recognizing the signs of dehydration, implementing practical tips for staying hydrated, and catering to individual needs, we can ensure a safe and enjoyable summer season for ourselves and our loved ones. So, remember to drink up, stay hydrated, and embrace the benefits of proper hydrating for a healthier, happier you.

Stress & Your Heart: The Science Behind the Connection

In today’s fast-paced world, stress is a common experience for many people. However, you may not realize that stress doesn’t just affect your mood—it also impacts your physical health, especially your heart. Understanding this connection is crucial for maintaining overall well-being.

The Physiology of Stress

First, let’s delve into how our body responds to stress. Our bodies respond to stressors by releasing hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones trigger physiological changes such as increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and heightened alertness. When faced with extreme stress, your body kicks into high gear, initiating what’s known as the “fight-or-flight” response. This response is your body’s way of preparing to deal with a perceived threat. The physical change that accompanies this response is substantial. Together, adrenaline and cortisol play a crucial role in the body’s stress response, enabling individuals to cope with challenging situations.

Chronic Stress & Cardiovascular Health

Now, let’s explore the long-term effects of chronic stress on heart health. While the fight-or-flight response is essential for dealing with immediate danger, prolonged exposure can take a toll on your heart. Chronic stress can lead to persistent activation of the stress response system, resulting in sustained elevation of stress hormone levels. Over time, this contributes to the development of various cardiovascular problems. Hypertension, atherosclerosis, and increased risk of heart attack and stroke are all byproducts of prolonged exposure to elevated stress hormones. Chronic Stress can also contribute to a number of other disorders besides cardiovascular.

Disorders Caused by Chronic Stress

Most are aware of the connection between chronic stress and cardiovascular problems, but stress can have a greater impact than you’d think. Mental health aside, there are multiple systems in the body that are negatively affected by exposure to chronic stress. It’s important to understand what happens when we ignore stress levels and the changes our bodies experience as a result.

Metabolic Disorders:

Cortisol plays a role in regulating metabolism and blood sugar levels. Chronic stress-induced elevation of cortisol can lead to insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance. Ultimately, these changes in metabolism lead to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
Excess cortisol may also promote the accumulation of visceral fat (fat stored around the abdomen), contributing to obesity and metabolic syndrome.

Immune Suppression:

While short-term stress can enhance immune function, chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels can suppress immune activity over time.
This immune suppression may increase susceptibility to infections, delay wound healing, and exacerbate autoimmune conditions.

Digestive Disorders:

Chronic stress can disrupt normal digestive processes, leading to gastrointestinal issues such as indigestion, acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Elevated cortisol levels may also contribute to weight gain and abdominal obesity, further increasing the risk of metabolic and cardiovascular problems.

Mental Health Concerns:

Chronic stress and prolonged exposure to high levels of adrenaline and cortisol are associated with an increased risk of mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and burnout.
These stress-related mental health issues can negatively impact overall quality of life and exacerbate physical health problems.

Sleep Disturbances:

Elevated cortisol levels can disrupt the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, leading to difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing restorative sleep. Chronic stress-related sleep disturbances can contribute to fatigue, irritability, impaired cognitive function, and an increased risk of mood disorders.

Musculoskeletal Problems:

Chronic muscle tension resulting from prolonged stress and elevated cortisol levels can lead to musculoskeletal problems such as tension headaches, migraines, neck and shoulder pain, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.

For more details on the different ways stress impacts your physical health, check out Stress Effects on the Body from the American Psychological Association.

Everyday Stressors and Heart Health

Next, let’s consider how everyday stressors impact heart health. Beyond major life events, everyday stressors like work pressure, relationship conflicts, financial worries, and time constraints can also impact your heart health. These types of consistent stressors can contribute to a chronic state of stress. It is during that chronic state of stress that existing cardiovascular conditions can become aggravated. Longterm exposure to chronic stress also puts you at greater risk of developing heart problems in the future. Those are just some of the more well-known examples of how stress impacts the body.

Managing Stress for a Healthy Heart

So, what steps can you take to protect your heart from the effects of stress? Fortunately, there are effective strategies for managing stress and promoting heart health. Incorporating relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation into your daily routine can help lower stress levels and reduce the strain on your heart. Additionally, engaging in regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, and practicing time management skills can all contribute to better stress management and improved cardiovascular well-being.

Man stretching to prepare for jogging/physical activity in an effort to manage stress.

Finding Your Stress Relief

Lastly, let’s discuss the importance of finding personalized stress relief methods. It’s essential to recognize that everyone responds to stress differently. So, it’s important to find stress relief strategies that work best for you. Whether it’s spending time in nature, pursuing hobbies you enjoy, connecting with loved ones, or seeking professional help, stress relief is vital to your health. Maintaining balance in life can be difficult, but the benefits of prioritizing activities that help you to unwind and recharge cannot be underestimated. To explore more ways to relieve stress, check out our blog post 5 Stress Management Tips to Implement this Year.

What We’ve Learned

The link between stress and heart health underscores the importance of managing stress effectively. By understanding how stress affects your body and implementing stress management techniques tailored to your needs, you can protect your heart and promote overall well-being. Remember, taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health, and often one in the same. So, be sure make self-care a priority in your daily life and take advantage of the stress relieving opportunities available to you. They may just save your life!

End of Year Health Check

As the year draws to a close, it’s essential to take stock of our health and wellness journey. The end of the year offers us an opportunity for reflection, allowing us to assess our progress, celebrate achievements, and set new goals for the coming year.

Reflecting on Your Health and Wellness Goals


At the beginning of the year, many of us set health and wellness goals with the best intentions. Now is the perfect time to revisit those goals and evaluate how far we’ve come. Reflecting on our goals allows us to see what we’ve accomplished and what areas may need more attention. Take a moment to assess your progress in various aspects of your health, including physical fitness, mental well-being, nutrition, and stress management. By reflecting on our journey, we gain valuable insights that can inform our decisions moving forward.

Celebrating Health Achievements & Milestones


In our pursuit of better health and wellness, it’s important to celebrate even the smallest victories. Whether it’s reaching a fitness milestone, making healthier food choices, or prioritizing self-care, every achievement deserves recognition. Celebrating our successes not only boosts our confidence but also reinforces positive behaviors. Take pride in how far you’ve come and acknowledge the effort you’ve put into improving your well-being. By celebrating our achievements, we build momentum and motivation to continue striving for our goals.

Female runner checking watch while actively working on her goal to be more active

Identifying Areas for Improvement


While celebrating our achievements is important, it’s equally essential to recognize areas where we can grow and improve. Take a moment to reflect on aspects of your health and wellness that may need more attention. Are there habits or behaviors that are holding you back from reaching your full potential? By identifying areas for improvement, we can take proactive steps to address them and make positive changes in our lives. Remember, self-awareness is the first step towards personal growth.

Setting SMART Goals for the New Year


As we look ahead to the new year, it’s time to set fresh goals that will guide us on our wellness journey. When setting goals, it’s essential to make them SMART

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Specific goals provide clarity and direction, while measurable goals allow us to track our progress. Achievable goals are realistic and within reach, while relevant goals align with our values and priorities. Finally, time-bound goals have a deadline, keeping us accountable and motivated. By setting SMART goals, we set ourselves up for success and ensure that our efforts are focused and purposeful. For further insights into setting goals for the New year, explore Sticking to New Goals for the New Year.

Creating a Health Action Plan


First, we’ve got to establish our health goals. Once established, the next step is to create a concrete action plan for achieving them. Break down each goal into smaller, manageable steps that you can incorporate into your daily routine. By breaking down our goals into actionable tasks, we make them less overwhelming and more attainable. Whether its scheduling regular workouts, meal prepping for the week, or practicing mindfulness meditation, having a clear plan of action helps us stay on track and maintain momentum.

Remember to be flexible and adjust your plan as needed but stay committed to your overarching goals. If you’d like more information on creating an action plan for your goals, check out this article by The Harvard Extension School called How to Create an Action Plan to Achieve Your Goals.

Exploring New Wellness Practices and Strategies


In addition to setting specific goals, consider exploring new wellness practices and strategies to enhance your overall well-being. Whether it’s trying a new exercise routine, experimenting with different dietary approaches, or incorporating mindfulness practices into your daily life, stepping outside of your comfort zone can lead to new discoveries and personal growth. Keep an open mind and be willing to explore what works best for you. Seek out resources, such as books, podcasts, or online communities, to learn more about different wellness practices and find inspiration from others on similar journeys. Remember that wellness is a journey, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Find what resonates with you and embrace it wholeheartedly.

Reflection


As we conclude our year-end health check, let’s take a moment to reflect on the progress we’ve made and the lessons we’ve learned along the way. Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small, and use them as fuel to propel you forward. Identify areas where you can improve and set SMART goals to guide your actions in the new year. By creating a clear plan of action and exploring new wellness practices, we can continue to grow and thrive on our journey towards optimal health and well-being. Remember that every step forward, no matter how small, brings us closer to our goals. Here’s to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling year ahead!

Lung Health & Metabolism: What You Need to Know

The intricate dance of physiological systems within our bodies often goes unnoticed until an issue arises. Among these, the lungs play a crucial role in maintaining overall well-being. The significance of lung health extends beyond just respiratory function; it interlaces with metabolic health, affecting various aspects of our physical vitality.

Understanding Basic Lung Health

The core of respiratory well-being lies in the anatomy and function of the lungs. These vital organs act as the body’s primary interface with the external environment, facilitating the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide crucial for cellular function. Any deviation from optimal lung function can impede this vital process, leading to a cascade of possible health issues.

Respiratory conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung infections pose significant challenges to lung health. Asthma, characterized by inflammation and narrowing of the airways, can impair lung function and hinder oxygen exchange. COPD, a progressive lung disease often caused by long-term exposure to lung irritants, restricts airflow and diminishes respiratory capacity. Additionally, lung infections, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, can compromise lung function and impair overall respiratory health.

How Lung Health Impacts your Metabolic Well-being

Recent research has shed light on the profound interconnection between lung health and metabolic well-being. Impaired lung function has been linked to metabolic disorders such as obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. Individuals with compromised lung function are more likely to develop metabolic dysfunction, leading to a myriad of health complications. Equally concerning, a study found on the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s site linked diabetics with COPD to a higher rate of hospitalizations and mortality.

Several mechanisms underlie the relationship between lung health and metabolic well-being. Chronic inflammation, a hallmark of respiratory conditions like asthma and COPD, can contribute to insulin resistance and metabolic dysregulation. Oxidative stress, another common feature of lung diseases, can irritate metabolic dysfunction by promoting inflammation and tissue damage. Also, hormonal imbalances associated with impaired lung function may disrupt metabolic processes, further complicating metabolic disorders.

Respiratory Exercises & Techniques

Fortunately, there are practical steps individuals can take to improve lung function and enhance respiratory efficiency. Respiratory exercises, such as deep breathing and diaphragmatic breathing techniques, can help strengthen respiratory muscles and improve lung capacity. Pulmonary rehabilitation programs, tailored to individual needs, offer comprehensive support for individuals with compromised lung function, combining exercise training, education, and psychosocial support to optimize respiratory health. Check out the American Lung Association’s examples of lung exercises you can do to improve your overall lung function.

Two adults pictured in a studio practicing breathing exercises beneficial to lung health.

Nutrition

Nutrition plays a pivotal role in supporting lung health and function. Consuming a balanced diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and anti-inflammatory nutrients can help mitigate oxidative stress and inflammation in the lungs. Fruits and vegetables, particularly those high in vitamin C and beta-carotene, provide essential antioxidants that protect against lung damage and promote respiratory health. Food items such as carrots, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cantaloupe, and winter squash are all excellent sources of vitamin c and beta-carotene. Lean proteins, such as fish and poultry, are excellent sources of nutrients that support lung function, while omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish and flaxseeds have anti-inflammatory properties that benefit respiratory health.

Image depicting various fruits and vegetables that contribute to metabolic wellness and lung health.

Lifestyle Factors and Lung Health

Beyond nutrition and exercise, lifestyle factors also play a significant role in maintaining lung health. Avoiding tobacco smoke is key in preserving respiratory function and preventing lung disease. If tobacco is something you struggle with, try reading our blog on The Effects of Smoking and How to Quit. Exposure to environmental pollutants, such as air pollution and occupational hazards, should be minimized whenever possible to safeguard lung health. Physical activity, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy body weight are essential for supporting overall metabolic health and optimizing lung function.

The importance of lung health cannot be overstated, as it serves as the foundation for overall well-being and metabolic equilibrium. By understanding the relationship between lung health and metabolic well-being and taking proactive steps to support respiratory health, individuals can enhance their vitality and quality of life. Through a combination of respiratory exercises, nutritious eating habits, and lifestyle modifications, we can prioritize lung health and pave the way for a healthier future.

Celebrate “Men’s Health Month” with 4 Action Steps to Better Health for Men

Father’s Day isn’t the only celebration this month for men. June is Men’s Health Month, an observance to raise awareness of preventable health problems, encourage early detection and treatment of disease, and improve overall well-being among men and boys. Spread the word that the key to long and healthy lives for men starts with preventive health care, healthy eating, and exercise. 

It is time to spread the word about the many preventable health problems men face and empower them to take steps toward a longer, healthier, and happier life. The men’s health statistics and facts speak for themselves.

  • Men are more likely to put their health at risk by smoking, drinking alcohol, and making other unhealthy life choices.
  • One in two men are diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. 
  • Men lead the death rate for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and suicide. 

The purpose of Men’s Health Month is to change those statistics by focusing on prevention through regular check-ups, nutrition, and exercise. 

What Steps Can Men Take?

Men are more likely to be uninsured and half as likely to visit the doctor as women. The reasons why men are less likely to seek both urgent and preventive medical care vary. 

“In our 20s, we think we’re indestructible and see going to the doctor as a waste of time and money. In our 30s, we’re too busy with our careers and family to go. By the time we reach our 40s, we don’t go because we’re afraid of what we’ll find out or we don’t want to have a rectal exam.” 

– Armit Brott, Blueprint for Men’s Health

If you can’t remember your last physical or if your gut feeling says something is off, it is time to do something about it. Follow these steps to improve your well-being and prolong your life:

  1. Choose a primary care provider and go regularly.
  2. Get screening tests based on your age and family history.
  3. Eat healthy to prevent or manage chronic conditions.
  4. Get and stay active.

The good news is it’s never too late to start taking better care of your health.

Family photo of four generations of men

Follow these steps, encourage other men to do the same, and set a good example for the next generation.  

Step 1: Choose a Primary Care Provider

Many people think of the doctor as someone to see when they are sick. Doctors also provide services to keep you from getting sick in the first place. The first step is to choose a primary care provider. See your primary doctor proactively to complete annual physicals and screenings. You should also keep your flu shots and vaccinations up to date. 

Be sure to visit the doctor for regular check-ups even if you feel fine. Some diseases don’t have symptoms at first. Seeing a doctor will give you a chance to catch diseases early and learn more about your health. 

Don’t be embarrassed to talk about your health. Before you go to the doctor, start by talking to family members to learn which diseases run in your family. Share this information with your doctor. This will help the doctor determine what screenings to do and health risks to watch for.

Step 2: Schedule Your Screening Tests 

Medical screenings are tests doctors use to check for diseases and health conditions before there are any signs or symptoms. Screenings help find problems early, when they may be easier to treat. If you are a member of a high-risk group or have a family history of disease, you should talk to your doctor about the benefits of earlier screenings. 

Your Preventive Maintenance Schedule

Much like a vehicle maintenance schedule, certain check-ups and screenings need to take place as you age. Some tests will be done yearly, and others will need to be completed at certain age milestones. Your primary care provider will determine the right frequency for you. Download the entire Get it Checked checklist

  • Check your blood pressure at least once every two years.
  • Have an electrocardiogram or EKG starting at age 30.
  • Screen for colon and prostate problems with a rectal exam every year.
  • Complete routine lab work checking for high cholesterol, heart health, diabetes, kidney, or thyroid problems.
  • If you are age 65 to 75 and have ever smoked, talk with your doctor about your risk for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).
  • If you feel stressed, anxious, or sad, ask your doctor to screen you for depression. Most people with depression feel better when they get treatment.
  • If you are at risk of heart attack or colorectal cancer, talk to your doctor about taking aspirin every day to lower your risk. 
  • Complete self-exams of your testicles, skin, mouth, and breasts to catch cancer early. Report any changes or lumps to your doctor.

More than half of men’s premature deaths are preventable. You can’t prevent something you don’t know exists. Most people don’t enjoy going to the doctor or being poked and prodded for medical tests, but making this a part of your routine could extend your life. 

Men’s Cancer Screenings

Every year, more than 300,000 men in the United States lose their lives to cancer. You should talk to your doctor about your risk for each type of cancer and the recommended screenings based on your health needs. The most common kinds of cancer among men in the US are:

  • Skin Cancer: The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has concluded there is not enough evidence to recommend for or against routine skin cancer screening for people who do not have a history of skin cancer. You should always report any unusual moles or changes in your skin to your doctor.
  • Prostate Cancer: For men aged 55 to 69 years, the decision to undergo periodic prostate-specific antigen (PSA)-based screening for prostate cancer should be an individual one. The USPSTF recommends against PSA screening for men who do not have symptoms.
  • Lung Cancer: If you are 55 to 80 years old and are a heavy smoker or a past smoker who quit within the last 15 years, ask your doctor about a low-dose CT scan every year.
  • Colorectal (Colon) Cancer: If you are 45 to 75 years old, get tested. Starting in your 40s, your doctor may recommend a stool test every year. After 50, a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy should be completed every three to four years.

As with most things, the results of specific exams are important, but not nearly as important as changes over time. This is why establishing a relationship with your doctor is so important. 

Step 3: Incorporate the Right Nutrition

Food doesn’t just fuel the body; it can help fight off and prevent disease. Eating healthy means getting enough vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients – and limiting unhealthy foods and drinks. You want to consume the right number of calories, which varies by individual.

Benefits of a Healthy Diet

Poor diet and lack of physical activity are the most common risk factors for cardiovascular disease, because they often lead to being overweight or obese. To prevent all of the top disease killers of men, you need to avoid meals high in fat, sodium, and sugar.

A healthy diet and regular physical activity can help lower your:

  • Blood pressure
  • Blood sugar
  • Cholesterol
  • Weight

Keeping these numbers down also lowers your risk of serious health problems such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. If you’ve already received a diagnosis, these chronic conditions can be managed by proper nutrition. Find out if you are a candidate for the National Diabetes Prevention Program.

Formulate a Nutrition Game Plan

At each meal, pay attention to how you feel. You want to eat slow enough to recognize when you feel full. That’s your body’s cue to stop eating. Don’t have seconds unless you’re still hungry. You’ll just be consuming extra calories. It can be hard to make drastic changes to your diet all at once. Formulate a nutrition game plan by implementing these ideas:

  • Make sure to eat a good breakfast every day.
  • Eat at least one fruit or vegetable at every meal.
  • Try a green salad instead of fries.
  • Drink water instead of soda or juice.
  • Prevent getting “hangry” by scheduling healthy snacks.

Over time, these suggestions will turn into healthy habits in your daily routine. Take a short quiz and receive a personalized daily food plan from MyPlate.

Step 4: Get Moving 

Current physical activity guidelines recommend adults participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week. That equals 30 minutes of moderate activity per day. Physical activity helps you feel better, function better, and sleep better. It also reduces anxiety.

Active people generally live longer and are at less risk for serious health problems. For people with chronic diseases, physical activity can help manage these conditions and complications.

Little ways to increase your activity include playing with your kids or grandkids outside or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. If you are a smoker, take a walk instead of having a cigarette. Small changes can add up to big results over time.

How Will You Celebrate Men’s Health Month?

You can be in complete control by making prevention a priority, eating healthily, and moving more. Let’s make this June the year you take responsibility for your health. Remember, anyone can play a role in the men’s health movement. Women should also learn about men’s health issues and encourage the men and boys they love to take action to improve their health and wellness for long and happy lives.

Getting Started with Physical Activity for Better Health

Regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your health. It impacts your mental state, can help you manage your weight, reduce your risk of diseases, strengthen your bones and muscles, and improve your stamina for everyday life.

It’s time to get moving in May! This month’s health observance is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. The purpose is to raise awareness of the importance of active living and sports participation. Physical activity is a necessity for everyone. However, no matter your activity level, you can find a way to incorporate movement that works for you and get active your way.

We’re In An Inactivity Pandemic

We’ve all become comfortable with our leisurely ways. Obesity is widespread, with over 42 percent of American adults falling in that category. Being obese increases your risk of developing preventable chronic conditions like heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Why is this happening? One factor is that we spend the majority of time in front of screens at home and work, and we sit now more than ever.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Physical Activity Council determined that physical inactivity was a pandemic we must reverse. Their statistics showed that 82 million Americans were completely sedentary and that more people were dying from inactivity than smoking. This May, we can rise to the challenge and become more active by looking for ways to be more active together! So, how do you know how much activity to get?

What are Physical Activity Guidelines?

According to the CDC, less than 30 percent of adults get the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity each week. Yet, getting the appropriate amount of physical activity fosters normal growth and development in children and can make adults feel better, function better, sleep better, and reduce the risk of many chronic diseases. So let’s talk about what the guidelines recommend:

Physical activity guidelines for pre-school children

    • Pre-school children should participate in physical activity throughout the day to enhance growth and development.
    • Caregivers should encourage and participate in a variety of activity types.

Physical activity guidelines for children

    • Children and young adults aged 6-17 should participate in 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day. 
    • Physical activity should include aerobic exercise three times per week and two to three days of muscle and bone-strengthening activities.

Physical activity guidelines for adults

    • It is important for adults to minimize the amount of sitting they are doing each day.
    • Adults should participate in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week, with the addition of muscle-strengthening activities two days per week.

Physical activity guidelines for pregnant women

    • Women who were physically active before pregnancy should still aim for two hours and 30 minutes of physical activity per week.
    • All activities should be discussed and approved by a health care provider as the pregnancy progresses and post-partum. 

Physical activity guidelines for the disabled

    • Adults with chronic conditions or disabilities should still aim for 150 minutes of activity per week plus muscle-strengthening activities, as they are able. 
    • If you cannot meet these requirements, you should seek out modified activity alternatives and be approved by your health care provider. 

Remember, these are just guidelines. If you haven’t been active before, it’s essential to start at a comfortable level that your condition or doctor allows. Then, once you build up stamina, you can continue to add more activity each time until you work up to moderate to vigorous exercise levels. Some activity is better than none. The more you do, the greater the health benefits and the better you’ll feel.

Types of Physical Activity

To get all the health benefits of physical activity, you should do a combination of aerobic, muscle, and bone-strengthening exercises.

  • Aerobic activities make you breathe harder and cause your heart to beat faster. You want to get your heart rate up 50 to 60 percent higher than its resting rate. Everyday aerobic activities include walking fast, dancing, or swimming.
  • Muscle-strengthening activities improve your strength, stability, balance, and flexibility. These activities include lifting weights or using resistance exercise bands. 
  • Bone-strengthening activities produce a force that promotes bone growth and strength through impact with the ground. These include running, jumping rope, and team sports, such as basketball and tennis.

