Tag Archives: health and wellness

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), more than 30.3 million people in the US have diabetes (that is 9.4% of the US population). And 7.2 million people may be undiagnosed. The count is rising every year.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes  is a chronic disease that affects how your body turns food into energy. The insulin hormone, which is made by the pancreas, helps the body turn blood sugar into energy. Blood sugar levels are a measure of how well a person’s body uses glucose. A diabetic person has high blood sugar (glucose) when his/her body does not produce enough insulin or because his/her body cells do not respond adequately to insulin, or both.

How are diabetics classified?

Type 1 – The body does not make insulin. It can appear at any age but is usually  diagnosed in children and young adults. Their bodies do not make insulin,  and they must take it to stay alive.

Type 2 –  The body does not make enough insulin or use it well. One can develop type 2 diabetes at any age, but it most often occurs in middle-aged to older people. This is the most common type of diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes – This diabetes type develops in some pregnant women but usually  goes away when the baby is born.  About 50% of women with gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

Risks for developing diabetes

A person’s risk for developing diabetes depends upon a number of factors, some of which can be controlled and some (age, family history, ethnicity) which cannot.

Some of the risk factors that can be controlled are these:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Having high blood pressure
  • Having a low level of  HDL (good) cholesterol, or a high level of triglycerides
  • Being physically inactive
  • Having a history of heart disease or stroke
  • Having a history of gestational diabetes

Getting an A1C test (sometimes called the hemoglobin A1C) at your next physical will indicate whether you have diabetes or are at risk for developing it. The higher your A1C levels, the greater your risk of diabetes complications. With an A1C level over 6.5 percent, type 2 diabetes is indicated.

Tips to Avoid Gaining Weight After You Stop Smoking

Do you plan to participate in the Great American Smokeout this month (Nov. 15) and kick the nasty habit once and for all?

You can do it!

We all know that smoking is an addiction which produces withdrawal symptoms when stopped. But did you know that the  physical withdrawal symptoms last only a few days to about a week. After that, it is the psychological symptoms (cravings) that are the most difficult to overcome. But cravings will lessen the longer you resist the urge to smoke until finally, you find that you really have quit smoking.

Some people say they smoke because it helps to keep them from gaining weight, and experts have said that it is common for people to gain some weight when they give up the habit permanently. Since smoking increases metabolism, quitting causes your metabolism to slow slightly; however, most smokers gain less than 10 pounds.

For those who gain more weight, it is likely that they use food (especially sweets and high-caloric foods) to help curb nicotine cravings.

Here are four tips to help keep you from gaining weight after stopping smoking:

1. Plan for healthy eating before you quit smoking.

Stock your kitchen with healthy food choices so when the urge to snack hits, you will have them within easy reach. You may start to crave sweets after you quit (your sense of taste and smell improve)—and satisfying these cravings can prevent you from reaching for a cigarette. Just make sure the sweets you eat are not calorie-laden, sugary treats. (Fruits like grapes, strawberries, sugar-free candy and gum are acceptable substitutes).

2. Substitute the cigarette in your hand with something else.

Your body and brain are accustomed to the pattern of constantly putting your hand to your mouth when smoking, so replace the smoking pattern with an alternative. According to the AHA (American Heart Association), eating a food like air-popped popcorn will take time to eat, keep your hands busy, reduce the urge to smoke, and help you to feel full. (Five cups of air-popped popcorn has only 150 calories.)

3. Drink lots of water. It not only keeps your body hydrated, but also fills you up and lessens the desire to snack.

4. Amp up the exercise! If you are sedentary, adding exercise or increasing the exercise you already do will increase your metabolism. Walking and extra 30-45 minutes a day can make up for the metabolism slow-down from quitting smoking and keep your weight stable.

Smoking releases thousands of toxic chemicals into your body, which damage your heart, lungs, and other organs. But quitting, even after years of smoking, can reverse these effects and add years to your life.

 

 

 

 

 

Staying Motivated to Exercise During Cold Weather

The weather is starting to get colder and the days shorter, which can make exercising the last thing you want to do. When it’s dark outside, it’s easy to stay snuggled in your warm bed and skip your morning workout, but with all of those holiday treats right around the corner, this is no time to slack off. How can you stay motivated to exercise in the colder months?

Set goals and make a plan.

