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HealthPerks Newsletter for August 2014

Safe Summer Grilling

From casual family meals to neighborhood gatherings, grilling outdoors is a quintessential part of summer. Grilling is a great way to maximize flavor without adding a lot of calories, and it makes clean-up a breeze. But a hot grill and open flame are potential hazards, so follow these tips to keep your next barbeque safe and healthy:

Handle raw meat with care to prevent cross-contamination. Uncooked meat can contain harmful bacteria, which can be transferred to other foods through unwashed hands, utensils, or cutting boards. Wash your hands and utensils thoroughly with soap and hot water after handling raw meat, and keep raw meat separate from other foods in your grocery cart, refrigerator and countertop to reduce the risk of the meat or its juices coming into contact with other foods.

Try healthy and flavorful marinades. Fish in particular benefits from a simple marinade. Try marinating any type of fish for 30 minutes in rosemary and lemon juice. The fish will be moist and delicious and the rosemary and lemon juice have both been shown to reduce the amount of potentially harmful HCAs (heterocyclic amines) that develop when you grill any meat, fish, poultry or pork at high temperatures over an open flame.

Cook meat thoroughly. Appearances can be deceiving, so invest in a meat thermometer to make sure your food is thoroughly cooked. Raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops and roasts should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, ground meats must reach 160 degrees and poultry isn’t safe until it registers 165 degrees. Once you have finished grilling, keep the food hot until it is ready to be served by moving it off to the side of the grill rack, or putting it in an oven set to about 200 degrees.

Keep your grilling area safe. Keep hot grills away from high-traffic areas, and place them on a flat ground to minimize the risk of tripping. No matter how bad the weather is, never bring a charcoal grill into the house or an open doorway. Burning charcoal produces deadly carbon monoxide that you might not be able to detect. And never leave a lit grill unattended.

Keep the grill master safe. Use only long-handled utensils to avoid burns and splatters. Don't wear loose fitting clothes or long shirttails or apron strings that can catch fire. Keep baking soda on hand to control grease fires, and a fire extinguisher nearby to douse any bigger flames.


Heartburn: When Your Food Fights Back

That spicy dinner may be calling your name right now, but in a few hours when the heartburn hits, you may regret your decision. What is it about that dinner that causes such discomfort?

Heartburn, often described as a burning chest pain that begins behind the breast bone and moves upward to the neck and throat, is caused by gastric acid flowing from the stomach into the esophagus. Lying down or bending over after eating can also result in heartburn. It can last as long as two hours and is often worse after eating.

To get relief from heartburn, or help prevent it altogether, try the following tips:

  • Don't go to bed with a full stomach.Eat meals at least 2 to 3 hours before lying down -- this will give food time to digest and empty from your stomach, and acid levels a chance to decrease before you lay down.

  • Wear loose-fitting clothes. Tight waistbands put pressure on your stomach, and can trigger heartburn or make it worse.

  • Don't overeat. Decrease the size of portions at meal times or try eating 4 to 5 small meals instead of 3 large ones.

  • Eat slowly. Take time to eat -- don't rush. Try putting your fork down between bites.

  • Avoid heartburn triggers. Stay away from foods and beverages that trigger your heartburn symptoms (for example, onions, peppermint, chocolate, caffeinated beverages such as coffee, citrus fruits or juices, tomatoes, or high-fat foods).

  • Shed some pounds. If you are overweight, losing weight can help relieve heartburn symptoms.

  • Stop smoking. Nicotine, one of the main active ingredients in cigarettes, can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter, the muscle that controls the opening between the esophagus and stomach, allowing the acid-containing contents of the stomach to enter the esophagus.

  • Avoid alcohol. If your aim is to unwind after a stressful day, try exercise, meditation, stretching, or deep breathing instead of alcohol.

  • Don’t workout on a full stomach. Wait for at least two hours after a big meal to exercise, and be sure to drink plenty of water. It helps aid digestion, and can keep heartburn at bay.

  • Keep a diary or heartburn log. Keep track of when heartburn hits and the specific activities that seem to trigger the incidents.

Heartburn can come on suddenly, or be a regular occurrence for those suffering from Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a gastric disorder that affects over 7 million Americans. If you have these symptoms more than twice a week, consult your doctor, as you may need medical monitoring and prescription medication. To find a doctor at El Camino Hospital or call 800-216-5556.


Seniors: How’s Your Balance?

Having good balance means being able to control and maintain your body’s position. An intact sense of balance helps you walk without staggering, get up from a chair without falling, climb stairs without tripping, and bend over without falling.

In the US, one in three adults aged 65 and older falls each year. Of those who fall, 20%-30% suffer moderate to severe injuries. In fact, more than 90% of hip fractures are caused by falls.