All sorts of activities count for physical fitness! Find the combination of exercises on a schedule that works for you.

Get Active Your Way

The expression, “Rome wasn’t built in a day, ” also applies to increasing your activity levels. Start by doing what you can, and then look for ways to do more. Being active has so many health benefits, such as lowering your risk of heart disease, improving your mood by reducing stress, and helping with your weight management. 

Want some additional help and guidance? Watch our Get Active Your Way webinar. 

Picking the Right Physical Activity

The most important thing to remember is to choose an activity that you find fun. Are you an indoor or outdoor person? Do you enjoy the structure of a workout class or would you rather mix it up? Are you more social or prefer to be alone? For example, Walking is one easy and free way to add physical activity into your life.  

Go For A Walk

Physical activity doesn’t need to be complicated. Walking is a great starter exercise. It’s typically free and can be done anywhere, all you need is comfy clothes, supportive shoes, and the time to do it. Not sure where to start? In the beginning, start walking 10 minutes a day during the first couple of weeks. Then, as you increase your stamina, begin walking a little longer by trying 15 minutes and slowing increase to 30 minutes. If you have a bigger goal in mind, try a Couch to 5k program,  and go get that medal!

Try New Things

Not interested in walking? You are more likely to abandon a healthy lifestyle goal if it doesn’t suit your lifestyle. If you are unsure what activities you enjoy, then this is a great time to try a bunch of new things. Here are more tips for integrating more activity into your daily life:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Do yard work or chores
  • Find a workout buddy
  • Find a running group or try out biking or cycling
  • Join an exercise class or sports team
  • Dance at home or take lessons
  • Do stretches or yoga 
  • Try swimming or water aerobics
  • Do abdominal crunches, jumping jacks, push-ups, or other bodyweight exercises during tv commercial breaks
  • Try standing throughout the day
  • Visit a park, trail, or other outdoor space that encourages physical activity

If you are stuck on what types of activities to try, think back to things you enjoyed during your childhood or use your children as a way to reconnect with play. Defining what activities bring you joy is the first step. 

Finding Time for Exercise 

Now that you have some ideas of physical activities you may enjoy, it’s time to integrate them into your life. The recommendation is 150 minutes per week. That is 2 hours and 30 minutes per week. Broken up even further, that’s only 30 minutes over five days! That is completely doable, even for someone who is living a more sedentary life. Take a look at your schedule and see when you can incorporate more chunks of activity. Everyone’s schedule is different. You may be a morning person and want to take a jog while the sun rises, or you may want to take a walk on your lunch break, or you may want to lift weights or take a kickboxing class in the evening to relieve the stress of the day.

  • Find the time that works best for you.
  • Be active with friends and family. Having a support network can help you keep up with your program.
  • Talk to your health care provider about how you should spread aerobic activity out and recommended activities to try.

So, are you ready to get started building your new physically active lifestyle?

Getting Started with Exercise

There are many ways to build the right amount of activity into your life. Every little bit adds up and doing something is better than doing nothing. The key to getting started is to keep it simple and small. Define what physical activity you will do and then when and where you will complete it. 

Free Worksheet

Download our FREE Getting Started with Exercise Worksheet. It will help you identify the benefits you hope to achieve from active living as well as any potential roadblocks.

5 Stress Management Tips to Implement This Year

Stress is inevitable – We all experience it at different points in our lives, and we all handle it differently. If we can’t avoid stress, it’s important to learn stress management strategies to make sure we can deal with our stress in healthier ways and prevent burnout. 

After all, not all stress is bad! Some pressure in daily life can help you meet challenges, motivate you, and help you become more resilient. But long-term stress can harm your health. So let’s learn how to deal with minor and significant stressful events head-on and know when to seek extra help.

The Most Common Symptoms of Stress

When you hear the word “Stress,” what does it make you feel in your body? Does it make your heart race, or do you want to crawl into bed and hide? Do you feel butterflies or a rock in your stomach? Do you reach for unhealthy foods, or does the thought of food repulse you? Stress can manifest in both physical and emotional symptoms. While stress is universal, the symptoms that show up are unique and different for everyone. Therefore, it’s important to recognize the signs of stress in your body, know when to prioritize coping mechanisms, and enlist the help of others, such as a health coach, therapist, or primary care provider.

Physical Signs of Stress

When you experience stress, your body responds to a real or perceived threat in your environment. Your nervous system reacts by activating the “fight, flight, or freeze” response. 

Physical Symptoms of stress include:

  • Muscle tension 
  • Headache
  • Increased blood pressure, heart rate, or palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Reflux, vomiting, stomachache, or bowel changes

 Stress can even lower your immunity, making you more prone to getting sick. If you have chronic stress, your healthcare provider can evaluate the symptoms. 

Emotional Signs of Stress

Your body is also flooded with the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol that impacts how you feel from head to toe.

Emotional signs of stress include:

  • Anxiety or nerves
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Depression
  • Crying
  • Feeling overwhelmed, angry, irritable, sad, or withdrawn
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty Sleeping

You are the only person who can determine whether stress is present in your life and how much it impacts your daily life. So next, use these tips to healthily cope with stressors that pop up. If you are a visual person, use a tool like a Stress Tracker to visualize your stress levels. You’ll be able to detect rising stress, whether your coping mechanisms are working, and if you are struggling with chronic high-stress levels. 

Download our Manage Stress Resource Now. 

5 Stress Management Tips

When you are experiencing stress, it is essential to take extra care of your body. Take practical steps to manage your stress and prevent its effects on your health.

Tip 1: Eat Better

It is tempting to eat sweets, carbs, and comfort food when you are stressed out. However, that isn’t the best strategy for your health. Instead, it would be best to focus on foods that reduce inflammation and cortisol in your body. These foods are high in vitamin B, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and probiotic-rich foods. 

By proactively eating a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and fat–free or low–fat dairy products, you can prime your body with a strengthened immune system, stabilized mood, and proper fuel to neutralize stress.

Tip 2: Be More Active

Physical activity is a great stress reliever. While it may seem counterintuitive, a good sweat session can release tense muscles, reduces stress hormones in your body, stimulate the production of endorphins (the body’s natural painkiller and mood elevator), and improve your sleep. Exercise also keeps your body busy while giving your mind a break. 

For example, a simple 20-minute walk around the neighborhood could clear your head, or you may try a kickboxing class to release some frustration. By making exercise a regular part of your routine, you can maintain a healthy weight, build stronger bones and muscles, and have a strategy for managing and relieving stress.

Tip 3: Sleep More

Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep! According to the CDC, adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for the best health and wellbeing, and over one-third of us don’t get the recommended amount. Healthy sleep also requires good quality, appropriate timing and regularity, and the absence of disturbances or disorders. 

Here are some quick tips to get a good night’s sleep:

  • First, be consistent with your sleep routine.
  • Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and cool.
  • Avoid caffeine, large meals, or alcohol intake around bedtime.
  • Avoid screen time 30 minutes before trying to fall asleep.

When we experience decreased sleep quality, there is an increased risk of feeling mental distress. If you are regularly experiencing trouble with sleep, talk to your health coach or primary care physician.

Tip 4: Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness teaches you to appreciate the moment and observe the world around you without judgment. Being focused on the present moment can connect and ground you, allowing you to process your stress and feelings. Mindfulness practices include yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, and gratitude journaling. 

Download our Gratitude Journal Template Here

Now take a deep breath and relax your body, mind, and spirit.

Tip 5: Seek Treatment When Needed

There are varying levels to seeking treatment for stress. First, make sure you guard your time wisely by setting boundaries and your priorities, practicing time-management skills, and saying no when you are overextended. Then, when you feel stress creeping in, make sure you prioritize yourself and your needs with coping and healthy self-soothing mechanisms. Treat yourself to a massage, take a walk, drink a tea in silence, or listen to your favorite music to unwind. Be mindful of the things you can control and accept the things you can’t.

 The next level is seeking out help from others. Surround yourself with family, friends, and loved ones. Seek out a trusted person to talk through how you are feeling. If you rely on alcohol, drugs, or other compulsive behavior to cope, talk to your health coach or family doctor about healthier alternatives to managing stress. If you reach a point where none of these steps are helping, it may be time to reach out to a mental health professional.

Why Stress Management is Important

Unfortunately, Americans are one of the most stressed out groups globally. Job stress costs the US industry an average of more than $300 billion in losses due to absenteeism, diminished productivity, and accidents. In addition, one in four employees says they are at risk of burning out in the next 12 months.

Ready to get started? Take one of these tips and implement it into your routine. If you want to learn more, you can also watch our Care Team’s On-Demand Stress Buster presentation. 

 Watch 20-minute On-Demand Stress Busters Webinar

New Year, New SMART Goal

New Year, New SMART Goal - Blog Feature Graphic

It’s that time of the year when we evaluate and set our goals for a new year. The most popular New Year’s resolutions revolve around improving health and wellness. How are you doing with yours? While most people start strong, the momentum typically doesn’t last. Mid-February is the peak time for resolution abandonment. We give up on goals when we don’t establish a plan for success. So, don’t give up on yours – Try something different this year by rethinking your resolution by following a goal preparation process and turning it into a SMART goal! 

We kick off each new year with fireworks and the promise of a fresh start. We use the annual tradition of New Year resolution setting to focus on our health, make better choices, and change our habits, behaviors, and routines. However, 80 percent of people give up on their resolutions by mid-February. What is the reason for this abysmal success rate?

Behavior change is hard! It often requires time, patience, and a plan to accomplish. Identifying your stated resolution or health goal is just the first step in the process. To reach your goal successfully, you must also determine a plan for the habits and systems that are counterproductive to your end goal and a realistic time frame for completion. SMART goals offer a more descriptive framework than traditional goal setting, increasing your chance of success.

The Basics of Behavior Change

It’s time to begin your goal preparation. Thinking your goal or resolution is just a statement such as “I want to eat healthily or exercise more.” is a recipe for disappointment. Instead, you need a plan of execution! By adding these extra details around your goal, you can set the intention and direction for your behavior change. The basics of behavior change involve crafting your new identity around your goal and pinpointing which habits and systems you need to change to reach it.

Building Your Identity-Based Goals

The key to making change is to make sure your goal is to focus on who you want to become and then create your processes and outcomes around that identity

  1. First, let’s define our new identity. What beliefs do you feel deep in your core, such as your worldview, self-image, and judgments about yourself and others? People who tie their goals to their identity see more success because you have more motivation to prove your identity to yourself than a random task or behavior. For example, do you want to be a person who prioritizes exercise? Someone who likes vegetables? 
  2. Next, what are the outcomes you are looking to achieve? For example, do you want to lose weight? Reduce your risk of heart disease? 
  3. And finally, what systems, habits, and processes do you need to change to be successful at your goal and be true to your new identity? Is that spending more time in the gym? Meal-prepping every week so you can guarantee your plate will be two-thirds vegetables at dinner? 

Change Your Habits, Change Your Life

Now it’s time for the execution piece. To be successful, you’ll need to change the habits no longer serving you. In the book Atomic Habits, James Clear defines habits as “the small decisions you make and actions you perform every day.” Changing your habits is the key to changing your life. 

Some habits are unhealthy, such as smoking cigarettes, not leaving your desk for lunch, or driving too fast. Other habits are good for us, such as always wearing your seatbelt, brushing your teeth twice a day, or always saying “thank you or I love you.” We do most of these things without even thinking. When thinking about your goal, what are the habits that are barriers to you being successful? It’s a fair assumption that you won’t become someone who prioritizes exercise if you only go on a run once. It has to become a repeated performance. What keeps you from going on that run? 

Habit stacking  is the practice of pairing a new habit with an existing automatic one to make it “stickier.” If you aren’t going for a run because you can’t find the energy to get off the couch once you get home, you have to change this habit to make progress. To practice habit stacking, you would pair a new habit with an existing one to help keep you off the couch. For example, you could pack your gym clothes and take them to work to change into, or you turn on a workout video first instead of your favorite TV show.  

 

Build Your SMART Goal

Now that you’ve completed your goal preparation, it’s time to create your SMART goal.  Instead of a vague sentence, you end up with a path to success in a SMART goal. SMART is an acronym for:

  • Specific: Describe your main objective. Clearly explain what you want to accomplish.
  • Measurable: How will you measure your progress? Making it quantifiable will help you hold yourself accountable.
  • Achievable: Make a list of what tools, time, people, and resources you’ll need to reach your goal. Evaluate if you have access to everything you need.
  • Realistic: Can your goal be accomplished in your desired timeframe? (For example, healthy weight loss is losing one to two pounds per week, so losing 20 pounds in a month may not be realistic)
  • Time-Bound– determine the time frame to achieve results. Define your start date, end date, and frequency of tasks and habits that make up your goal.​

With this new framework in mind, what is your new SMART goal?

A Goal Prep and SMART Goal Example

Let’s put all the pieces together in this example of  SMART goal preparation and setting.

  • My New Identity: I want to become a person who prioritizes their health so that I can live a long, happy, and healthy life. I plan to do that by moving more and eating healthier.
  • Processes and Systems: Exercise routine, logging in the Preventive plan, meal-prepping
  • Outcomes: Increase my physical activity & lose 10lbs
  • My SMART Goal: Starting on Monday, my first goal is to increase my physical activity by walking for 30 minutes per day, five times per week. I know I will be progressing by increasing my workouts by one day each week. I will log my activity in the Preventive Plan mobile app for the next five weeks to hold myself accountable.  In two months, once exercising has become a regular part of my routine, I will begin my second goal to lose two pounds per week over five weeks. I will maintain my exercise plan of 30 minutes to an hour of exercise five days a week while also sticking to a calorie budget. I plan to reduce my calorie intake by 1000 through -500 calories in my diet and -500 calories in exercise per day. A new habit will be to meal-prep and grocery shop for the week every Sunday. I will log all meals and calories in my food diary and exercise in the Preventive Plan mobile app.

You can see this example is more detailed than your typical New Year’s resolution, but this is a recipe for success. Unfortunately, there is an enormous chasm between defining your goal and achieving it

Your Next Steps for Goal-Setting Success

You are ready to get started on your revamped New Year’s resolution turned SMART goal! Remember to:

  • Think about what you’d like to change​
  • Set one small SMART goal to get started​
  • Identify the supporting habits you need to be successful​
  • Get to stacking to create new, healthy habits.
  • Watch your systems do the work for you!​
  • Prove your new identity to yourself every day! 
  • Adjust as needed and turn to your health coaches for support​

 You have all the tools you need to avoid the disappointment and frustration of traditional resolution setting this year. Bridge the gap between talking about a New Year’s resolution and succeeding with a new identity and defined SMART goals. Cheers to a commitment to year-long goals with new healthy habits as a foundation. 

Need additional support? 

Watch our New Year, New Habits webinar

Give Your Heart Some Love – Heart Disease Prevention

Your heart spreads love to the people around you, but you may forget how important it is to take care of it. Unfortunately, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. If you’ve developed unhealthy habits, your heart could suffer the consequences – congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, and even cardiac arrest! So, have you been giving your heart enough love lately? If not, it’s time to start!

Time to Make a Change

February is American Heart Month. It’s a time to bring awareness to the fact that almost 50 percent of Americans have at least one of three key heart disease risk factors  – high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, or smoking. The best plan is not to wait for a medical emergency but to prevent it from ever happening. So here’s what you can do to keep your ticker healthy.

What is Heart Disease?

Heart disease refers to several types of heart conditions. The different types of heart disease include: 

  • Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
  • Heart Arrhythmias.
  • Heart Failure.
  • Heart Valve Disease.
  • Pericardial Disease.
  • Cardiomyopathy (Heart Muscle Disease)
  • Congenital Heart Disease.

Due to movies and tv, we think of heart attacks, heart failure, or arrhythmia as this dramatic, chest-clutching, red lights and sirens emergency event. But symptoms of heart disease can be frighteningly uneventful, sneaking up only once something is wrong or even not at all. Yes, silent heart attacks are a thing! So if you experience chest pain, upper back or neck pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea or vomiting, extreme fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, or swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen, or neck veins, call your doctor or visit an emergency room. 

Tips for Keeping a Healthy Heart

Now is the perfect time to start taking care of your heart! But don’t feel like you need to make the changes happen all at once. Instead, tiny steps create small wins to reach your larger goal of better heart health. Here are a few ways to start down the path to a healthier you.

What’s Up, Doc?

Before you begin your wellness journey, you need to know your numbers. It is essential to schedule an annual check-up with your primary care provider. They will run a labwork and check your blood pressure. Everyone should know their baseline blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Once you know, you become empowered to understand your risks for developing heart disease. You can then focus on bringing your numbers into the target range through diet, exercise, or medication. 

Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a significant risk factor for heart disease. It is a medical condition that happens when the blood pressure in your arteries and other blood vessels is too high. The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to measure it. You can have this done at the doctor’s office, local pharmacy, or purchase a home blood pressure cuff. If your high blood pressure is not controlled, it can negatively affect your heart and other major organs of your body, including your kidneys and brain. 

Did you know prolonged or chronic stress increases cortisol, the stress hormone, and can wreak havoc on your health by compromising your immune system and contributing to many diseases including high blood pressure? Keep reading about the effects of how stress on your heart

When taking your blood pressure, the first number, called systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats and should be no high than 120. The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats and should be no higher than 80. You would read this as 120/80 mmHg or “one-twenty over eighty.”

Going to the Doctor Part of Heart Health

Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy substance your body needs to make hormones and digest fats. Your body makes all the cholesterol it needs, but we also absorb cholesterol from eating certain foods. Having high blood cholesterol can lead to plaque buildup in the arteries, putting you at risk for heart disease and stroke. Just like with high blood pressure, high cholesterol has no symptoms and can only be measured through lab work ordered by your doctor. 

  • “Bad” cholesterol, or LDL, is the stuff that can build up and clog your arteries. Your LDL should be less than 100 mg/dL on your labwork.
  • HDL, or “good” cholesterol, is called that because it picks up excess cholesterol in your blood and takes it back to your liver, where it’s broken down and removed from your body. Your HDL should be 60 ml/dL or higher on your bloodwork.
  • Total cholesterol measures the total amount of cholesterol in your blood. Your total cholesterol should be less than 200.
  • Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood. When you eat, your body converts any calories it doesn’t need to use right away into triglycerides. They are stored in your fat cells until they need to be released for energy between meals. This process works great if you get enough physical activity but becomes a problem if you regularly eat more calories than you burn. Normal triglyceride levels are typically below 150 mg/dL.

If any of these numbers get too high, you have a family history of heart problems, experiencing heart pain, or gum disease, you should schedule an appointment with a specialized heart doctor. A cardiologist only treats conditions and diseases of the heart. 

Exercise is the Best Medicine

You know lifting weights can make your muscles stronger. Did you know doing cardio can also make your heart muscle stronger? You should be getting 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. Being overweight and having a sedentary lifestyle will significantly strain your heart over time. 

Did you know that losing just 5% of your body weight dramatically lowers your risk of stroke, heart disease, and diabetes? For a 200-pound person, that’s only 10 pounds. You can do that!

Exercise is a great way to keep your heart in good shape and maintain a healthy weight! It can even help you stay off of medication. This is because exercise works like a beta-blocker over time by slowing the heart rate and blood pressure both at rest and while exercising. Add a few minutes of light to moderate physical activity into your schedule each day until you work up to 20 minutes a day! 

Eat Healthy to Your Heart’s Content

In addition to physical activity, it is important to eat healthier to reduce your risk of heart disease. Avoid a diet high in sodium, processed foods, saturated fats, and sugar. Instead, try incorporating veggies, fruits, whole grains, fish, nuts, fish and seafood, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. When you combine eating better and exercising, you’ll lower your body weight and risk for chronic diseases.

For instance, if you want to have a snack, make it heart-healthy! Try swapping an unhealthy snack for a more nutritious one. For example, instead of a candy bar, try an apple. Instead of potato chips, how about some carrots with hummus? And remember to take portioned snacks with you to eat throughout the day to avoid overeating.

Ready, Get Set, Quit!

Chemicals in tobacco can damage your heart and blood vessels? The best way to protect your heart is not to smoke, vape or use tobacco or nicotine products.

If you smoke, motivate yourself by setting a day to quit. It could save your life! No one else can take action to quit but you. If you need assistance in quitting, talk to your doctor. He or she may prescribe NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) aids to help curb the cravings.

Download our Quit Tobacco Checklist

Count Your Z’s

Quality sleep is vital for keeping your body healthy. It’s true! Getting eight hours of sleep each night boosts your immune system, manages your hunger levels, improves memory, and reduces your chances of developing heart disease.

Need some help falling asleep? Practice ways to relax before you go to bed. Turn off the TV, put down the phone, listen to soothing music, or meditate –this can help you fall asleep and improve the quality of your sleep.

Spread the Love with an Accountability Partner

It’s hard to continue your way to wellness when you lack the motivation or you feel alone. Having support from friends and family is important to help you achieve your goals.

Here are a few examples to maintain a high level of motivation while encouraging the people around you to love their hearts too:

  • Spread the love – Spend good quality time with your significant other, children, friends, family, or coworkers by planning a fun date together. Get active or cook a wholesome meal!
  • Step your way to a healthier heart – Create a step contest with your friends or coworkers. See who can get the most steps each month. Make it extra fun by awarding prizes to those who excel!
  • Set up an online support group – You’re not alone in this journey to a healthier heart. Make sure you let others know they have your support. All of you will become inspired by each other’s stories.
  • Spread awareness – Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women. Raise awareness this month by actively talking about heart health and ways to keep the people around you healthy.
  • Make a contract – Choose several family members who want to lose weight and make a contract to be healthier with them. Provide support and encouragement so you can love your hearts together!

Raising Awareness for Women

While heart disease is the No. 1 killer of both genders, it is important to spread awareness of heart disease in women as they often do not experience the same symptoms as men.

On February 4th, in support of women’s heart health, wear red to raise awareness. Your involvement could help decrease the incidences of heart disease and stroke! Go Red, from the American Heart Association.

 

Stay on Track with 4 Healthy Holiday Habits

Holiday Holiday Habits - Blog Feature Graphic

The holidays are a special time of year to celebrate life, reflect on all the things we are thankful for, spend time with loved ones, and re-focus on what’s important. It is also a time to appreciate and protect the sacred gift of our health. So implement these four healthy holiday habits to stay on track.

If better health is the gift you want to give yourself this holiday season, try these four tips to add more movement to your day, healthy foods to your plate, and have better health this winter.

Healthy Holiday Eating Habits

The key principles of balance and moderation are fundamental to healthy eating, and it is important to practice both during the holidays when temptations are everywhere.

The benefits of eating well include:

  • Support for your muscles and bones
  • Boosting your immunity
  • Helping your digestive system function
  • Weight management.