Don’t wait for New Year’s resolutions; set goals for yourself now and make a plan to meet them. Whether your goals are to get fit, lose weight, or de-stress, or all of the above, schedule your workouts on your calendar just as you would a work meeting or doctor’s appointment. Treat these appointments just as you would any other important appointment, and then get the satisfaction of marking it off your “to do” list.

Move indoors.

If it’s too cold to do your regular run, walk, or bike ride outdoors, move your workout inside. You don’t need to belong to a gym to work out indoors. There are plenty of things you can do at home to stay fit: use workout DVDs or get free workouts on YouTube. If you have the space and it’s in your budget, invest in a treadmill or stationary bike to use at home. You can also try out fitness classes at places other than a standard gym—yoga studios, dance studios, and recreation centers. They offer all types of classes that often don’t involve a monthly contract.

Enlist a partner.

It’s always harder to skip a workout if someone else is depending on you. Partner with a friend to work out together this fall and winter. Bundle up and head out for a walk or run together, or find something else active you can do together such as playing indoor tennis, swimming indoors at a local YMCA, or trying out a new fitness class.

Ward off winter blues.

Remind yourself why working out, even when you don’t want to, always makes you feel better. Exercising on dark, cold days can help you keep away the winter blues by boosting your body’s endorphins. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is real and affects 10 to 20 percent of people, and exercise is one way to prevent or lessen its symptoms.

Reward yourself.

Staying motivated to exercise throughout the colder months is challenging. Reward yourself for staying active by treating yourself to a soak in a hot bath or a relaxing massage for sore muscles. Also, make sure you are getting enough sleep.

HR Focus: Recognizing Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Every October, the entire country turns pink. While it may be pretty, wearing pink or offering pink products does little to educate employees about breast cancer or raise money for the cause. In October, which has become the nation’s annual observance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, your company should develop a plan to provide information and education to employees on breast cancer prevention and early detection, as well as to find meaningful ways to raise funds for breast cancer research. Participating in Breast Cancer Awareness Month can help align your company with a worthy cause if done properly.

Here are some impactful ways your company can get involved this October:

Provide breast cancer prevention information and educational materials to employees and clients and their families.

Advocate for the cause by being proactive in helping employees take charge of their health. Connecting your company to breast cancer prevention can bring good will to your brand while providing useful information for women. Create a handout (with breast cancer facts, risk factors, mammogram information, and how to perform a self-exam) that employees can take home and use. Or add your logo to these pocket sliders (small interactive slide charts in which you match up the bullet point and view information and tips in the cutout window) available at  https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/2317504/Pinktober%20Promos.pdf?t=1537766091314.

Share breast cancer facts and prevention tips on your company’s social media.

Get creative on Facebook and Instagram by sharing photos and memes with prevention tips and breast cancer facts for the entire month of October.

Share breast cancer and nutrition facts.

There is a lot of misinformation about the causes of breast cancer, especially when it comes to diet. As a food service company, clarifying the connections of breast cancer and diet can have a big impact. Share the facts through educational materials, blogs, newsletters, and social media. A good place to start is https://breast360.org/topics/2017/01/01/breast-cancer-and-nutrition-facts-and-myths/.

Share survivor stories.

Sharing breast cancer survivor stories and photos is also a powerful way to recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If you have employees or clients who are willing to share their breast cancer stories, include their photos and stories in your company’s blog and/or newsletter with links to your social media.

Organize a company team for a Breast Cancer Walk/Run or other event.

There are numerous Breast Cancer Walks/Runs and other fundraising events happening in October all over the country. Find a local event and organize a company team to get involved by fundraising and participating the day of the event. At the event, your team can wear t-shirts with your company name and logo and give away promotional products to promote your partnership.

 

 

 

Recognizing the Signs of Heat Exhaustion

Summer may be winding down, but the weather outside is still hot. With fall just around the corner, you may be dreaming of pumpkin spice lattes and cozy sweaters, but in many parts of the country, September is still one of the hottest months of the year, so exercising outdoors should still be done with caution to prevent heat exhaustion.

 

Heat exhaustion happens when your body overheats. This condition is caused by exposure to high temperatures, especially when there is a combination of high humidity and strenuous activity. It is usually accompanied by dehydration. If not treated quickly and properly, heat exhaustion can progress to a more serious, life-threatening condition known as heatstroke. That’s why knowing the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and how to treat it is so important.

Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion

  • Excessive sweating
  • Feeling faint or weak
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Rapid pulse
  • Muscle cramps

Anyone can experience heat exhaustion, but infants, children, and the elderly are especially at risk during hot weather. Don’t forget that dogs and other pets can also get heat exhaustion and heat stroke, so never leave your furry friends outdoors for extended periods during hot weather, and never leave a pet, child, or infant in a hot car.

Treatment for heat exhaustion

If you experience any of the symptoms of heat exhaustion when exercising or spending a lot of time outdoors in the heat, the first thing to do is stop the activity and move indoors to a cooler place. Rehydrate your body with water or a sports drink to replace important electrolytes that are lost when your body overheats. Applying ice packs or cold, wet towels to your forehead, back of neck, and wrists can also help. With prompt treatment, your symptoms should resolve in a couple of hours, but if they do not or you feel worse, seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

If you do not get out of the heat and properly treat heat exhaustion, symptoms can quickly progress to heatstroke, which is a life-threatening emergency. Signs of heatstroke include confusion,  odd behavior, agitation, high fever, and seizure. If you or anyone you are with are displaying signs of heatstroke, always call 911 immediately.

You can prevent heat exhaustion by being aware of symptoms anytime you are outdoors in hot weather and staying hydrated by drinking fluids before, during, and after any activity.

 

 

 

 

 

HR Focus: Yoga in the Workplace

The connection between workplace wellness and employee productivity is well documented. In an effort to both boost employee health and improve employee retention in a tight job market, more and more companies are offering nutrition, fitness, and other wellness programs.

One offering whose popularity keeps growing is workplace yoga. Studies have linked the mind-body connection of yoga to better body image, more mindful eating, and improved fitness outcomes, among many other benefits. It turns out that when it comes to workplace wellness, yoga has some very specific benefits that increase employee productivity. Employees who participate in workplace yoga programs report:

  • Increased energy
  • Decreased pain
  • Stress relief
  • Better concentration
  • Heightened creativity
  • Improved morale

The practice of yoga is relatively simple; it requires only a mat and some room to move around. This relatively low barrier to entry—not requiring any special equipment or a specially-designed room—makes yoga programs among the easiest to set up. For just the cost of some mats and a certified yoga instructor, HR departments can offer lunchtime, morning, or evening yoga classes for employees. Evidence indicates that employees flock to these programs and even demand more.

A study from the National Business Group on Health estimates that around 50 percent of corporate healthcare costs are related to “lifestyle issues.” The World Health Organization counts stress and depression as major factors in reducing corporate employee wellness, citing “long hours, multi-tasking, stiff competition, rigorous commute, irregular eating habits, sedentary desk jobs, and bad sitting postures as the prime offenders contributing to poor employee states of mind.

Once a company has established a yoga program for employee wellness, the employees themselves often take it upon themselves to pursue their own individual yoga practices. Again, since yoga is such a fundamentally simple exercise, it lends itself to self-guided, self-paced practice that employees can do for 10 or 20 minutes on their own.

If you’re considering setting up a yoga program at your workplace, Workforce magazine has some tips:

  • Survey employees to gauge interest level, determine what type of yoga to offer, and identify the most popular times for classes.
  • Talk to several certified yoga instructors with experience creating and teaching workplace yoga programs.
  • Schedule classes several months in advance so employees can plan their schedules.
  • Educate employees the benefits of relaxation and stress management through yoga.

 

How’s Your Sleep Hygiene?

We’ve all heard about the importance of food hygiene, as well as personal hygiene, dental hygiene, and even workplace hygiene. But sleep hygiene? What does sleep have to do with keeping things clean and healthy? It turns out that sleep hygiene is related to health: to the healthy practices that lead to a good night’s sleep. The National Sleep Foundation defines sleep hygiene as “a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness.”

How’s Your Sleep Hygiene?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 35 percent of adults in the United States suffer from “short sleep duration,” that is, fewer than seven hours of sleep per night. Further CDC reports show that short sleep duration “impairs [the] ability to perform daily tasks,” and that “Chronic sleep deprivation also has a cumulative effect on mental and physical well-being and can exacerbate chronic diseases.” Are you among the over one-third of Americans who do not get enough sleep? Read on to learn how the experts suggest you improve your sleep hygiene for a better night’s rest.

