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.

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.

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

Eating Better and Exercising for Diabetes Management

Diabetes is a leading cause of heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, and amputation. It also leads to more sick days and less productivity on the job. The good news is, type 2 diabetes can be prevented, and it isn’t as hard as you might think.

Losing just 7% of your body weight (which translates to 14 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds) and exercising moderately (like brisk walking) 5 days a week can reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes by 58%. Lifestyle changes can also prevent or delay diabetes complications.1

Diet & Exercise

Nutrition and physical activity are important parts of a healthy lifestyle whether you have diabetes or not. Along with other benefits, following a healthy meal plan and being active can help you keep your blood glucose level, also called blood sugar, in your target range. To manage your blood glucose, you need to balance what you eat and drink with physical activity and diabetes medicine, if you take any.

Becoming more active and making changes in what you eat and drink can seem challenging at first. It is easier to start with small changes and get help from your family, friends, and your health care team. Eating well and being physically active most days of the week can help you:

  • Keep your blood glucose level, blood pressure, and cholesterol in your target ranges
  • Lose weight or stay at a healthy weight
  • Prevent or delay diabetes problems
  • Feel good and have more energy

What foods can I eat if I have diabetes?

Eat smaller portions. Learn about serving sizes and how many servings you need in a meal. The key to eating with diabetes is to eat a variety of healthy foods from all food groups, in the amounts your meal plan specifies.

The food groups are:

  • Vegetables
    • Non-starchy: includes broccoli, carrots, greens, peppers, and tomatoes
    • Starchy: includes potatoes, corn, and green peas
  • Fruits — includes oranges, melon, berries, apples, bananas, and grapes
  • Grains — at least half of your grains for the day should be whole grains
    • Includes wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, and quinoa
    • Examples: bread, pasta, cereal, and tortillas
  • Protein
    • Lean meat
    • Chicken or turkey without the skin
    • Fish
    • Eggs
    • Nuts and peanuts
    • Dried beans and certain peas, such as chickpeas and split peas
    • Meat substitutes, such as tofu
  • Dairy — nonfat or low fat
    • Milk or lactose-free milk if you have lactose intolerance
    • Yogurt
    • Cheese

Eat foods with heart-healthy fats, which mainly come from these foods:

  • Oils that are liquid at room temperature, such as olive oil
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Heart-healthy fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel
  • Avocado
  • Use oils when cooking food instead of butter, cream, shortening, lard, or stick margarine1

What foods and drinks should I limit if I have diabetes?

Foods and drinks to limit include:

  • Fried foods and other foods high in saturated fat and trans fat
  • Foods high in salt, also called sodium
  • Sweets, such as baked goods, candy, and ice cream
  • Beverages with added sugars, such as juice, regular soda, and regular sports or energy drinks

Drink water instead of sweetened beverages. Consider using a sugar substitute in your coffee or tea.

If you drink alcohol, drink moderately — no more than one drink a day if you’re a woman or two drinks a day if you’re a man. If you use insulin or diabetes medicines that increase the amount of insulin your body makes, alcohol can make your blood glucose level drop too low.1

How much can I eat if I have diabetes?

Two common ways to help you plan how much to eat if you have diabetes are the plate method and carbohydrate counting. Check with your health care team about the method that’s best for you.

Plate Method

The plate method shows the amount of each food group you should eat. This method works best for lunch and dinner. You can find more details about using the plate method from the American Diabetes Association.

Carbohydrate Counting Method

Carb counting involves keeping track of the amount of carbs you eat and drink each day. Because carbs turn into glucose in your body, they affect your blood glucose level more than other foods do. Carb counting can help you manage your blood glucose level. If you take insulin, counting carbs can help you know how much insulin to take.1

Most carbs come from starches, fruits, milk, and sweets. Try to limit carbs with added sugars or those with refined grains, such as white bread and white rice. Instead, eat carbs from fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and low-fat or nonfat milk. Learn more about diabetes meal plans at American Diabetes Association.

Why should I be physically active if I have diabetes?

Physical activity is an important part of managing your blood glucose level and staying healthy. Physical activity:

  • Lowers blood glucose levels
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Improves blood flow
  • Burns extra calories so you can keep your weight down if needed
  • Improves your mood
  • Can prevent falls and improve memory in older adults
  • May help you sleep better 2

What physical activities should I do if I have diabetes?

