Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Our Heart Health Cholesterol Initiative -- Background Reading

I haven't blogged about it much at this point, but we have an exciting heart health initiative going on to help people manage their cholesterol. I'm partnering with David Foreman and Lifework Strategies on this project and I look forward to telling you all about it when the data is in. In the meantime, I've read a number of articles on cholesterol that some of you might find interesting.

Dave talked about this when he gave a presentation to our staff last month. 
'Bad' Cholesterol Not as Bad as People Think, Study Shows

Carol Williams shared this article with me... 
Some Docs in Denial About Statin Side Effects

Paula Seesman passed this link along to me...
Physical Activity Alters Effects of Various HDL-Modifying Genes

And, there was a recent study that showed an apple a day is still good advice to keep the doctor away.
Apples Good for Your Heart -- Eating Apples Daily Lowers Cholesterol, Inflammation, Study Finds

Stay tuned... 

Update 7/1/2011 -- Dave just shared these articles with me about the FDA issuing new restrictions, contraindications and dose limitations for a statin and statins being linked to diabetes.
FDA Warns Not to Take High-Dose Zocor
High-Dose Statins May Increase Diabetes Risk

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Should you share your wellness goals?

You've probably read about how the people in your social circle influence your health and weight. The concept was explored in one of my favorite books, Connected, and I recently read this post -- How Friends Can Make You Fat (Study: Shared social behaviors, not shared social norms, are more likely to spread obesity among friends.) If you believe the underlying concepts -- and I do -- it stands to reason that sharing a wellness goal and rallying some support from your circle of family and friends would increase your chances of reaching your goal. It's this community concept that is the underpinning for my strong belief in the value of workplace wellness programs. 

Terry Harris, our Learning Facilitator at ASHA, recently developed and led a goal setting workshop to help the staff members competing for our trip to St. Thomas hone their goals. While putting together the workshop, Terry ran across some research that suggests announcing your plans takes away some of your motivation to accomplish your goal. Derek Sivers articulates this clearly in his TED Talk. 

Evidently some people feel that sharing our plans can make us feel that we've already done the hard work and give us a sense of completeness, fulfillment and achievement. These feelings can drive our motivation down. 

In another of my favorite books, Switch, Chip and Dan Heath talk about the importance of "shrinking the change." After describing two studies, they conclude that "One way to motivate action, is to make people feel as though they're already closer to the finish line than they might have thought." If this is true, no harm should come from people thinking they're on their way to making a desired change. It's always interesting to look at things from another perspective, however. What has your experience been? 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

8 Things You Can Do to Combat Supermarket Paralysis

Foraging for a Healthy and Sustainable Meal

I recently read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and then I finally got around to watching Food Inc. Now I have a serious case of supermarket paralysis. How do I choose food that is grown in an environmentally responsible way and delivered with minimal petroleum use that doesn't exploit the farmers, farm workers and food processors? Where do I find free-range, cage-free, grass-fed, humanely treated meat? Is it more important to choose organic or local and how exactly should I define local? I'm compiling a list to guide my shopping and eating. Consider this a work in progress. 
  1. Purchase as much produce as you can when it's in season from a farmer's market or in the locally grown section of your supermarket. I like the Local Harvest website for finding farmer's markets, family farms and other sources for sustainable grown food in your area.
  2. Prepare your own food. Plan your meals for the season rather than starting with a recipe that requires out of season ingredients or things that aren't available locally.
  3. Buy organic -- at the farm market and in the grocery store. If cost forces you to prioritize, start with switching to organic when buying the "dirty dozen" -- peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes, spinach, lettuce and potatoes. 
  4. Stop drinking sodas and other sweetened beverages. 
  5. Keep in mind that refrigerated and frozen items use more energy to be moved and stored. 
  6. Eat less meat and other animal-based foods. (I liked Graham Hill's approach in this Ted Talk.) Avoid products from the worst production systems by looking for free-range, cage-free, grass-fed etc...
  7. Eat fewer processed foods. Here's an explanation as to why from Steven Hopp in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle -- "Food processing uses energy in two main ways: (1) extracting, dicing, mixing, and cooking the ingredients; (2) transporting each individual ingredient. Products with fewer ingredients have probably burned less gas. For example, the oatmeal box on our pantry shelf lists one ingredient: rolled oats... By contrast, our Free-range Happy 75% Organic Cereal Chunks box lists seventeen ingredients, all of which had to be transported to the processing plant."
  8. And, if you're so inclined to do a little lobbying -- press for food safety, food labeling, and other issues identified in Food Inc.
These aren't all or nothing propositions. I love to eat and I'm not swearing off champagne mangos, Italian wines, or the occasional bag of salt and vinegar potato chips. However, I might join a CSA again. I believe that by making small changes, we can make a big difference. Ultimately our behavior as consumers will direct what happens in the food industry. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

