A Healthy Habit You Can Dream About: Get More Sleep
If you are not sleeping seven to nine hours every day, it's time to take an easy step to greatly improve your health: make an earlier date with your pillow each night. Getting more sleep is essential for living a healthy life, and not getting enough can be extremely harmful.
Lack of sleep can drain your energy, affect your mood, contribute to gain weight, and increase your risk for a variety of health problems. A chronic lack of REM sleep can affect your memory loss and decrease brain function. Sleep is also necessary for a healthy immune system, not enough of it and you will be more susceptible to illnesses. Commit to making good quality sleep a priority, and you could start reaping many healthy rewards:
Think Faster. Sleep is the key to better brain function and will help improve your memory and perform complicated tasks.
Better Weight Management. Sleeping more can help keep your metabolism functioning at the appropriate level, plus you'll have the energy you need to stay active.
Feel Happier. One of the best benefits of more sleep is a better mood. Lack of sleep can cause irritability, impatience, and depression.
If you need some help figuring out ways to get in more ZZZ's at night, here are five tips to get you dreaming more tonight:
- Schedule your Sleep. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day will keep your body in a routine and help you reach REM sleep faster.
- Time your Meals. Eating a big meal just before bedtime can make it harder for you to achieve deep sleep. Eat earlier in the evening (at least two hours before bed) for optimum sleep and rejuvenation.
- Buy a Better Bed. If you're waking up with aches or stiffness, your mattress may be to blame. Take a trip to the mattress store and you might be surprised how much more comfortable a new mattress can be.
- Avoid Long Naps. Napping during the day is fine if you really feel tired, but keep it short to avoid interrupting your night time routine. Naps as short as 10 minutes can help you feel refreshed – but avoid sleeping longer than 30 minutes during the day.
- Turn Off the Lights. To sleep better, make sure your bedroom totally dark. This will allow your body to relax better. Try not to read at night on backlight devices like tablets and readers, and turn your alarm clock the other way so the light won't disturb you.
Reference: Healthy Sleep website - A resource from the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School and WGBH Educational Foundation
How much do you know about your heart health?
February is Heart Month, so you've likely seen a lot of articles and news stories talking about heart health. Knowing the signs and symptoms of a heart attack is the key to getting immediate treatment that can save your life. Click here for a list of common symptoms.
But Heart Month is also a great time to evaluate your own heart health, and make sure you know what your risk factors are, and what you can do to better manage them. That why El Camino Hospital is so excited to introduce our Heart Health Profiler, a risk assessment tool that can quickly give you a snapshot of your heart health. This private assessment, which takes about 10 minutes to complete, provides you with some important benchmarks that you can then discuss with your doctor. The tool will be available in just a few weeks, and HealthPerks members will have the first opportunity to try it out. Watch for more information and early access to the tool by the end of the month.
Men: Are you ignoring your stress?
From office deadlines and home projects to family activities and social obligations, a lengthy "to do" list can really stress you out! Over time these stressors can trigger a variety of health problems from high blood pressure or heart disease, to stomach ulcers, diminished brain functioning and even decreased immune defenses. Stress impacts everybody at one time or another, and the symptoms can include headaches, muscle pain, chest pain, fatigue and upset stomach. But stress also manifests itself in ways that men tend to ignore or dismiss:
- Lack of motivation or focus
- Irritably or anger
- Difficulty sleeping
- Increased alcohol or other substance use
- Sadness or depression
If you are feeling overwhelmed or hopeless, have suicidal thoughts, or are abusing drugs or alcohol, it's important to get help immediately from a qualified mental health care provider. And to help manage and reduce the impact of ongoing stress in your life, try some of these tips:
- Get proper health care for existing or new health problems.
- Stay in touch with people who can provide emotional and other support. Ask for help from friends, family, and community or religious organizations to reduce stress due to work burdens or family issues, such as caring for a loved one.
- Set priorities – decide what must get done and what can wait, and learn to say no to new tasks if they are putting you into overload.
- Practice positive reinforcement, and make note of what you have accomplished at the end of the day, not what you have been unable to do.
- Exercise regularly. Just 30 minutes per day of gentle walking can help boost mood and reduce stress.
- Schedule regular times for healthy and relaxing activities.
- Explore stress coping programs, such as the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction classes offered at El Camino Hospital, and provided by Awareness and Relaxation Training (A.R.T.) Learn more.
Seniors: Could you be vitamin deficient?
