Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Take Time for Your Health During the Holidays

The holidays are here, and that means a calendar filled with family, friends and festivities. And as wonderful as that can be, it can also make it challenging to stick to the regular routines that help keep us healthy.

To help you have the physical and mental freshness to fully enjoy the season, try these three simple tips for looking after your own health over the holidays.

Say “No” – Sometimes

Parties and get-togethers can pack the short six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. And while that is certainly a great thing, giving us a chance to connect and celebrate with others during the season, it can also be tiring and maybe even a bit overwhelming. When that’s the case, it may be time to start saying “no, thank you” to some invitations. Take time for yourself to re-charge so you can be that much more excited about the next event. And, don’t worry, Aunt Marge will forgive you for missing her afternoon eggnog and sing-along party.

Move Your Body Every Day – At Least a Little Bit

It’s hard to overestimate the overall health benefits of regular physical activity. Plus, the boost in mood it provides can be just what we need during the jam-packed and at-times stressful holiday season. Yet, when they’re presents to wrap, cards to write and food to buy, exercise is often the first thing we let slide. So, it’s all the more important that you make it a priority. Gift yourself the time to fit in a workout, even it’s just a short one. Try a 15-minute walk with your sister to the grocery store, a 10-minute jog around the old neighborhood with your cousin, or a quiet 20 minutes in your bedroom following a yoga video after everyone’s gone to bed. It can take a little creativity, but try to figure out what works for you.

Think Before You Eat

Food – a lot of great food – is one of the defining aspects of the holidays. So, it’s no real wonder that many people put on more weight between Thanksgiving and New Year’s than other times of the year. And it’s not just one or two major holiday meals that are to blame; it’s likely small amounts of overeating throughout. Two extra cookies here. A late-night meal with friends there. The extra daily calories can add up quickly to some extra pounds that can be hard to lose come the new year. Some simple strategies, though, can help keep such overeating at bay. And one of the easiest is to just take a moment to think before you eat. Most of us are prone to automatic eating, especially during the holidays. We often eat without really considering if we’re actually hungry or if we really even feel like eating. Next time you’re at a party or big family meal, try taking a quiet 10 to 15 seconds before you fill your plate or grab that appetizer. That short moment can do wonders, helping you figure out if you’re grabbing food because you really want it – or just because it’s there.

Healthy Holidays!

Friday, November 2, 2018

More Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet: Boost in Mood (and Other Positive Changes) for Those with Type 2 Diabetes

A new analysis out this week found that people with type 2 diabetes who eat a largely plant-based diet can experience a boost in quality of life and well being, in addition to improvements in other diabetes-related factors.

The analysis, which appears in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, reviewed the results of 11 separate dietary intervention studies in adults with diabetes.  Each study included a group that followed a largely plant-based or vegan diet and a control group that followed a standard comparison diet.  The studies included in the analysis lasted for at least 3 weeks.

Compared to the control groups, those in the plant-based diet groups reported a higher quality of life, better self-esteem, and lower rates of depression and perceived pain.  They also largely showed better blood sugar control, improved blood cholesterol, greater weight loss, and a drop in use of diabetes-related medications.

These findings suggest there could be important, wide-ranging benefits if more people switched from the standard American diet to one that limits animal products and focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and healthy oils (like vegetable and olive oil). Around 30 million Americans - or close to 10 percent of the population - have type 2 diabetes. And this number rises to 100 million if those on the cusp of developing diabetes (pre-diabetes) are included.

Plus, the benefits of plant-based diets reach well beyond those with diabetes. In more general studies, vegetarian or mostly vegetarian diets have been shown to curb weight gain and help with weight loss as well as lower the risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, unhealthy blood cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. And they are increasingly being recommended as a key aspect of efforts to improve environmental sustainability, as meat products require greater resources to bring to market than plant products.

While the switch to a plant-based diet can take some effort initially, it doesn't have to happen all at once, and it certainly doesn't need to be all-or-nothing. Try a new whole grain.  Go meatless for one day of the week.  Or make a recipe with beans that you'd normally make with ground beef.  There's no rush.  See what works for you and build on that.

Such moves toward more plant-based eating can have important benefits over time - for you, the nation, and the planet.

Why not give it a try?

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Video Tour: 8 Ways to a Healthier Weight - and Lower Risk of Cancer

Take a quick video tour of the latest from our 8IGHT WAYS series: 8IGHT WAYS to a Healthier Weight - and Lower Risk of Cancer.  Whether you're looking to maintain your weight or lose a few pounds, this new guide is filled with simple, useful, and brief tips to help you on your way.  Find it, and other in the series, here

Friday, August 10, 2018

Physical Activity Lowers Cancer Risk - More People Should Probably Know That

A new study has found that a large majority of the public may be unaware that lack of physical activity can increase the risk of cancer.

The study, out of Washington University in St. Louis and published Wednesday in the Journal of Health Communication, included a diverse sample of participants who were asked to list three diseases caused by physical inactivity. Just three percent of 351 respondents listed cancer, while over 60 percent listed diseases such as heart disease or diabetes.

