Prep Your Family for Disasters During National Preparedness Month

September is National Preparedness Month, a time for you and your loved ones prep for and practice how to handle disasters. This year’s theme: Disasters Happen. Prepare Now. Learn How.

When disaster strikes, time is of the essence. That’s why it’s crucial for you to only have a plan of action but to also have materials you may need gathered in a safe location and to practice your plan with your family before it’s too late.

From wildfires to hurricanes to tornados to earthquakes, you could find yourself and your family in need of life-saving tactics such as first aid and CPR. You could also need provisions such as food and water, cash and important documents such as insurance policies, utilities such as water and gas shut off.

The Department of Homeland Security’s yearly awareness campaign invites you to use the month of September to get your plan and your provisions prepared so you can be ready to face possible natural disasters.

Here are the campaign’s weekly themes:

Week 1 September 1-8: Make and Practice Your Plan

Cover the basics:

  • Make an emergency plan
  • Sign up for alerts and warnings in your local area
  • Learn evacuation zones
  • Practice your plan
Week 2 September 9-15: Learn Life-Saving Skills

Focus on valuable skills and tactics:

  • Know basic home maintenance
  • Learn how to turn off utilities
  • Test smoke alarms throughout your home
  • Learn life-saving skills such as CPR
Week 3 September 16-22: Check Your Insurance Coverage

Consider how to manage possible aftermath:

  • Check your insurance policies for adequate coverage
  • Learn about other types of insurance you may need for your loved ones and your homes
Week 4 September 23-29: Save For an Emergency

Think about your financial well-being:

  • Plan your finances for possible disasters
  • Maintain emergency savings

In times of disaster, quality health insurance may help you and your family face challenges brought about by hazardous conditions. Talk to your insurance agent about choosing policies that make sense for your health and your lifestyle needs.

Ask your agent about:

Visit the National Preparedness Month campaign website for more information on this significant opportunity to raise awareness.

*Note that STM and limited benefit insurance do not count as minimum essential coverage required by the Affordable Care. They are not sufficient forms of coverage to avoid facing a tax penalty. They are not suitable to serve as sole medical coverage. Review policy terms, conditions, limitations, and/or restrictions prior to making a purchasing decision.

 

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Know Your Status on National HIV Testing Day

For National HIV Testing Day this year, make it your mission to know your HIV status. You’ll have powerful information to help keep yourself healthy and to make informed healthcare decisions.

See the infographic below to learn more about HIV and action steps you can take today.

9 Hacks to Make Your Summer Fitness Goals Your Reality

Whether you’re headed to a block party with neighbors, a beach day with family, or a picnic in the park with that special someone, there’s no doubt that food and fun are on your summer schedule. Some outings may include food you may be trying to avoid, and those sunny beach days may inspire you to be more leisurely than active. A few treats and a few leisurely days are surely well deserved though, right?

When it comes to staying on track with your food and fitness goals and enjoying your summer, it’s all about balance.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Be food prepared.

If you’re headed to a summer party where you know you’ll be tempted or where there won’t be food that accommodates your diet, pack a grab-n-go. Protein bars from brands like NuGo Nutrition and Larabar are usually $1-$2 per bar, packed with plant-based nutrients, and accessible at stores nationwide and on Amazon. Sliced fresh fruit, granola bars, and nuts are other quick, easily portable options.

Pick up your pace.

Of course you’re ready to get your chair and towel positioned just right and relax on the sand. But take a lap by the water before you get settled to squeeze in a few more steps and burn a few more calories.

Make meals simple, quick, and fun.

You’ve got your neighbor’s BBQ at 3 and friends coming over to your place at 6, so you need something shareable and convenient, but impressive. Baste colorful kabobs of tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, and squash with olive oil and spices before roasting them in your oven (or whip out your grill!) for 10-12 minutes. Cut whole sweet potatoes in down the middle, place them in aluminum foil, and bake them for 40 minutes. When they’re done, add peanut butter and cinnamon to them, cut them into smaller pieces, and serve them with toothpicks. Or when time is super short, snag some hummus or salsa from your local farmers’ market or grocery store, serve it on a fun platter and call it a day!

Carry a reusable water bottle.

It can be tempting to pop open a fizzing can of Coke or hit the Starbucks drive-thru for your favorite frappuccino while riding around with the convertible down this summer, but don’t let the heat talk you into making to a decision packed with sugar and calories that you may regret later.

Find fun ways to use resistance bands.

You can do quick and simple exercises with them during long days in the office and during your activity packed weekends. If you’re traveling this summer, be sure to bring them along. They take up minimal space and can inspire you to keep moving even on vacation.

