Health Management


In most parts of the country, winter is certainly here. The weather is cold and rainy and the days are getting shorter. Some people love it (mostly just in anticipation of snow) but the rest of us will be looking forward to summer in a month or two at the latest. Most of these winter-resenters accept the changing of the seasons as a fact of life – since changing the Earth’s rotation is more than our nation can handle in a recession, we must either grin and bear it or move to Florida.

But 4 to 6 percent of Americans have a genetic disposition for depression and sluggishness catalyzed by the colder, darker days of winter, as brought up by this CNN article. These people have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression. Symptoms of SAD, according to WebMD, may remind you of hibernation habits:

  • Losing interest in your usual activities.
  • Eating more and craving carbohydrate-based foods, such as bread and pasta.
  • Gaining weight.
  • Sleeping more and feel drowsy during the daytime.
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    It’s not just getting in touch with your inner grizzly bear, though, since the disorder also causes depression and mood swings including sadness and anxiety. These symptoms indicate SAD when they occur at about the same time every year, usually late autumn to early winter. Experts believe that shortening days are the prime catalyst, as they can disrupt the Circadian rhythms that help keep the body clock in order.

    If you think you are suffering from winter depression, you should talk with your doctor. If SAD is diagnosed, treatments ranging from light therapy (periodically staying close to a large, bright light) to medication (which should always be taken as directed). Experts also recommend exercising and making the most out of the season by skiing, ice skating and enjoying the holidays.

    Acknowledging and treating SAD is a way to insure your health and happiness throughout the year.

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    Sodium is not just salt; any chemical listed in the ingredients with the word “sodium” counts, including sodium chloride (table salt).

    Sticking with salt as sodium for now, though, take this picture into mind:

    The average adult needs only about a tablespoons worth of sodium, but they often get twice as much

    The average adult needs only about a tablespoon's worth of sodium, but they often get twice as much

    You’ll know all you need to know about sodium after reading this impassioned Cooking Light article on CNN.com, written by a chef who had a sodium-induced heart attack. There are links to some great low-sodium recipes, too.

    A new study of nearly 20,000 patients of all ages shows that the flu vaccine is a statistical success in curbing the often-troublesome, sometimes-dangerous influenza disease. The study, done by CVS Caremark, found that hospital visits related to pneumonia and influenza went down 24% for people who received the immunization. What’s more, overall hospital visits went down nearly 20% among the vaccinated group.

    Colder weather is on the way, and flu season, as always, is right behind it. The above evidence shows that the flu vaccine works. With the flu vaccine, you can keep your family healthy and out of the hospital this winter, especially if someone you know suffers from chronic conditions like diabetes, heart failure, or asthma.

    Flu vaccinations are inexpensive and easy to come by. The flu season started this month, so now is the time to receive your flu shot if you have not yet. Talk to your HR manager about where you can get a flu vaccination to help insure yourself against a cold that doesn’t need to be so common.

    Regular exercise is a crucial part of living a healthy lifestyle and preventing health problems down the road. Experts recommend 30-90 minutes of strenuous activity for adults. This is a difficult level to achieve for many Americans, but there are ways for everyone to start. The worst exercise you can get is none at all. The Mayo Clinic details more benefits of exercise, such as mood improvement and sleeping better.

    Many companies are helping their employees stay fit with gym memberships or in-house fitness centers. But as long as you have the time and take the necessary measures to avoid injury, you could just as well get the exercise you need from the comfort of your own home.

    If you’ve been thinking of doing any of the following:

    Losing weight
    Building up healthy weight
    Getting toned
    Getting stronger
    Being active

    -then check out these do-it-yourself fitness websites and insure yourself that you’ll be on your way to getting in great shape!

    http://www.fullfitness.net/ – If you can get by the spelling errors, this website is a great, free resource that lays out procedures that match what you want to do with your body and what you can do. The constantly-updated site also tells you how to do all the suggested exercises.

    www.mamashealth.com – This webpage goes in depth on creating a respectable home gym without spending a lot.

    BenefitsVIP.com has some useful insider information that shows just why companies are implementing more wellness programs and urging their employees to lead healthier lives and lifestyles.

    A new report from the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH for short) shows that prevention programs could save the United States over $16 billion in just five years’ time. The average return on investment for healthcare payers, from Medicare to private payers, is over 5 to 1. A $100,000 investment by a company is, on average, saving the company over half a million dollars!

    Wellness programs implemented to stop common life-threatening conditions like heart disease and stroke are effective enough to reduce cases five percent in five years. Diabetes-prevention programs, a useful tool in a time when over 24 million Americans suffer from Type II diabetes, reduce cases five percent in only two years!

    People are always saying that the cost of healthcare is a tough pill to swallow. The information in this TFAH report shows that living a healthier lifestyle makes that pill easier to take. Employers are heeding this advice. More companies than ever are going to start using disease management and wellness programs.

    And it pays to start your path too wellness on your own. You can avoid leg-pulling from your boss by learning how to eat right, getting enough exercise and quitting the habits you know are bad for you. This helps you feel even better; overall it creates an even bigger return on investment, which means there’s more money saved on healthcare to go around for other things!

    As seen in this iVillage report, there is good news and bad news in the search for the source of the latest produce-borne bacterial outbreak.

    Tomatoes were the first suspects in carrying salmonella, which has infected over 1,200 people nationwide. They recently got off the hook when they were all labeled safe to eat by the FDA.

    But now the FDA is warning against jalapeno and serrano peppers, which this blog reported as suspect two weeks ago. The infected peppers were found in a Southern Texas distribution facility and were flagged as a product of Mexico. Remember that even if this is far from your home, the food may still have reached your local supermarket.

    As you read the report, you will see that still nothing is set in stone. Mexico is not necessarily the source of the bacteria infecting these crops.

    We at BenefitsVIP recommend you continue to insure yourself against salmonella by watching out for suspect produce. Also, in general, remember to wash all food properly before eating. Head here to learn more about handling food properly.

    Did your mother have diabetes?  Did your father suffer from heart disease?  Was there an aunt who was depressed?  A brother who has cancer?  You and your doctor need to know these things.  We know that staying well involves more than just visits to the doctor’s office – it is important to truly understand their family health history.

    Health care professionals have known for a long time that common diseases – heart disease, cancer, and diabetes – and even rare diseases – like hemophilia, cystic fibrosis, and sickle cell anemia – can run in families. If one generation of a family has high blood pressure, it is not unusual for the next generation to have similarly high blood pressure. Tracing the illnesses suffered by your parents, grandparents, and other blood relatives can help their doctor predict the disorders to which they may be at risk and take action to keep them and their family healthy.  

     

    • A detailed family medical history allows you and your doctors to:
    • Observe patterns and identify conditions and risks before they affect you or your families.
    • Prepare, plan or take steps to avoid these conditions.
    • Decide what test may be needed to come to a diagnosis.
    • Identify other family members who may be at risk and calculate their chance of passing certain diseases to their children.

     

    Use a family gathering like Thanksgiving to interview family members about their health.  Try to include information about as many generations as possible.  Include half-brother and half-sisters since they too share some of your DNA.    Talk about cancer, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease.  Try to get specific information: What kind of cancer?  At what age was it diagnosed?  Did the relative die?  At what age?

     

    Save a copy and give one to your doctor.  Every Thanksgiving update the document as needed.   It’s worth taking the time to learn more about your relatives’ health.  As former U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona said: “The bottom line is that knowing your family history can save your life.”

     

     

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