September Is National Cholesterol Education Month

                                                                                      Todd Freitag                                                                                          Sales/Wellness Coordinator


September is National Cholesterol Education Month, a good time to get your blood cholesterol checked and take steps make any necessary lifestyle changes. Children, young adults and older Americans can have high cholesterol. Learn how to prevent high cholesterol and know what your cholesterol levels mean.

National Cholesterol Education Month is also a good time to learn about lipid profiles and about food and lifestyle choices that help you reach personal cholesterol goals before the holiday season hits us when we typically consume higher fat content food and become less active. More than 102 million American Adults (20 years or older) have total cholesterol levels at or above 200 mg/dL, which is above healthy levels. More than 35 million of these people have levels of 240 mg/dL or higher, which puts them at high risk for heart disease.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in many of the foods that we eat and also in our body’s cells. Our bodies need some cholesterol to function normally and can make all the cholesterol they need. Cholesterol is used to make hormones and vitamin D. It also plays a role in digestion. Too much cholesterol can build up in your arteries. After a while, these deposits narrow your arteries, putting you at risk for heart disease and stroke.

How do you know if your cholesterol is high?

High cholesterol usually doesn’t have any symptoms. As a result, many people do not know that their cholesterol levels are too high. However, doctors can do a simple blood test to check your cholesterol. High cholesterol can be controlled through lifestyle changes or if it is not enough, through medications.

It’s important to check your cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.

Many things may increase your risk for high cholesterol, including:

  • Genetics: High cholesterol runs in some families.
  • Age: As we age, our cholesterol levels rise.
  • Medicines: Certain drugs can elevate cholesterol levels.
  • Obesity: Individuals with overweight or obese body mass indices are at greater risk for high cholesterol.
  • Diet: Consuming high quantities of saturated and trans fats can raise LDL cholesterol levels.
  • Inactivity: Activity helps to elevate HDL cholesterol. Lack of activity has the reverse effect — it increases LDL cholesterol.
  • Smoking: Tobacco products decrease HDL and increase LDL. The link between smoking and high cholesterol is greater for women.

How often should you have your cholesterol checked?

It is recommended to have your cholesterol checked at least every four years but it doesn’t hurt to have it checked regularly as cholesterol can change with little time. Preventive guidelines for cholesterol screening among young adults differ, but experts agree on the need to screen young adults who have other risk factors for coronary heart disease: obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, and family history

Less than half of young adults who have these risk factors don’t get cholesterol screening even though up to a quarter of them have elevated cholesterol.

A simple blood test called a lipoprotein profile can measure your total cholesterol levels, including LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol), HDL (high-density lipoprotein, or “good” cholesterol), and triglycerides.

The following chart shows optimal lipid levels for adults:

                                                                                         Desirable Cholesterol Levels
Total cholesterol Less than 170 mg/dL
Low LDL (“bad”) cholesterol Less than 110 mg/dL
High HDL (“good”) cholesterol 35 mg/dL or higher
Triglycerides Less than 150 mg/dL

What are Triglycerides?

Triglycerides are a type of fat (lipid) found in your blood. When you eat, your body converts any calories it doesn’t need to use right away into triglycerides. The triglycerides are stored in your fat cells. Later, hormones release triglycerides for energy between meals. If you regularly eat more calories than you burn, particularly from high-carbohydrate foods, you may have high triglycerides (hypertriglyceridemia).

Can children and adolescents have high cholesterol?

Yes. High cholesterol can develop in early childhood and adolescence, and your risk increases as your weight increases. In the United States, more than one-fifth (20%) of youth aged 12–19 years have at least one abnormal lipid level. It is important for children over 2 years of age to have their cholesterol checked, if they are overweight/obese, have a family history of high cholesterol, a family history of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or certain chronic condition (chronic kidney disease, chronic inflammatory diseases, congenital heart disease, and childhood cancer survivorship.

If you have high cholesterol, what can you do to lower it?

Your doctor may prescribe medications to treat your high cholesterol. In addition, you can lower your cholesterol levels through lifestyle changes:

  • Foods such as legumes, avocados, nuts, fatty fish, whole grains, fruits and berries, dark chocolate and cocoa, garlic, soy foods, vegetables, dark leafy greens, and extra virgin olive oil
  • For adults, getting at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week. For those aged 6-17, getting 1 hour or more of physical activity each day.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Don’t smoke or quit if you do.

