Going Beyond Diet and Exercise

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 Toni Sperlbaum, CWWPM, CHWC, Vice President of Sales & Marketing

When you think of the term “wellness program”, the first thing that often comes to mind when it comes to programming are diet and exercise.  More and more, however, we are seeing a more whole-person wellness movement in the field which includes not only diet and exercise, but many other factors such as financial wellness, stress management, ergonomics, spiritual wellness, and much more.

September is National Yoga Month, which means it’s the perfect time to offer onsite yoga classes at your facility or at least provide local resources and information to your members.  Luckily, yoga hits two birds with one stone.  Many yogis see their practice as their own personal escape, connecting deeply to their core values and philosophy.  It also combines physical postures, breathing exercises, meditation and stress relief.  Seventy seven percent of people report regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress, and those who participate in yoga report reducing stress levels.

Outside of the mental benefits, no one can deny that yoga is a better workout than seems to those who haven’t done it before!  Not only does it improve flexibility, strength, and muscle tone, one 2011 study showed that 12 weekly yoga classes resulted in better function than usual medical care in adults with chronic or recurring low-back pain.  What this means for your health plan is less doctor or physical therapy visits!   It has also shown to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, improve respiration and energy, and reduce cardiovascular disease. It’s really a win-win.

If you’re not a big fan of yoga, or feel you are unable to host a class onsite for whatever reason, I encourage you to put out a Deep Breathing, Meditation,  at-home yoga challenge to your members, or even a Lunch & Learn seminar regarding some of these topics.  As you can see from the few benefits I sited above (there are many more!), mental and emotional wellness are just as important as diet and exercise.  That makes healthier, happier, more productive, and lower cost employees.

Namaste.

What Is Cholesterol

   Ryan Hall  MS, CSCS, Wellness Coordinator

Something that comes up a lot during Health Screenings and Health Coaching are questions around: “What is Cholesterol?”

Cholesterol is in the fats in your blood. Two types of cholesterol exist: LDL, which is also known as low-density lipoprotein and HDL, which is also known as high-density lipoprotein. LDL is known as the “bad” cholesterol, because it causes a buildup of plaque in the arteries. HDL is known as the “good” cholesterol because it helps the body get rid of excess fat in the blood by carrying it away from the organs to the liver, so that it can be removed.

Ok, that’s all fine and dandy, but why do we need to be so mean to the poor lipoproteins and start calling them names! Look here, LDL cholesterol isn’t necessarily bad. Wait! What did he just say! Yeah, you heard me, it’s not all bad. LDL cholesterol plays an important function in the body, if not, it wouldn’t be there and our bodies sure wouldn’t be producing it naturally. So, what does it do then?

LDL Cholesterol is produced in the liver as a transport mechanism for fat to be taken to the organs that utilize fat as an energy source. FYI, the brain can only use fat as an energy source. So these lipoproteins serve a pretty important purpose, get energy to your brain so you don’t die! The problem with LDL is it has a tendency to drop fat particles as it travels to the organs. This is where HDL comes in. HDL transports excess fats in the blood stream back to the liver to be reprocessed. Let’s make an analogy out of this cause well, that’s how I understand stuff best.

LDL is a worker carrying a load of wood pellets down a hallway to a stove (ie, your brain) to get it working. He has so many pellets in his hands that he has a tendency to drop some along the way. Well along comes HDL, the cleaning crew, and he picks up the dropped pellets out of the hallway and takes them back to the recycling center (your liver) to get them ready to be picked up again. This works out great in a 1:1 ratio, LDL : HDL. Now let’s say that we have hundreds of workers carrying pellets to the stove, each dropping some along the way and only a handful of cleaning crew members trying to pick it all up. Ugh oh, anyone else see the problem? Sooner or later the small cleaning crew just can’t keep up and the hallway gets clogged up. Can anyone say clogged arteries? This is why we like to see low LDL numbers and high HDL numbers. Now this is a very simplified version of what LDL and HDL do for the body. As we all know, the body doesn’t like to be simple in any way, shape or form. Just know that the best way to make changes is to know what your numbers are. So get your screenings done so you know where to start.