Choosing to eat healthily doesn’t mean all your indulgent holiday favorite foods are on the naughty list. Instead, include these tips into your holiday eating plan to stay on track: 

  • Offer to bring a low-fat main dish, a side dish of vegetables or salad, or a modified dessert so you know you’ll have something healthy to eat. 
  • Start with fruits and vegetables to take the edge off your appetite.
  • Choose small portions of the dishes you really love and can’t get any other time of year
  • Eat slowly and take small bites. Savor the bites you are indulging in. It takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to realize you’re full.
  • If you have a sweet treat, cut back on other carbs (like potatoes and bread) during the meal.
  • If you do have an alcoholic drink, have it with food. Otherwise stay hydrated with plenty of water or choose unsweetened coffee or tea, or other sugar-free beverages.

You can’t always control what is being served at get-togethers, but you can make intelligent decisions about what foods and how much ends up on your plate. If you decide to indulge, make sure to incorporate physical activity into your day to balance out the extra calories.

Stay Active

Staying active can have many benefits during the holiday season, but it can be hard to follow through. It gets darker earlier, the weather isn’t as nice, and our schedules fill up more quickly than usual.

 

So look for opportunities to work physical activities into your holiday season routine: 

  • Go for a stroll together after a family meal. 
  • Take two laps around the mall or shopping center before you go into a store to shop.
  • Take the stairs at every opportunity.
  • Have a dance party to your favorite holiday music.
  • Incorporate light resistance exercises (Lunges, jumping jacks, squats, planks, counter push-ups) while cooking or watching tv. 
  • Park and walk a neighborhood to look at Christmas lights.
  • Try a seasonal activity such as ice skating or winter hiking.
  • You can also make a new annual tradition and participate in a holiday-themed run or walk for charity. 

CDC guidance recommends 150-minutes of exercise per week. Break up your physical activity into smaller 10-minute chunks throughout the day, so it’s easier to schedule. Still, even just a few minutes a day of moderate-intensity physical activity can achieve health benefits, reduce your stress and anxiety, and lead to better sleep. 

Make Sleep a Priority

According to the CDC, more than a third of Americans are sleep deprived, and the holidays can disrupt your sleep patterns even more. In addition, the extra activities and social gatherings and eating later, and indulging in foods high in fat, sugar, or caffeine can keep you awake later. So focusing on your sleep hygiene during the holidays is even more critical than usual.

Here are some tips for getting better sleep:

  • Do your best to stick to regular bed and wake-up times.
  • Avoid caffeine and other late-night stimulants.
  • Follow the stay active tips to burn extra energy and improve your sleep quality.
  • Avoid carbs, sugar, high fat, and spicy foods before bed and replace them with sleep-friendly foods, such as serving popcorn, whole-grain crackers with cheese, your favorite fruits, nuts, hummus with veggies, or fruit with cheese.
  • Whether you are at home or traveling, keep your bedroom quiet, cool, and dark. 
  • Use sleep masks, earplugs, a white noise machine or fan, or music for better sleep.
  • Take a nap if you feel sleepy, but try to keep it short (20-30 minutes).

 You should aim for seven to eight hours of sleep per night to guard against mindless eating, boost your immune system, and leave you feeling rested.

Winter Wellness

The change of seasons really can bring on “winter blues.” The colder temps, combined with fewer hours of daylight and increased stress around work, family, finances, and more, can increase the risk of depression, anxiety, and lethargy. These cold, dark days coincide with cold and flu season. Germs are more active during the winter and more easily spread between people when they spend most of their time inside, in close contact. Take these precautions to stay well over the holidays:

  • Soak up as much sunlight as possible. Go outside between noon and 2 pm. 
  • Increase your folic acid intake, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and decrease your sugar intake.
  • Use a humidifier or saline nasal spray to reduce sinus dryness.
  • Talk to your doctor if you think you are experiencing symptoms of seasonal depression.
  • Get your Influenza (flu) or COVID-19 vaccine. Both illnesses can result in serious health complications like pneumonia, bacterial infections, hospitalization, or death— flu activity peaks between December and February.

Read More: Health Coach Article on Flu Facts You Should Know

Remember, handwashing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs, especially during the winter months. Evidence shows handwashing can help prevent 1 in 5 respiratory illnesses like the cold or flu.

Don’t Wait on the New Year

Many of us enter this time of year with the mindset that it’s a free pass to indulge a little too much. We make plans to refocus our health goals on January 1. But the reality is it’s difficult to regain the fitness ground we’ve lost or drop the weight we’ve added. If you commit to following the four healthy holiday habits of using balance and moderation for healthy eating, making time to stay active, committing to sleep, and prioritizing staying well this winter, you’ll set yourself up to maintain your health goals through the holidays and beyond.

How a Health Coach Will Change Your Life(style)

Changing Your Lifestyle - Blog Feature Graphic

Most of us will be diagnosed with chronic lifestyle diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, chronic lung disease, and cardiovascular disease, by the time we reach middle age. This is because we live our lives coping with stress through unhealthy diets, a sedentary lifestyle, and tobacco and alcohol use. But studies show an increased success rate in making lifestyle changes and reversing bad health habits by engaging with a lifestyle health coach.

Making lifestyle changes takes time to implement, requires support, and often lacks the instant gratification we have grown accustomed to in the digital age. However, if someone told you that you could prevent your premature death from a chronic lifestyle disease, would you do something about it? I think most of us would want to. To undo the bad habits we’ve developed over time, we must decide that our current behavior doesn’t support the way we want to live. Consider some of these statistics from the CDC on healthy living, or lack thereof:

  • More than 60 percent of adults don’t get the recommended 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity
  • Only one out of 10 adults are eating enough fruits and vegetables
  • More than 42.4 percent of adults are overweight or obese

It is estimated that we can prevent 20-40% of premature deaths before age 75 with lifestyle changes. So why aren’t more of us motivated to make them? Unfortunately, it isn’t lack of motivation but rather lack of support that keeps most of us from addressing lifestyle changes.

Committing to Lifestyle Changes

The National Prevention Council found that healthy students are better prepared to learn, employees that take care of their mental and physical health are more productive, and the elderly who remain physically and mentally active are more likely to live independently.

Most of us want to take a more active role in our health to experience these benefits. Every January 1st, we make New Year’s resolutions. For a few weeks, gyms are packed, and salad kits fly off grocery shelves. Yet by February, more than 80% of us have abandoned our goals. Common challenges to lifestyle change include:

  • Lack of time
  • Lack of accountability 
  • Lack of motivation 
  • Stress, mental, and physical exhaustion 

We all know we need to do better. Most of us attempt to make changes and fail. What are we missing? New research suggests a health coach!

What is a Health Coach?

A ‘health coach‘ is a trained professional who partners with you over a specific time (anywhere from 90 days to a year or more) to help you achieve a particular health outcome. They don’t prescribe, diagnose, analyze, or treat health conditions. Instead, they are behavior change teachers, guiding their clients on how to successfully adopt and sustain healthy habits that prevent, ease, and even reverse chronic lifestyle diseases. 

A health coach is a non-judgmental accountability partner. Let’s be honest; sometimes, you can’t even get that from your spouse, parents, or siblings. You should be able to establish a trusting relationship with your health coach that allows you to be honest, ask questions, and express doubts. By providing this support, health coaches offer options and suggestions, but taking action is still your responsibility.

“[My health coach] is always calm, kind, and proactive. Her approach makes me feel motivated even though I know I have a lot of action items, and many times, [struggle] to stay on track health-wise.” – Preventive Plan Member Survey Response

A health coach is also a teacher passing along relevant health education. The coach can bridge the gap between the patient and their primary care providers. Many people experience anxiety around attending doctor appointments. Your health coach can help translate what the doctor says into layman’s terms, help you improve communication with your doctor, identify questions to ask at your next visit, and support you on lifestyle or medication changes between visits.

They may have a health science degree, specialty certifications, or be a clinician. Regardless of their educational background, your health coach will be a caring individual invested in helping you achieve the best version of yourself.

Identifying Your “Why” for Behavior Change

Just hiring a health coach will not make you successful. You still have to be committed to making lifestyle changes and executing your goal plan.  To do this, you must name your problem and decide that the hard work of changing outweighs the cons of staying the same. 

Models of Change

According to the transtheoretical model of change, there are five primary stages you’ll pass through before creating a difference in your life: 

  1. Precontemplation: You deny having a problem, but other people may be concerned for your health.
  2. Contemplation: You are thinking about the pros and cons of changing your lifestyle.
  3. Preparation: You have a goal and are taking steps to get ready to make a change.
  4. Action: You are actively working on changing your behavior.
  5. Maintenance: You figure out how to stick to your change over the long term.

 And while it doesn’t have a number, we need to mention relapse. Being human means mistakes happen! The key is making sure you get back on track as quickly as possible.

Tools of the Trade

It is important for your health coach to identify which stage of change you are in. They use principles of active listening, motivational interviewing, and goal-setting as powerful tools to help you take charge of your health. When you meet with a health coach, you aren’t getting another lecture about how you need to lose weight from the doctor or an intense instructor berating you for not running fast enough. Instead, you get a supportive professional who wants to help you figure out your “why” for making change.

For example, if you are in the Precontemplation stage, they may need to deploy motivational interviewing to help you determine your “why.” We all balk when authority figures tell us what to do. Instead of saying “You need to lose weight,” rather your health coach may say, “How might your life be different if you lost the weight?” Designed to get to the root of why you want to make the change, these open-ended questions uncover your core motivation for changing yourself and lead to a higher chance of success than doing something because someone told you to.

Making a Healthy Habit Plan

Once you identify your primary health goal, it’s time to enter the preparation stage and talk about health plans and habits. Unfortunately, this is typically the step we skip on our own. Instead, we try to bend our habits as if we were bending metal with our bare hands. Then we are disappointed when it doesn’t move.

Your health coach will want to talk through your core habits. The more you do something, the more robust and efficient the connections in your brain are. You probably have solid practices and neural connections that you take for granted each day. We all have preferences on what time we wake up in the morning, eat our meals, and when we shower or brush our teeth.

Once your health coach understands your unique core habits, they can deploy a practice called habit stacking. Instead of creating new patterns from scratch, something our adult brains will struggle with, you pair a new habit with a current one. Here are a few examples:

  • After I turn my alarm off in the morning, I will drink 8 ounces of cold water.
  • While my morning coffee is brewing, I’ll pack a healthy lunch/snacks, so I don’t eat out.
  • After eating my lunch, I’ll go on a 15-20 minute walk around the parking lot.
  • When my family eats dinner, I’ll turn off the tv and ask everyone about their day.
  • When I watch my favorite show, I’ll get on the stationary bike/treadmill.
  • After I brush my teeth, I will meditate or journal for 10 minutes before going to bed.

It isn’t glamorous, but habit stacking works because you are linking a new habit to existing behaviors that already have a strong connection in your brain. This makes the new behavior more likely to stick. And, once you’ve mastered one habit, you can continue to stack on new practices, leading to a healthier routine.

Why You Need a Health Coach

Yes, you can decide to make a lifestyle change or create a health plan without a health coach. Let’s talk about why you need one.

The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) did a study on accountability. There are two stats that are really important. The first part is that if you commit to someone your intention or goal, you have a 65% of completing that goal. That is decent odds. But, if you commit to someone AND add in a specific accountability appointment with that person, you increase your chance of success to 95 percent.

Did you read that last statistic? A person who sets a goal and keeps a regular session with their health coach on their progress, challenges, and wins will most likely reach their goal. By definition, the term ‘coach’ is a person who invests their time instructing or educating someone to improve their performance.

Health coaches have a variety of healthcare experience and education that they want to pass along to you. They guide you through the stages of change and will serve as your cheerleader, accountability partner, teacher, confidante, and healthcare resource all in one. Their number one goal is to help you improve your health and enhance your overall wellbeing.

Expectations for a Health Coach Call

Committing to meet with a health coach is a big step, so congratulations if you’ve already put something on the calendar. However, if you aren’t sure where to start on your health journey, that’s ok too! First, let’s set some expectations for your call with a health coach.

Pre-Call Plan

Your initial call will last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. If you have time constraints, make sure that is communicated upfront. It is important to spend a few minutes planning for your call. Ensure you’ve documented any questions or health topics and essential information relating to the specific type of coaching call you scheduled. This information could include a meal plan, food diary, exercise log, list of current habits, or recent lab values or health diagnoses.

Connect with Your Health Coach

You can utilize video or have a regular phone call. The choice is up to you; however, our health coaches love when they can see and connect with you, so don’t be afraid to turn on your video camera!

“The virtual experience was more personalized, feels like an informal and candid conversation.” – Preventive Plan Member Survey Response

The first question your coach will likely ask is, “Why did you schedule this call? or “Do you have specific topics or questions you’d like to address?” This is where that pre-call planning will be helpful! We all can freeze or have our brains go blank when put on the spot. Once you establish your main goal, you’ll collaborate with your health coach to formulate a health plan to help you reach it.

For example, our health coach, Christina, believes mental health is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. If you’ve depleted your mental and emotional resources, keeping up with meal planning or going to the gym could be daunting. She might recommend a plan to reduce your stress and focus on self-care before suggesting a diet or exercise plan.

Routine Health Coach Follow-Ups

Now you are off and running, maybe literally. Your health coach is going to want to hear about your progress. Follow-up call cadence will depend on your specific health plan and how much accountability you require. Follow-up calls last 15 minutes to an hour and can happen once a week or as little as once a month.

In a follow-up call, your health coach will want to hear about your health plan progress. Sharing wins with you is the reason they do this job! However, don’t be afraid to share your challenges too. Your coach can help identify ways to get over these hurdles. They are an unbiased sounding board for you to utilize.

The Preventive Plan Care Team

The Preventive Plan’s health coaches are available Monday through Friday from 8 am to 6 pm Eastern Standard Time. Each coach has their personal availability that may differ slightly from this schedule.

This year we created a follow-up survey that is emailed to everyone who completes a health coaching session. The results validate what we already knew; our Preventive Plan mobile app users love our health coaches! They’ve rated their experience with our Care Team with a 4.9 out of 5 average rating. Our members also see the value in our approach to be more than just an app. More than 45 percent of respondents said their coach “significantly exceeded their expectations” during their coaching call.

“I learned so much in a very short period. I have almost all the [health] information I never knew before. I’m grateful for this as I think it will change my lifestyle.” – Preventive Plan Member Survey Response

In summary, while you can’t control your genetics, you can control how often you exercise, the amount of sleep, your tobacco and alcohol use, and your diet. While implementing lifestyle changes isn’t easy, no matter which area of your life you want to improve, utilizing a health coach increases your chance of success at implementing new healthy habits. So you can drop the bad habits and reach your health goals – for good.

And if you don’t believe me, just read some of our testimonials

The Truth About Type 2 Diabetes – Risk Factors, Prevention, and Management Tips

Type 2 Diabetes: The Truth - Blog Feature Graphic

Did you know more than 34 million Americans live with diabetes, which is the seventh leading cause of death? The costs, both medical and economical, for those with this disease are astronomical. Learning more about prediabetes and type 2 diabetes and then taking steps to prevent it can help save your life and wallet.

The number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled as the baby boomer generation ages, and the United States population becomes more overweight. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, kidney dialysis, and non-traumatic foot amputation in the United States. In addition, diabetes isn’t just a physical condition. It can wreak mental havoc due to its chronic nature, daily maintenance routine, and social stigma.

Despite these bleak statistics, there is hope in the form of prevention. Diabetes education is the key to reducing these numbers by preventing those at risk from developing it and helping people diagnosed with diabetes live a longer, healthier life. On this page, you’ll find a complete overview of what diabetes is, the different types of diabetes, risk factors, and tips to manage and prevent diabetes.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) disease that affects how your body turns food into energy. As we eat, food is broken down into sugar (glucose) and releases into the bloodstream. When blood sugar rises, your pancreas releases a hormone called insulin to help regulate it. Insulin acts as a key to unlock cells to use glucose for energy, and when you have diabetes or prediabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough or is unable to use insulin. As a result, too much glucose stays in your bloodstream, resulting in high blood sugar. Over time, high blood sugar damages your body and can cause heart disease, vision loss, kidney disease, and other serious health problems.

The Different Types of Diabetes

The term diabetes may sound familiar, but it is a complicated disease. Common myths include that overeating sugar causes it, and it can only affect people who are morbidly obese. There are also multiple types of diabetes. There is no shame in having diabetes, and it can strike anyone regardless of age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status.

Type 1 Diabetes – An Autoimmune Disorder

Type 1 diabetes, previously called insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes, is usually diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults, but it can develop at any age. Approximately five to 10 percent of people with diabetes have type 1, making it less common than type 2 diabetes. When you have type 1 diabetes, the body produces an autoimmune reaction where the body destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. 

Gestational Diabetes – Diabetes During Pregnancy

Gestational diabetes develops in pregnant women who don’t already have diabetes. Between two and 10 percent of pregnancies will result in gestational diabetes. As a pregnant woman gains weight and her hormones change, the body cannot make or use enough insulin, resulting in insulin resistance.

Most pregnancies will face insulin resistance toward the end, but a diagnosis of gestational diabetes typically happens during the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy during blood or glucose challenge tests. Gestational diabetes normally goes away after your baby is born, but having it increases both your and your baby’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future. If you are already overweight, you can reduce your risk of gestational diabetes by participating in regular physical activity and losing weight before you get pregnant.

Type 2 Diabetes – The Silent Disease

Type 2 diabetes, also called adult-onset diabetes, is the most common diabetes condition, accounting for approximately 90 to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. With type 2 diabetes, your body cannot produce enough insulin to regulate and use glucose in your blood, resulting in high blood sugar levels. While there is no cure for type 2 diabetes, it can be prevented or delayed with healthy lifestyle changes such as losing weight, eating healthy food, and being active. 

prevent and manage type 2 diabetes
eating healthy, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight are ways to prevent and manage diabetes

Signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes often develop slowly, causing many people to live with it unchecked for years, with high blood sugar damaging their bodies over time. Common symptoms include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow-healing sores
  • Frequent infections
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Areas of darkened skin, usually in the armpits and neck

While it is a serious medical condition, with proper management and lifestyle changes, you can feel better, stay healthier, and have an improved quality of life than if you leave diabetes unchecked.

Prediabetes -Time to Rewind Your Risk

Don’t let the “pre” in prediabetes fool you into thinking it is something you can put off addressing. Over a third of U.S. adults, approximately 88 million, have prediabetes, and more than 84 percent of them don’t know they have it. This critical phase is the only time you can reverse and prevent diabetes. This condition is the precursor to diabetes because your blood glucose (sugar) levels are higher than normal but are not high enough to be called diabetes. You can have prediabetes for years but have no apparent symptoms, which is why it often goes undiagnosed.

If you know you have prediabetes or have a high risk of developing diabetes, you have two choices – ignore it and end up with diabetes or take action now to reduce your risk. But what happens if you don’t know you have it? It’s important to talk to your doctor about testing if you have any of the nine risk factors of diabetes.

9 Diabetes Risk Factors

Your chance of developing diabetes is a combination of your genes and your lifestyle. To determine if you are at risk for type 2 diabetes, complete the Type 2 Diabetes Risk Test. The most common risk factors for type 2 diabetes are:

  1. Age: As we age, we are more at risk for developing diabetes. Specifically, being over the age of 45 puts you at higher risk.
  2. Weight: Being overweight can put you at risk for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. The more fat we have in our bodies, the more resistant our cells are to insulin.
  3. Family History: You are at an increased risk if anyone in your immediate family (mother, father, sister, or brother) has a diabetes diagnosis.
  4. Race: Diabetes occurs more often in individuals who are African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic/Latino-American, and Pacific Islander backgrounds.
  5. Physical Inactivity: Exercising less than three days a week can put you at risk. You can easily change this risk factor by increasing your activity levels.
  6. Sex: Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, those diagnosed with gestational diabetes during pregnancy, and those who delivered a baby weighing nine pounds or more are at an increased risk.
  7. High Blood Pressure: If you’ve ever had a blood pressure reading of 140/90 or higher or have a diagnosis of high blood pressure, you are at increased risk.
  8. Low HDL Cholesterol: You’re at an increased risk if your “good” cholesterol is less than 35 mg/dL.
  9. Abnormal Triglyceride Levels: Triglycerides are a type of fat in the bloodstream. Unhealthy levels of triglycerides above 250 mg/dL increase your risk.

If you have multiple risk factors or currently have prediabetes, you can do things to rewind your risk factors.

Tools to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

While you can’t control your genes, you can change your lifestyle. You can do three things to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes – eat right, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy weight. You don’t have to make significant changes in your routine to rewind your risk of diabetes. Adding in small steps can add up to big results over time. Even losing 10 percent of your total body weight can improve blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugars and lower your risk of type 2 diabetes by 58 percent

Lifestyle changes can seem challenging at first, but you can be successful by utilizing tools available to you and leaning into support from your family, friends, and health care team. 

Increase Your Daily Exercise

Physical activity is just one part of your journey to preventing or delaying the impact of type 2 diabetes.

Just 30 minutes a day will get you over the recommended 150-minute-per-week mark. Regular activity throughout the day that gets your heart pumping can take off weight, make you feel better, and lower your blood sugar. Getting fit is a commitment you make to yourself, your family, and your health.

You can start small by using some creative thinking to incorporate small bursts of activity throughout the day.

  • Park further away when working or shopping. 
  • Take the stairs at work or when running errands. 
  • Go for a walk during your break or at lunchtime. 
  • Try a new hobby such as biking, yoga, hiking, kayaking, swimming, or something else.

If you leave exercise to chance, you probably won’t do it. You have to make adding in exercise a way of life. You don’t have to spend an hour at the gym each day. Simple tweaks can quickly add up to serious activity that makes a significant impact over time.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

What does a healthy weight look like for you? Your answer will depend on your age, activity level, and overall health. The goal of a healthy weight is to feel your best and reduce any health risks. To get started, you could use BMI and waist circumference as references to gauge where you are now and help you pinpoint a goal number. 

If there were an easy way to lose weight and keep it off, everyone would be doing it. Setting your goal is step one. Next, you need to make small changes to your lifestyle over time to increase your chances of success. They call it a health journey for a reason. It is going to take time and effort on your part to be successful. You’ll need to learn new eating and physical activity habits, but losing 10 to 20 pounds can make a big difference in your overall health and self-esteem. 

Watch What You Eat

Healthy eating habits can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight, support your nutrient needs, and reduce your risk for chronic diseases. Try to release the inner cringe you feel when you hear the word “diet.” Eating fewer calories doesn’t necessarily mean eating less food. It is all about balancing the calories you consume with the calories your body uses.

When deciding what to eat or drink, choose options that are filling and full of nutrients. These foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, eggs, beans and peas, unsalted nuts and seeds, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and lean meats and poultry. Also, make sure your choices contain little or no saturated fat, sodium, or added sugars.