Guide to Environmental Wellness

                                                                              Toni Sperlbaum                                                                                           VP of Sales and Marketing


For the purpose of this article, we are going to define “Environmental Wellness” as: How design, operations, and behaviors within the workplace can be optimized to advance human health and wellbeing.

Did you know?

  • Humans spend 90% of their time inside buildings
  • We also work 62,400 hours of our lives (assuming 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, and 30 years as our timeline)
  • 80% of adults in the U.S. go through their day at least mildly dehydrated
  • Harsh, inconsistent, or glare-filled lighting over the course of 8-10 hour workdays is a prominent cause of sleep disorders and causation of headaches, affecting productivity
  • Worker performance can be lowered by 66% when distracted by office noise, while even a 4% – 6% decline in productivity can be measured when building temperatures are non-optimal
  • Having elements of greenery and nature incorporated report a 15% increase in employee well being, a 6% increase in productivity, and a 15% increase in creativity.

Because we spend so much time at work, we as HR professionals and key players in making change happen in our workspaces can have a huge effect on how these spaces impact employees’ health and wellness goals.  The goal is to remove barriers to success by amending the environment.  Some of these changes are simple, while others require planning ahead of a new construct or majorly overhauling your current buildings.

The three factors to environmental wellness include 1. Policies and Procedures, 2. Social Supports, and 3. The Built Environment.

Here is your basic guide to evaluating your facilities to help your employees be successful:

Built Environment

  • Ensure you have a kitchen or common area/break room with microwave, fridge, sink, utensils, and/or dishwasher. This will encourage employees to bring lunch instead of eating out
  • Filtered/drinkable water accessible
  • Indoor & outdoor walking paths marked (doesn’t have to be a physical path – take some steps or a measuring device and figure out mile markers, in or outdoors)
  • Bike racks
  • Basketball hoops (or similar activity) in the parking lot
  • Vending machine overhaul. Require 50% of your machines have healthy options, move unhealthy options lower while moving healthy options to eye level, or inflate prices of unhealthy options in order to make healthier foods more affordable and accessible. At least post nutrition facts about the contents on the outside of the machine so employees have the knowledge to  make better choices.
  • Indoor greenery
  • Lively and energetic paint colors on the wall
  • Allow standing desks (or better yet, use standing desks as an exciting prize to one of your wellness contests!)
  • Wellness bulletin board. A designated area to communicate all things wellness.
  • Paintwork or artwork on walls in facility. You can even have an employee art contest to highlight their talents and engage employees in voting to choose the winners to be hung.
  • Talk to maintenance about regulating temperatures and keeping air moving
  • Hopscotch boards on the floor entering meeting rooms or bathrooms. Extra steps, a quicker pulse, and unavoidably, a smile.
  • Outdoor seating area (picnic table or bench) to get some fresh air, vitamin D, and eat lunch (prevents more frequent trips to get fast food)
  • Stairwells? Make them more attractive by painting the walls (FUN, employee work, not just normal paint colors, although that will help), having music in the stairwell, or having fun facts posted about taking the stairs v. the elevator and how it’s better for your health.
  • Elevators? Put prompts outside of elevator about stair health facts (calories burned, muscles used, elevated heart rate, blood flow, etc.)
  • Bigger Overhauls – natural lighting (skylights or moving workspaces towards windows) & dedicated Well Mom lactation rooms

Policies

  • Unhealthy food laying around – must have healthy options next to a candy dish
  • Catered lunch – if the organization is catering in lunch for meetings with people larger than 4 people, healthy options must be available for a choice
  • Nicotine free campus
  • Make clear if employees can use yoga balls at their desks or if that is a hazard in your organization

Social Supports

  • Walk Well Wednesdays Club
  • Working mother groups
  • Softball/Kickball leagues
  • Biking groups
  • Saturday 5K training groups
  • Community events groups – Relay for Life, Heart Walk activities
  • Weight loss groups

Don’t Forget the Sunscreen!

                                                                               Christina Falahee                                                                                 Wellness Coordinator/Health Coach


During the summer, many of us are excited to spend time outdoors after being cooped up all winter. It’s during these warm months we spend most of our time outdoors. Although the sun is a great source of vitamin D, moderation is key.