Insulin – Good vs. Evil: Which Side Are You On

   Ryan Hall  MS, CSCS, Wellness Coordinator

Insulin and glucagon are the primary hormones involved in the storage and release of energy within the body. Although countless tasks are performed by these two hormones, insulin’s main priority is to keep blood sugar levels from rising too high and conversely glucagon’s main function is to prevent blood sugar levels from falling too low. How about we focus on the instigator of the group, insulin.

In appropriate amounts, insulin keeps the metabolic system running smoothly with everything in balance. In excess it becomes a mischievous hormone running throughout the body, wreaking metabolic havoc and leaving a trail of destruction and disease where ever it goes. Here’s what excess insulin can cause:

  • Hunger
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Bloating
  • Fluid retention throughout the body
  • Increased fat in the cells
  • A changing of protein & sugar into fat
  • Obesity
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Elevated cholesterol levels
  • Diabetes
  • Arterial damage
  • Heart disease
  • Brain dysfunction
  • Coma
  • Death

Now that we know what too much can do, how do we control it? Well, through diet of course! Controlling our blood sugar levels will control our insulin and glucagon levels. You eat foods high in carbohydrates (sugar) and the pancreas releases insulin to help decrease the jolt of blood sugar. Constant ingestion of high carbohydrate foods in turn causes a constant elevated release of this tricky little hormone. Sooner or later, the receptor sites in our cells (how the insulin gets in) become overloaded and eventually can stop recognizing the insulin, i.e. – insulin resistance. At this point the cells do not receive the insulin to control the increasing blood sugar level, but the body keeps dumping in more and more insulin to try and control it. Oh no! Look ma, excess insulin!

The solution: a diet low in those pesky carbohydrates, you know, that stuff that can cause these giant fluctuations in blood sugar. Now, not all carbohydrates are created equal. The good: fresh fruits and vegetables with low glycemic loads (lower sugar content). The bad: processed carbohydrates such as grains, pastas, rices and packaged baked goods. All of these have high sugar contents that cause blood sugar levels to skyrocket. A good rule of thumb: if it comes in a package or a box it probably isn’t good for you!

Osteoporosis Awareness

Nicole Griswold, CHWC, Wellness Coordinator

Lack of preventative care is a huge reason as to why so many people eventually suffer from ongoing chronic disease. With so many risk factors being asymptomatic, anyone who avoids regular visits with a physician, usually have no idea their health is in a downward spiral until it’s too late.

Unfortunately, osteoporosis is becoming one of the leading health issues contributing to long term unemployment due to disability. Osteoporosis is also known as the “silent disease” because it is nearly impossible to tell if someone is suffering from the low bone density disease, unless they are directly tested for it.

Luckily, we have pin pointed a good amount of risk factors that can keep us aware if we are most at risk than others for acquiring the disease. Like all health related risk factors, some are preventable and others are just the hand that we are dealt.

Take a look at just some of the following factors that could put you at risk for Osteoporosis –

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  1. Female
  2. Old age
  3. White or Asian ethnicity
  4. Small body frame
  5. Family history of Osteoporosis
  6. Menopause before age 45
  7. Previous bone fractures
  8. Loss of height with older age

Modifiable

  1. Physical inactivity
  2. Low calcium and vitamin D intake
  3. Smoker
  4. Excessive alcohol and caffeine intake
  5. Low strength/physical capabilities
  6. Poor posture
  7. Excessive soda consumption
  8. Various medications

How many of those apply directly to you? More importantly, how many of the modifiable factors can you change? Focus on controlling what you can as much as possible.  If multiple non-modifiable factors also come into play, it is recommended to seek care or testing from a physician.