Bring the chill to your meals.

A hot kitchen can often be the least fun place on these scorching summer days. Give yourself a brrr-eak from cooking with meals that require little to no cooking and that are chockfull of nutrients and yumminess. You may find some of the meals here to be colorful and shareable enough to carry with you to summer parties. Bonus points: with cool meals, you won’t have to worry about reheating food you travel with.

Make time to disconnect.

It’s easy to get caught up in all things planned even during the summer. From work commitments to our pressing social calendar to our ever-present technology, it can be challenging to stop and unwind. Schedule time to do just that this summer – no matter how challenging that may seem. Write down an hour of mediation or reading in your calendar, turn your phone off for an afternoon, forward your calls to voicemail for a day, or turn your out of office reply on and go take a walk. Long-term health and fitness successes include consistently disconnecting and clearing your schedule so you can clear your mind

Get your family and friends moving with you.

Beating the heat in a nice cool movie theater may be a fun afternoon activity for you and your loved ones, but so may taking a hike in your local park or challenging neighbors or coworkers to a game of kickball. Find activities that your loved ones enjoy and that keep them active, and then keep them engaged consistently. Having fun and enjoying quality time together can help them see that being active can be fun and help you stay motivated to meet your health and fitness goals.

Enjoy early morning activities.

You may not be able to talk your night owl loved ones into games or hikes in the AM, but you can beat the heat and tell them about your fitness fun later. Grab your bike (or rent a bike if you’re in a metropolitan area) and hit the pavement for a few miles. Hit your local park and watch the animals wake up with the sun as you hike by. Find a local outdoor recreation center and try out some new moves like these.

 

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handheld fitness equipment and water bottle

Break Out of the Office Space with Fit Play

When temperatures begin rising and the trees begin to bring the colors of spring to life, it can be difficult to stay inside during the workday, especially if you work in a sedentary job. The Centers for Disease Control recommend adults partake in1:

  • At least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity; or
  • 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity; or
  • An equivalence combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.

Also recommendedis that we focus our daily nutrition and fitness routines on what Dr. Michael Greger calls The Daily Dozen, including foods such as beans, berries, cruciferous vegetables, and whole grains and exercise such as 90 minutes of moderate activity or 40 minutes of vigorous activity. (You can download The Daily Dozen app free for the iPhone and Androids.)

While you stare out your office window and daydream about how to make time to improve your activity levels and nutrition, here are some tips to get you started:

Get outside with coworkers

A walk in a nearby park can easily relax and refresh us, allowing us to be more productive and maintain greater focus. Start a walking club with coworkers, and plan to get your spring strides in for at least 20 minutes. Hold your next department meeting outside as well and enjoy the cardio and fresh air as a team. Ask management to host a walk or a meeting of their own outside so they can have a chance to see how fitness and wellness help your team become more productive.

Make small strides (they add up!)

Proclaim every Friday to be email-free; instead of emailing your colleagues, walk over to have a chat with them. Take the stairs to get there and to get back to your desk. Walk while you’re on that conference call; instead of taking it from your office phone, dial in from your cell phone so you can stretch and move while still working. Don’t snag that highly prized front parking place each morning when you arrive; instead, park at the far end of the parking lot or even a few complexes away if possible. If you take public transportation, get off a couple of stops before your place of work and walk the rest of the way.

Hold a fit feast

Work with your company’s event and/or wellness teams to host a lunch highlighting healthy foods. (If your office doesn’t have one or both of those committees, start one or both yourself!) Ask employees to bring in their favorite plant-based dishes and/or healthy seasonal fare or coordinate several choices from a local restaurant. Work with management to award fun fitness and health related gifts for the coworkers who bring in the most brightly colored dish, the tastiest dish, the most creative dish, etc.

Nix nibbling

You likely have your desk organized in a way that allows you to work efficiently and quickly. You may also have it arranged in a way that is conducive to snacking. Avoid storing high calorie junk foods in your desk that may tempt you throughout the day, especially if your workdays are stressful. Also, avoid using your desk as your lunch space; instead, get away from your desk to enjoy your lunch. Move around a bit before and after as well.

Organize a day of activity

Work with your events and/or wellness teams to organize a field day with friendly competitive events such as kickball, relay races, soccer, and an obstacle course. You could also include activities such as yoga and a walking challenge for your coworkers who would rather relax than compete. Not only will such a day help morale but it will also3 help you and your coworkers by boosting your alertness and productivity and alleviating stress.