  • Ask your health care team what physical activities are safe for you. Many people choose walking with friends or family members.
  • If you have been inactive or are trying a new activity, start slowly, with 5 to 10 minutes a day. Then add more time each week.
  • Walk around while you talk on the phone or during TV commercials.
  • Do chores, such as work in the garden, rake leaves, clean the house, or wash the car.
  • Park at the far end of the shopping center parking lot and walk to the store.
  • Take the stairs instead of elevator.
  • Make your family outings active, such as a family bike ride or a walk in the park. 2

References:

  1. http://www.diabetes.org/in-my-community/awareness-programs/stop-diabetes-at-work
  2. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/diet-eating-physical-activity

Positive Psychology: Practicing the Power of Positive Thinking

Experts continue to find evidence that our thoughts — positive and negative — don’t just have psychological effects, they also have physical effects on our body. Advantages of positive thinking include less stress, better overall physical and emotional health, longer life span, and better coping skills. Follow the practices highlighted here for four to six weeks to improve your positive thinking skills. Don’t give up. Remember, you are worth it!

A positive self-image is key to living a happy and healthy life. Research shows that people who feel confident in themselves can problem solve and make better decisions, take more risks, assert themselves, and strive to meet their personal goals. In fact there is an entire field devoted to it called Positive Psychology. Here are some ideas to help you be more positive AND feel better.

Pay Attention to Your Thoughts

One technique that will help you think more positively is to become aware of your negative “self talk” and replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Sometimes we imagine the worst in situations or about ourselves and often are unaware of the negative thoughts.

  • Positive thoughts are those that make us feel good about our progress. Take time to praise yourself for the little things.
  • It is important to actively think about what you are feeling and how it is portrayed in your life. Try to catch yourself thinking a negative thought, and say “STOP” to redirect yourself to positive thoughts.
  • Work on replacing negative self-talk with positive words. For example, replace “I hate getting up in the morning,” with “I am grateful for a new day.”
  • Write down negative thoughts. Carry a small pad throughout your day and jot down negative thoughts whenever you notice them.
  • Evaluate relationships in your personal and work life, and surround yourself with those who are also positive and support you.
  • Develop positive statements to replace negative ones using words such as happy, peaceful, loving, enthusiastic, and warm.
  • Avoid negative words such as worried, frightened, upset, tired, bored, not, never, and can’t.
  • Remember to smile, it’s contagious!

Nourish Your Body and Mind

The basic human desire is to feel loved, and sometimes that love comes from within. And to love ourselves fully, we must incorporate healthy habits into our lives for a nourished body, mind and soul. A few ways you can nourish your body are by exercising, eating healthy foods, stretching and connecting to others. A few ways to nourish your mind are to do a mind puzzle, meditate, breathe deeply, and laugh. These activities in conjunction nourish both the body and mind simultaneously to improve positive thinking and a positive outlook.

  • Every morning when you wake up, thank your body for resting and rejuvenating itself so you can enjoy the day.
  • Be your body’s best friend and supporter, not its enemy.
  • Wear comfortable clothes that you like, that express your personal style, and that feel good to your body.
  • Count your blessings, not your blemishes.
  • Before you go to bed each night, write about how you treated yourself well during the day.

Give Back & Help Others

Giving back has a positive effect on your body and will make you feel great. Studies show that when people donated to charity, the portion of the brain responsible for feelings of reward were triggered. The brain also releases feel-good chemicals and spurs you to perform more kind acts. Giving back can also improve your self-esteem, sense of belonging, and make you feel more thankful and appreciative of what you have.

  • Volunteer at a food bank or local community service project.
  • Donate old clothing or household items to a local drive, Goodwill, or Salvation Army.
  • Offer to help a neighbor or family member in need.
  • Perform one intentional act of kindness.
  • Donate blood.
  • Cook for someone in need.
  • Participate in a local walk to raise money for a charity or condition (ie. Diabetes walk).
  • Clean up the environment.

Build Your Inner Confidence

Having a low self-esteem or feeling bad about yourself may prevent you from doing the things you love. In addition, low self-esteem may hinder the development of healthy relationships with your family and friends. People with a poor self-esteem are more likely to experience declined physical and mental health that affects their daily lives leading to stress and anxiety.

  • Replace the word ‘can’t’ with ‘can.’
  • Replace the word ‘try’ with ‘will.’
  • Focus on the present.
  • Make a list of your current wants and desires and what you will do to achieve them.
  • Set aside a specific time each day for you.
  • Invest in yourself – sign up for a class or workshop.
  • Look for the good in things.
  • Make signs that say positive thoughts and place them in places where you will see them often.