There are several gentle, at-home exercises you can do to enhance your coordination and decrease your risk of falling. These exercises should be done with another person, or with a chair or railing within reach to help you steady yourself and avoid a fall.

Standing on one foot: Stand on one foot behind the chair, railing, or facing another person, hold this position for up to 10 seconds. Repeat 10 to 15 times and then switch legs, balancing for up to 10 seconds 10-15 times on the other leg.

Walking heel to toe: Position the heel of one foot just in front of the toes of the other foot, your heel and toes should touch or almost touching. Focus on a spot ahead of you in order to keep steady as you walk, and take each step by placing your heel in front of the toe of your other foot.

Balance walk: Raise your arms to your sides at shoulder height. Find a spot ahead of you to focus on to help keep you steady. Walk in a straight line with one foot in front of the other. As you walk, lift your back leg, pause for one second and then finish stepping forward.

Leg raises: Stand behind a chair hold on with one or both hands for balance. Slowly life one leg straight back without bending your knee, pointing your toe, or leaning forward. Hold for one second, then lower leg. Repeat 10-15 times, then switch legs. Then try lifting each leg to the side while keeping your back straight. Repeat 10-15 times for each leg.

Doing these exercises will help you improve your balance and reduce the risk of falling. As you progress and find the exercises getting easier, begin to modify them by relying less on the chair, railing, or your partner.

El Camino Hospital offers classes geared towards helping improve strength and balance. Visit our calendar for more information on upcoming classes.


Back-to-School Checklist: Not Just for Kids! 

During back-to-school time, parents find themselves in a whirlwind of preparations and checklists for anything from vaccinations to school supply shopping. But back-to-school isn’t just a great time to check things off for the kids – it’s a great time to give your own personal lists a review. Here are some helpful health-related things that are important for adults to pay attention to as well: 

Immunizations – Schools generally won’t allow children to enroll without an up-to-date immunization record, so it’s easy to remember these important shots. But as we get older we sometimes forget that there are still recommended vaccinations at every single age, and often annually, such as the Influenza vaccine. Check here to see which vaccines you need and at what age. 

Allergy check – Children tend to experience the most intense allergies, at times requiring some serious precautions such as carrying around an EpiPen®. However, allergies are mysterious things and often times adults heading in to their 30s will see a resurgence of these allergies or find themselves with a whole new host of responses to allergens. Discuss new allergy concerns with your doctor who, depending on the severity of your symptoms, may request an allergy test. Often, over-the-counter allergy medications work really well. Consult with your doctor to find out which one works the best for you. 

Vision and hearing - As many as one in 20 children can’t see well, and it’s a known fact that kids who can’t see well can’t perform as well in school. The same goes for adults – decreased vision or even hearing can lead to a host of side effects ranging from medical to emotional. It’s imperative that adults get their vision screened once-per-year, and as we age, glaucoma and hearing loss screenings shouldn’t be avoided. 

Nutrition check – School-provided lunches are much healthier these days, making it easier for parents to send kids off to school without a pre-packed lunch. But as adults, we tend to make poor lunch or snack choices due to our packed daily schedules and work. Think about packing yourself a healthy ‘brown bag’ lunch the night before, full of healthy proteins, vegetables, and healthy snacks. 

Review your bag choices – Often we don’t think about picking out a backpack or bag that won’t hurt our kids’ backs when they get overloaded with books and homework, but it’s still an important topic. As we get older, we think less about how uncomfortable our computer bags or purses are making us, and more about fashion. Overloaded bags can cause a host of problems, from throwing your muscles off balance to tension headaches. Consider reducing the weight in your bag, switching shoulders, or participating in yoga or Pilates classes – which can help ensure your shoulders and back are equally strong. 

A Primary Care Physician (PCP) can help you watch over your health and wellness and ensure that you get the necessary tests and screenings you need. If you don’t have a PCP, Silicon Valley Primary Care can help. Learn more about our services and physicians.


Healthy Tips

1 minute:
Chew gum to increase your brain function. Tests done with children chewing sugarless gum before an exam and children who did not chew gum found that chewing gum really did result in better grades.

5 minutes:
An easy balance exercise you can do anywhere– stand with your feet firmly apart at hip-width, then shift your weight to one foot and lift the other off the ground slightly. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.

15 minutes:
Keep your mind working. Find a fun word game such as a crossword puzzle and spend 15 minutes exercising your brain. Stimulating your brain will keep it healthier for longer and decrease memory loss.

30 minutes:
Try cooking a Mediterranean meal for dinner, Harvard School of Public Health reports that eating a Mediterranean-style diet leads to healthier arteries. An easy 30-minute dinner you could try might be fish sauteed in olive oil with kidney beans or lentils on the side.

Black Bean Burger and No-Mayo Coleslaw


Image of a Black Bean Burger - click to download recipe

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Image of our No-Mayo Coleslaw - click to download recipe

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