July is National Ultraviolet Safety Month which is a great way to shine a light on the effects of UV rays and spread the importance of sun safety. UV radiation is the leading cause of skin cancer in the United States. It can cause eye damage including cataracts and macular degeneration.

 Who are Most Susceptible?

  • Had skin cancer before
  • Have a family history of skin cancer, especially melanoma
  • Have many moles, irregular moles or large moles
  • Have freckles and burn before tanning
  • Have fair skin, blue or green eyes, or blond, red, or light brown hair
  • Live or vacation at high altitudes (the strength of UV rays increases with elevation)
  • Live or vacation in tropical or subtropical climates
  • Work indoors all week and then get intense sun exposure on weekends
  • Spend a lot of time outdoors
  • Have certain autoimmune diseases, such as lupus
  • Have certain inherited conditions that increase your risk of skin cancer, such as xeroderma pigmentosum or nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome (Gorlin syndrome).
  • Have a medical condition that weakens your immune system, such as infection with HIV
  • Have had an organ transplant
  • Take medicines that lower or suppress your immune system
  • Take medicines that make your skin more sensitive to sunlight.

 How Do I Protect Myself from UV Rays?

  • Seek Shade: UV light is the strongest between the hours of 10am and 4pm. If you are unsure how strong the sun’s rays are, use the shadow test: if your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun’s rays are the strongest, and it’s important to protect yourself.
  • Protect Your Skin with Clothing: Clothes provide different levels of UV protection. Dark colors generally provide more protection than light colors. A tightly woven fabric protects better than loosely woven clothing. Dry fabric is generally more protective than wet fabric.
  • Read Your Sunscreen Labels: Sunscreens with broad spectrum protection protect against both UVA and UVB rays and with sun protection factor (SPF) provides UVB ray protection. Values of 30 or higher are recommend. Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming and sweating, even if it’s labeled “water resistant”. Be sure to check the expiration date on the sunscreen. Most sunscreen products are good for at least 2 or 3 years, but you may need to shake the bottle to remix the ingredients.
  • Wear Your Sunglasses: Effective sunglasses should block glare and 99 – 100% of UV rays and have a wraparound shape to protect the eyes from all angles.
  • Routinely Check Your Skin for Any Changes: Birthmarks, new moles and marks should be consistently examined for alterations in size, shape and color or if they look and feel differently from other moles and marks on your body.

Wellness Committee Best Practices

                                                                                  Toni Sperlbaum                                                                                           VP of Sales and Marketing


Whether your wellness program is in its infancy or has been around for a while, The Institute for Health and Productivity Studies has determined that there are three primary best practices to be successful; leadership support/promotion, devoting sufficient resources to health promotion efforts, and a wellness committee.

Have you ever heard the phrase “Culture eats strategy for lunch”?  We as HR professionals can strategize the “best wellness program” all day long, but if your culture is directly interfering with your wellness efforts (your manager rolls their eyes when you leave to do your biometric health screening, walking or stretch breaks are considered you skimping out on your job, the organization celebrates “Donut Friday” every week, etc.), then the strategy means nothing.  A wellness committee is going to be the accountability point for your strategic plan and will be the grassroots effort to changing that culture.

The role of a wellness committee is to communicate, participate in, motivate, and support the organization’s worksite wellness program.  They will foster collaboration and enthusiasm among employees, provide a link between employees and management, represent and share co-workers’ ideas and concerns, encourage a positive work environment, and can reshape the company’s culture to promote healthy living.

What are the best practices?

  • Meet regularly (every other month or quarterly)
  • Call for new members annually
  • Set terms on your committee to continue getting fresh ideas
  • Get a good cross section of representatives, considering gender, age, type of departments/workers, management types, etc.
  • Don’t get all of your runners and skinniest people on the committee. This is so important!  It’s easy to think “they are a runner, they should be on the committee!” The truth is, unhealthy employees can relate to the unhealthiest representatives and that is exactly the kind of traction we are looking to get
  • Set committee procedures – have a formal agenda, create minutes, nominate a chair
  • Set ground rules – be prompt and courteous to others’ ideas, establish “voting” to determine which ideas get implemented, protect employee confidentiality when sharing ideas/concerns, and follow through on promises and commitments made.
  • Have the committee (not HR) develop the strategic plan, a mission statement, and a vision for the program. The mission statement is there to guide activity planning and facilitate smart spending (your CFO will love that).  If the activities do not directly impact the mission statement, it is not carried out.
  • HR should not be involved in this committee. It should be employee run for the most effective results (although holding the chair accountable through one-on-one touch-bases is absolutely acceptable and encouraged).