Follow these guidelines when creating a healthy eating plan:

  • Identify your appropriate calorie level based on whether you need to lose, gain, or maintain your weight.
  • Create a diet low in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium.
  • Meal plan before you go to the grocery store. 
  • Read nutrition labels to make the best food choices.
  • Watch your portion size at meals.
  • Add in fiber to keep you full, regulate your GI system, and control your blood sugar and cholesterol levels. 
  • Enjoy comfort foods and sweets in moderation or try lower-calorie versions.
  • Don’t drink your calories! Water is the best choice to wet your whistle.

Typically you have more control over your food choices and meal preparation when eating at home. Healthy eating starts at the grocery store and ends on your plate. Commit to weekly meal preparation and cooking healthy meals at home at first. Use an app or food diary to track what you eat and the calories you are consuming. 

Ease into a healthy eating lifestyle by adding in a salad at the beginning of each dinner. Leafy greens provide nutrients and fill you up faster. Quickly eliminate extra calories by switching from soda to water or unsweet tea or coffee. If you need help creating or sticking to a meal plan, consider meeting with a dietitian about the best strategies for your lifestyle and food palate. 

Increase Your Physical Activity Level

Physical activity is one way to control blood sugar levels and help your body process insulin. An active lifestyle is the key to maintaining a healthy weight. Physical activity can be brisk walks, housework, yard work, dancing, swimming, or bicycling. Anything that gets your heart beating faster or makes your muscles work counts. The CDC recommends getting 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity per week, with two days dedicated to muscle-strengthening activities. 

Don’t let the triple-digit number make you sweat. You can break this up into smaller amounts of about 25 minutes a day or one hour three days a week. In addition, you can try a yoga class or add small hand weights to your walk to incorporate muscle work.

To make sure you stick with it, start with activities, locations, and times you enjoy. For example, don’t commit to a 5:00 AM run if you aren’t a morning person! Instead, schedule a lunch or evening walk every day. Start slowly and work your way up to more physically challenging activities. 

National Diabetes Prevention Program

Making these lifestyle changes isn’t easy, and you don’t have to do it alone. One tool available to use is a CDC-recognized lifestyle change program that is proven to aid in healthy changes through habit formation necessary to prevent diabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program is delivered by CDC-recognized providers around the United States, including USPM. All lifestyle change programs are one year in duration. As new habits are established, participants see benefits, such as more energy, more stable blood sugar levels, and less stress as they enjoy a healthier lifestyle.

How Can I Manage My Type 2 Diabetes?

Diabetes is a high-maintenance, chronic illness that requires daily management to keep it in check. People with diabetes need to make healthy food choices, maintain a healthy weight, move more every day, and take their medicine even when they feel good. If you keep your condition under control, you can still live a full and healthy life.

Diabetes Care Checklist

Taking care of yourself is so important once you have a diabetes diagnosis. You will have more energy, be less tired and thirsty, make fewer trips to the bathroom, and have fewer complications.

  • Blood sugar checks: Check up to several times a day as directed by your doctor. Keep a record of your numbers and share them with your health care team.
  • Foot check: Use a mirror if you can’t see the bottom of your feet or ask a family member for help. Immediately let your doctor know if you have any cuts, redness, swelling, sores, blisters, corns, calluses, or other changes to the skin or nails.
  • Diabetes medicines: Take the amount prescribed by your doctor, even when you feel good.
  • Physical activity: Get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking or riding a bike, each week.
  • Healthy eating: Eat healthy foods that give you the nutrition you need and help your blood sugar stay in your target range.
  • Doctor visits and lab tests: At each visit, your doctor will review your blood pressure, weight, self-care plan, and medicines. The doctor will also monitor your blood sugar and A1C levels. You may also need to get flu, pneumonia, or hepatitis b shots, complete kidney and cholesterol tests, and schedule regular eye exams.
  • Dental visits: Get your teeth and gums cleaned at least once a year (more often if your doctor recommends), and let your dentist know you have diabetes.

If you need help, your doctor can refer you to Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSMES) services. This program includes a health care team that will teach you how to stay healthy and incorporate what you learn into your routine.

Type 2 Diabetes Medication Management

If losing weight and healthy eating isn’t enough to manage your blood sugar levels, your doctor may prescribe a medication regimen to reduce your glucose levels. Take your medications as directed, and never change a dose or stop taking them without consulting your doctor.

There are common medications people diagnosed with diabetes use to keep their condition controlled:

  • Metformin is an oral diabetes medicine that helps control blood sugar levels. 
  • A Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist helps release insulin when you need it and lower the amount of glucose made by your liver.
  • Sodium-glucose cotransporter-2 (SGLT2) inhibitors prevent glucose from being reabsorbed in your kidney.
  • Insulin is used to regulate blood glucose and comes in various forms that are injected or inhaled.

You may also require blood pressure medication, cholesterol medication, or aspirin therapy, depending on your health and symptoms. Keep a list of all of the medicine you’re taking, including vitamins and herbal supplements, so you can review it with your doctor. Make sure to discuss the best timing for each dose and what you should do if you miss one. It can be difficult to keep up with, but you can build an effective medication routine with some organization and planning. 

Mental Health and Diabetes

Mental health affects every part of our daily lives. It can impact how we handle stress, navigate our relationships, make decisions, and feel. Once you have diabetes, it is something you must manage every day of your life. That is hard and can lead to feeling as if diabetes is controlling you and your life instead of the other way around. During a given 18-month timespan, 33 to 50 percent of people with diabetes experience diabetes distress, or feelings of stress, guilt, or denial that arise from living with diabetes and the burden of self-management. 

If you are struggling with your mental health, sticking to your diabetes care plan can be even more challenging. People with diabetes are two to three times more likely to have depression than people without diabetes. Unfortunately, only 25 to 50 percent of people with diabetes and depression get diagnosed and treated. Anxiety, or feelings of worry, fear, or being on edge, can also mimic the symptoms of low blood sugar. So if you’re feeling anxious, try checking your blood sugar and treat it if it’s too low. 

It is vital to establish a health care team that includes an endocrinologist, primary care, mental health counselor, a diabetes educator, and a diabetes support group to help you navigate the day-to-day maintenance and highs and lows you may experience. You are never alone; help is always a phone call or Google search away.

Why Women Should Be Passionate About Men’s Health (and How to Do It Practically)

Men's Health Month - Blog Feature Graphic

June is Men’s Health Month, a time to bring awareness to disease prevention and longer, healthier lives for men. You may be wondering why women should care about men’s health awareness at all. The fact is men live shorter and sicker lives than women. Our fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons are all impacted by this cycle of not taking care of themselves. Women can save lives by looking for signs of common health problems, encouraging men to get a primary care provider, and establishing healthy habits in the home through proper nutrition and exercise.

While women have their own health challenges, it is equally important for them to participate in Men’s Health Month if they want their husbands to be around for the long haul. Current life expectancy calculates on average men live five years less than women. According to Census.gov, 58 percent of women age 75 or older had experienced the death of their spouse, compared to just 28 percent of men. Most of the men in this age bracket were still married. On top of this, elderly widows are more likely to live in poverty even if they weren’t poor before their husbands’ deaths. These stats paint a bleak picture of what is supposed to be your “golden years.”

Photos showing women and men partnering in men's health

What causes this shorter lifespan for men? According to Men’s Health Network, men often:

  • are more likely to engage in unhealthy behavior such as smoking and drinking alcohol
  • don’t seek medical attention when they need it
  • are less likely to have health insurance
  • are more likely to work in dangerous occupations
  • are less likely to adopt preventive health habits

As kids, boys are often taught not to complain. How often do you hear the phrases, “walk it off,” “toughen up,” or “big boys don’t cry?” We joke that adult men don’t like to ask for directions and would rather get lost than ask for help. When they don’t seek medical care and aren’t open and honest about aches, pains, and embarrassing symptoms with their doctor, tragic outcomes can occur. To change those statistics, women must become more involved in men’s health for their husbands and sons.

3 Ways Women Can Improve Men’s Health

In general, women often pay better attention to their health. From their teens through childbearing years, women typically have at least a gynecologist they see once a year, and women are often more candid with doctors, too. You can be role models and cheerleaders for the men in your life to help change current men’s health outcomes.

This Men’s Health Month, take these three steps to make a difference in the lives of the men you love:

  1. Learn more about the health risks men face and early signs and symptoms of common health problems.
  2. Encourage men to choose a primary care provider and get regular screenings to reduce premature death.
  3. Work together to set a good example of healthy living for their children with proper nutrition and exercise.

Women have a strong influence in creating healthier habits throughout the family through meals and exercise activities. Here is an action plan for encouraging men to take control of their health.

Step 1: Learn About Men’s Health Problems

In a race you don’t want to be leading, men die at higher rates for nine out of the top 10 causes of death. It’s worth noting that most of these causes, including heart disease, diabetes, lung cancer, and even depression, can be prevented and extend not just to men, but to the whole family. Learning more about these diseases, how to prevent them, and signs and symptoms to look for, and then passing that information onto the men you love, is the first step in bringing awareness to men’s health.

Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States, causing about one in four male deaths. Half of the men who die suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms. Having hypertension (high blood pressure) is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Men can reduce their risk of heart disease by knowing their blood pressure and being checked in-office by their doctor every year. Reducing the risk of heart disease starts with a healthy diet and exercise. You should also quit smoking and reduce your alcohol intake.

Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects how your body turns food into energy. It accounted for three percent of total deaths in 2020, a 15 percent increase over 2019. Type 2 diabetes typically develops in people over the age of 45. This condition wreaks havoc on the body, increasing your risk of blindness, amputations, kidney failure, heart attack, and stroke. Before developing type 2 diabetes, most people experience a period when their blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis. This pivotal time is called prediabetes. If you take action with healthy eating and exercise during this small window, you can reverse this diagnosis and prevent type 2 diabetes.

Cancer

The three most common cancers among men in the United States are prostate, lung, and colorectal.

  1. Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men and often occurs without any symptoms. If he is straining to pass urine, leaking urine, has bloody urine, and experiences bone pain, he should see a doctor immediately. Fortunately, if caught early, prostate cancer is often treated successfully. Men should have a rectal exam every year and speak to their doctor about screenings once they hit the age of 40.
  2. Lung cancer remains the number one cause of cancer deaths in men. You can have lung cancer before symptoms develop. When they do appear, they include shortness of breath, cough, a change in sputum, chest pain, noisy breathing, hoarseness, and coughing up blood. The best way to prevent lung cancer is to not smoke and to avoid secondhand smoke.
  3. Colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) is the third most common cancer in men. Most colorectal cancers start as polyps on the inner lining. Over time, certain types of polyps can turn into cancer and can easily spread throughout the body once cancer has access to blood vessels. If you experience symptoms, such as a change in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, belly pain, weakness, and weight loss, see a doctor immediately.

You can reduce your risk for most cancers by maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise, quitting smoking, and reducing your alcohol intake.

Step 2: Become Partners in Health

Women should encourage men to take even the smallest symptoms seriously and discuss them with their doctors, even if that takes an extra nudge to get them in the doctor’s office. Ultimately, men should become more comfortable talking about and taking action on their health. Here are some ways you can influence men to take better care of their health by doing tasks together.

Do Self-Exams Together

Self-exams are the first line of defense when it comes to taking care of your health. Women are encouraged to do monthly breast exams to detect breast cancer early. Men have breast tissue too and are susceptible to breast cancer. They should also be doing monthly testicle exams looking for lumps, enlargement, or pain that could be symptoms of testicular cancer. Be on the lookout for new or persistent symptoms that can be indicators of a chronic condition that should be evaluated by a doctor:

  • Persistent backaches
  • Nagging cough
  • Recurrent chest pains or headaches
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Depression
  • Obvious changes in warts or moles
  • Unusual lumps
  • Changes in the color of urine or stool
  • Changes in bowel or bladder habits
  • Blood in urine
  • Bleeding that won’t stop
  • Impotence or erectile dysfunction

Turn self-exams into something fun to do together. Doing self-exams together can increase intimacy and help you both better understand your bodies. Watch for abnormal moles or changes in your skin in places you can’t check yourself. Women get most of their skin cancers in places where they can see them, such as their hands and face and below the hemline, but men get most of theirs on their back. By encouraging men to take changes in their bodies seriously, you’ll be helping them take control of their healthcare.

Choosing a Primary Care Provider

Not all health problems have symptoms that will be noticeable to a man’s partner. Even men who are the picture of health can be battling cancer, diabetes, or other silent killers. The best way to detect these kinds of illnesses is by getting regular checkups with a primary care provider.

Cleveland Clinic found 72 percent of men would rather do household chores than go to the doctor. Motivations include embarrassment, lack of convenience, not wanting to hear a bad diagnosis, and not wanting to quit bad habits. Research suggests people with a strong relationship with their PCP have better care outcomes and enjoy a healthier life.

How do you overcome these challenges and get them into the doctor’s office? See if you can pinpoint the main reasons he is avoiding the doctor. If time off from work is a problem, find health providers who have weekend and evening appointments or have offices close to his work. Ask if he would prefer to see a male or female health provider. You can also schedule same-day appointments for both of you and plan a date or fun activity afterward. Take the preparation part off his plate by learning about and compiling notes on his family history, symptoms you’ve noticed, and questions he should ask while at his appointment.

Step 3: Implement Healthy Routines

It is so important for men and women to eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet because, everything you consume influences your health. We eat portions that are too large, and our meals include too much fat, sugar, and salt. Good nutrition, physical activity, and healthy body weight are essential parts of a person’s overall health and well-being. Women tend to take on the tasks of grocery shopping, meal prep, and cooking. By taking control of diet and exercise, you can decrease the risk of everyone in your family developing serious health conditions.

Healthy Eating for the Whole Family

When a woman eats healthily, everyone in her household is more likely to eat healthily. When making a plan for feeding your whole family, you’ll want to consider the key components for a healthy diet:

  • Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products.
  • Include a variety of protein foods such as seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), soy products, nuts, and seeds.
  • Reduce the number of saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars consumed.
  • Enjoy balanced food and beverage choices to reflect your personal preferences while staying within your daily calorie needs.

You can still eat well even when dining out. Encourage smart swaps, such as salads instead of fries or water instead of soda, when you go out to eat. Making sure your husband is packing a lunch from home with leftovers, salads, and healthy snacks will also prevent him from making bad choices while at work.

Get the Family Moving

Any activity that gets your heart beating faster can improve your health. It is recommended to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. This goal can be broken into smaller amounts such as 30 minutes a day, five days a week. The best exercise is one everyone looks forward to doing. Remember to incorporate various types of activities that can be fun for the whole family:

  • Recruit male friends and relatives with good health habits to participate and help with ideas.
  • Decide on an exercise routine that involves and is enjoyable to everyone.
  • Exercise doesn’t have to be a workout – join a sports league, go on a hike, bicycle trail, or other outdoor activity.
  • Housework, yard work, and playing with kids and grandkids count.
  • Try something new with online workout videos, no gym membership required.

Physical activity has immediate health benefits, such as better sleep and reduced stress and anxiety, on top of reducing the risk of all of the health conditions we’ve already discussed.

Women Can Impact Men’s Health

Many of the issues we’ve discussed are sometimes difficult for men to discuss. By learning more about common men’s health issues, becoming a partner in their health, and implementing a healthy diet and exercise routine, women can have a huge impact on the lives of their fathers, uncles, brothers, husbands, and sons.

“The role of women in keeping the men in their life healthy is invaluable. While it may pain you to nag your husband, do it anyway. If you recognize any unusual symptoms in your loved one, do whatever it takes to get him the help he needs. It may save his life.“ – Theresa Morrow, Women Against Prostate Cancer

Ultimately, the goal of Men’s Health Month is to improve men’s health outcomes and that process starts at home.

Expert Answer: “What is a Primary Care Provider?” (Benefits & When to See One)

Primary Care Provider - Blog Feature Graphic

A primary care provider (PCP) plays a crucial role in your preventive care. Being your first resource for non-emergency healthcare, your primary care provider is key to your health care outcomes. In addition to routine check-ups, vaccinations, and treating minor illnesses and injuries, a PCP can help prevent, diagnose, and manage chronic diseases – and even increase your life expectancy. Finding a primary care provider you trust is the first step toward receiving less expensive, quality care to keep you healthy.

A primary care provider is your first line of defense in healthcare. They’re your go-to resource when your kid needs a physical to participate in team sports. When you wake up with a scratch in your throat and you suspect strep, it’s time to head to your primary care provider. When you’re running a fever, when you have questions about a mystery rash, or when you’re experiencing a flare-up of a chronic condition, your PCP is your first call. Here, we cover everything you need to know about primary care providers — from why you need one to what they can and can’t do for you.

Primary Care Provider Meaning

A PCP is a health care practitioner who can diagnose, treat, and prevent many conditions and illnesses for your physical and mental health. In addition to preventive health care services, a PCP can manage long-term care for chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. The PCP is skilled at connecting the dots — ensuring your treatment is managed properly, checking for any prescription interactions, and addressing overlapping concerns. It’s important to take the time to find the right primary care physician. Research suggests people with a strong relationship with their PCP have better care outcomes and enjoy a healthier life.

A primary care provider is typically a medical doctor but can be a physician assistant or a nurse practitioner specializing in different areas such as:

  • Family practice
  • Internal medicine
  • Pediatrics
  • Geriatrics
  • Obstetrics
  • Gynecology

As a general guideline, you should see your PCP at least once a year; however, if you live with a chronic condition, you may need to see your PCP more often to manage your illness.

Why Should I Have Primary Care Provider?

To maintain your health and ward off disease as you age, your primary care provider will recommend routine check-ups and health screenings based on your age and gender. Having a PCP can improve your health and care outcomes — and even save you money! Recent studies show adults with a primary care provider:

Usually, your PCP is involved in your care for an extended period and, therefore, becomes a trusted resource for your ongoing preventive health needs. Further research has found fewer premature deaths in communities with more primary care providers, which suggests people with a PCP experience longer and healthier lives.

4 Benefits of Having a Primary Care Provider

If you saw a doctor for heart problems (a cardiologist) and another for a skin rash (a dermatologist), these two doctors may not know about each other. There could, however, be a connection between the skin rash and your heart problems. Your PCP is skilled at seeing the bigger picture and piecing together symptoms and conditions that could otherwise go unnoticed.

Some of the benefits of working with a PCP include receiving:

  1. Individualized care based on your unique medical history, gender, and age
  2. Preventive care through routine check-ups, screenings, and vaccinations
  3. Help to monitor and manage chronic diseases and prevent unnecessary complications
  4. Continuity of care to manage and improve your overall health

Your PCP can discuss various health issues, ranging from physical to mental health. Developing a long-term relationship with your PCP will establish an invaluable support system for self-managing your health for a better quality of life. In the United States, studies have found an increase in life expectancy in areas with 10 more primary care physicians per 100,000 people. The benefits of having a primary care provider are endless, which is why finding the right one for you is so important.

When to See a Primary Care Provider

Your primary care doctor will be able to treat most of your health care needs. As a general rule, visit your PCP for any non-emergency illnesses, injuries, and chronic disease management, including:

  • Follow-ups
  • Physicals
  • Immunizations
  • Screenings
  • Prescription refills
  • Common illnesses such as colds, cough, flu, or fever
  • Minor burns, cuts, and other injuries

If your needs exceed the limitations of your PCP, you may be referred to a specialist or another doctor. Your PCP can help coordinate your medical treatment with any specialists.

When Not to See a Primary Care Provider

While it’s not always easy to know the difference, there are times when you should visit your PCP and other times that may require a trip to the emergency room. Skip the primary care provider and go straight to the ER for:

  • Emergencies and/or life-or-death situations
  • Symptoms of heart attack, stroke, or severe allergic reactions
  • Injuries that may require stitches

Don’t gamble with your health. If you feel your health issue cannot wait, seek urgent care. And, when in doubt, call 9-1-1.

Find the Best Primary Care Provider Near You

If you don’t already have a primary care provider, don’t wait to get sick to find one. Choosing the right PCP can take time and careful research. Get referrals from friends, family, and other health professionals. Call around, and check online reviews to find a doctor you are comfortable with and who meets your healthcare needs. The relationship you develop over time will help your PCP get to know you better; this results in quality personalized care – at a lower cost – for a happier, longer, healthier life.

3 Rich Benefits of Population Health Management for Employers

People are an employer’s most valuable asset. Without employees, one could say you have no company. As with any valuable asset, your people must be cared for and protected.

As healthcare costs continue to skyrocket, employers can save an average of $1 to $3 on every dollar spent on an employee wellness program. The logic is simple: Healthy employees cost less to insure. Here, we cover the lucrative benefits of investing in your employee population’s health and well-being.

1. Payors Save Money on Healthcare Expenses

Offering competitive benefits or perks is the most common method of caring for employees. Health and wellness perks remain a favorite among employee benefits options. But it’s not just employees who benefit. Putting a quality corporate wellness perk into practice can have a profound financial impact on employers.

Studies show managing the health of your employees directly translates to the money you spend on employee healthcare. One well-cited report shows a 6-to-1 return on investment in company wellness programs. By engaging your staff in a more active lifestyle, you reduce their health risks and your risk of incurring the medical costs that would result. By rewarding employees living with chronic conditions, such as hypertension or diabetes, for managing their medications and staying ahead of their symptoms, you save money again. The math is simple: Healthy people cost less to insure and protect.

2. Managers Increase Team Productivity

As companies reduce health risks in their employee population, healthier, happier, and ultimately more productive workers emerge. Make the workplace one where team members enjoy spending their time. Foster a culture where they enjoy contributing toward organizational goals because they know the organization is contributing to their success as well.

Suddenly, you’ll see reduced absenteeism, or fewer people calling out sick. You’ll see fewer cases of team members showing up but not being mentally present — a phenomenon that costs employers billions of dollars every year known as presenteeism. When you invest in your people, they’re more likely to invest their energy in return.

3. Companies Increase Employee Retention

Finally, by making the organization an attractive place to work, a wellness benefit program can foster employee retention. This allows employers to protect their greatest assets and build an employee population filled with the best people for the job — people who want to be there.

Back to Basics: What is Population Health Management?

Population health management focuses on addressing the health risks and concerns of cohorts, or groups of people in a specific demographic. The management that is performed is done at an individual level with the ultimate goal of producing positive health results reflected across the entire population. Population health management programs typically work in three phases: Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation.

  1. Planning: PHM service providers identify risk factors in the population, such as age, environmental concerns, or the existence of co-morbidities, and use that analysis to customize a path forward for the client. Here, companies will identify key performance metrics that will be used to measure success in the final phase.
  2. Implementation: The customized plan for the population is executed, putting the identified performance metrics into practice. There is typically an agreed-upon timeframe before the final phase begins (e.g., one year), and then the cycle repeats itself for future cohorts.
  3. Evaluation: Sometimes done in parallel with certain pieces of the Implementation phase, the Evaluation phase covers the successes and shortcomings of the program. During this phase, the PHM provider will discuss what worked, what didn’t, and what they and the client can do differently for the next cycle.