ASHA is Recognized as a Health & Wellness Trailblazer

We're excited to be recognized as a Health & Wellness Trailblazer, an EcoLeader, and receive the Workplace Excellence Seal of Approval from the Alliance for Workplace Excellence. ASHA is one of 15 "triple winners" for 2011. The Alliance has recognized the Washington, D.C. area’s best places to work for the past twelve years. ASHA has been honored to receive each of the three awards every year since their inception. 
You can see a full list of the 63 organizations being recognized this year and learn more about the awards on the Alliance's siteIf you're wondering how your organization compares, take a look at the Snapshots of the winning companies. 
Congratulations to all this year's winners!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

High Blood Pressure -- United Healthcare's May Newsletter

Each month United Healthcare sends us a newsletter in pdf form to distribute to our staff. They're informative and worth sharing, but I couldn't figure out how to distribute them -- we can't upload a pdf easily to our intranet which wouldn't reach our family members anyways; you can't upload a pdf to Facebook easily either; and sending "all staff" email is frowned upon and again, the information wouldn't reach family members unless staff forwarded the message. So, it came down to using Scribd and my blog. Feel free to share other ideas for how we can distribute the newsletters (as long as they don't involve killing trees;-)

Inside This Issue:
  • How High Blood Pressure Harms Your Body
  • 5 Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure Without
  • Medication
  • DASH to Lower Blood Pressure
  • 10 Questions (and Answers) About Monitoring
  • Your Blood Pressure at Home
Blood Pressure May-2011

Monday, May 9, 2011

Our Annual Wellness Fair

We held our annual wellness fair last week. This year we included the following: 

Cooking Demo with Cindy Mann
  • Vitamin D screening (blood draw)
  • Complete Blood Count screening (blood draw)
  • Thyroid screening (blood draw)
  • Blood Pressure
  • Skin damage screening
  • Body Composition/ Body Mass Index
  • Waist Circumference
  • Weight
  • Bone Density
  • Grip Strength
  • 10-Minute Seated Massage 
  • Drinking Goggles
  • Fitness Assessment with TrueAP (@TrueAP)
  • Talk with a United Healthcare representative

Almost all of the services were provided by Lifework StrategiesTrueAP did the fitness assessments. They've developed a nice scored assessment and we've found their testing to be consistent. 

People are always very appreciative of getting the blood work. One individual requested that we add a B12 screening, so we'll look into that. We waited for years to be able offer Vitamin D screening. For a long time, it was used as a diagnostic test and not as a screening. I think we might run into the same issue with B12. We'll see...

I'd like to have more giveaways -- like sun screen to go a long with the sun damage screening -- but it takes a lot of time and effort to arrange them and it doesn't seem to have much of an impact on participation. Maybe next year.

Cooking demonstrations are always popular. Cindy made Quinoa and Black Beans and Asparagus and Cashews with Ginger for us. I want to learn more about Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution being extended into the workplace and what we might be able to offer our staff. So, stay tuned on that front. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Food Rules -- Our first wellness book club discussion.

Last week, we held our first wellness book club discussion on Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan. I talked about how we chose the book in this earlier post. 32 people participated in the discussion (31 staff and one retiree.) We provided copies of the book to the 16 individuals in our heart health initiative and encouraged them to attend. We also had 10 copies in the HR library for staff to check out -- 39 individuals checked a book out of HR.

Diana Levin Cohen lead the discussion for us. Diana interned with ASHA last summer and continues to do some contract work with Lifework Strategies. (If you're looking for a workplace wellness professional, Diana will be graduating from American University with a master's degree in health promotion management in June. She'll be a great hire for some lucky organization. I'll be happy to forward her resume.)

Diana broke the participants into small groups and each group had a cute little bowl of questions to prompt discussion. People seemed interested and engaged as I walked around and listened in as they talked.

Diana prepared a brief survey for the participants to complete at the end of the discussion. The feedback was positive. People really liked the small groups and the questions Diana developed. When asked how they thought the book club could be improved, we received the following suggestions:
  • Use a room with better acoustics.
  • Have a few more question cards.
  • Encourage quiet people to talk more.
  • Include action steps.
  • Serve wine.
We should be able to do most of those things easily enough ;-)

Of the 27 people that completed the survey, 22 said they'd participate in another book club discussion. The other 5 were maybes. They suggested the following books.
As you can see, people honed in on nutrition and eating with these suggestions. I've also thought the book club could be a way to expand our wellness activities into other areas described in our branches of wellness, but I'm happy to continue along the nutrition line if that's what people want. Please pass along your thoughts and recommendations.