Other ideas for committees

  • Have your CEO put out a letter or video charging the organization to make wellness a priority, and invite members to join the committee. This will very boldly give permission.
  • Have supervisors nominate their employees. This gets supervisors involved, giving permission for their employee’s participation, and give them the chance to recognize the employees by nominating them for a special project
  • Have an application process for interested employees. This lets members know what they’re in for and committing to.
  • Host an awards luncheon at the end of the year. Give awards to committee members or wellness champions for highest personal participation in activities, the highest group participation in screenings/HRAs, the most additional programs implemented, and many others!  Invite supervisors, senior leadership, and even family members would be great recognition for the employee.

There are many ways to utilize a wellness committee, but if you have many of the above processes in place, your committee is off to a GREAT start!

Superman, The Hulk, The Flash, Mr. Fantastic & He-Man walk into a Gym……

   Ryan Hall  MS, CSCS, Wellness Coordinator

Superman, The Hulk, The Flash, Mr. Fantastic & He-Man walk into a gym…stop me if you have heard this one!  You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this.  Sit tight as I drop a little superhero analogy on you.  First off, a little comic book background on our subjects:

Superman (Muscular Endurance):  As the saying goes – “Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound…nanana…it’s Superman!” With this intro behind us, Superman represents all that is seen as muscular endurance; speed, strength and power.

Hulk (Muscular Strength): The green giant with the strength to destroy buildings, throw a tank and pretty much put any power lifter to shame. I don’t know of a better epitome of muscular strength in the comic world.

Flash (Cardiovascular Endurance): Does this one really need any explanation? With the ability to move, think and react at light speeds as well as having superhuman endurance that allows him the ability to run incredible distances, there is no one better to represent cardiovascular endurance.

Mr. Fantastic (Flexibility): Some of you may be wondering who this one is, think Fantastic 4. Mr. Fantastic has the ability to stretch his body like a giant rubber band, i.e. he’s very flexible.

He-man (Body Composition):  Think Arnold Schwarzenegger in a loin cloth at his peak.  Yeah, that’s He-Man.  Not to mention the superhuman strength and speed.

Okay, introductions out of the way I’ll get to the point. My question to you is: who do you want to be? In other words, what is your goal? Too many people start off an exercise routine not knowing what they really want. They want to lose weight, get stronger, bulk up their muscle mass and be able to run a half marathon.  That all sounds fine and dandy, but you have too many contradicting factors.  You can’t bulk up and lean out at the same time.  It’s incredibly hard to build serious muscle mass and train for cardiovascular endurance.  And not to mention become a yoga master and dead lift 600 pounds.  The way you train needs to match what your goals are.

If you are looking to gain muscle mass and you are starting off as a scrawny 6 ft – 175 lbs, you will probably need to go through a bulking process where you are consuming extremely high amounts of calories and limiting your cardiovascular exercise in order to gain not only muscle, but some excess fat in order to push heavy enough weight to make the muscles grow.  You say you want to get faster and run a marathon?  You should probably skip max dead lift day.  Training the muscles to be able to work hard for long periods of time is your strategy.  Think lots and lots of lunges and core work.  You want that rock hard six-pack?  Nutrition should be your first thought, but moderately heavy weight coupled with moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise is your route.  And it is really hard to pull off a Handstand Scorpion Pose (yoga – look it up) if your traps, shoulders and biceps are so large that you can’t scratch the back of your own neck.

My advice here is to have a goal in mind before you step foot in the gym. Think long and hard, do you want to lose that spare tire?  Look good in a bikini?  Sculpt that chest and back?  Bench press 450 & Squat 600?  Are you thinking you’d like to try your hand at a marathon or triathlon?  Or do you just want to be Batman?  That’s my goal, just be Batman!

Batman (All Around Bad***): But wait, wouldn’t Superman embody this description? The answer is yes, except for the fact that he is not human and Batman is just like the rest of us. No special powers, no magical abilities, just grit, determination and looks good in a spandex suit.