The most successful population health management programs start by analyzing and evaluating the needs of the population in question. Companies that benefit most from PHM are ones that have the people, culture, and resources to go through all three phases of a population health management program — and they must be dedicated to improving year over year. Having company decision-makers on board as supporters to promote engagement is critical to the program’s success!

Feature image of The Preventive Plan population health management program
Preventive Plan app users learn to make 1% improvements each day — forming new habits that stick and health outcomes that save.

At USPM, we take a whole-person approach to corporate wellness with The Preventive Plan, our innovative population health management offering. We consider four key domains of health: self-care, emotional well-being, physical activity, and nutrition. By analyzing both your current lifestyle and preexisting health conditions, we can craft a targeted plan to help population members reach their unique health goals. We empower Preventive Plan app users to make small but mighty additions to their daily routine — resulting in reduced healthcare costs and improvements to their quality of life overall.

Lifestyle Management

Lifestyle management focuses on factors within the human realm of control. Our diet, physical activity, personal hygiene, sleep patterns, and other behaviors lead to health outcomes, for better or worse. Lifestyles become well-managed with routines, or habit formation. And lifestyle management experts, such as the health coaches and care managers at USPM, equip individuals with the resources and thought practices they need to build healthy habits.

Disease Management

As is the case with lifestyle management, disease management programs emphasize healthy habit formation; however, candidates for disease management must be living with a chronic health condition such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, or depression. These population members are empowered to make behavior changes to better manage existing conditions. Usually, a registered nurse or other clinical resource is involved to oversee the care plan of each member in a disease management program. A successful disease management program can yield some of the largest healthcare cost savings population health management has to offer.

Find the Best Population Health Management Company

Population health management is not a one-size-fits-all operation. First, company leadership must determine which type of corporate wellness benefit best suits their team. Look inward. Here are some questions to ask yourself when considering whether a population health management company is the right fit:

  • What is our company culture? Do we already promote health and well-being, or is that piece missing?
  • What motivates my employees? What excites them and/or elicits a response?
  • Do we have people in our organization who can help lead a corporate wellness initiative?
  • What are our barriers to achieving a culture of wellness throughout our organization today?

Corporate wellness solutions run the gamut — from healthy snack curators to companies that offer comprehensive lifestyle coaching and disease management services. These questions will prompt internal conversations. We’ll take the answers and develop the ideal solution for your unique team.

Protect Your Assets with Population Health Management

At the end of the day, employers have no business without their employees. So, taking care of employees and setting them up for their greatest success is of utmost importance for company leadership. Establishing and implementing the correct health benefits and wellness programs can be the most effective way to protect your greatest asset: your people. If you’re considering a corporate wellness benefit for your employee population, let’s chat. USPM is proud to partner with employers who desire to embed healthy choices into the fabric of the company culture.

How to Be Healthy in a Pandemic: 3 Healthy Habits That Don’t Cost Extra

Pandemic Healthy Eating Habits - Blog Feature Graphic

Learning how to be healthy is hard even without a pandemic going on in the background. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many of us went into survival mode. Suddenly, exercise, food choices, and prioritizing emotional health felt not just challenging but unrealistic. People were dying; jobs were lost without warning. How was anyone supposed to find time to exercise or pay organic food prices? But living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be physically or financially draining. I personally used three tricks to lose weight and feel better in the midst of a government shutdown and global pandemic — and they didn’t cost more time or money than I was already spending prior to COVID-19.

Years from now, people will probably ask, “Where were you the day the world shut down?” And they’ll be referring to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ll all have our answers memorized, along with anecdotes about our last social outing prior to the government-mandated stay-at-home order or our first adventure out into the real world once restrictions were slowly lifted. With more than 161 million reported cases and a staggering impact on our healthcare system, the global economy, and the way we operate as a society, the COVID-19 pandemic will no doubt live in infamy for years to come.

As scientists and the clinical community have learned and rapidly responded to their new understanding of the coronavirus disease, every other industry and individual has had to adapt in lockstep. Parents became school teachers; a vacuum manufacturer started making ventilators; and, at one point, as much as 70 percent of American adults were working from home. As a society, we’ve had to rethink the way we do nearly everything. How we care for our bodies is no different.

Myth: Exercise and eating healthy is expensive. By incorporating these three healthy habits into my life, I was able to lose five pounds and gain more energy during the pandemic shutdown, and you can, too.

1. Walk Your Commute to Work (from Home)

In early 2020, I was spending 40 minutes on the road every morning and again every evening, Monday through Friday. My commute to work was my time to think, call family, or jam to my favorite Spotify playlist, but it was hardly a productive use of my time. When the Governor issued a statewide stay-at-home order for all of Florida, I became a full-time work-from-home employee. Suddenly, I was gifted 80 minutes of my weekday.

And I wasn’t alone. After the pandemic sent the US into lockdown, more than 40 percent of the American workforce was remote. According to the Census Bureau, the average American has a 26-minute commute to work, or they did pre-shutdown.

If you’re one of the many who make up the newly remote workforce, consider reallocating your morning drive to a morning workout. By walking around my neighborhood, circling back to my home office, I turned my morning commute into a new healthy habit.

Photo of bikers
A 30-minute weekday morning bike ride would add up to the 150 minutes of weekly activity recommended by the CDC.

Going for a weekday morning bike ride, walk, or jog would total 130 minutes of weekly physical activity for the average American worker. If you have recently found yourself working from home, consider converting your old driving commute time into a walk-to-work (from home) habit. Even if you always worked from home or are still heading into an office every day, you can still reap the benefits. Use the national average commute time as your starting point. A morning and evening walking commute of 26 minutes would add up to 260 minutes for the week — which experts say is ideal for weight loss!

2. Work Out While You Prepare to Dine In

With my new walk-to-work-from-home routine in place, I found myself naturally in a better mood and mental state. I slept better at night, and I had more energy throughout the day. Meanwhile, thousands of restaurants were shutting down, or closing their dining rooms, left and right. As someone who previously spent roughly $500 each month on food and dining out, I needed to adjust.

After several weeks of exorbitant bills from restaurant to-go orders and meal-delivery services (more on that next), my body missed quality food. Jaded by the same old menus and the same old post-meal energy drain, I decided to try cooking at home for a change. But, I added a twist: Using my 40 minutes previously allocated to my drive home from work, I would prep dinner and squeeze in a workout.

Below are examples of opportunities to work out while you’re making dinner:

  • While the oven is preheating
  • While you’re waiting for water to boil
  • As you’re monitoring a pot on the stovetop, stirring occasionally
  • During the bake time (20 minutes to an hour or more, depending on what you’re cooking!)

Here are my favorite exercises to incorporate into a meal-prep workout:

  • Squats and lunges
  • Push-ups against the counter
  • Bicep curls and tricep curls (Tip: Use canned goods as weights for added strength training!)
  • Jump rope in place (no rope required)

And I often finish off with a plank! Fun fact: By planking consistently, you’ll see marked improvements in posture, balance, flexibility, and metabolism — and you’ll prevent injury by working your arms, legs, and core.

You can incorporate simple bodyweight exercises, such as planks, squats, and Russian twists, into your everyday routines.

Here’s an example of how one might work out while making a roasted chicken breast and a side of their choice:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. During this time, alternate 60 seconds of squats and 60 seconds of push-ups against the counter. Use the oven timer as your workout timer. If you’re new to exercise, start with 15 seconds, and work your way up!
  2. Place the chicken in a baking pan, brush with oil, and top with your desired seasoning.
  3. Cook for about 45 minutes: Your cook-time workout should consist of a mix of cardio and strength training. Because this recipe calls for a longer bake time, you can also fit in some flexibility and balance training.
    • Air jump rope in place for 60 seconds.
    • Do 30 bicycle crunches.
    • Do walking lunges across your living room and back
    • Use cans to do 10 bicep curls, then 10 overhead tricep curls
    • Repeat the steps above at least three times! Then, prepare your side dish such as broccoli or sweet potatoes.
  4. Let the chicken cool for five minutes: Now is your time to plank until exhaustion and reap the benefits.

You’re now ready to wash up and serve. Enjoy your yummy meal and post-workout vibes.

A Mediterranean diet is recommended for individuals who are at risk for or already have type 2 diabetes; however, the anti-inflammatory foods are beneficial for anyone who wants less joint pain, better heart health, or weight loss. Find more recipe ideas at the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Food Hub. Lastly, try the MyFitnessPal blog for exercise inspiration.

3. Dine In More Nights Than You Dine Out

The first few weeks of the shutdown, I frequented virtually every nearby restaurant that offered carry-out service. I jokingly said I was single-handedly keeping the hospitality industry economy alive; but the element of truth to that wise-crack — the significant spike in my monthly food spending — stung. I was eating more calories, spending more, and putting more hidden chemicals into my body by eating out almost every day.

Fortunately, once I started my other two healthy habits, I was hooked on the energy boost. I loved the way my body felt, and I wanted more of that natural high. I resigned myself to eat out no more than three nights per week. That left me with four home-cooked, healthy dinners and my accompanying meal-prep workout routine.

The formula is simple: Make the healthy choice more often than you make the unhealthy choice (e.g., four nights of dining in versus three nights of dining out). However, if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself slowly turning up the frequency on those healthy choices. The cost savings, calorie savings, and overall return on investment (e.g., improved skin, mood, sleep, etc.) is addicting.

Keep Healthy Habits For Life Post-COVID

During a time when, according to the internet (or the memes shared there), all of America was hiding from gyms and binging Netflix with a side of junk food, I lost five percent of my body weight. I didn’t slave away in a gym, starve myself, or even deprive my body of its favorite treats. I used the same minutes I had previously allocated to my work schedule, and I actually came away spending less money. The key was to find small opportunities to swap less-than-stellar habits with healthy ones. And you too can adopt similar habits and reap the benefits — through COVID-19 and beyond!

Six Things Employees Don’t Know about Coronavirus

Here are the six corona tips, covering issues from the large to the smallest imaginable, that most seem to check the twin boxes of generally not known but generally helpful to know for health and/or financial reasons.

1. You may be able to skip a mortgage payment…but you still owe it

Most people don’t know whether their mortgage is backed by the government or not, since it’s a “mortgage servicer” that sends them the bills and answers the phone. If it is, you get a reprieve. That doesn’t mean you never have to pay. You just don’t have to pay now. To find out if yours is or isn’t, call the number on your bill, but expect to wait on hold long enough to make Comcast blush.

2. Your landlord may not be able to evict you

Likewise, if you rent an apartment in a building with a government-backed mortgage as many tenants do, a specific provision in the CARES Act applies—there is a 120-day moratorium on evictions.

Obviously, no one ordinarily has any clue whether this applies to them or not, but it’s worth finding out. Otherwise, no CARES Act provision benefits renters. As a practical matter, eviction proceedings have come to a halt in many states or cities, and some are outright preventing it. There is no “official” list of these jurisdictions but try this website. They seem legit.

There may be no risk to your credit score either — landlords rarely report to credit agencies because for them eviction has been the go-to remedy for non-payment. Yours may start doing this but obviously they would threaten you with it first since reporting does no good if the tenant doesn’t know they’re being reported.

Not just for rent, but In all bill-paying cases, those of us who are not familiar with “stretching” strategies might not realize that, for just about any bill, partial payments and proactive communication go a long way towards not getting cut off.

4. No product on the internet “boosts” your immune system

Google on “boost your immune system to prevent coronavirus” and you’ll get 11 million hits, virtually all of which are wrong – including zinc, essential oils, and the “electrolyte elixir drink.” (We can’t make this stuff up.)  Here is a good example of the right answer:

“Obviously good and balanced nutrition is important, but I actually do not think there is any strong scientific evidence for any specific type of food being linked to better immune function, and certainly there is no serious work on the are that I am aware of,” says Shiv Pillai, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Harvard immunology program.

5. Drink gallons of tonic water only if that’s your idea of a good time

Tonic water is flying off the shelves, because the active ingredient is quinine, as found in the remedy-du-jour of hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil).

Where to start? First, you’d have to drink maybe a dozen bottles of tonic water to get to the level of quinine found in Plaquenil. Even then, it’s not the same formulation, and even then, it is very far from clear that the latter has any noticeable beneficial impact in the prevention or treatment of coronavirus. (We were skeptical of this one early on.)

Six Easy Ways to Reduce Workplace Corona Risk

We can’t tell you whether to send everyone home or not. But let’s assume you do have to run a workplace (and a home). Beyond the basics of hand-washing and not touching your face, here are six simple ways to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission:

1. Mark your fingers like this

Use an indelible marker or tie a string or rubber band around your fingers, especially on your right hand. This will remind you not to shake hands, not to touch your face — and to wash your hands or sanitize them if you do. If you are left-handed, you should probably do both hands.

2. Use humidifiers at work

Most workplaces are very dry. Viruses can stay airborne longer in dry air. (Winter air being drier is thought to be one of the reasons cases of flu are seasonal.) To oversimplify, the viruses attach to water droplets and fall to the ground faster in the humid air.

3. Avoid contact with hard surfaces

One would think that viruses would live longer on soft, cushy surfaces than hard, shiny ones. That’s quite counter-intuitive. If you met someone for the first time, you would certainly open their door, but you wouldn’t jump into their bed. (Cue sophomoric joke here about swiping right.)

And indeed beds and other soft surfaces do harbor all sorts of other microscopic life forms, most of which wouldn’t harm you or we’d all be extinct by now. For instance, you should swap out your pillows every year or so because dust mites like to set up housekeeping in them. But for cold, flu and coronavirus, it’s the hard, shiny public surfaces that will get you.

4. Reduce the number of hard surfaces in public places

Prop open doors. Door handles (or pushing on revolving doors) are probably the #1 surface that people come into contact with, without thinking twice about it. Obviously, this isn’t always practical. One could do it for the break rooms but perhaps not the restrooms.

5. Wrap/tape a soft surface around the door handles

Viruses die sooner on softer surfaces, and since people think of softer surfaces as carrying more germs (they do – just not coronavirus), they will be more likely to wash afterward.

6. Play the Quizzify coronavirus quizzes…and send them to your employees

The first covers the basics. It was profiled recently in Employee Benefit News.

Click here for a helpful link to the CDC website about Coronavirus prevention and mitigation.


This blog post was written by Al Lewis.

USPM has recently partnered with Quizzify to enrich our content for our customers with its unbiased and trustworthy health information, reviewed and approved by doctors at Harvard Medical School. Quizzify provides the education employees need to be health-literate, wiser and more confident healthcare consumers.

Sticking to New Goals for the New Year

It’s true what they say, “Hindsight is 2020.” But now, we are actually here – in 2020! So, welcome to the new year! As you look back on the past 12 months, think about what worked and what didn’t. What are you happy about doing? What accomplishments made you proud? And what things do you wish you never tried? Take time to celebrate the victories, learn from any disappointments, and refocus your goals on the future. And what better way to do it than by setting a personal goal for the new year?

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”

– T.S. Elliot

A New Year’s resolution is all about reflecting on the previous year and refocusing your purpose on the new one. It’s about challenging yourself to be a happier and healthier you. When you cast a vision of your future, you put a realistic goal before you, making it tangible and attainable – not just a dream or something you “should do” (but probably won’t).

Coming up with a New Year’s resolution” is sometimes intimidating and overwhelming. Just choosing what you want to work on is hard enough. And then you need to figure out how to actually do it and how to motivate yourself! However, it doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Instead, it involves taking small steps to achieve attainable milestones. The following tips will help you set effective goals and stick to them.

  1. Build your goals around your own personal strengths.
    What are the distinct character traits that make you unique? Take a look at them and the habits that made you successful in reaching your previous goals. Now, lean on those same traits and habits to reach your new goals.
  2. Create a long-term routine that adds your new goals into your lifestyle.
    You want your new goals to be realistic and achievable – ones that you can easily integrate into your daily life. For example, if your goal is to eat breakfast every day, then start planning your morning meal the night before. It’s an easy addition to your daily routine.
  3. Consider what you’re adding to your life instead of what you’re taking away.
    For instance, don’t think of losing weight as giving up the things you enjoy. Instead, think of what you’ll gain! When you start eating healthier and exercising, focus on all the new recipes you get to try and the energized feeling that working out brings to your day.
  4. Remember, your goals are YOUR goals!
    Chances are there is not a perfect plan for you on the internet or social media. For your New Year’s resolution to work, your goal should be personal and your plan to get there built on your own strengths, resources, and desires.
  5. Set non-negotiable habits (anchor habits) for yourself.
    For example, eat at least one serving of vegetables at lunch or exercise at least two times a week. These may seem like small things but having them in place keeps you focused and on track with your goals. Even on the days you feel like you are “failing,” you’ll notice the small victories with your anchor habits.
  6. Don’t beat yourself up!
    Your journey won’t be a perfect one. If you make a mistake or slip up, give yourself grace and flexibility. Feeling guilty only leaves you discouraged! And that won’t help you achieve your goals. A setback doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Instead, it’s a chance to learn, practice more self-care, and keep on keeping on!
  7. Find accountability in friends or family.
    Tell someone in your life (or multiple people) what your goals are. Allow them to give you feedback, check in with you about your progress, and come alongside you on your journey. You could even join a group at your gym or find coworkers with similar goals so you can encourage one another. Accountability helps you stay on track and motivated as you strive to achieve your goals.

Make this new year a happy one! As you work toward your New Year’s resolution, make sure to personalize your plan, be persistent, be patient with yourself, and celebrate the big and small wins. Check out the video and links below for more helpful tips on developing healthy habits and making them stick.

References:

https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/resolution

http://diet.mayoclinic.org/diet/motivate/make-new-habits-stick

Stop Drinking Your Calories

Did you know sugar-sweetened beverages are the leading sources of added sugars in American diets? Drinking sugary drinks has been associated with weight gain/obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney diseases, non-alcoholic liver disease, tooth decay, and more.

What are sugar-sweetened beverages?

Sugar-sweetened beverages are any liquids that are sweetened with added sugars like brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose, malt syrup maltose, molasses, raw sugar, and sucrose.

To properly hydrate your body, you should drink water every day. Most doctors, dietitians, and nutritionists recommend drinking eight 8-oz glasses of water each day (that’s about a half-gallon). It may seem like a lot, but it’s easier to do than you think. After all, up to 60% of your body is water. Even though your taste buds may crave a sweetened beverage, your body needs something natural and refreshing.

Daily sugar recommendations

It can be very easy to lose track of your daily calorie and sugar intake when drinking juices, soda, and sports drinks. They are full of added sugars and empty calories (have little to no nutritional value).

These are the maximum daily limit recommendations for beverages with added refined sugars:

  •  Men: 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons of sugar)
  •  Women: 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons of sugar)

Even drinks with natural sugars should be consumed in moderation. Remember, sugar, whether natural or refined, has calories. For example, a serving of unsweetened orange juice has 175 calories and 32 grams of sugar. A serving of unsweetened grape juice has 226 calories and 54 grams of sugar. Moderation is key when drinking sweet beverages.

The not-so-sweet facts about sugary beverages

Before opening a can of soda, drinking lemonade on a hot day, or getting a flavored drink, consider what you’re putting in your body. Sure, it may taste good. And yes, it’s ok to treat yourself now and then but it’s important to realize how much sugar and calories are in these drinks. Look at the calories and sugar content of these common sweetened beverages (based on a 12-oz serving):

  •  Soda: 151 calories and 39 grams of sugar
  •  Sweetened iced tea: 143 calories and 34 grams of sugar
  •  Fruit punch: 175 calories and 42 grams of sugar
  •  Lemonade: 148 calories and 37 grams of sugar
  •  Sports beverage: 118 calories and 23 grams of sugar

The Holidays: ‘Tis the season for celebration . . . and sugar!

This time of year is known for delicious drinks that delight. So, go ahead and enjoy some eggnog, flavored coffee, or that glass of wine. But be mindful of the calories and always be sure you’re drinking sufficient water. Your body will love you for it.

Before having that second serving of apple cider or eggnog, consider the nutritional value. Here are the calorie and sugar content for some popular holiday drinks:

  •  Wine: Between 75-200 calories and 1.2-2.4 grams of sugar per serving
  •  Eggnog: 343 calories and 21.4 grams of sugar per one-cup serving
  •  Apple cider: 180 calories and 40.2 grams of sugar per 12-oz. serving
  •  Hot buttered rum: 350 calories and 28 grams of sugar per 8-oz. serving
  •  White Russian drink: 179 calories and 58 grams of sugar in a less than a 7-oz. serving

Why water is your best choice

Water hydrates – sugars don’t, and excess sugar can dehydrate you. Water is the healthiest option that can benefit your body in many ways, including:

  •  Energize your muscles
  •  Boost your metabolism
  •  Act as an appetite suppressant
  •  Keep your skin looking good
  •  Flush harmful toxins out of your system
  •  Lubricate your joints
  •  Help maintain optimal blood pressure levels

So, why not reach for a refreshing glass of water instead of those high-calorie sugary drinks? If you are having trouble drinking the recommended amount of water, flavor it by adding fruits, flavored powders, herbs, or try sparkling water. To help you drink a little more water, drink it with every snack or meal, and keep a bottle with you in your car, at your desk, or in your bag to sip on it throughout the day. Drink up and enjoy some H2O!

Resources
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/liquid-sugar-calories#section1
https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/sugar-101
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-sugar-per-day#section3
https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/diet-busters-ten-high-calorie-holiday-drinks#2
https://www.livestrong.com/article/358701-nutrition-information-for-8-oz-of-wine/
https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/foods-from-starbucks/9494/2
https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/dairy-and-egg-products/55/2
http://www.fitbit.com/foods/Vanilla+White+Russian/426637
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-water-should-you-drink-per-day

November is American Diabetes Month

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month in the United States. Across the globe, World Diabetes Day is observed on November 14, the birthday of Dr. Frederick Banting, who in 1921 co-discovered insulin with the help of his colleague Dr. Charles Best. We owe a world of gratitude to these two pioneers in diabetes treatment. Before their discovery, no successful treatment existed.

According to The American Diabetes Association:

  • Every 21 seconds, someone new is diagnosed with diabetes.
  • 84 million have pre-diabetes in the U.S. and 30 million people have diabetes.
  • Diabetes causes more deaths than breast cancer and AIDS combined.
  • Diabetes is no longer a disease – it is an epidemic.

These are astonishing facts, but don’t let that discourage you. Understanding diabetes and adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors can help control and manage diabetes, and prevent or delay the onset of diabetes for those living with pre-diabetes.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder involving the pancreas, a small organ behind the stomach. In normal digestion, food is broken down into glucose and other simple sugars (our fuel) that enter the bloodstream. When this occurs, the pancreas releases insulin. Insulin goes to the cells and “opens” them allowing the glucose to leave the bloodstream by entering the cells.

Glucose is fuel to the body as gas is fuel to a car. To get the fuel (glucose) into the tank (the cells), access (taking the cap off the tank or opening the cells) must take place for the fuel to enter. Once fueled, the car will run efficiently as the body will have the energy it needs for daily activities. If glucose stays in the bloodstream, it is not in the cells to be used for energy.