Create Affirming Lists

Make lists, reread them often to help you feel more positive about yourself. Write affirming lists into your journal or a piece of paper, like:

  • 5 of your strengths, for example, persistence, courage, friendliness, creativity.
  • 5 things you admire about yourself, for example the way you have raised your children, your good relationship with your brother, or your spirituality.
  • 5 greatest achievements in your life so far, like recovering from a serious illness, or learning to use a computer.
  • 10 things you can do to make yourself laugh.
  • 10 things you could do to help someone else.

 Talk Back to Negative Thoughts

Here are some examples that can help you keep setbacks in proper perspective when negative thoughts come to mind. In general, catch yourself! Think, “I am being negative about myself.” Say “Stop!” to yourself. Say it out loud. Picture a huge, red stop sign.

Negative Thought: Foods are Either ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’ 

  • “I can never eat dessert again.”
  • “Look at what I did. I ate that cake. I will never do well.”

Positive Thought: Work Toward Balance 

  • “I can eat dessert and cut back on something else.”
  • “One slip-up is not the end of the world. I can get back on track.”

Negative Thought: Excuses 

  • “It is too cold to take a walk.”
  • “I don’t have the willpower.”

Positive Thought: It’s Worth a Try 

  • “I can go for a walk and stop if it gets too cold.”
  • “It is hard to change old habits, but I will start with small steps and progress slowly but surely!”

Negative Thought: Should 

  • “I should have eaten less dessert.”
  • “I haven’t written down everything I eat.”

Positive Thought: It’s My Choice 

  • “It is my choice. Next time I can decide not to eat so much.”
  • “I’m writing down everything I eat because it helps me eat better.”

References:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/prevention/pdf/handout_session11.pdf
  2. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/20-ways-love-your-body
  3. http://www.wfm.noaa.gov/workplace/Happy_Handout_2.pdf

Stress and Your Heart’s Health

You may be surprised to learn that you might be bringing unnecessary stress into your life by your own choices and lifestyle habits. It’s important to remember, even during times of stress, anxiety, or depression, that your heart health is vital to both your mental and physical wellbeing.

The Effects of Stress

During stress, your body releases adrenaline, the hormone that temporarily causes your breathing and heart rate to speed up, and raises your blood pressure1. These are normal reactions (the “fight or flight” response) that help you prepare to face a stressful situation. Constant stress, however, can have a negative wide-ranging effect on emotions, some of which include:

  • Frequent headaches, jaw clenching or pain
  • Neck ache, back pain, muscle spasms
  • Unexplained or frequent “allergy” attacks
  • Chest pain, palpitations, rapid pulse
  • Depression, frequent or wild mood swings
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts
  • Increased frustration, irritability, edginess2

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. Research shows that excessive stress can affect lifestyle behaviors and factors that increase the risk of heart disease3.

  • Sudden stress increases the pumping action and heart rate resulting in rising blood pressure.
  • Stress alters the heart rhythms posing a risk for rhythm abnormalities in people with existing heart rhythm disturbances.
  • Stress causes certain blood cells to become stickier.
  • Stress impairs the clearance of fat molecules in the body making it more difficult to lose weight.
  • Stress that leads to depression appears to be associated with an increased intima-medial thickness (a measure of the arteries that signifies worsening blood vessel disease)2.

Heart disease accounts for 1 in 7 deaths and remains the number 1 cause of death in the United States4.

Stressors, any event that causes the release of stress hormones, can be different for each person. Stressors can be helpful during emergency situations, meeting deadlines or reaching your goals. But stressful situations, such as divorce or job loss, can produce long, low-level stress that over time wears down the body’s immune system and increases the risk of heart disease and a variety of other health problems5.

When stress persists, it can often affect various organs and tissues all over the body including:

  • Nervous system
  • Musculoskeletal system
  • Respiratory system
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Endocrine system
  • Gastrointestinal system
  • Reproductive system6

Tips to Reduce Stress

While we’re unable to rid ourselves from all inevitable stressors, fortunately, there are lifestyle changes and stress-reduction techniques you can practice to improve your response to stress and help minimize its damaging effects on your heart and overall health.