 

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Sources:

 

1: “Current Physical Activity Guidelines.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/prevention/policies_practices/physical_activity/guidelines.htm

2: “Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen Checklist.” Michael Greger, M.D. NutritionFacts.orghttps://nutritionfacts.org/video/dr-gregers-daily-dozen-checklist/

3: “How Does Exercise Improve Work Productivity?” Julie Boehlke. https://www.livestrong.com/article/422836-how-does-exercise-improve-work-productivity/

doctor holding prosthetic kidney

March Spotlights Spring Health Cleaning with National Kidney Month

Spring cleaning season is upon us, a fitting time to learn more about kidney health. March is National Kidney Month, and the National Kidney Foundation is using the month to encourage us all to visit our healthcare professionals for a checkup. Take the time during this particular health observance to learn more about your kidney health as well as ways you can protect it.

Let’s take a look at why the kidneys are so imperative to our health1:
  • They filter waste out of 200 liters of blood each day
  • They regulate of the body’s salt, potassium and acid content
  • They remove drugs from the body
  • They balance the body’s fluids
  • They release hormones that regulate blood pressure
  • They produce an active form of vitamin D that promotes strong, healthy bones
  • They control the production of red blood cells
Talk to your healthcare professional about these alarming statistics1:
  • Kidney disease is the 9th leading cause of death in the country
  • More than 30 million Americans have kidney disease, and most don’t know it
  • There are over 95,000 people waiting for kidney transplants
  • More than 590,000 people have kidney failure in the US today
So what can you do to protect the health of your kidneys? Consider these recommendations:
  • Eat a whole food, plant-based diet2. You can learn about meals focusing on veggies, fruits, whole grains, lentils, etc and more plant-based options herehere, and here.
  • Eat meals that include plant protein, as research shows they reduce mortality in chronic kidney disease3.
  • Know what healthy kidneys do and how to recognize symptoms of chronic kidney disease4. You can click here to take an online assessment to rate your risk.
  • Maintain a healthy weight, stay active, and monitor your blood sugar level5.
  • Stop smoking6. You can click here for tips to help you stop.

 

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Sources:

1: “Focus on the Kidneys During National Kidney Month in March.” National Kidney Foundation. https://www.kidney.org/news/monthly/Focus_KidneyMonth

2: “Can a Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet Help to Preserve Kidney Health?” T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.  https://nutritionstudies.org/can-whole-food-plant-based-diet-help-preserve-kidney-health/

3: “Plant Protein Reduces Mortality in Chronic Kidney Disease Patients.” National Kidney Foundation. https://www.kidney.org/news/plant-protein-reduces-mortality-chronic-kidney-disease-patients

4: “Six-Step Guide to Protecting Kidney Health.” National Kidney Foundation. https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/sixstepshealthprimer

5: “8 Golden Rules: What Can You Do for Your Kidneys?” World Kidney Day. http://www.worldkidneyday.org/faqs/take-care-of-your-kidneys/8-golden-rules/

6: “What Effects Does Smoking Have on the Kidneys?” LiveStrong.comhttps://www.livestrong.com/article/266870-what-effects-does-smoking-have-on-the-kidneys/

 

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doctor holding a patient's hand with a teal overlay

Advocate for Cervical Health Awareness This Month

2018 is upon us; with it comes opportunities to improve our health and to learn about health concerns our loved ones may face. One approach to do so is to recognize annual health awareness observances such as January as Cervical Health Awareness Month.

Promoting awareness resources about specific and often preventable health concerns throughout the year is an active step we can all take to advocate for more discussions, more questions, more media coverage, and most importantly more knowledge about diseases that impact millions.

Resources from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC), and the American Cancer Society (ACS) show us how pervasive HPV and cervical cancer are:

  • At any time, there are approximately 79 million people in the United States with HPV1.
  • There are 14 million new HPV infections in the United States each year1.
  • HPV is so common that most people get it at some time in their lives and usually causes no symptoms2.
  • If HPV does not go away on its own, there is a chance that over time it may cause cervical cancer2.
  • While the cervical cancer death rate has gone down by more than 50% thanks to the increased use of the Pap test, nearly 13,000 new cases of invasive cervical cancer are estimated to have been diagnosed in 20173.

What can you do? 