Diabetes Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that can increase your chances of getting a disease. The more of the following risk factors that are present, the higher the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Not being physically active
  • The presence of pre-diabetes
  • Having heart or blood vessel disease
  • Abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels
  • Over the age of 45
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Ethnicity: African American, Hispanic or Latino, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, Native American or Alaska Native
  • History of gestational diabetes, a baby weighing more than 9 pounds or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)

Some of the above-referenced risk factors are modifiable because you can do something about them, such as smoking, being overweight, and physical inactivity. Other risk factors such as age, ethnicity, and family history are not modifiable.

Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes

Symptoms of diabetes are often overlooked or rationalized as something else. Feeling poorly usually prompts a visit to a healthcare provider to find out what is wrong. One or more of the following common symptoms may be present:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Tiredness/fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Cuts/sores that do not heal
  • Dry itchy skin
  • Infections that keep coming back
  • Numbness/tingling in hands or feet

It is also possible that none of these symptoms will be experienced in the presence of diabetes. Proper treatment can help most of these symptoms go away.

Diagnosing Diabetes

Diabetes is diagnosed through glucose and hemoglobin A1C blood tests. Elevation in these tests may result in a repeat of the tests to confirm the diagnosis of diabetes.

There could be many reasons for the presence of diabetes, some of which may include:

  • The pancreas is not producing any insulin (Type 1 diabetes).
  • The pancreas is producing less insulin than normal (Type 2 diabetes).
  • The pancreas is overproducing insulin, but the cells are not “opening” for the insulin to enter (Type 2 diabetes).
  • The liver is overproducing glucose at the wrong time.

Types of Diabetes

Healthcare providers look at blood glucose results as well as other factors such as weight and lifestyle to determine which type of diabetes is present.

  • Type 1 diabetes: occurs in 5-10% of people with diabetes. In this type of diabetes, the pancreas has stopped producing insulin. This usually occurs in children and young adults under the age of 30. These individuals need insulin to stay alive and will always be on insulin.
  • Type 2 diabetes: occurs in 90-95% of people with diabetes.
    • The pancreas is not producing enough insulin.
    • The pancreas is overproducing insulin, but it is unable to be used, this is called insulin resistance. Individuals who are overweight may have fat layers blocking the cells preventing the insulin from getting to the cell.
  • Gestational Diabetes: occurs only during pregnancy due to hormonal changes
    • Glucose levels usually return to normal after delivery
    • Gestational Diabetes is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

How is Diabetes Treated?

Once a diagnosis of diabetes is confirmed, treatment will be recommended based on the glucose results. The goals of treatment are based on helping to:

  • Maintain glucose within the optimal range
  • Maintain optimal ranges in blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Ensure the care plan is realistic and doable
  • Prevent or delay other problems associated with diabetes

Frequently when people hear the word “diabetes”, they automatically think insulin is going to be prescribed. With all the new medications and treatments for diabetes today, that is seldom the case. You may have heard “once on insulin, always on insulin”. That is true in the case of Type 1 diabetes but not always true in Type 2 diabetes.

Lifestyle behaviors play a very important role in the management of diabetes. Notice how all of the following treatment scenarios include food and activity plans.

Food + Activity Plan

The foods eaten contribute to how high the glucose will rise as well as how quickly it will return to normal. A valued partner to the food plan, activity, plays an important role in glucose control by utilizing glucose for fuel, lowering the blood glucose for several hours. These lifestyle recommendations are included in every diabetes care plan and are the foundation of the treatment plan.

Food + Activity + Oral Medications

If changing food and activity habits are not enough to bring the glucose into the optimal range, oral medications may be added. There are many oral medications available today for a healthcare provider to choose from.

Food + Activity + Oral Medication + Non-insulin Injectable

If the addition of oral medication was not quite enough, the addition of an injectable non-insulin medication could be the next step. A non-insulin injectable is a very effective partner to oral medications before moving to insulin.

Food + Activity + Oral Medication (one or more) + Insulin (one or more)

Sometimes the pancreas produces insulin but needs a little extra help from an injection of insulin. About 14% of adults with Type 2 diabetes will need some insulin.

Food + Activity + Insulin (one or more )

When maximum doses of oral medications and combinations have been tried and the glucose is still elevated, a move to insulin is the best choice. Only about 14% of adults with Type 2 diabetes move to insulin alone as their treatment.

Creating a Healthy-Eating Plan

Eating healthy, well-balanced meals that are rich in vitamins and low in calories and fat are essential. Following the simple guidelines below can help control glucose better. The goal is to eat in a manner that healthy choices and healthy portions will:

  1. Achieve optimal glucose control.
  2. Achieve and maintain cholesterol, LDL and triglyceride levels in the optimal ranges.
  3. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

The basic guidelines for eating healthy with diabetes include:

  • Eating 3 meals a day, evenly spaced apart (meaning about every 4-5 hours).
  • Eating about the same times daily. Our body likes routines. This will help the pancreas and medications work best if prescribed
  • Eat about the same amount at each meal. Consistency is the key. This means that breakfast, lunch, and dinner should be about the same size daily. But all three meals do not need to be the same size.
  • Don’t skip meals. Skipping meals can cause low blood sugar resulting in overeating, which may cause the glucose to spike.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates have a bad reputation these days, but they play a number of important roles in your body from providing vital nutrients to converting into glucose, which our body uses for energy. Choosing healthy carbs,  eating them in moderation and avoiding highly processed foods is most important.

diabetes portions plate

And what about white foods? There are many white foods that provide nutrients—milk, cauliflower, and white potatoes provide potassium, Vitamin C and fiber. Look at the nutrient contribution rather than the color of the food. It is important for people with diabetes to keep the carbohydrate content of their meals consistent but not necessarily low.

The plate method or plate planner is a very easy way to portion foods for everyone, not just those with diabetes. With this method, half the plate is filled with vegetables, one-quarter with a lean protein source, and one-quarter with a starch source. The picture below will show how to do this using a 9” in diameter plate.

Adding healthy fat such as olive oil (to prepare the scallops), a low-fat dairy such as 1% or fat-free milk and fruit for dessert would complete this meal. This is a very simple, balanced meal that anyone can create. A registered dietitian is an excellent resource for more information on what to put on your plate.

Physical Activity

Physical activity and eating healthy are important parts of a healthy lifestyle whether you have diabetes or not. The basic recommendation for physical activity in the presence of diabetes is to move daily to help lower blood glucose! Don’t worry about your pace, it’s important to go slow if you are just starting out.

  • Park farther away from your destination.
  • Take the stairs when possible.
  • Work in the garden.
  • Walk during television commercials.
  • Sit less by limiting screen time (TV, computer, phone).
  • Take a walk after a meal.

Work your way up to adding weight training and cardiovascular exercises for the heart and lungs a workout. If you are thinking about starting an exercise program, always consult with your healthcare provider first.

Live your best, longest, and healthiest life by learning about diabetes, being open to making positive changes, and making those changes now for more good years®.

Helpful online resources for getting started

American Diabetes Association
American Association of Diabetes Educators
American Heart Association
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
National Diabetes Education Program

Sources:

Hamilton, Lara. “What Is the Plate Method?” Diabetes Forecast, Nov. 2014, www.diabetesforecast.org/2015/adm/diabetes-plate-method/what-is-the-plate-method.html. Accessed 24 Oct. 2019.

Life with Diabetes. 3rd ed., American Diabetes Association, 2004.

“National Diabetes Statistic Report, 2014 Estimates of Diabetes and Its Burden in the United States.” National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Division of Diabetes Translation, Center for Disease Control, www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pdfs/data/ 2014-report-estimates-of-diabetes-and-its-burden-in-the-united-states.pdf. Accessed 24 Oct.2019.

Type 2 Diabetes Basics. 5th ed., International Diabetes Center at Park Nicollet, 2017.

Is Cow’s Milk Moo-ving Out?

Have you been to the dairy section of the grocery store lately? If you have, you may have noticed some difficulty finding your favorite cow’s milk. In addition to your fat-free, 1%, 2%, and whole milks, there is an abundance of nut, grain, and legume-based “non-dairy beverages” or more commonly, “milks,” occupying the shelves. As more plant-based milk alternatives become available, there has been a downward trend in cow’s milk intake.

The Emergence of Plant-Based, Non-Dairy, Milk-Alternative Beverages

Between 2000 and 2016, the USDA’s economic research service reported the “U.S. per capita dairy milk consumption decreased by 22%.”1,2 There are many reported theories for this decline over the years. The most common is milk allergy or intolerance of lactose and/or one of the milk proteins, casein. Other contributions include digestive issues (Inflammatory Bowel Disease including Crohn’s, Colitis, and Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome, and concerns over inflammation), a vegan lifestyle, concerns surrounding the use of antibiotics, pesticides, and hormones as well as information relating to the carbon footprint of cows.3

 Are these alternative products really milk?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, milk is:

1 a: a fluid secreted by the mammary glands of females for the nourishment of their young

By this definition, products from nuts, grains, and legumes are not milk. This has led to many lawsuits by the dairy industry of manufacturers calling their products “milk.” And to that end, there was an addendum to the definition of milk4:

b: (1): milk from an animal and especially a cow used as food by people

    (2): a food product produced from seeds or fruit that resembles and used similarly to cow’s milk

From this definition, one could call the plant-based products “milk.”

A milk is a milk is a milk?

Dairy foods produced from cow’s milk provide many nutrients needed by the human body. They are particularly good sources of protein, calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus, not to mention many other vitamins and minerals.

Protein is needed by the body for tissue growth and repair. It also aids in the building of bone, muscle, and blood. Cow’s milk provides the body with two types of protein: whey and casein. Together, they make milk an excellent source of protein.

Calcium is a mineral that is needed for strong bones and teeth. Calcium also keeps our blood vessels healthy and our heart beating steady. Cow’s milk is an excellent source of the type of calcium the human body absorbs and uses.

Vitamin D is needed by the body to absorb calcium. A diet that is inadequate in vitamin D can lead to brittle bones and muscle aches. Vitamin D is also converted on our skin with exposure to the sun—however, sunscreen limits this conversion, which is why vitamin D supplementation is very common. Cow’s milk does not contain vitamin D but is fortified with it.

Phosphorus is another mineral needed by the body for healthy bones, teeth, muscles, and blood vessels. The amount of phosphorus in the blood affects the amount of calcium in the blood. All of these nutrients work together for healthy muscles, tissue, bones, and teeth.

Cow’s milk is rich with many additional nutrients, which are not offered in plant-based alternatives. The alternatives can be fortified to become more nutritionally equivalent to cow’s milk but may also contain additives to produce a creamy, thick texture to help stabilize the product. Common additives to plant-based milks include carrageenan, gums, lecithin, and vegetable oil. These additives can negatively affect your health, especially people with allergies.

There are many plant-based milk alternatives available, including nuts (almond, cashew, coconut), legumes (soy, pea), grains (oat, rice), and seeds (flax, hemp). How do they compare nutritionally? The table below provides an overview of the nutritional composition of 8 ounces of a plant-based beverage compared to 8 ounces of 1% cow’s milk.

Table 1 Overview of the nutritional content of plant-based milk compared to cow’s milk


How do popular plant-based milks compare?

There are many ways that manufacturers make their milk alternatives and include varying amounts of added nutrients.

Almond/Cashew/Coconut/Hazelnut/Macadamia Milk

Most milks are made by grinding nuts and adding water. During the straining process, protein and other nutrients are lost, which requires fortification.

Almond milk is both pasteurized and sterilized to remove pathogens per federal regulations. Although almond milk is a great source of vitamin E, it is very low in vitamins, minerals, and essential fats.5

 Cashew milk may contain almond butter as various thickeners.

Coconut milk is a good source of vitamin B12, but it also contains saturated fat. It is typically used for baking rather than drinking. Most products chosen as a beverage have water added and are labeled as a “coconut milk beverage”5 and may contribute fiber.

Hazelnut milk compares with almond as far as calories and protein but does have added stabilizers.

Macadamia milk has a similar profile to coconut with its saturated fat content, and through enriching, it is also a good source of both calcium and B12.

Soymilk

Since the 1950s, the public eye has seen soymilk as the closest non-dairy product to cow’s milk. Soymilk is an excellent source of calcium and protein. The production process includes soaking, crushing, cooking, and straining soybeans5. Unfortunately, this product can be a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) depending on the manufacturer and comes with controversy regarding its health effects due to its phytoestrogen content which has fueled breast cancer risk concerns in the past.

 Pea Milk

Gaining popularity due to its protein content, milk made from yellow field peas is becoming more widely available in a variety of flavors. To make this milk, peas are first milled into a flour, which separates the protein from the starch. The protein is then combined with water and other ingredients to produce milk. This plant-based milk is very close in taste to cow’s milk and it is fortified with calcium. Many environmentalists like this product due to its low carbon footprint.

Rice/Oat Milk

The go-to product for those with allergies, rice milk is made by boiling brown rice and brown rice starch in water. This milk is low in protein and until it is enriched it is also very low in most nutrients. Fat is sometimes added as an emulsifier. Oat milk is made by cleaning, toasting, and hulling the oat and combining it with other grains. It does contain fiber which is missing from cow’s milk. The oat contributes its own iron, vitamin E, and folic acid. As grain products, they are both naturally higher in carbohydrate than other non-dairy milks. Both are good choices for those with nut and seed allergies but may contain gluten.

Hemp/Flax Milk

Hemp milk originates from the Cannabis sativa plant but is low in THC which is psychotropic. It is gluten, nut, and soy-free and low in carbohydrate. It contains both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids and some calcium among other nutrients.

Flax milk is made from cold-pressed flax oil combined with water, thickeners, and emulsifiers. Nutritionally, it is similar to almond milk but provides a good amount of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Flax does come with health controversies as well as it contains three times the amount of phytoestrogens as soy milk.

 Mooala™ Bananamilk

We have covered nut, seed, grain, and legume-based milk, but make way for one made from fruit! Just as the name implies, this “milk” is made from pureed organic bananas and roasted organic sunflower seeds6. Gellan gum is added for stabilization and thickening. Nutritionally, it is low in protein and contains no calcium. On the plus side, it is vegan-friendly, non-GMO, has no added sugar, and is nut, dairy, gluten, and carrageenan free.

Now what?

More and more people are looking for alternatives to cow’s milk for a variety of reasons. Allergies, antibiotics, and hormones found in cow’s milk and the carbon footprint of cows are concerns for many. There are more alternatives to cow’s milk available today than ever—and don’t be surprised if you see even more in the future. What to choose depends on what you are looking for in a product as well as any special health needs you may have. Remember to read and compare the label and ingredients to find the best product for you.

Watch the following video on shopping for milk.

References and sources:

1.  USDA, Economic Research Service. Dairy Products, per Captia Consumption. Government Publishing Office, 13 July 2019, www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/dairy data/documentation/#Loc7. Accessed 18 Aug. 2019. Dairy Data.

2.  McCarthy, Niall. “Milk’s Massive American Decline.” Statista Daily Infographic, 13 May 2019, www.statista.com. Accessed 18 Aug. 2019. Infographic.

3.  Ferreira, Sanae. “Going Nuts About Milk? Here’s What You Need to Know About Plant-Based Milk Alternatives.” American Society for Nutrition, 25 Jan. 2019, nutrition.org/. Accessed 9 Aug.2019.

4.  “Milk.” Dictionary by Merriam-Webster, 2019 ed., Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com. Accessed 18 Aug. 2019.

5.  Bridges, Meagan. “Moo-ove Over, Cow’s Milk: The Rise of Plant-Based Dairy Alternatives.” Practical Gastroenterology, 171st ser., Jan. 2018, pp. 20-27, www.practicalgastro.com. Accessed 18 Aug. 2019.

6.  Mooala Bananamilk. https://mooala.com/products/bananamilk/bananamilk-original/. Accessed 22 Aug. 2019.

Vanga, Asi Kranthi, and Vijaya Raghavan. “How Well Do Plant-Based Alternatives Fare Nutritionally Compared to Cow’s Milk?” Journal of Food Science Technology, vol. 55, no. 1, Jan. 2018, pp. 10-20, doi:10.1007/s13197-017-2915-y. Accessed 18 Aug. 2019.

What’s All The Hype on Whole Grains?

The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that half of the grains we eat be whole grains. We have heard a lot lately about whole grains and ancient grains. Are they the same? Are they gluten-free? Let’s look at whole grains, ancient grains, and grains that are ideal for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

There are two main types of grain products: whole and refined grains.

  • Whole grains contain the three key parts of a seed: the bran, germ, and endosperm. Some examples include whole wheat, rye, barley, corn, popcorn, brown rice, oats, bulgur (cracked wheat), millet, quinoa, and sorghum.
  • Refined grains are milled (ground into flour or meal) resulting in the removal of the germ and bran, leaving only the endosperm. This process strips the grain of important nutrients, including B-vitamins, iron, and fiber, which makes the grains less healthy. Refined grains have a softer texture. Examples include white flour, white rice, and white bread.
  • Enriched grains means that some or many of the nutrients lost during processing are added back, such as B-vitamins and iron.
  • Fortified grains adds nutrients that don’t naturally occur in the grain such as folic acid and iron. The food label will indicate if the product is fortified. Whole grains may or may not be fortified. Enriched and fortified grains lack fiber.

What Are “Ancient” Grains?

According to the Whole Grains Council, ancient grains are those “that have remained largely unchanged over the past few centuries.”  Although not new, they are relatively new to the Western world.

There are many choices when deciding to incorporate whole grains into your eating plan. Whole and ancient grains are the healthiest grains. They have been tied to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers as well as aiding in other health issues with their high fiber content.

Many whole grains contain a protein called gluten. People diagnosed with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity should avoid this protein. There are grains that are naturally gluten-free and safer to consume provided they have not been cross-contaminated with another gluten-containing grain.

Here are some of the many whole and ancient grains available today:

 Whole Grains That Are Gluten-Free

Amaranth

  • Nutrients: fiber, calcium iron, potassium and 9g of protein per cup
  • Uses: coatings, add to vegetables or salads

Millet

  • Main nutrient: magnesium
  • Uses: can be steamed and eaten like rice or added to a salad

Sorghum

  • Is a type of grass
  • One serving provides almost half of the daily fiber recommendation
  • Uses: as a sweetener, ground into flour, can be popped like popcorn or cooked and eaten like rice

Teff

  • Nutrients: iron, zinc, calcium, protein, and fiber
  • Uses: ground into flour, added to stews, cooked like oatmeal or rice and as a meat replacement

Quinoa

  • Nutrients: protein, fiber, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, B-vitamins, and calcium
  • Uses: cooked as a side dish, in salads, use as a meat replacement, add to stews and soups

Buckwheat

  • Is a seed, not a grain or wheat
  • Nutrients: similar to quinoa
  • Uses: ground into a flour for breads, crackers, pancakes, breakfast cereal and is in soba noodles

 Whole Grains that Contain Gluten

Barley

  • There are many varieties-hulled, hulless, some flours are whole grain, pearl barley is not
  • Nutrients: B-complex, vitamin E, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and selenium
  • Uses: baked goods, flavorings, added to soups and stews, used in the production of malt

Spelt

  • May be whole or refined
  • Nutrients: iron, magnesium, and zinc
  • Used as an alternative to wheat

Bulgur

  • Nutrients: B vitamins, fiber, iron, magnesium, and manganese
  • Uses: tabbouleh salad, in soup, as a stuffing, and added to other dishes

Kamut

  • Similar to bulgur but contains more nutrients
  • Nutrients: protein, fiber, zinc, manganese, phosphorus
  • Uses: baked good, breads, pastas, waffles, and pancakes

Farro

  • Nutrients: protein, fiber, B vitamins
  • Uses: rice replacement, in salads

Freekeh

  • Nutrients: protein, fiber
  • Uses: casseroles, soups, pilafs, salads, as a hot cereal, as granola

Increasing whole grains and reducing refined grain intake in your diet is much easier today. From the examples above, there is more to “whole grains” than just eating whole wheat products. Experiment with different products, using them in many different ways, to find those that appeal to you the most to boost your fiber and protein intake as well as many other vitamins and minerals. Your body will thank you.

Watch this quick video for more helpful tips on Whole Grains.

 Sources:

https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/060210p36.shtml:

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/cooking-skills/preparing/7-ancient-grains:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/whole-grains/art-20047826

National Cancer Survivors Day

Did you know that there are more than 15.5 million cancer survivors in the United States and 32 million around the world?

National Cancer Survivors Day is observed annually on the first Sunday in June to celebrate cancer survivors. All around the nation, communities come together to host charity events, races, galas, and more to honor cancer survivors. Whether you are a cancer survivor or know someone who is winning their battle with the disease, this is a time to celebrate and honor their resilient journey. Here is some information to get you connected and help you learn more about cancer survivorship.

Challenges That Can Affect Cancer Survivors and Their Families

  • Economic burdens from medical expenses, lost wages, and reduced productivity
  • Denial of health and life insurance coverage
  • Difficulty finding jobs
  • Schedules may be focused around treatments and appointments
  • Family members may have to become caregivers to provide emotional support, transportation, care coordination, manage finances, and help with decision making

Life After Cancer

  • Maintain regular follow-up screenings
  • Don’t smoke. If you smoke, talk to your healthcare provider about quitting
  • Maintain a whole-foods, balanced diet to keep your weight healthy and decrease your risk of a cancer recurrence
  • Stay active. Do yoga, walk, garden, or join a gym. Physical activity will be the key to help you keep unwanted weight off, manager stress, and prevent a cancer recurrence
  • Keep your emotional health in check. If you need to, talk to a counselor, psychologist, or join a support group
  • Improve the cancer experience for others through advocacy or volunteer work

Support Groups

Support groups can help many people, including loved ones, cope with the emotional burdens of cancer and survivorship. There are different types of support groups, such as:

  • Peer-led or self-help groups run by group members
  • Professional-led groups run by a trained counselor, social worker, or psychologist to lead the conversation among the members
  • Informational support groups led by a professional facilitator to provide cancer-related information and education. These groups will often invite speakers, such as doctors, who can provide expert advice
  • Online support groups that meet through chat rooms, webinars, or discussion groups
  • Telephone support groups where everyone dials into a phone line, like a conference call, and participants can share their experiences

The following links can help connect you with organizations that provide emotional, practical, and financial support services for people with cancer and their families:

https://supportorgs.cancer.gov/home.aspx?lang=1
https://www.cancer.org/treatment/support-programs-and-services.html

 Get Connected

If you are interested in getting involved or participating in local community events, visit these websites to find events near you.

https://www.cancer.org/involved/event-search.html
https://www.cancer.org/involved/volunteer.html
https://preventcancer.org/events/list/
https://ww5.komen.org/GetInvolved/Participate/FindanEvent/FindLocalEvents.html

More Helpful Resources

https://www.ncsd.org/
https://www.cancer.org/treatment/survivorship-during-and-after-treatment/be-healthy-after-treatment/life-after-cancer.html
https://www.cancer.org/treatment/caregivers.html

Resources:

https://www.ncsd.org/about-us

https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/coping/adjusting-to-cancer/support-groups

https://www.cancer.org/treatment/survivorship-during-and-after-treatment

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Awareness Month and we are happy to raise awareness on this topic that we know is not among the most pleasant to discuss or share with friends. Are you or someone you know suffering in silence?