  • Exercise. When you exercise, your body releases natural, mood-lifting chemicals that help you feel better. Your workout doesn’t have to be extreme; a short walk every day is all it takes.
  • Nutrition. Eating meals that are balanced and portion-controlled will keep you mentally and physically healthy.
  • Sleep. Poor sleeping habits can have a harmful effect on your mood. It is important to get plenty of sleep and rest. Most people need about seven to eight hours each night.
  • Social Support. Talk with friends and family frequently. Think about joining a special-interest class or group. Volunteering is a great way to meet people while helping yourself and others.
  • Deep Breathing. Taking a deep breath is an automatic and effective technique for winding down.
  • Meditation. Studies have suggested that regular meditation can benefit the heart and help reduce blood pressure.
  • Humor. Research shows that humor is an effective mechanism for coping with acute stress. It is recommended to keep a sense of humor during difficult situations. Laughter can release tension and help you maintain perspective, but it can also have physical effects that reduce stress hormone levels in your body.
  • Avoid Alcohol Use. If you are going to drink alcohol, limit how often you drink, and practice moderation as alcohol may increase your risk of depression.
  • Recognize When You Need Help. If you continue to have problems, are unable to overcome the difficult circumstance, or are thinking about suicide, talk to a professional counselor, psychologist or social worker2,7.

Adopting and maintaining healthy lifestyle behaviors is instrumental in preserving your health and preventing disease. Health is more than just the absence of disease; it is a resource that allows you to reach your goals, satisfy your needs and cope within your environment for more good years®.

References

  1. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/StressManagement/HowDoesStressAffectYou/Stress-and-Heart-Health_UCM_437370_Article.jsp#.WV0hu1GQxQI
  2. A.D.A.M. Stress
  3. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/StressManagement/HowDoesStressAffectYou/How-does-depression-affect-the-heart_UCM_460263_Article.jsp#.WVo-IlGQxQI
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361287/
  6. https://www.stress.org/stress-effects/
  7. nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus

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.

Depression Affects More Than We Think

Depression is a common but serious medical condition that can cause severe symptoms affecting how you think, feel, and act. The CDC estimates that more than 1 out of 20 Americans 12 years of age and older reported depression symptoms in 2009 – 2012.

Depression by the Numbers

Major depressive disorder is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States.

  • Each year about 6.7% of U.S. adults experience major depressive disorder.
  • Women are 70% more likely than men to experience depression during their lifetime.

Depression has also been associated with several chronic diseases, making it one of the most common complications of chronic illness. People diagnosed with a chronic medical condition (heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.) have a higher risk of depression, and it’s also true that people with depression are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke and Alzheimer’s among others.

Chronic mental health conditions are becoming increasingly widespread across the U.S. and if not addressed could cost up to $3.5 trillion by 2030 – $3.4 trillion in medical costs and another $140.8 billion in societal costs. Like other chronic illnesses, mental health conditions contribute heavily to productivity losses, but can also worsen unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, and incarceration.

Learn the signs and symptoms of depression and promote the benefits of early identification and intervention. Once diagnosed, a person with depression can be treated in several ways. The most common treatments are medication and psychotherapy.

Signs and Symptoms Include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment

To Help a Friend or a Relative

  • Offer emotional support, understanding, patience, and encouragement.
  • Talk to him or her, and listen carefully.
  • Never dismiss feelings, but point out realities and offer hope.
  • Never ignore comments about suicide, and report them to your loved one’s therapist or doctor.
  • Invite your loved one out for walks, outings and other activities. Keep trying if he or she declines, but don’t push him or her to take on too much too soon.
  • Provide assistance in getting to the doctor’s appointments.
  • Remind your loved one that with time and treatment, the depression will lift.

If you have depression, you may feel exhausted, helpless, and hopeless. It may be extremely difficult to take any action to help yourself. But as you begin to recognize your depression and begin treatment, you will start to feel better.

To Help Yourself, Keep Busy

There is a lot to do in life. There is a lot to do every day! Staying busy can help direct your thoughts away from what may be troubling you. Try to focus on important daily routines:

  • Work and hobbies
  • Household projects
  • Social and family gatherings
  • Volunteering in the community

If you get overwhelmed, consider delaying tasks, setting priorities and breaking up projects into manageable bits.

Exercise Regularly

Some people find that regular aerobic exercise improves their symptoms as much as antidepressant medication. Others find that their mood improves by getting out in the sun more often. You might combine the benefits of both by increasing your activity outdoors.

People new to regular exercise should increase their activity level gradually. A good place to start is to add steps to your daily commute, errands, and chores.