These findings add to those of other studies and surveys that have shown that: while many people know that a healthy lifestyle overall can help prevent cancer, many are often unsure about the exact types of behaviors that can lower cancer risk.

A 2017 American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) survey, for example, found that the vast majority of respondents knew that smoking and sun exposure increased cancer risk, yet well under half identified physical inactivity as a risk factor.

There is a large amount evidence, however, showing the benefit of regular physical activity in relation to cancer.  It can lower the risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, and endometrial cancer. It can help with weight control - a key cancer risk factor. And in cancer survivors, it can improve mood, boost energy level, and possibly lower the chance of recurrence.

Physical activity has been an integral part of the Siteman Cancer Center's Your Disease Risk tool since its launch in 2000, and regular physical activity is recommended throughout Siteman's 8IGHT WAYS cancer series (see below).

Erika Waters, lead author of the Washington University study and Associate Professor of Surgery at the School of Medicine, commented: "People might be more likely to exercise if they understand just how important physical activity is to their overall health - not just their heart health."


Friday, August 3, 2018

For World Breastfeeding Week: Breastfeeding Tips & Tricks

Breastfeeding for a total of one year or more (combined for all children) lowers the risk of breast cancer. It also has great health benefits for the child. Unfortunately, as natural a thing as breastfeeding is, it doesn’t always naturally fit into today’s modern society. While things are certainly better than they were -- with more understanding workplaces and day care providers -- moms still often need to work hard to make it work.

Tips and Tricks – Breastfeeding

Start early and ask for help. Breastfeeding has the best chance of success when it’s started early, and this usually means beginning an hour or less after the baby is born. Many hospitals help mothers initiate breastfeeding, but it’s also best to let the delivery nurses know your desire to breastfeed your baby. If you have questions, ask. If you have problems, ask. Many hospitals offer great support for new moms who want to breastfeed – not only in the hours after birth, but the days, weeks, and months after as well.

Don’t be shy. Even though there are still a few vocal opponents to breastfeeding in public, put them at the back your mind, and charge forward and breastfeed when and where you need to. Job interviews and work meetings may not be the best venues to do so, but most other places are just fine.

Coordinate with your workplace and day care provider. Going back to work is just a fact of life for most new moms, and balancing work and breastfeeding can be a real challenge. A large percentage of new moms are interested in breastfeeding their children, and employers and day cares have taken note, offering much better resources than they used to. If you’re unsure about the resources available to you, ask. The human resources office is a good place to start.

Next Steps – Breastfeeding

Looking for more in-depth information on breastfeeding? Here are some good sources:

La Leche League

United States Department of Labor

National Conference of State Legislatures

Thursday, July 12, 2018

One in Five High Schoolers Vape or Use Tobacco. Tips for Guiding Your Teen Toward Healthier Choices

Recently released numbers from a national survey show that many high school-aged youth in the United States put themselves at risk for lifelong addiction by using tobacco or electronic cigarettes.

The 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System report found that 16 percent of girls and 24 percent of boys had vaped, used smokeless tobacco, or smoked cigarettes or cigars in the past 30 days (figure).

While experimentation is a natural part of youth, when it comes to smoking, it can have lifelong consequences.

Around 90 percent of adults who regularly smoke tried their first cigarette before age 18.  So, it’s important for parents to have open discussions with their children very early in life about the dangers of smoking, how addictive cigarettes and nicotine are, and how hard it can be to stop smoking once started.

Though in a tween and teen’s mind there can be a big draw to smoking – it can make them feel more mature and part of a group – there’s a lot going against it, too - even within the short time horizon that youth live in.  It’s expensive, and it makes clothes and breath smell.  And even some of the longer-term risks can be compelling, such as wrinkles, bad teeth, and an increased risk of many serious diseases, including cancer.

Electronic cigarettes are increasingly important to talk about in these ages as well.  Statistics show that kids are using them more and more, and though electronic cigarettes are often marketed as safe alternatives to standard cigarettes, there are a lot of possible dangers for youth who use them – from nicotine addiction to exposure to risky chemicals to a greater likelihood of taking up regular cigarettes.

As with other issues, a little media literacy can go a long way to dissuade children from falling for the allure of tobacco and electronic cigarettes.  The older children get, the more they like to feel in control and independent.  Helping them understand how tobacco companies try to manipulate them by constructing appealing images of tobacco in advertisements, TV shows, concerts, and movies can help them more easily resist smoking’s draw.  The Truth campaign by the American Legacy Foundation is a great source of information for parents and kids about Big Tobacco’s “lies and manipulation.”

One of the best thing parents can do is to lead by example and maintain a smoke-free and vape-free house and be smoke-free themselves.

A great source of information for parents and teens is, a federal site, which also includes smokefreeteen.

In the tween and teen years, children begin to fully explore their independence, and this translates to many of their health choices.  While parents may slowly lose some of the direct influence they have on their childrens' choices, it's important to remember that family life remains a very strong influence on the choices they make and the lasting habits they’ll form.