If you aren't eating a healthy and balanced diet every day, you might be at risk for some common vitamin deficiencies. While these deficiencies can affect all ages, they are particularly common in older adults. The symptoms may be easy to miss, but a chronic deficiency can take a toll on your health. Some common deficiencies and the symptoms associated with them include:
Vitamin B12: Tingling or numbness in hands or feet, balance problems and general weakness can all be signs of a Vitamin B12 deficiency. Left untreated, memory loss, confusion and depression can occur. The only food sources for vitamin B12 are animal products, so strict vegetarians are at high risk. If you've had weight loss surgery, have a condition such as Crohn's disease that interferes with food absorption, or take certain medications for diabetes or acid reflux, you are also at higher risk.
Vitamin D: A lack of Vitamin D can result in bone pain, thinning bones, and muscle weakness. It may even contribute to heart disease, and insulin resistance. It is difficult to obtain an adequate amount of Vitamin D from food alone, but adequate sunlight can help make up the difference. Seniors are particularly susceptible to deficiencies because they spend less time in the sun, and their aging skin is less efficient at synthesizing Vitamin D.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is necessary to grow and repair tissue, cartilage and bones. It's also a powerful antioxidant that blocks some of the damage free radicals may cause, including cancer and heart disease. Easy bruising, nosebleeds, bleeding gums and a decreased ability to fight infection can all be symptoms of inadequate Vitamin C intake. Scurvy, although rare, can result from a severe and prolonged lack of Vitamin C. Smokers are at an increased risk for Vitamin C deficiency. Your body cannot make or store Vitamin C, so your best bet is to get the daily recommended amount by eating lots of fruits and vegetables – which all contain some Vitamin C.
Magnesium: The risk of magnesium deficiency is higher for those with type 2 diabetes, gastrointestinal diseases, or alcohol dependence. In addition, many of the medications older adults take can affect the body's ability to absorb magnesium. A decreased appetite, nausea and fatigue or weakness are all common symptoms of magnesium deficiency. Serious deficiency can also result in numbness, tingling, muscle cramps, and even abnormal heart rhythms.
The good news is that most vitamin and mineral deficiencies can be corrected with appropriate diet modifications or supplements. If you think you might be experiencing a deficiency, discuss your concerns with your doctor and determine the best approach for treatment. Vitamins and supplements can interact with many medications, so never take them without your doctor's consent.
For a referral to a doctor that specializes in senior health, click here or call 800-216-5556.
Taking the pain out of hospital bills
Understanding your medical and hospital bills can be a real challenge, and may even be one of the most frustrating and daunting parts of the healing process. That's why El Camino Hospital has partnered with Palo Alto based Simplee to offer patients a better solution. With Simplee, reviewing and paying your medical bills can be just that: simple!
Simplee provides an easy way for you to manage your financial health, understand your benefits, deductibles and payments; pay medical bills; and save time.
Simplee is offered free to all El Camino Hospital patients, and allows you to:
- Automatically track all family health expenses and plans, in one place
- View insurance and provider statements in detailed and easy-to-understand terms
- Get status notifications on deductibles and out-of-pocket limits
- Pay your medical bills online in just a few clicks
Learn more and create a free account with Simplee today!
Announcing an app that could save lives
On Valentine's Day, El Camino Hospital announced the launch of the innovative PulsePoint mobile app across all of Santa Clara County. PulsePoint, a sophisticated location-aware smartphone app, alerts CPR-trained citizens when a person nearby is having a cardiac emergency and may need CPR during the critical minutes before EMS teams arrive.
El Camino Hospital provided the funding that helped create and launch this important program because we know that when CPR is started immediately after sudden cardiac arrest, the person's chances of survival double or even triple.
PulsePoint is available for free in the Apple iTunes App Store and Google Play. Visit our download page for the app or for more details and downloading instructions.
Are you taking time for your health?
This month it's all about your heart! Try these quick tips and you'll soon have some heart healthy habits that can really make a difference.
1 minute tip: Snack on 6-8 walnuts. They're loaded with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
5 minute tip: Play with your pet. Toss your dog a ball, or just curl up with your cat for a few minutes. The unconditional love from pets is good for your heart.
15 minute tip: Do some strength training at least twice a week. Not only does it help relieve stress, it will also help decrease your body fat.
30 minute tip: Take a walk with a friend. Connecting with friends and maintaining social networks is almost as important as the exercise itself.