Get Enough Sleep

Deep sleep helps the body’s cells grow and repair themselves from such factors as stress. So, getting enough sleep may improve your ability to function while awake. To improve the quality of your sleep, be sure to eat healthy foods, exercise at least moderately on most days, and create a sleep-friendly environment:

  • Avoid caffeine and other stimulants during the day.
  • Block out light and noise.
  • Establish a bedtime routine: Go to bed at the same time each night and do something relaxing before getting into bed (take a warm bath, listen to pleasant music).
  • Reduce screen time before bed

Talk to a Friend, Have Some Fun

Don’t try and deal with what you are going through alone. Talk to someone on a regular basis. And while you are at it, put some fun into your life!

In case of an emergency, call:
  • Your doctor.
  • 911 or go to a hospital emergency room to get immediate help or ask a friend or family member to help you do these things.
  • The toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889) to talk to a trained counselor.
For more information, call:
  • Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: 800.826.3632
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): 800.950.6264
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): 866.615.6464

References

Raising Awareness of Rare Diseases

7,000 may not seem like such a big number. But 30,000,000 definitely is. According to the National Institute of Health, about 7,000 rare diseases exist, but they affect about 30,000,000 Americans.

Looking closer at the numbers, that means about 1 in 10 Americans face such a diagnosis. Rare Disease Day, the last Day of February each year, seeks to raise awareness for these diseases to propel more research and treatment options for patients.

What is a Rare Disease?

A rare disease, also called an orphan disease, means there are less than 200,000 diagnoses annually in the United States. These diseases can consist of any kind of disorder, syndrome, condition, or cancer. For cancer cases alone, about 50% of patients are battling a rare cancer.

Unfortunately, treatments for these diseases are also seemingly rare. Only 5% have treatments currently, with less than 500 FDA-approved treatments available. But there is still hope. In the past few years, cancer research has seen a facelift with huge undertakings to accelerate the pace and bring us closer to potential cures.

The Cancer Breakthroughs 2020 Initiative, for example, is an unprecedented collaboration spearheaded by Former Vice President Joe Biden. This project’s goal is bringing together pharmaceutical companies, academics, oncology researchers, governmental agencies and more to rapidly accelerate cancer research and treatment efforts. Though this project is focused on cancer specifically, other research projects like the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative are working toward changing how we treat and manage all diseases; they’re working towards better prevention and treatment to hopefully eliminate such suffering. For rare diseases like mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that typically sees about 3,000 diagnoses each year, research like this provides so much hope. Many rare disease patients face poor prognoses or a lot of uncertainty with how to approach treatment, so research is crucial.

Steps You Can Take

Rare diseases are notably very difficult to diagnose, and many patients face misdiagnosis for months. Since 80% of rare diseases are genetic and about half of these diagnoses occur among children, newborn screenings are so important. Early detection can allow for life-saving intervention and treatment. If a family has a history of a disease, genetic counseling can also help evaluate and determine the potential risks of an inherited disease.

For the diseases that aren’t genetic, prevention is the best approach. Following some preventive tips, like simply adhering to a healthier diet, can greatly reduce our risk of developing certain cancers. Educating yourself and becoming more aware of preventable cancers and diseases can also be the most important step to reducing your risk. For example, mesothelioma’s only known cause is exposure to asbestos; educating yourself on asbestos and its dangers, as well as where to find it, could essentially eliminate your risk of developing those asbestos-caused diseases.

Get Involved

We can all help support patients and their families suffering from a rare disease by simply raising awareness. Being better educated can truly help save lives, and a simple tweet could inspire someone to take more preventive measures. You can also help by donating to some of the ongoing research projects mentioned above or to disease specific organizations. Funding is essential to research and making a cure a reality.

If you want to learn about other ways to get involved, be sure to check out these suggestions from the National Organization of Rare Diseases, and spread the word on Rare Disease Day and beyond!

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6 Preventive Tips to Help Lower Cancer Risk

Did you know that 96% of all Medicare spending is spent on chronic conditions that have lifestyle health risk factors?1 You have more control over your health than you realize!

Lower Your Risk

Here are a few tips to help lower your risk of most cancers and chronic conditions. Practice these habits to build lasting changes for your health and wellbeing journey.

1. Know Your Numbers

Excess body fat has been shown to increase the risk of the following cancers: colorectal, esophageal, kidney, breast (in postmenopausal women), uterine, stomach, liver, gall bladder, pancreas, ovarian thyroid, meningioma and multiple myeloma. Also, there have been suggested links to prostate cancer, breast cancer in men and non-Hodgkin lymphoma with excess weight.