According to Harvard Medical School and others here and here, there are many concrete steps you can take to improve your sleep hygiene:

  1. Reduce caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.  Alcohol may seem to make you sleepy, but it actually decreases your sleep quality.
  2. Create a sleep-friendly environment. You can do this by limiting light, noise, and the chance of interruptions. Keep TVs, computers, and work out of the bedroom to keep it a place for sleep. If you must have a phone or tablet, make sure it has a blue light filter or night mode, as studies have shown that the blue light from screens can disrupt the body’s natural sleep cycle.
  3. Create a pre-sleep routine to prepare your body for sleep. If you have insomnia or have difficulty falling asleep, try these methods from the National Institutes of Health.
  4. Try to sleep only when you’re ready to sleep. If you’re lying in bed for over 20 minutes, get out of bed and read a book or do something relaxing before trying again to get back to sleep.
  5. Connect your body to the sun’s rising and setting to achieve a more natural rhythm.
  6. Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Try to get up and go to sleep at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  7. Avoid naps, or take them as early as possible during the day.
  8. Eat and drink earlier, reducing intake before bed.
  9. Exercise earlier,too, to keep your body physiology read for sleep.
  10. Be consistent with all of these before writing them off. If your sleep hygiene is impeccable, but you’re still having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about possible medical conditions that may be affecting your sleep.

 

 

This February, Love Your Heart!

A Heart-Healthy Roundup

This February, Love Your Heart!

February is the month when whole sections of stores turn red and fill up with heart-shaped treats: most of them edible, and most of them very unhealthy. This February, in addition to celebrating the people you love, why not also celebrate one of your most important organs: your heart! We’ve checked with the experts and gathered the best heart-healthy advice from two well-respected organizations when it comes to heart health: the American Heart Association and the Cleveland Clinic.

Let’s start with the American Heart Association, which has some basic guidelines to follow:

  • Use up at least as many calories as you take in.
  • Eat a variety of nutritious foods from all the food groups.
  • Eat less of the nutrient-poor foods.
  • As you make daily food choices, base your eating pattern on these recommendations:
    • Eat a variety of fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables and fruits without high-calorie sauces or added salt and sugars.
    • Choose fiber-rich whole grains for most grain servings.
    • Choose poultry and fish without skin.
    • Eat a variety of fish at least twice a week, especially fish containing omega-3 fatty acids.
    • Select fat-free (skim) and low-fat (1%) dairy products.
    • Avoid foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans-fat in your diet.
    • Limit saturated fat and trans-fat, and replace them with the better fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
    • Cut back on beverages and foods with added sugars.
    • Choose foods with less sodium, and prepare foods with little or no salt.
    • If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation.
    • Follow the American Heart Association recommendations when you eat out, and keep an eye on your portion sizes.

The Cleveland Clinic has some specific recommendations for heart-healthy meals and snacks, including what nutrients they provide:

  • Eat fish high in omega-3s, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, and trout.
  • A handful of healthy nuts, such as almonds or walnuts will satisfy your hunger and help your heart.
  • Berries are chock full of heart-healthy phytonutrients and soluble fiber. Try blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, or raspberries in cereal or yogurt.
  • Flaxseeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and phytoestrogens to boost heart health. Take them in ground or milled form to reap the greatest benefit.
  • Eat oatmeal: the comfort-food nutrient powerhouse.
  • Dark beans, such as kidney or black beans, are high in fiber, B-vitamins, minerals, and other good stuff. Veggie chili, anyone?
  • A 4-ounce glass of red wine (up to two for men and one for women per day) can help improve good (HDL) cholesterol levels.
  • Try marinated tofu in a stir-fry with fresh veggies for a heart-healthy lunch or dinner.
  • Red, yellow, and orange veggies such as carrots, sweet potatoes, red peppers, and acorn squash are packed with carotenoids, fiber, and vitamins to help your heart.
  • Popeye was right—spinach packs a punch! Use it in sandwiches and salads instead of lettuce.
  • Fruits such as oranges, cantaloupes, and papaya are rich in beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium, and fiber.
  • Tender, sweet asparagus is filled with mighty nutrients such as beta-carotene, folate, and fiber, and only provides 25 calories per cup, or 5 calories per large spear.
  • Tomatoes—even sun-dried varieties in winter months—provide lycopene, vitamin C, and alpha- and beta-carotene.
  • Dark chocolate is good for your heart health, but just be sure that it’s at least 70 percent cocoa.
  • Crisp, fresh broccoli florets dipped in hummus are a terrific heart-healthy snack with a whopping list of nutrients, including vitamins C and E, potassium, folate, calcium, and fiber.

