- The Maternal Outreach Mood Services program, which offers a day treatment program to help new or expecting mothers that are dealing with anxiety or depression.Learn more.
- The Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction program, which helps you develop techniques to cope with every day stress or intense situations. Learn more.
Taking Care While Giving Care
Nearly 30% of all U.S. adults provide care for an aging, disabled, or chronically ill family member or friend every year. And, according to a collaborative study conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, they are spending an average of 20 hours a week providing that care. While most caregivers are committed to providing the best quality care they can for those they love, most also have to juggle the demands of work, general family needs, and other obligations and priorities. As caregivers struggle to find more hours in the day, their own health and well-being is often the first thing to suffer. So what happens when the person giving the care isn't taking the time to take care of themselves? Sleep deprivation, stress, anxiety, depression, and an increased risk for a multitude of other health problems is often the result. If you or someone you know is neglecting your own health and happiness in order to provide much needed care for a loved one, there are important steps you should take starting today:
- Make yourself a priority. There's a reason airlines constantly remind us to put our own oxygen mask on before assisting others: if you are incapacitated, you aren't going to be able to help anyone else. If you think taking care of yourself is selfish, ask yourself who will take care of your loved one if you get sick? Staying healthy is the best thing you can do not only for yourself – but also for those that depend on you. So for the sake of those you love, as well as for yourself, put these things at the very top of your list of priorities:
- Get adequate sleep. Even a couple of nights of sleep deprivation can increase your risk of illness, injury, or making poor decisions because your judgment is impaired.
- Eat regular and balanced meals. Skipping meals is never a good idea, and fast food solutions can quickly zap your energy and contribute to weight gain and other health problems. Focus on fruits and vegetables, good quality protein, and high fiber grains. Yogurt, raw nuts, fresh fruits, hard boiled eggs, whole grain toast with peanut butter, cheese sticks, baby carrots and tomatoes are all quick, convenient, easy to transport, and full of vitamins and nutrients.
- Get a little exercise every day – even if it's just a 10 minute walk around the block. And make sure that at least three days a week you get a more intense 30 minute session in. If will help clear your mind and give you mental and physical energy.
- Meditate. Just 5-10 minutes a day spent meditating and focusing on your breathing can help you relax and keep stress and anxiety in check.
- Monitor your alcohol intake. Excessive alcohol consumption is a common problem among caregivers, and one that can develop quickly. An occasional drink is fine, but drinking to help deal with stress is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. Limit alcohol consumption to two-three drinks per week, and make an effort to stay hydrated with lots of water every day.
- Schedule at least one fun, social event every single week. Go to a movie or concert, participate in a book club, take a cooking class, go shopping with a friend – just make sure it's something you'll enjoy!
- Be realistic and forgiving. Being a caregiver can be a thankless job. You won't be able to meet everyone's expectations, and you're bound to be your own harshest critic. Remind yourself that the care you give will comfort, aid, and assist – but it can't eliminate the pain and frustration your loved one is dealing with. If you aren't a caregiver right now, chances are you will be at some point in your life. Pay it forward now by helping out a struggling caregiver. Deliver a meal, clean their house, take over for a few hours so they can get a break, or just lend a listening ear. Taking care of the caregiver – whether it's you or someone else – is a positive thing for everybody.
Seniors: Who's Minding Your Wellness?
The older we get, the more likely we are to have a health care specialist – or two or three – that we visit regularly. Cardiologists, orthopedic surgeons, oncologists, urologists, gynecologists… they all provide specific expertise and treatment you need as you age. But who takes care of you when you get the flu, monitors your immunizations, and provides the general checkups you need for optimal health? That's what a primary care physician (PCP) does. A PCP is a doctor who knows you and provides the general care you need to stay healthy and well. They can also refer you to other specialists when needed, and work with you to ensure that all of your health care needs are met. Just as a pediatrician manages the health and wellness of children, a PCP does the same for adults.
If you don't have a PCP, you might be missing out on important screenings and preventative measures that could help you stay healthy. If you have a list of health care needs that are being met by other specialists, you still need a PCP for general health and management. And if you are healthy or don't have any special health needs that require a specialist, this is the perfect time to find a PCP that can work with you to help ensure your long-term health. The right PCP will serve as your your provider, your advocate, your consultant and your coordinator for comprehensive health and wellness. You're never too old – or too young – to find a PCP committed to providing the health care and access you need today, and into the future.
Still not sure you need a PCP? Get a free tipsheet on how a PCP can help you manage and maintain your health. Download the PDF.
The Senior Health Program and Silicon Valley Primary Care has PCPs that specialize in elder care. If you don’t have a PCP, schedule a 15 minute "meet and greet" with one of our PCPs to see how they can work with you to deliver personalized care that meets your needs. Call 800-216-5556 for a physician referral.
Men: Are You Watching Your Waist?
Carrying around excess weight is never good for your health. But did you know that men who have a body fat percentage that's too high have an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and even low testosterone and erectile dysfunction? Many men joke about having a "spare tire” or a "beer belly", but too much abdominal fat is no laughing matter.
Belly fat is particularly dangerous because it generally indicates a high level of visceral fat. Unlike subcutaneous fat, which is found just below the skin, visceral fat lies deeper in the pelvic cavity and wraps around your organs. Visceral fat also produces inflammatory substances, and breaks down more easily into fatty acids that drain into the liver, which can increase cholesterol, triglycerides and insulin resistance. All of that is very bad news.
The good news is that belly fat can be reduced with lifestyle changes. While losing weight – and reducing fat – is never easy, visceral fat is generally easier to reduce with diet and exercise than the more stubborn subcutaneous fat. So if you have a protruding belly or a waist that measures 40 inches or more, take these steps to improve your health as well as your appearance:
- Increase the intensity of your exercise. Any exercise is beneficial, but visceral fat appears to respond best to high intensity activity. Interval training, which includes one minute “all out” intensity bursts into every three-five minutes of lower intensity activity, is particularly effective for reducing belly fat. Gradually increase to 75 minutes of high intensity exercise every week.
- Don't skip meals. Eating at regular intervals, and consuming mostly nutritionally-packed foods such as fruits, vegetables, and low-fat protein, will help keep your metabolism revved and inflammation levels in check.
- Avoid processed carbs and sweets. Consuming too much sugar causes blood sugar levels to fluctuate, which trigger cravings and decrease your energy level.
- Get enough sleep. We can't say it enough: good quality sleep is critical for optimal health and wellness. Getting a good night's sleep – every night – is the easiest thing you can do to decrease your belly fat and improve your overall health.
Spring has sprung! We may have lost an hour when we "sprung forward" last month, but you still need to take time to care for yourself. Remember, just a few minutes a day spent on healthy habits can make a big difference. This month, try incorporating these into your daily routine, and see how much better you feel in just a few weeks:
Skip the sugar in your morning coffee or tea. Cutting back on the sugar will help you control your weight and lower your risk for diabetes, along with a myriad of other benefits.
If you aren't a morning person, you might want to reconsider getting up so late. A small study reported by WebMD has found that people exposed to the morning sunlight lose more weight than their peers. Set your alarm a little earlier tomorrow and you could see benefits such as a slimmer waist, a faster metabolism, and better sleep at night.
Clean out the garage - If you are tired of your regular exercise routine, switch it up and do something active that also gets another task done at the same time. Just make sure to use ladders and other safety devices to prevent injuries.
Volunteering for a cause you believe in is a great way to reduce stress. By volunteering you focus on helping others which gives you a sense of connection and achievement.