Extra fat around your belly may increase health risks more so than having extra fat around your hips and thighs. Getting to and staying at a healthy weight can help lower health risks, including cancers.

A BMI (body mass index) of 18.5 to 24.9 and a waist circumference of less than 40” for men and less than 35” for women will help lower your health risks. Calculate your BMI on the CDC website.

2. Eat Healthy and Exercise

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight requires both physical activity and a healthy eating plan. Any extra physical activity and healthier food choices can make a difference in improving overall health! Always check with your physician first to confirm that a new exercise or activity will be safe for you.

Avoid packaged, processed and fast foods. If it comes in a package, look for whole food options. Examples include steel cut oats instead of packaged quick oats or homemade soup and salad for lunch. Eliminate the boxed macaroni and cheese and roast a variety of vegetables in the oven instead. For dessert try making a recipe from scratch rather than from a box or better yet choose fresh fruit instead of packaged treats.

3. Sleep Well

Insufficient sleep is linked to an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes and obesity. The light emitted from electronic devices tends to wake up the brain and decrease melatonin production. Our bodies have a great capacity to continually heal and repair cellular damage and most of this occurs at night while we are sleeping.

Turn off all electronics 15 minutes earlier each night. Try reading a book rather than watching TV. Practice meditation, prayer, deep breathing or gentle stretching or yoga to help reduce stress and increase relaxation. Go to bed at the same time each night and rise at the same time each morning, aiming for a minimum of 7 hours of sleep each night.

4. Cut Down or Reduce Alcohol

Alcohol affects every organ in the body. The risk of cancers, along with other health problems can increase with the amount of alcohol consumed. Along with disrupting sleep, alcohol can result in weight gain, elevate blood glucose and increase triglyceride levels in the body. For most women, no more than one drink per day and for most men, no more than two drinks per day is recommended.3

Rather than meeting a friend for a drink, skip the alcohol and go for a walk together. If you typically have two glasses of wine with dinner, have only one. If you decide to have more than one alcoholic beverage at a sitting, sip on a full glass of water in between. Instead of alcohol, choose unflavored sparkling/seltzer water, add fresh berries or fruit slices and serve it in your favorite crystal or stem ware. And if alcohol helps you to unwind before bed, try replacing it with gentle stretching or yoga, listen to relaxing music, and enjoy a soothing cup of decaf chai tea.

5. Avoid Tobacco

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, and cigarette smoking causes almost all cases. “Compared to nonsmokers, current smokers are about 25 times more likely to die from lung cancer. Smoking causes about 80% to 90% of lung cancer deaths. Smoking also causes cancer of the mouth and throat, esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum, liver, pancreas, voicebox (larynx), trachea, bronchus, kidney and renal pelvis, urinary bladder, and cervix, and causes acute myeloid leukemia.”4

Visit smokefree.gov to learn how you can quit smoking.

6. Eliminate or Reduce Chemicals

Pesticides, industrial pollutants, cleaning supplies, cosmetics, and medications all contain chemical substances that can increase our risk of cancers and other health problems. The synthetic chemicals within these products can disrupt the normal functioning of our endocrine system resulting in reproductive and immune problems, obesity and increased inflammation throughout the body. Try to minimize or eliminate chemical products in your environment.

The “Dirty Dozen” & “Clean 15”

Use the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 produce lists when shopping for fruits and vegetables.

  • Check the labels on your cosmetics, shampoos, and lotions for parabens, a chemical preservative commonly used in personal care products, that mimics the hormone estrogen and can result in a much stronger effect and more aggressive growth of some cancer cells.
  • Check out EWG’s Skin Deep website or download the app to find safer options for your favorite products.
  • Switch out plastic food storage containers for glass. And stop microwaving food in plastic. Pickle and spaghetti sauce jars work great for food storage, without any additional cost.
  • Break a sweat! Sweating through exercise or sitting in a dry sauna are great ways to remove toxins from the body. Always check with your physician first to confirm that a new exercise or activity is safe for you try.