 

When Life Gives You Lemons… or Oranges, or Grapefruit… or Clementines

Your definitive guide to citrus

By December, summer fruits are a distant memory: except for those shipped from South America. For closer-to-home fruit, ‘tis the season for citrus. During the winter, citrus fruit is grown extensively in Florida and California, so it’s widely available across the United States for several months.

When Life Gives You Lemons

We recognize citrus for its tough, bitter outer rind, its soft white inner layer, and its delicious, juicy, sweet/sour inside. Most citrus is very high in vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants called flavonoids, so it’s an excellent, healthy snack. Here’s the inside scoop on our favorite winter fruit.

Pomelo (citrus maxima) is the largest commonly available citrus fruit. One of the four original (non-hybridized) citrus fruits, the pomelo looks like—and tastes like—a large, sweet grapefruit, but it’s a little less bitter.

Grapefruit (citrus paradisi) is an accidental hybrid of the pomelo and the orange. It is actually higher in sugar than many other citrus fruits, but its high citric acid and ascorbic acid content can make it taste sour. Because of its high acid content, grapefruit and grapefruit juice can interfere with many medications, so check your medicine bottles before enjoying.

Orange (citrus × sinensis) is one of the easiest-to-find fruits, not only in the winter, but all year long. Naval oranges, with their thick skins and sweet taste, are most common, but look further to find blood oranges, Valencia, and Cara Cara varieties; they each have a different flavor, texture, and juice. Try a taste-test!

Mandarin (citrus reticulata) is actually a form of orange. Mandarins are smaller than many oranges, and their skin is often looser, so they’re easier to peel. Common mandarin breeds are clementines, tangerines, and satsumas. Of these, clementines are the easiest to find. Often sold in large bags or boxes, they are seedless and easy to peel, making them lunchbox favorites for adults and children alike.

Kumquat is the smallest citrus fruit: about the size of an acorn. Its skin is so soft that the fruit can be eaten whole, either fresh or candied.

Are You Ready for a Holiday Fitness Challenge?

Commit to a short daily fitness routine to help you stay healthier this holiday season.

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, an endless succession of family dinners, office parties, and edible gifts can derail even the healthiest eaters. Combined with the colder weather, ‘tis the season to pack on the pounds like a Christmas goose.

Holiday Fitness Challenge

To counteract the seasonal splurges, why not try an office exercise challenge? For yourself or for a group of colleagues, these workplace exercises can be a fun way to keep fit.

Day One: Stairs

Once an hour, run up and down a flight of stairs at least once. Advanced/ambitious team members can do several flights each hour.

Day Two: Desk Pushups

Every two hours, stand up and place hands on desk, about shoulder-distance apart. With your arms straight, walk your feet backwards until your body is at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Keeping your body straight, do 10 pushups.

Day Three: Superman/Banana

For core strength, you have to hit the floor, so you may want to bring a towel. First, lie face-down on the floor, with your arms above your head, pointing straight in front of you. Then lift your arms and legs a few inches off the floor; you’re Superman! Hold for 30 seconds, then rest. Flip onto your back, with your arms extended over your head. Carefully, making sure your lower back doesn’t arch; lift your arms and legs so that your body forms a wide V. You’re a banana! Hold for 30 seconds, then rest. Do three times during the day, and try to lengthen the time you hold each pose.

Day Four: Walking Challenge

This one works best if you’re doing a fitness challenge with a group. Once an hour, write a note—an encouraging quote, or a joke, or a bit of good-natured gossip—to a colleague. Walk to that person’s office in the most roundabout way possible.

Day Five: Wall Sits

Standing around waiting for the coffee to brew? Sit instead… against the wall. Wall sits work your legs and core, and they’re harder than they look. Stand straight, with your back against the wall. Slowly slide your back down the wall, bending your knees until they are at a 90-degree angle. Now hold it for as long as you can. For fun, get other colleagues to join you, and see who can hold it the longest. Get someone to take a picture; there’s your company photo! The company that stays fit together stays together!