What is IBS?

IBS is a common disorder that affects the large intestine.The common symptoms include abdominal pain, gas, bloating and diarrhea or constipation, or both. Television commercials for medicinal treatments have helped increase awareness, but did you know that certain foods and stress can trigger or make IBS worse?

Improving your food choices and managing your stress may help or delay the need for medication. Research is ongoing as to how foods digest and contribute to these symptoms, but studies have shown that some carbohydrates can cause irritation to the bowel and trigger IBS symptoms. These carbohydrates are called Fermentable Oligo-saccharides Di-saccharides Mono-saccharides and Polyols – otherwise known as FODMAPs. For some people, a low FODMAP meal plan can help relieve the symptoms. A registered dietitian familiar with this eating plan can help you identify problem foods.

Before engaging in any changes or starting a low FODMAP diet plan, consult with your gastroenterologist or primary care doctor and ask for a referral to a registered dietitian familiar with IBS treatment for assistance.

Don’t suffer alone or in silence anymore. Check out the links below for helpful information to discuss with your physician and dietitian.

Here’s to your health!

Resources:

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/irritable-bowel-syndrome
https://www.monashfodmap.com/
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fodmaps-101
https://www.verywellhealth.com/best-low-fodmap-diet-resources-1944682

World Health Day 2019

World Health Day is a chance to celebrate health, and this year’s theme is Universal Health Coverage: Health for all – everyone, everywhere. Advocacy events will be held around the world fueling momentum for the #HealthForAll movement to highlight a fairer, healthier world.

Health care is important. What can be equally as helpful is staying healthy and preventing chronic illnesses that warrant the need for health care.

Did you know, the food patterns that we develop over our lifetime can help or hinder us? In the United States, we have access to an abundance of foods running the gamut from very healthy to very unhealthy.

Would you like to improve your eating pattern? Check out the following infographic that shows how to make small changes over your day. Remember, every change that you make, no matter how small will have an impact on your overall health.

Here’s to your health!

Every food choice you make is an opportunity to move towards a healthier eating pattern. Making small changes over a week, a day, or even a meal— can make a big difference. Here are some examples of realistic, small changes that will help you adopt a healthier eating pattern for more good years®!

 

Flu Facts You Should Know

The “flu” is the common term for influenza, which is a viral infection that targets the respiratory system. The flu will normally be resolved on its own but severe cases can be deadly if untreated.

Flu season varies in different parts of the country and from season to season but will often occur between the months of December and May when the flu virus is most prominent.

To date, CDC estimates that this season (2018 – 2019), in the United States, the flu has caused between:

  • 6.2 million to 7.3 million flu illnesses
  • 2.9 to 3.5 million medical visits
  • 69,300 to 83,500 hospitalizations

To stay healthy this season, check out these helpful tips:

Get Vaccinated

Vaccinations can help prevent the development and spread of the flu, doctors’ visits, and potentially hospitalization.

Wash Your Hands

The flu is spread by contact, so washing your hands more often can prevent illness.

Avoid Contact with Sick People

The flu is very contagious, so avoiding contact with those infected can be an effective way to avoid illness.

Don’t Touch Your Face

The virus can enter your body through your nose, eyes, and mouth. Avoid touching your face.

Exercise Regularly

Increasing your heart rate can boost your body’s natural virus-killing cells.

Eat More Fruits & Veggies

Boost your immune system by eating more fruits and vegetables, especially those that are high phytochemicals (dark green, re or yellow fruits and vegetables).

Keep A Clean Home

Use disinfectants to clean your home. Focus particularly on the kitchen and bathroom areas.

Take Time To Relax

Stress can weaken your immune system. Strengthen your immune system with rest, sleep and relaxation; it’s vital for physical recovery!

Reduce Alcohol Consumption

Drinking alcohol disrupts your immune system. These disruptions can impair the body’s ability to defend against infection, contribute to organ damage associated with alcohol consumption, and impede recovery from tissue injury.

Avoid Smoking

Smoking (and secondhand smoke) can cause inflammatory changes in your lungs diverting your immune system from fighting infections.

How do I know if it’s a cold or the flu?

Click the following link to read our blog The Difference Between a Cold and The Flu to learn how to tell the difference plus more helpful tips!

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/current.htm

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/flu/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20351725

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/influenza

Suicide Rates Rising Across the U.S.

USPM is taking this time to share information and resources in an effort to bring awareness to this difficult topic.

Considered one of the biggest public health problems nationwide, suicides have been steadily increasing in nearly every state according to the latest Vital Signs reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In 2016, approximately 45,000 people ages 10 or older died by suicide. It is the 10th leading cause of death, and one of just three leading causes of death on the rise1. Although suicide affects people of all ages, the majority of cases are occurring in people over 60 years of age.

Suicidal thoughts or behaviors can be both damaging and dangerous and should be considered a psychiatric emergency. Seek immediate assistance from a health or mental health care provider if you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Know the Warning Signs

  • Threats or comments about killing themselves, also known as suicidal ideation, can begin with seemingly harmless thoughts like “I wish I wasn’t here” but can become more obvious and dangerous
  • Increased alcohol and drug use
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Social withdrawal from friends, family and the community
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Talking, writing or thinking about death
  • Impulsive or reckless behavior2

Imminent Danger

If you notice any person exhibiting these behaviors, seek immediate care:

  • Putting their affairs in order and giving away their possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • Mood shifts from despair to calm
  • Planning, possibly by looking around to buy, steal or borrow the tools they need to complete suicide, such as a firearm or prescription medication2

If you are unsure, contact a licensed mental health professional to help assess the risk.

 Risk Factors for Suicide

Research has found that more than half of people (54%) who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition. Other things may have put a person at risk of suicide, including:

  • A family history of suicide.
  • Substance abuse. Drugs and alcohol can result in mental highs and lows that worsen suicidal thoughts.
  • More than one in three people who die from suicide are found to be under the influence.
  • Access to firearms.
  • A serious or chronic medical illness.
  • Gender. Men are four times more likely to die by suicide even though more women than men attempt suicide.
  • A history of trauma or abuse.
  • Prolonged stress.
  • Isolation
  • Age. People under age 24 or over age 65 are at a higher risk for suicide.
  • A recent tragedy or loss.
  • Agitation and sleep deprivation2.

Crisis Resources

  • If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911
  • If you are in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255).
  • If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line3.

Suicide prevention is important to address year-round…everyone can help prevent suicide – because all it takes is just one conversation to change a life. #SuicidePrevention #StigmaFree. #moregoodyears

References:

1: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/p0607-suicide-prevention.html

2: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Related-Conditions/Risk-of-Suicide

3: https://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/Awareness-Events/Suicide-Prevention-Awareness-Month

Don’t Let Falls Trip You Up

According to the World Health Organization, falls are the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide1. It is estimated that 646,000 fatal falls occur each year. Adults age 65 and older seem to suffer the greatest numbers of fatal falls. In a study published by The American Medical Directors Association, women over the age of 70 had a greater risk of falling than men2. It is more common for falls to take place in a familiar environment during your regular activities of daily living.

Why do we fall?

There are many reasons why people fall. Some are environmental, like area rugs or spills on the floor, while others are related to the physical health of the individual3. Physical factors that can lead to falls include:

  • Loss of balance
  • Poor vision
  • Muscle weakness
  • Changes in a person’s weight and how it is distributed throughout their body

Additional fall risk factors include:

  • Age- as we age our risks increase
  • Occupation- hazardous working conditions or elevated heights
  • Alcohol or substance use
  • Certain medications can increase risk of falling- such as muscle relaxants, sleeping pills, and some heart medications
  • Underlying medical conditions-such as neurological or other disabling conditions

The good news is we can reduce our risk of falling even as we age. It’s never too early or too late to start. When we think of exercise, typically things like walking or running pop into our mind. Balance exercises are a great way to strengthen your core and prevent future falls. Below are some exercises that can improve your balance:

  • Standing on one leg- try standing on one leg for 10 seconds. Stop and then switch to the other foot. You can do this exercise while washing the dishes or brushing your teeth. Try to get in 10 repetitions.
  • Heel-toe walk­­-­ start by taking 20 steps while keeping your eyes straight ahead. Put your heel in front of your toes as you take a step. Stop and turn around and take another 20 steps in the opposite direction. Repeat the sequence three times.
  • Try tai chi to improve your fitness, agility, and balance.

Remember, by preventing falls you are preserving your independence.

References:

  1. http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/falls
  2. http://www.healthinaging.org/aging-and-health-a-to-z/topic:falls/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3863882/

Tips for Self-Managing Your Health

A chronic illness is one that is ongoing versus an acute illness which doesn’t last very long, typically less than 12 weeks. An example of a chronic illness is diabetes or asthma whereas pneumonia would be an example of an acute illness. Acute illnesses may lead to a chronic condition if left untreated1.

Chronic or Acute?

Whether your condition is chronic or acute, it is important that you take care of your body to prevent further illness or complications. Self-management means that you are taking responsibility for your health such as taking your medications as prescribed, monitoring your vital signs such as weight or blood pressure, and making good lifestyle choices like being active and eating a healthy diet. According to a study published in the American Journal of Managed Care, individuals who do not feel capable of managing their own health are more likely to develop a new chronic disease over a 3-year period when compared to individuals with good self-management skills2.

Your health care provider may make recommendations to help improve or maintain your condition. It’s up to you to follow them when in between your provider visits. Below are a few steps you can take to manage your condition3:

  • Be active- get at least 30 min of physical activity each day.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet: make sure to get the colors of the rainbow, lean proteins and whole grains.
  • Take your medications as prescribed- this includes over-the counter and prescription medications as recommended by your provider.
  • Keep all scheduled provider appointments and new appointments for worsening symptoms.
  • Complete your preventive screenings, exams and immunizations as recommended.
  • Know your condition triggers- avoid activities, environments, or foods that can make you feel worse.
  • Self-monitor your vital signs and blood values- if you are a diabetic or prediabetic it may be important for you to check your glucose in between visits with your provider. It is also important to keep track of your blood pressure, heart rate, and weight at least once a week.

Remember to take control of your health and don’t let your condition take control of you!

References:

  1. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/imagepages/18126.htm
  2. https://www.ajmc.com/newsroom/identifying-patients-health-self-management-skills
  3. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/10-steps-for-coping-with-a-chronic-condition

How to Manage High Blood Pressure (The Silent Killer)

Did you know the American Heart Association now considers high blood pressure (hypertension) 130/80 mm Hg and higher? The optimal blood pressure for people 20 years and older is 120/80 mm Hg or lower. It is estimated that 46% of adults in the U.S. 20 years and older have hypertension. There are no warning signs or symptoms, and many people do not know they have it.1 

In 2015, there were 78,862 deaths primarily attributable to high blood pressure.This is why it’s important to check your blood pressure regularly. You can check your blood pressure at a doctor’s office, at a pharmacy, or at home. Take steps to prevent high blood pressure or to control it if your blood pressure is already high. 

You can manage high blood pressure and lower your risk for heart disease and stroke by living a healthy lifestyle, which includes: 

  • Eating a healthy diet 
  • Maintaining a healthy weight 
  • Getting enough physical activity 
  • Not smoking 
  • Limiting alcohol use 

Healthy Diet 

Eating foods low in salt (sodium) and high in potassium can lower your blood pressure. Following the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan is a healthy diet proven to help people lower their blood pressure. 

Healthy Weight 

Being overweight or obese increases your risk for high blood pressure. Calculate your body mass index (BMI) to find out if your weight is in a healthy range. 

Physical Activity

Being physically active can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure. Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking or bicycling, every week.

No Smoking

Smoking raises your blood pressure and puts you at higher risk for heart attack and stroke. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. For more information about quitting, see CDC’s smoking and tobacco use website at www.cdc.gov/tobacco.

Limit Alcohol

Avoid drinking too much alcohol – it can raise your blood pressure. Men should have no more than 2 drinks per day, and women only 1. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/alcohol.2 

Work with Your Health Care Team

If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe medications and lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes are just as important as medications. Follow your doctor’s instructions and stay on your medications. Do not stop taking your medications before talking to your doctor. All drugs may have side effects, so speak to your doctor regularly.3

Know Your Numbers

Learn what’s considered normal, as recommended by the American Heart Association. A diagnosis of high blood pressure must be confirmed with a medical professional.4 

Know Your Blood Pressure Numbers
American Heart Association: heart.org/bplevels

Normal blood pressure: Numbers are within the normal (optimal) range of less than 120/80 mm Hg.

Elevated blood pressure: Readings are consistently ranging from 120-129 systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic. People with elevated blood pressure are likely to develop high blood pressure unless steps are taken to control it.

Hypertension Stage 1: Blood pressure is consistently ranging from 130-139 systolic or 80-89 mm Hg diastolic. At this stage of high blood pressure, doctors are likely to prescribe lifestyle changes and may consider adding blood pressure medication based on your risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) such as heart attack or stroke. 

Hypertension Stage 2: Blood pressure is consistently ranging at levels of 140/90 mm Hg or higher. At this stage of high blood pressure, doctors are likely to prescribe a combination of blood pressure medications along with lifestyle changes.

Hypertensive crisis: High blood pressure requires medical attention. If your blood pressure readings suddenly exceed 180/120 mm Hg, wait five minutes and test again. If your readings are still unusually high, contact your doctor immediately. You could be experiencing a hypertensive crisis. If your blood pressure is higher than 180/120 mm Hg and you are experiencing signs of possible organ damage such as chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness/weakness, change in vision, difficulty speaking, do not wait to see if your pressure comes down on its own. Call 9-1-1.


 6 Simple Tips to Reduce Your Blood Pressure

  1. Lose weight. The most effective way of reducing elevated blood pressure is by losing weight. Even losing as little as 10 pounds can lower your blood pressure. 
  2. Read labels. Aim for less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily – which is just 3/4 of a teaspoon of salt. Beware of the “salty six”: Breads and rolls, Cold cuts and cured meats, Pizza, Poultry, Soup, and Sandwiches.
  3. Get moving. Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity a day for at least five days a week. Whether it’s dancing, jogging, biking or walking – Do something you enjoy, and stick with it! 
  4. Pump some iron. Add some weight lifting to your exercise regimen to increase muscle, help lose weight, and stay fit. 
  5. Limit alcohol. Limit alcohol to 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. Alcohol can increase your blood pressure. 
  6. Relieve stress. Stress hormones constrict your blood vessels and can lead to temporary spikes in blood pressure. Stress can trigger unhealthy habits like overeating, poor sleep, and misusing drugs and alcohol. Reducing stress should be a priority to lower your blood pressure.5 

References:

  1. https://healthmetrics.heart.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/At-A-Glance-Heart-Disease-and-Stroke-Statistics-2018.pdf
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/healthy_living.htm 
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/control.htm
  4. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/KnowYourNumbers/Understanding-Blood-Pressure-Readings_UCM_301764_Article.jsp#.WucWDi-ZNMM
  5. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/6-simple-tips-to-reduce-your-blood-pressure

The Dangers of Energy Drinks

Over the last decade, energy drinks have risen in popularity among teens and adults. Marketed with flashy slogans and promises of better focus and performance, it’s no surprise that 34% of young adults age 18-24 consume them regularly1. What most people don’t know about energy drinks are the potential health risks that come from consuming too much caffeine.

The Effects of Caffeine on Your Body

Caffeine takes effect on the central nervous system within 30 minutes of consumption. It acts as a stimulant, causing the release of neurotransmitters like adrenaline, which increase your heart rate and blood pressure. In small doses, caffeine usually causes no harm. However, a typical energy drink contains four to five times more caffeine than a cup of coffee. Experts recommend that healthy individuals consume no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day; an amount which is often seen in just one serving of an energy drink.

Excessive Caffeine Consumption Can Be a Medical Emergency

The health risks associated with energy drinks are more severe in those with high blood pressure or heart problems. Emergency room visits related to overconsumption of caffeine are often from dehydration, seizures, and dangerously high blood pressure. From 2007 to 2011, research showed that adults age 40 and older were responsible for the greatest increase in energy drink related emergency room visits4. Overall, the amount of energy drink related emergency room visits doubled during those same years from 10,000 to 20,000 visits per year4.

Mixing Alcohol with Energy Drinks

Combining alcohol with energy drinks is a growing trend among teens and young adults. Over 30% of young adults aged 18-28 reported mixing the two substances at least once in the last year2. The dangers of consuming a stimulant are magnified when combined with a depressant such as alcohol. Energy drinks can mask the depressive effects of alcohol by making the consumer feel more alert and awake3. Because of this, individuals who combine energy drinks and alcohol can’t determine their level of intoxication.

The Bottom Line

Be aware of the ingredients in energy drinks, such as high caffeine content, added sugars, and other supplements. Excessive amounts of caffeine can pose a risk to those with heart problems or individuals who combine energy drinks with alcohol. Also, make sure to read the label on energy drinks to identify how many servings are in the container. If you do decide to consume caffeine, try a better alternative such as tea or black coffee, and make sure to stay below the recommended amount of 400 milligrams per day.

References

  1. Energy Drinks. (2017, October 04). https://nccih.nih.gov/health/energy-drinks
  2. Johnson LD, O’Malley PM, Bachman JG, Schulenberg JE, Miech RA. Monitoring the Future: National Survey Results on Drug Use, 1975–2015. Volume 2: College Students and Adults Ages 19–55. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan; 2016
  3. Marczinski CA, Fillmore MT. Energy drinks mixed with alcohol: what are the risks? Nutr Rev. 2014;72(suppl 1):98–107
  4. Mattson, M.E. Update on Emergency Department Visits Involving Energy Drinks: A Continuing Public Health Concern. The CBHSQ Report: January 10, 2013. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, MD.

How to Maintain a Healthy Eating Lifestyle

What you eat each day affects your health and how you feel now and in the future. Good nutrition plays a major role in helping you lead a healthy lifestyle. When combined with physical activity, your diet can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease, and promote overall health and wellbeing.

Creating and maintaining healthy eating habits doesn’t have to be hard. If you start by incorporating small changes into your daily habits, you can make a big impact on your eating pattern and create lasting, healthy eating habits. Try including at least six of the following eight goals into your diet by adding one new goal each week.

How to Create Healthy Eating Habits for Life

1. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables

Choose red, orange, and dark-green vegetables along with other vegetables for your meals. Add fruit to meals as part of main or side dishes or as dessert. The more colorful you make your plate, the more likely you are to get the vitamins, minerals, and fiber your body needs to be healthy.

2. Make half the grains you eat whole grains

Switch from a refined-grain food to a whole-grain food. For example, choose whole-wheat bread instead of white bread. Read the ingredients list and choose products that list a whole-grain ingredients first. Look for things like: “whole wheat,” “brown rice,” “bulgur,” “buckwheat,” “oatmeal,” “rolled oats,” quinoa,” or “wild rice.”

3. Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk

Both have the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk, but fewer calories and less saturated fat.

4. Choose a variety of lean protein foods

Protein foods group includes not only meat, poultry, and seafood, but also dry beans or peas, eggs, nuts, and seeds. Select leaner cuts of ground beef (where the label says 90% lean or higher), turkey breast, or chicken breast.

5. Compare sodium in foods

Use the Nutrition Facts label to choose lower sodium versions of foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals. Select canned foods labeled “low sodium,” “reduced sodium,” or “no salt added.”

6. Drink water instead of sugary drinks

Drink water to cut back on unnecessary calories from sugary drinks. Soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks are a major source of added sugar and calories in American diets. To add flavor to your water, add a slice of lemon, lime, apple or fresh herbs like mint or basil.

7. Eat some seafood

Seafood has protein, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids (heart-healthy fat). Adults should try to eat at least eight ounces a week of a variety of seafood. Children can eat smaller amounts of seafood. Seafood includes fish such as salmon, tuna, and trout and shellfish such as crab, mussels, and oysters.

8. Cut back on solid fats

Eat fewer foods that contain solid fats. The major sources for Americans are cakes, cookies, and other desserts (often made with butter, margarine, or shortening); pizza; processed and fatty meats (e.g., sausages, hot dogs, bacon, ribs); and ice cream.

Cutting the Risk of Chronic Disease with Physical Activity

Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle

To maintain your healthy eating habits, try the following tips.

Add More Fruits & Veggies
  • Mix veggies into your go-to dishes. Swap meat for peppers and mushrooms in your tacos or try veggie pasta instead of grain pasta like one made out of black beans for more plant-based protein.
  • Use fresh fruits and veggies whenever possible. Watch for sodium in canned veggies and look for canned fruit packed in water instead of syrup.
  • Pack your child’s lunch bag with fruits and veggies: sliced apples, a banana or carrot sticks.
Prepare Healthy Snacks
  • Teach children the difference between everyday snacks such as fruits and veggies and occasional snacks such as cookies and sweets.
  • Keep cut-up fruits and veggies like carrots, peppers, or orange slices in the refrigerator.
  • Prepare your meals for the week by making them ahead on weekends or on a day off.
Reduce Fat, Salt, and Sugar
  • When eating out, choose baked or grilled food instead of fried and do the same at home.
  • Make water your go-to drink instead of soda or sweetened beverages.
  • Read labels on packaged ingredients to find foods lower in sodium.
  • Reduce amounts of salt added to food when cooking and use herbs and spices instead to add flavor like paprika, turmeric, black pepper, garlic or onion powder.
Control Portion Sizes
  • When preparing meals at home, use smaller plates.
  • Don’t clean your plate if you’re full, instead save leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.
  • Portion sizes depend on the age, gender, and activity level of the individual.
Practice Healthy Eating in School
  • Bring healthy snacks into your child’s classroom for birthday parties and holiday celebrations, instead of providing sugary treats.
  • Pack healthy lunches for children including whole grains, fruits and veggies, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products.1

Reflect, Replace, and Reinforce

Making sudden, radical changes to eating habits such as eating nothing but cabbage soup, can lead to short-term weight loss but it won’t be successful in the long run. To permanently improve your eating habits:

  • Reflect on all your habits, both good and bad, and your common triggers for unhealthy eating.
  • Replace your unhealthy eating habits with healthier ones.
  • Reinforce your new, healthier habits.
  1. Keep a food diary for a few days to evaluate what you eat every day. Note how you were feeling when you ate – hungry, not hungry, tired, or stressed?
  2. Create a list of “cues” by reviewing your food diary to become more aware when you’re “triggered” to eat for reasons other than hunger. Note how you’re feeling at those times.
  3. Circle the cues on your list that you face on a daily or weekly basis.
  4. Ask yourself about the cues you’ve circled; is there anything else you can do to avoid the cue or situation? If you can’t avoid it, can you do something differently that would be healthier?
  5. Replace unhealthy habits with new, healthy ones.
  6. Reinforce your new, healthy habits and be patient with yourself. You can do it! Take it one day at a time!
To make sure your meals are balanced and nutritious, use the MyPlate, MyWins at choosemyplate.gov to create healthy eating solutions that work for you.