References

  1. Partnership for Solutions, Chronic Conditions: Making the Case for Ongoing Care (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2004).
  2. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/867919?nlid=109048_2981&src=wnl_dne_160826_mscpedit&uac=259999BR&impID=1185765&faf=1
  3. http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/basic_info/prevention.htm
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/prevention/other.htm

How to Create Healthy Eating Habits for Life

An eating pattern can be defined as the combination of foods and beverages that make up an individual’s complete dietary intake over time. It represents all of what individuals habitually eat and drink, and these dietary components work together to impact health.

Healthier Eating Habits

A healthy eating habit should be tailored to the individual’s personal, cultural and traditional preferences as well as food budget. An individual’s healthy eating pattern will vary according to their calorie level. Healthy eating habits can help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, support nutrient needs, and reduce risk for chronic disease.

The most nutritious or nutrient-dense 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 – all with little or no saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.

  1. Create healthy eating habits across the lifespan. All food and beverage choices matter. Choosing a healthy eating habit at an appropriate calorie level can help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, support nutrient needs, and reduce risk for chronic disease.
  2. Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount. To meet nutrient needs within calorie limits, choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods across all food groups in recommended amounts.
  3. Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake. Create an eating habit low in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. Cut back on foods and beverages higher in these components.
  4. Shift to healthier food and beverage choices. Choose nutrient-dense foods and beverages across all food groups in place of less healthy choices. Consider cultural and personal preferences to make these shifts easier to accomplish and maintain.
  5. Support healthy eating patterns for all. Everyone has a role in helping to create and support healthy eating patterns in multiple settings nationwide, from home to school to work to communities.1

Key Recommendations

Create healthy eating habits that account for all food and beverages within an appropriate calorie level and include:

  • A variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups— dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other
  • Fruits, especially whole fruits
  • Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
  • A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), and nuts, seeds, and soy products
  • Oils

A healthy eating pattern limits:

  • Saturated and trans fats
  • Added sugars, and
  • Sodium

Several components of the diet should be limited which are of particular public health concern, and the specified limits can help individuals achieve healthy eating habits within calorie limits:

  • Consume less than 10% of calories per day from added sugars
  • Consume less than 10% of calories per day from saturated fats
  • Consume less than 1 teaspoon of salt per day

If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation – up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men – and only by adults of legal drinking age.1

How much should you eat?

You should eat the right amount of calories for your body, which will vary based on your gender, age, and physical activity level. Find out your daily calorie needs or goals with the Body Weight Planner by visiting www.supertracker.usda.gov/bwp.

Nutritional needs should be met primarily from foods.

Individuals should aim to meet their nutrient needs through healthy eating patterns that include nutrient-dense foods. Foods in nutrient-dense forms contain essential vitamins and minerals and also dietary fiber and other naturally occurring substances that may have positive health effects. In some cases, fortified foods and dietary supplements may be useful in providing one or more nutrients that otherwise may be consumed in less than recommended amounts.

Healthy eating patterns are adaptable.

Individuals have more than one way to achieve a healthy eating pattern. Any eating pattern can be tailored to the individual’s socio-cultural and personal preferences.

Consult with your healthcare professional before making significant changes in diet and nutrition.

Tips to Save More at the Store

Stretch your dollar with these helpful tips:

  1. Eat before you shop. Grocery shopping hungry can lead to impulse buying and unhealthy food choices.
  2. Read the sales flyer. Sales flyers are usually released mid-week and can be found at the store’s entrance, in the newspaper, or on their website.
  3. Use coupons – but only for items that you know you’ll use. If you don’t need an item right away, save the coupon and see if it goes on sale.
  4. Look up and down for savings. Stores often stock the priciest items at eye level. You can save big by looking at the upper and lower shelves too.
  5. Check for store brands. Most stores offer their own brand of products that often cost less than name brands.
  6. Choose fresh foods. Stores typically stock shelves from back to front, placing the newest items behind the older ones. Reach in the back for the freshest items especially in the produce, dairy, and meat aisles.
  7. Ask for a rain check. If a sale item has run out, ask the store for a rain check. This allows you to pay the sale price after the item is restocked.
  8. Join your store’s loyalty program. Most stores offer a free loyalty program. Get special offers and discounts that non-members do not.2

References:

  1. Health.gov, Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020: http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/chapter-1/healthy-eating-patterns/
  2. ChooseMyPlate.gov: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/budget-save-more

Effects of Smoking on Your Health & Free Resources to Help You Quit

Smoking is a leading cause of cancer and the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Since the first Surgeon General’s report in 1964 more than 20 million premature deaths can be attributed to cigarette smoking.