  • Talk to your doctor about your health as well as the health of loved ones.  Vaccines can help prevent infection from both high risk and low risk HPV and are recommended for all boys and girls at the age of 11 until the age of 261.
  • Know the risk factors. The CDC notes that smoking, using birth control pills, giving birth to 3 or more children, and having several sexual partners are all risks for cervical cancer2.
  • Get tested. Schedule a cervical cancer screening and/or a Pap test. A Pap test can find cell changes to the cervix caused by HPV. HPV tests find the virus and help healthcare providers know which women are at highest risk for cervical cancer1.
  • Understand the options. There is no treatment for HPV, but there are options to treat diseases caused by the virus.
  • Advocate for the importance of early detection. Talk to your loved ones about this disease and make sure they know it’s preventable. Ask your local media to cover Cervical Health Awareness Month. Ask your local legislators to publicly recognize this important health observance.
  • Consider finding support. Reach out to online communities at Inspire.com, a website that specializes in connecting patients, partners, and caregivers to resources they may need.

 

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Sources:

1: “Ten Things to Know About HPV and Cervical Cancer.” National Cervical Cancer Coalition. http://www.nccc-online.org/images/pdfs/10ThingsHPV_CCAM.pdf

2: “What Are the Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer?” Centers for Disease Control. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/basic_info/risk_factors.htm

3: “What Are the Key Statistics About Cervical Cancer?” American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer/about/key-statistics.html

 

 

 

 

Butt Out for the Great American Smokeout

Each year on the third Thursday of November, the American Cancer Society invites smokers to participate in the Great American Smokeout, an event focused on preventing disease and death caused by cigarettes and tobacco.

Smokers are encouraged to:
  • Give up the use of cigarettes/tobacco for the day;
  • Use the day to make a plan to quit; or
  • Quit smoking that very day

According to the American Cancer Society1, “by quitting – even for 1 day – smokers will be taking an important step toward a healthier life and reducing their cancer risk.” While quitting smoking can be difficult, it has both immediate and long-term benefits to your health as well as the health of loved ones who smoke2:

  • After 20 minutes, your heart rate and blood pressure drop
  • After 12 hours, your carbon monoxide levels return to normal
  • After 1-9 months, coughing and shortness of breath decrease
  • After 1 year, your excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of someone who still smokes
  • After 5 years, your risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder is cut in half
  • After 10 years, your risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of those who don’t smoke
  • After 15 years, your risk of coronary heart disease is that of those who don’t smoke

With the consistent rises in costs for medical care and insurance, it’s likely that you are worried about potential financial battles you’ll face or your loved ones will face whether you smoke or not. Quitting smoking is a lifestyle change you or your loved ones can make to prevent and/or lower risk of the conditions noted above as well as to lower the risk of diabetes and to extend life expectancy2.

When considering quitting or talking to loved ones you’d like to see quit, visit these resources from the American Cancer Society. Quitting isn’t easy, but when smokers know how to do it and know where to go for help, it’s more likely the lifestyle change sticks. Smoking is lifestyle choice that is among the largest preventable causes of disease and premature death1, and you and/or your loved ones who smoke deserve the support to be to make a different choice.

 

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Sources

1: “The Great American Smokeout.” American Cancer Society.

https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/great-american-smokeout.html

2: “Great American Smokeout: Free help for those who want to quit smoking.” Dr. Janna Kroiss. http://www.htrnews.com/story/life/2017/11/06/great-american-smokeout-free-help-available-those-who-want-quit-smoking-cigarettes-ask-doctor/836503001/

child weighing food options during National Childhood Obesity Month

Make Healthy Choices to Combat Childhood Obesity

One in 3 children in the United States are overweight or obese according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services1. That means obesity affects approximately 12.7 million children and adolescents2. The month of September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about this epidemic and to highlight simple steps parents, teachers, communities, and health professionals can take to combat it.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, children with obesity are at a higher risk for3:

  • Asthma
  • Sleep apnea
  • Bone and joint issues
  • Type 2 diabetes

They also have more risk factors for3:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol

In addition to the emotional toll obesity may take on children due to bullying and social isolation, they are also more likely to have obesity as adults. Adult obesity is associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and many types of cancers3.

So what can we do to prevent obesity in children?

  1. Be role models. Make healthy choices when it comes to nutrition and fitness. Fill your plates with colorful fruits and vegetables. Stick to a fitness schedule. See your doctor regularly for checkups.
  2. Get kids involved. Let kids help in the planning and preparation of meals and in workout routines.
  3. Make creative choices. Prepare snacks and meals that are creative and colorful. Plan fitness routines that involve being in parks or fun recreational areas.
  4. Make small changes. Keep fresh fruit within reach or go on a family walk after meals.
  5. Talk with teachers and school administrators. Ask them to provide healthy food options and daily physical activities for students. 
  6. Communicate with health professionals. Learn how they show leadership within their communities and which programs they support that prevent childhood obesity and encourage improved nutrition, fitness, and wellness. 