References

  1. U.S. Department of Human Services: https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/eat-healthy/how-to-eat-healthy/index.html
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight/eating_habits.html

Prediabetes: What You Need to Know

One out of 3 American adults has prediabetes – that’s 86 million people. And, 9 out of 10 of them don’t even know they have it! Prediabetes is a condition that comes before diabetes. It means your blood glucose levels are higher than normal but aren’t high enough to be called diabetes. There are no clear symptoms of prediabetes. Without intervention, many people with prediabetes could develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years.1

Prediabetes

You’re at risk for developing prediabetes if you: 

  • Are overweight
  • Are 45 years or older
  • Have a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes
  • Are physically active less than 3 times a week
  • Have ever had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or given birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
  • Are African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, or Alaska Native (some Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans are also at higher risk)

Diabetes

You’re at risk for developing type 2 diabetes if you: 

  • Have prediabetes
  • Are overweight
  • Are 45 years or older
  • Have a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes
  • Are physically active less than 3 times a week
  • Have ever had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or given birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
  • Are African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, or Alaska Native (some Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans are also at higher risk)2

Don’t let the “pre” in prediabetes fool you into thinking it’s not a problem now. By taking action now, you have the power to not only prevent type 2 diabetes but also reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke associated with prediabetes.

People with prediabetes who do not change their lifestyle by losing weight if needed, and increase their physical activity – can develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years. According to the CDC, type 2 diabetes can lead to serious health issues such as:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Blindness
  • Kidney failure
  • Loss of toes, feet, or legs

Additionally, being overweight and not physically active can make you feel sluggish and affect your mood. Making positive lifestyle changes can lower your risk of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, and improve the quality of your overall health and wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of your family.3

The great news is that prediabetes can often be reversed. You can join a CDC-recognized diabetes prevention program to help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. This proven lifestyle change program can cut diabetes risk in half. Programs are available in-person or online and are designed for people who have prediabetes or are at risk for type 2 diabetes.

CDC-recognized lifestyle change programs are proven to work and are based on research led by the National Institutes of Health. Their research shows that people with prediabetes who participate in a structured lifestyle change program can cut their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58% (71% for people over 60 years old). This finding was the result of the program helping people lose 5% to 7% of their body weight through healthier eating and 150 minutes of physical activity a week. For a person who weighs 200 pounds, losing 5% to 7% of their body weight means losing just 10 to 14 pounds. It doesn’t take drastic weight loss to make a big impact.

The impact of this program can last for years to come. Research has found that even after 10 years, people who completed a diabetes prevention program were one third less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.4

How do I find out if I have prediabetes?

Take the American Diabetes Association’s Type 2 Diabetes Risk Test.

What can I learn from the program?

The program is not a fad diet or an exercise class. It’s not a quick fix. It’s a year-long program focused on long-term changes to create healthy habits for life.

Your lifestyle coach, who is specially trained to lead the program, will help you learn new skills, encourage you to set and meet goals, and keep you motivated. A year may sound like a long time, but learning new habits takes time and practice. As you begin eating better and moving more, you’ll notice a difference in how you feel.

During the first half of the program, you will learn to:

  • Eat healthy without giving up the foods you love
  • Add physical activity to your life, even if you think you don’t have time
  • Manage your stress
  • Cope with challenges and obstacles that can derail your path – like how to eat healthy when traveling
  • Get back on track if you stray from your plan

In the second half of the program, you will enhance the skills you’ve learned so you can maintain the changes you’ve made. These sessions will review key ideas such as tracking your food and physical activity, setting goals, staying motivated, and overcoming barriers.

Where can I find a program?

CDC-recognized lifestyle programs are located in a variety of places throughout the community, including:

  • Health care clinics
  • Community-based organizations
  • Faith-based organizations
  • Pharmacies
  • Wellness centers
  • Worksites
  • Cooperative extension offices
  • University-based continuing education programs
  • You can also choose an online program

To find a program near you visit, https://nccd.cdc.gov/DDT_DPRP/Programs.aspx

What’s the cost of the program?

The cost of participating in a CDC-recognized lifestyle change program varies, depending on location, organization offering it, and type of program (in person or online). Contact the program you are interested in to find out the cost. Some employers and insurance carriers cover the cost of these programs. Check with your employer or insurance carrier to see if a program is covered.

USPM is Proud to Offer the Diabetes Prevention Program

USPM is a fully recognized provider of the National Diabetes Prevention Program led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This clinically proven program helps people who are at risk for type 2 diabetes make achievable and realistic lifestyle changes — reducing their risk by up to 38%. For more information on this offering, contact us and choose the option to learn more about the Diabetes Prevention Program.

References

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/prevention/prediabetes-type2/index.html
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/risk-factors.html
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/prevention/prediabetes-type2/index.html
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/prevention/prediabetes-type2/preventing.html

Effective Ways to Boost Your Immune System

Take preventive measures today to take care of your heart and body.  In the past few months, the U.S. has witnessed one of the worst flu seasons since the swine-flu pandemic of 2009. A recent study suggests that the flu doesn’t just cause aches, chills, and fatigue but it may also increase the risk of a heart attack. The study shows a six-fold increase in heart attacks shortly after people get the flu.1

The Flu Season

The flu season usually begins in October or November and peaks between December and February, and can last as late as May, according to the CDC. Each year, the flu is estimated to cause between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths and up to 710,000 hospitalizations in the U.S.1

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get an annual flu shot. The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology recommend the shot for people with heart disease.

Another way to protect yourself against disease is to improve your heart health. The American Heart Association has started a ‘Healthy For Good’ revolutionary movement to inspire you to create lasting change in your health and your life, one small step at a time. The following are excellent ways to boost your immune system and prevent diseases.

Eat Smart to Stay Healthy

A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons against cardiovascular disease. Eating healthy doesn’t mean dieting or giving up the foods you love.

  • Eat more plants! When you eat a vegetarian diet, be sure to add foods rich in iron, Vitamin B12, Calcium, and Zinc.
  • Limit sweets, fatty or processed meats, solid fats like butter, and salty or highly processed foods.
  • Avoid bad fats (solid or saturated fats from animal sources like meat, dairy, and tropical oils) and incorporate healthier fats (nontropical liquid oils, nuts and seeds, avocados, and fatty fish) into your diet.
  • Stock your kitchen with fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. Ditch the processed and junk foods!
  • Instead of eliminating foods you love, concentrate on eating smaller portions.
  • Eat reasonable portions, even when you’re served more than you need (Split an entrée when dining out).

Move More

A good starting goal is at least 150 minutes a week, but if you don’t want to sweat the numbers, just move more! Find forms of exercise you enjoy and will stick with, and build more opportunities to be active into your routine.

  • Start walking – begin with a few minutes each day, and add more minutes each week.
  • Find ways to make walking fun, whether that’s changing your route, inviting friends or listening to your favorite podcast.
  • Don’t skip out on your warm-up, 5-10 minutes is a good rule of thumb.
  • Get the whole family moving – adding exercise is easier when it’s a shared activity.
  • Make time during a busy day for activity by going for a brisk walk during your lunch break or taking the stairs as often as possible.
  • Cool down after a workout to help your body reset and recover a little bit easier – this is the best time to stretch when your muscles are still warm.
  • Turn TV time into a workout – during every commercial break do a body weight exercise (squats, push ups, jumping jacks).

Add Color

An easy first step to eating healthy is to include fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack. All forms (fresh, frozen, canned and dried) and all colors count, so go ahead and add color to your plate – and your life!

  • To mix up your spaghetti routine, add an imposter pasta such as one made from black bean, edamame, chick pea or a vegetable pasta such as zucchini noodles.
  • Roast vegetables in high heat to caramelize and bring out their natural flavors; don’t overdo it with salt or sauces.
  • Grill fruits to unlock a deeper sweetness and give their color some char.
  • Add color to your plate with the 5 main color groups: red and pink, blue and purple, yellow and orange, white and brown and green. Check out healthyforgood.heart.org for examples from each group.
  • Look at your plate each time you eat, and if it’s too beige, add a serving of fruits or vegetables.
  • Go meatless – add mushrooms in place of beef, go with veggies and beans in your stir fry or use thick cut eggplant in place of chicken.

Be Well

Along with eating right and being active, better health requires getting enough sleep, practicing mindfulness, managing stress, keeping your mind and body fit, and connecting socially.

  • Be more active, limit caffeine before bed, and establish a better sleep routine.
  • Neutralize your racing mind by acknowledging thoughts as they come and letting them pass freely.
  • Focus on healthy outlets for stress, like taking a walk, journaling, volunteering or a hobby that you love.
  • Take time out for you – use your vacation days, whether you go on a big trip or just hang at home for a staycation.
  • Don’t overlook your emotional and mental health – get help if you need it to manage stress, anxiety, depression or grief.
  • Practice deep breathing techniques by inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth slowly and deliberately.
  • Take preventive measures to avoid stress, like leaving a few minutes earlier to avoid being late, or avoiding busy roads so you can stay calm while driving.
  • In high-anxiety situations, give yourself some space – take a walk and come back later when tensions subside.

 Prevent the Flu

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against the flu viruses.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • If you are sick with a flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
  • If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can be used to treat your illness.
  • Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines and are not available over-the-counter.
  • Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications.2

References:

  1. American Heart Association: https://news.heart.org/flu-blankets-nation-new-study-links-virus-heart-attacks/
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/consumer/prevention.htm

The Difference Between a Cold and The Flu

Have you ever shown symptoms and wondered whether you have a cold or the flu? This is because having a cold and having the flu can display similar symptoms. Check out the chart below, find out which infection you have, and follow the day-by-day advice given below.

 USPM Cold vs Flu Infographic

Cold

Day 1

Hold off on calling the Doctor.
There is no prescription drug that your doctor can prescribe that will shorten the length of the common cold. A cold is a viral infection that cannot be treated by antibiotics, which fight bacterial infections. Furthermore, antiviral drugs are used to ease symptoms of the flu, so it cannot be used to calm a cold. However, you can take the following over-the-counter drugs to ease the pain of the common cold:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)
  • Naproxen (Aleve)

Practice extra good hygiene

When we are sick, we often want to stay home. However, if you venture out into the public it is extremely important to take extra measures to not spread what you have. To help stop the spread of germs:
Do not:
  • Touch others
  • Cough/Sneeze into your hands (then touch another object)

Do:

  • Wash hands with soap and water regularly (Especially after sneezing and/or coughing)
  • Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze
  • Cough or sneeze into a cloth (ig. tissue, your upper sleeve, elbow)
  • If you use a tissue, make sure to put in a trashcan
  • Consider taking vitamin C
Days 2-4
Avoid exhausting yourself
When it comes to exercise, moderate activity may help a little, but working out until you sweat may even prolong your symptoms according to Dr. Marvin M. Lipman, M.D.
Take preventive measures and prepare for what comes next
As shown in the chart above, a sore throat is likely the first symptom to roll around. Shortly after, symptoms such as congestion, sneezing, and runny nose start developing. If you are a fan of taking the non-drug route, here are a few suggestions of what you can do to ease these symptoms:
  • Honey or salt-water gargle to ease sore throat
  • Saline nasal spray to east congestion
  • Eat warm soup or drink warm beverages to thin mucus
5+ Days
Consider calling your healthcare provider
If your symptoms do not improve or are worsening, think about reaching out to your healthcare provider. The common cold is a viral infection, but you could also be developing a bacterial infection, which would require antibiotics. You may have another issue, such as allergies (immune reaction to a foreign substance in the body, bronchitis (inflammation of the bronchial lining), or pneumonia (infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs).

Flu

Day 1

Stay home

On the first day of having the flu you are highly contagious, so it is best to not spread germs. The flu usually lasts for 1-2 weeks but after a few days, symptoms may ease, and you can reconsider going out. Have someone bring in some flu-survival basics such as:

  • Tissues
  • Easy-to-eat foods
  • Over-the-counter medications
  • Chicken soup
Don’t push yourself too hard
As the flu settles in the body, it needs plenty of rest. Instead of pushing yourself too hard doing daily tasks, climb into bed and get the rest your body deserves. Doing too much, especially in the early stages of illness, can weaken your body.
Ask your doctor for an antiviral drug
These drugs can shorten the duration of the flu by a day and reduce the risk of pneumonia and other complications. However, it only works if you start taking it 48 hours after the onset of symptoms. Examples of antiviral drugs are Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and Zanamivir (Relenza). Use caution with these drugs, especially if you are:
  • 65 years or older
  • Younger than 5 years old
  • Pregnant or just had a baby
  • Have a chronic disease such as asthma, heart disease, or other chronic diseases
  • Remember to consult with your physician before taking any medication

The flu often starts off with a temperature over 100° F. To ease head and body aches that come with the flu, you can take:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)
  • Naproxen (Aleve)
Days 2-4

Fluids, Fluids, Fluids!
Fevers can increase the chances of becoming dehydrated, so drinking plenty of water is a must. Try mixing a salty liquid such as chicken or vegetable broth and a sweet liquid like tea, juice, or iced fruit pops. According to Patricia A. Stinchfield, a pediatric nurse practitioner, the mixture will replace electrolytes, promote full hydration and may help thin out thick mucus.

Monitor your temperature
A low-grade fever itself is not harmful, however, it can mean that you are still contagious. Monitoring your temperature can keep you up to date on if your temperature spikes or not. In young children, temperature spikes may trigger seizures.

Reach out to your healthcare provider if needed
Watch out for complications such as difficulty breathing or swallowing, or if you experience disorientation. These are signs that indicate pneumonia, bronchitis, or dehydration. The individuals vulnerable to these conditions are:

  • Children
  • Elderly
  • People with chronic conditions

You should also reach out to your healthcare provider if drinking or urinating become difficult or is painful.

Days 5-6

Invest in some natural remedies
After a few days of having the flu in your system, the body aches and fevers may by gone but sore throat and cough often continue for a while longer. Here are a few good remedies that will be useful during this time:

  • Lozenges
  • Honey
  • Salt-water gargle
  • Plenty of tea or soup

If you feel that you are recovering and have been without a fever for 24 hours, then you many consider getting back to school or work.

7+ Days

Do not panic
Like mentioned above, the flu can last up to 1-2 weeks. If you feel that you are in the process of recovering, just continue what you have been doing and little by little, you should be on your way to full recovery. 

Call your healthcare provider
If you are not improving or you are showing signs of complications, you may be developing pneumonia, sinusitis, or another health-related issue. Call you healthcare provider to learn more about what you can do.

References

Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 21.5 million American adults (aged 12 and older) battled a substance use disorder in 2014. Almost 80% of individuals suffering from a substance use disorder in 2014 struggled with an alcohol use disorder.1Drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting usually takes more than good intentions or a strong will. Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who want to change.2

Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences. The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, but repeated drug use can lead to brain changes that challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs.

These brain changes can be persistent, which is why drug addiction is considered a “relapsing” disease—people in recovery from drug use disorders are at increased risk for returning to drug use even after years of not taking the drug. As with other chronic health conditions, treatment should be ongoing and should be adjusted based on how the person responds.

What happens to the brain when a person takes drugs?

Most drugs affect the brain’s “reward circuit” by flooding it with the chemical messenger dopamine. This reward system controls the body’s ability to feel pleasure and motivates a person to repeat behaviors needed to thrive, such as eating and spending time with loved ones. This overstimulation of the reward circuit causes the intensely pleasurable “high” that can lead people to take a drug again and again.

As a person continues to use drugs, the brain adjusts to the excess dopamine by making less of it and/or reducing the ability of cells in the reward circuit to respond to it. This reduces the high that the person feels compared to the high they felt when first taking the drug—an effect known as tolerance.

They might take more of the drug, trying to achieve the same dopamine high. It can also cause them to get less pleasure from other things they once enjoyed, like food or social activities.

Long-term use also causes changes in other brain chemical systems and circuits as well, affecting functions that include:

  • Learning
  • Judgment
  • Decision-making
  • Stress
  • Memory
  • Behavior

Despite being aware of these harmful outcomes, many people who use drugs continue to take them, which is the nature of addiction.2

Can drug addiction be cured or prevented?

As with most other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease, treatment for drug addiction generally isn’t a cure. However, addiction is treatable and can be successfully managed. People who are recovering from an addiction will be at risk for relapse for years and possibly for their whole lives. Research shows that combining addiction treatment medicines with behavioral therapy ensures the best chance of success for most patients.

The good news is that drug use and addiction are preventable. Results from National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)-funded research have shown that prevention programs involving families, schools, communities, and the media are effective for preventing or reducing drug use and addiction. Although personal events and cultural factors affect drug use trends, when young people view drug use as harmful, they tend to decrease their drug taking.

Therefore, education and outreach are key in helping people understand the possible risks of drug use. Teachers, parents, and health care providers have crucial roles in educating young people and preventing drug use and addiction.2

Treatment for Drug Abuse

Drug addiction can be treated, but it’s not simple. It must help the person do the following:

  • Stop using drugs
  • Stay drug-free
  • Be productive at home, at work, and in society

Successful treatment has several steps:

  • Detoxification
  • Behavioral counseling
  • Medication (for opioid, tobacco, or alcohol addiction)
  • Evaluation and treatment for co-occurring mental health issues such as depression and anxiety
  • Long-term follow-up to prevent relapse

Medications can be used to manage withdrawal symptoms, prevent relapse, and treat co-occurring conditions.3

Behavioral therapies help patients:

  • Modify their attitudes and behaviors related to drug use
  • Increase healthy life skills
  • Persist with other forms of treatment, such as medication

Finding Treatment Services

Visit https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov to find a treatment service near you or call SAMHSA’s National Helpline:

  • 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
  • 1-800-487-4889 (TTY)

Free and confidential information in English and Spanish for individuals and family members facing substance abuse and mental health issues – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Road to Recovery

If you or a family member are recovering from drug addiction, focus on the following to help prevent relapse:

  • Keep going to your treatment sessions.
  • Try mindfulness breathing, yoga or meditation to reduce stress.
  • Avoid triggers such as spending time with the people you used drugs with, places, things, or emotions that can make you want to use drugs again.
  • Take care of your body to help it heal from the harmful effects of drug use and to feel better. Be sure to add daily exercise, and eat healthy foods.
  • Find new activities and goals to replace the ones that involved drug use.
  • Spend more time with family and friends you lost touch with; consider not seeing friends who are still using drugs.

Resources

Get Help from Your Doctor

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you or someone you know is addicted to prescription drugs and needs help stopping or you’re not sure where to start. Reach out to your doctor if you are having withdrawal symptoms that concern you. Your doctor can help you get connected to the care you need.

References

  1. https://americanaddictioncenters.org/rehab-guide/addiction-statistics/
  2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/understanding-drug-use-addiction
  3. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/treatment-approaches-drug-addiction

Spread Kindness for a Happier You

Kindness can create a virtuous cycle that promotes lasting happiness and altruism. Kindness is contagious. Once you start doing nice things for others, you might not want to stop. This month we’re focusing on kindness toward ourselves and others to close out the year on a positive note, and to make kindness a healthy habit to carry into the new year.

What if we told you kindness makes you happy?

You don’t have to take our word for it. Two studies suggest spending money on others makes us happy, even happier than spending on ourselves!Happiness is a central desire in our lives. Gratitude is an important human strength that contributes to happiness. One study showed that grateful individuals were especially appreciative of the contribution of others to their happiness.

“Compared with unhappy people, happy people report close and satisfying relationships and feel more gratitude in their lives. Whereas gratitude results when people receive kindness from other people, kindness entails enacting kind behavior toward other people.”2

The same study found that happy people reported higher levels of the three kindness components:

  1. The motivation to be kind to others
  2. The recognition of kindness in others, and
  3. The enactment of kind behavior in one’s daily life.

“Kind people experience more happiness and have happier memories. Simply by counting acts of kindness for one week, people appear to have become happier and more grateful. Happy people are more kind in the first place and they can become even happier, kinder and more grateful following a simple intervention.”2

Kindness Increases:
  • The Love Hormone
  • Energy
  • Happiness
  • Lifespan
  • Pleasure
  • Serotonin3
Kindness Decreases:
  • Pain
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Blood Pressure3

Both kindness and gratitude are an important human strength that influences our wellbeing. It’s important to practice these habits frequently, starting with one random act of kindness per week. Then work your way up to one or more random acts of kindness per day. Practice kindness and compassion toward yourself every day. You can’t fill anyone else’s cup unless yours is full. The positive effects of kindness are experienced in the brain of everyone who witnesses the act, improving their mood and making them more likely to extend kindness to others. Build up your compassion muscle by being kind to others and offer care and help.

Tips to Promote Kindness

  • Try seeing your world view as open to improvement by the evidence and experience of others.
  • Remember to put yourself in other people’s shoes. You never know what others are going through.
  • The only person who can affect your mood and thoughts are you! Be introspective and discover your own thoughts and fears that inhibit you from being the kindest possible version of yourself.
  • Write a list of preconceived notions you have about interactions with others, and then break them.
  • Often, we can mask our insecurities by judging and projecting negative thoughts on others. Try to catch yourself thinking a negative thought, and say “STOP” to redirect yourself to a positive thought.
  • Realize that you have to first help yourself before you can help others.
  • Mistakes are okay. Track what you consider to be mistakes, and how you learn from them in your journal.
  • Reflect on past experiences during the week, and how you made decisions every day.
  • Choose being kind over being right and you’ll be right every time.
  • Just about everything is smoother with a smile.
  • Though being kind to our friends and loved ones may come easily, a true test of your kindness is attempting to resolve problems with people scorned or ones you’ve been scorned by in your past.
  • Your words can influence those around you. Remember that the mouth should have three gatekeepers. Is it true? It is kind? And it is necessary? 

Pay It Forward

When someone does a good deed for you, instead of paying them back, “pay it forward” by doing a good deed for someone else. Below are a few ways you can pay it forward.

  • Give a genuine compliment to someone.
  • Perform random acts of kindness (Hold doors open for people, volunteer, share food, etc.)
  • Become a mentor or tutor to a person in need. We all have skills, so share yours with those who need it!
  • Leave post-it notes with encouraging messages in random places (in library books, on car door/windshields, in public places, etc.).
  • Write a positive Yelp! or Google Review for a business you like.
  • Offer to stay late and help clean up at your friend’s party.
  • Visit family members you haven’t seen in a while.
  • When driving, let someone merge into your lane.
  • Drive a friend to the airport.
  • Do two things to protect and preserve the environment for generations to come.

Loving-Kindness Meditation

To cultivate positive emotions, try a Loving-Kindness Meditation. Try this free meditation from UCLA Health website (available in English and Spanish).

  • To download the meditation, right click on “Play” button and then click “Save Link As”

References

  1. Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/kindness_makes_you_happy_and_happiness_makes_you_kind
  2. U.S. National Library of Medicine (NIH): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1820947/
  3. Random Acts of Kindness Foundation: https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/the-science-of-kindness