Identifying the Risks

Research continues to identify diseases caused by smoking, including such common diseases as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and colorectal cancer. Additionally, exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke has been causally linked to cancer, respiratory, and cardiovascular diseases, and to adverse effects on the health of infants and children.**

CDC Risks from Smoking
Source: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/infographics/health-effects/index.htm#smoking-risks

Smoking can cause cancer and block your body from fighting it:

  • Poisons in cigarette smoke can weaken the body’s immune system, making it harder to kill cancer cells. When this happens, cancer cells keep growing without being stopped.
  • Poisons in tobacco smoke can damage or change a cell’s DNA. DNA is the cell’s “instruction manual” that controls cell growth and function. When DNA is damaged, a cell can begin growing out of control and create a cancer tumor.*

Doctors have known for years that smoking causes most lung cancers. It’s still true today, when nearly 9 out of 10 lung cancers are caused by smoking cigarettes. Smokers have a greater risk for lung cancer today than they did in 1964, even though they smoke fewer cigarettes. One reason may be changes in how cigarettes are made and the chemicals they contain. Although cigarette smoking has declined significantly since 1964, very large disparities in tobacco use remain across groups defined by race, ethnicity, educational level, and socioeconomic status and across regions of the country.

Treatments are getting better for lung cancer, but it still kills more men and women than any other type of cancer. In the United States, more than 7,300 nonsmokers die each year from lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke – combination of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke breathed out by smokers.

Smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in your body including: blood, bladder, cervix, colon and rectum, esophagus, kidney and renal pelvis, larynx, liver, lungs, mouth and throat, pancreas, stomach, trachea, lung, and bronchus. Men with prostate cancer who smoke may be more likely to die from these diseases than nonsmokers. Smokeless tobacco, such as chewing tobacco, also causes cancer, including cancers of the esophagus, mouth and throat, and pancreas.*

How Can Smoking-Related Cancers Be Prevented?

Quitting smoking lowers the risks for cancers of the lung, mouth, throat, esophagus, and larynx. Within 5 years of quitting, your chance of getting cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder is cut in half. 

Ten years after you quit smoking, your risk of dying from lung cancer drops by half. If nobody smoked, one of every three cancer deaths in the United States would not happen.

Quitting smoking improves the outlook (the prognosis) for people with cancer. People who continue to smoke after diagnosis raise their risk for future cancers and death. They are more likely to die from cancer than nonsmokers and are more likely to develop a second (new) tobacco-related cancer.

Help With Quitting Smoking 

For support in quitting, including free coaching, a free quit plan, free educational materials, and referrals to local resources, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). There are also free online resources at https://www.smokefree.gov.

References:

Cervical Health Awareness & Cervical Cancer

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, and there’s a lot people can do to prevent cervical cancer. HPV (human papillomavirus) is a very common infection that can cause cervical cancer.

About 79 million Americans currently have HPV, but many people with HPV don’t know they are infected. Each year, more than 11,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer.1

What Are the Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer?

Almost all cervical cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that can be passed from one person to another during sex. There are many types of HPV. Some HPV types can cause changes on a woman’s cervix that can lead to cervical cancer over time, while other types can cause genital or skin warts.

HPV is so common that most people contract it at some point in their lives. HPV usually causes no symptoms so it can be difficult to determine if you have it. For most women, HPV will go away on its own; however, if it does not, there is a chance that over time it may cause cervical cancer.2

Other things can increase risk of cervical cancer:
  • Having HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) or another condition that makes it hard for your body to fight off health problems.
  • Using birth control pills for a long time (five or more years).
  • Having given birth to three or more children.
  • Having several sexual partners.

The good news?

The HPV vaccine (shot) can prevent HPV. Cervical cancer can often be prevented with regular screening tests (called Pap tests) and follow-up care. A Pap test can help detect abnormal (changed) cells before they turn into cancer. Most deaths from cervical cancer can be prevented if women get regular Pap tests and follow-up care.

In support of National Cervical Health Awareness Month, National Cervical Cancer Coalition encourages:

  • Women to start getting regular Pap tests at age 21
  • Parents to make sure pre-teens get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12

It is recommended that teens and young adults get the HPV vaccine if they did not get vaccinated as pre-teens. Women up to age 26 and men up to age 21 can still get the vaccine. Visit www.nccc-online.org to learn more.

References:

  1. https://healthfinder.gov/NHO/PDFs/JanuaryNHOToolkit.pdf
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/basic_info/risk_factors.htm