 

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Sources:

1: “September: National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://healthfinder.gov/NHO/SeptemberToolkit.aspx

2: “YCMA Offers Health Tips for Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.” Chicago Tribune. http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/glenview/community/chi-ugc-article-ymca-offers-health-tips-for-childhood-obesity-2017-08-30-story.html

3: “September is National Childhood Obesity Month.” Centers for Disease Control. https://www.cdc.gov/features/childhoodobesity/index.html

 

Fruits and Veggies - More Matters Month

Pack Your Plate for Fruits and Veggies Month

“Eat your spinach!”

“Don’t trade your banana at lunch!”

“Yes, you have to clean your plate. Yes, that includes the Brussels sprouts!”

Most of us heard these messages – or something similar – from our parents when we were kids. Fruits and veggies may not always have been the most tantalizing foods back then (and they still may not be now), but there is no denying that we need lots of them in our diet1.

September is Fruits and Veggies – More Matters Month, an annual celebration that puts the focus not just on eating more fruits and veggies but also on how they can lower our risk2 of:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Certain cancers
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure

Did you know that…

…a low-fat plant based diet can control and/or reverse3Type 2 diabetes?

…plants are loaded with protein3?

veggies and fruits are packed4 with calcium, iron, and vitamin D, among other nutrients?

leafy greens5 help protect our tissues against free-radical damage, help keep our nerves, brain, and spinal cord healthy,

and help bone marrow make new red blood cells?

fruits and veggies6 are considered nutrient-dense and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourages increased consumption of these plant-based foods?

 

According to the USDA’s Choose My Plate7 program, half your plate of each meal should be fruits and veggies. That may seem like a lot, especially when your diet doesn’t currently meet that recommendation, but here are some tips to help you on your journey to healthier eating:

  • Keep a bowl of fruit on your counter. This keeps it convenient, in your line of sight, and attractive – three qualities that will make it more likely
  • for you to choose a piece of fruit over less healthy options the next time you go to the kitchen.
  • Take a few minutes each week to cut up fruits (or buy bagged frozen options) to store them in convenient – and portable – containers for later use.
    Grab a container when you head out the door each morning.
  • Challenge your loved ones to try a new veggie with you each week.
  • Add (or increase the amount you normally add) veggies to your standard dishes like pasta, soup, or sandwiches.
  • Choose frozen fruit bars (100% fruit – no added sugar) instead of ice cream or yogurt.
  • Add greens to your breakfast smoothie.
  • Replace carbs with vegetables. Instead of making mashed potatoes, make mashed cauliflower.
  • Use lettuce instead of bread for sandwiches and wraps.
  • Make overnight oats and add steamed veggies or fruit to the top.
  • Swap the noodles you typically use for veggie noodles. With a spiralizer, you can make noodles from vegetables such as zucchini and squash.
  • Add carrots, squash, broccoli, kale, or other veggies to your tomato sauce.
  • Slice veggies such as avocados, carrots, or zucchini and bake as fries until crispy.

Looking for a farmers’ market near you for fresh fruits and veggies? Click here8.

Know someone who could use help eating healthy? Click here9 for tips on how to start the conversation:

September is also National Childhood Obesity Month. Click here10 for information on how fruits and veggies can help support healthy growth in children. Click here11 for information on the Salad Bars to Schools project.

 

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Sources:

1: “Everything You Eat and Drink Matters.” https://www.choosemyplate.gov/variety. United States Department of Agriculture.

2: “September: Fruit & Veggies – More Matters Month.” https://healthfinder.gov/nho/SeptemberToolkit2.aspx. United States Department of Health and Human Services.

3: “What the Health: Facts.” http://www.whatthehealthfilm.com/facts/.

4: “Power Sources.” http://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/pplate/power-sources. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

5: “Why Eat Dark, Leafy Greens?” http://doctorklaper.com/answers/answers16/. Dr. Michael Kapler.

6: “More Plants on the Plate.” http://nutritionstudies.org/plants-plate/. T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.

7: “MyPlate.” https://www.choosemyplate.gov/MyPlate. United States Department of Agriculture.

8: “Local Food Directories: National Farmers Market Directory.” https://www.ams.usda.gov/local-food-directories/farmersmarkets. United States Department of Agriculture.

9: “Healthy Eating: Conversation Starters.” https://healthfinder.gov/HealthTopics/Category/nutrition-and-physical-activity/nutrition/healthy-eating-conversation-starters. United States Department of Health and Human Services.

10: “September is National Childhood Obesity Month.” https://www.cdc.gov/features/childhoodobesity/index.html. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

11: “Salads Bars to Schools.” http://www.saladbars2schools.org/.