Lose Weight to Save Your Heart
Do you find yourself carrying around a few extra pounds? Take heart: Losing weight can do more than make you look better - it can save your life. Simply said, if you are carrying extra weight, your heart is working harder to keep the blood pumping through your veins. Research has shown that men and women who are overweight - with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or above - have an increased risk for developing coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke and many other health conditions. While it may be daunting to think about how much weight you may need to lose, remember that the American Heart Association reports that losing just 5-10% of your body weight can greatly improve heart and vascular health, boost heart function, lower blood pressure and improve metabolic measures - all while reducing your risk for a heart attack and stroke.
A registered dietitian can help you evaluate your current diet and work with you to create a plan for reaching your weight loss goals. HealthPerks members can schedule a free 30 minute consultation with an El Camino Hospital dietitian by calling 650-940-7210.
In addition, building healthy habits into your daily life, such as eating more fish, snacking on nuts, going to bed early and taking a moment throughout the day to de-stress will decrease your heart disease risk even further. Take the El Camino Hospital Heart Challenge and commit to one heart healthy habit a day for a month, and enter to win a FitBit Flex (a $99.95 value).
Take the Challenge Now
Surviving Winter: Health Tips to Protect You and Your Family
By Catherine Nalesnik, Manager of Infection Prevention, El Camino Hospital
With winter in full swing, it is important to know what steps you can take to protect yourself from winter health risks. While those of us who reside in the Bay Area do not typically have to worry about slipping and falling on icy pavement or risking a heart attack from shoveling snow, we, like others throughout the United States, are still at risk for colds and influenza (flu).
The flu is one of the most easily transmitted viruses, passing from person to person through the air by coughing or sneezing, through contact between people, and between an infected person and common surfaces such as door handles, staircase railings and ATMs. While it is nearly impossible to avoid coming into contact with the flu virus altogether, you can take some simple steps to keep you and your family as healthy as possible:
- Get vaccinated against the flu. Getting a flu vaccine - whether in the form of a shot or nasal spray - is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from the flu virus. Everyone older than six months should be vaccinated, but children, adults over age 50, pregnant women, those with chronic health problems, and caregivers for the young and old are at highest risk for flu complications. Counter to a common misperception, you cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine.
- Wash your hands. The flu virus can be easily transferred from person to person by touch, so it is important to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer as frequently as possible. Be especially vigilant in high-traffic areas or when shaking hands with lots of people.
- Cover your nose and mouth. When sneezing or coughing, do so in the crook of your arm to avoid releasing the flu virus onto your hands, which could then be transferred to other people or to any number of surfaces.
- Avoid touching your face. Your eyes, nose and mouth serve as pathways for germs to enter your body.
- Get plenty of sleep and exercise. When you are tired, your immune system is worn down, increasing your chances of getting the flu. Adhering to a healthy diet and exercise, while important all year long, is very important in winter because it helps boost your immune system.
If, despite your best efforts, you experience flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue), stay home until you are well. According to the CDC, the incubation period for flu is 1-4 days (average: 2 days). Adults can be infectious from a day before symptoms begin through 5-10 days after illness onset; young children can be infectious for 10 or more days after onset. Get rest and plenty of fluids and seek appropriate medical attention. Your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications, which are most effective if taken within two days of getting sick.
Besides taking steps to avoid the flu, there are other measures to consider ensuring you and your family stay healthy this winter:
- Dress appropriately for the cold weather. Be sure that children wear several layers of loose-fitting, light, tightly woven clothing under a heavy jacket to keep them warm, plus mittens or gloves, a hat and scarf, as necessary.
- Keep physically active. Although it may be too cold for outdoor sports, you and your family can stay active in the winter by taking up an indoor sport, such as basketball or volleyball.
- Keep skin hydrated. Use a mild soap when bathing followed by moisturizer, which you may have to reapply several times throughout the day, in order to avoid dry skin caused by moving between cold dry air outside and warm, dry air inside.
- Be cautious around electric heating sources. Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home if you use a fireplace or other non-electric heating source.
To read more health and wellness articles, download the digital edition of El Camino Hospital’s latest issue of Health Beat.
Men: Are Bad Habits Killing You?
Most men have a habit or two that’s not necessarily healthy. But some of them are downright dangerous. Take a look at some common habits, as well as some not-so-commonly-known risks, and make 2014 the year you abolish them:
The Beer Drinker. Do you drink beer every day? If you do, then you are at a higher risk for developing gout. Gout is a form of arthritis that causes severe pain and swelling in the joints. There is a strong link between alcohol consumption and gout. Every drink of hard liquor increases your risk for gout by 15 %, but each beer you drink daily increases your risk by 50%. This is due to the high purine content in beer that breaks down into uric acid and forms crystal deposits in your joints. If you do drink alcohol, choose your drink wisely and carefully moderate your consumption.
The Cigarette Smoker. Do you smoke tobacco? If lung cancer and heart disease aren’t terrible enough, smoking cigarettes can also cause erectile dysfunction in men. In fact men who smoke more than 20 cigarettes daily increase their risk of ED by as much as 60%. Luckily, quitting smoking now can greatly lower those risks. Consider a smoking cessation program to help. Get more information on El Camino Hospital's smoking cessation programs.
The Couch Potato. If you are overweight from lack of exercise, you are at higher risk for diabetes, heart disease and stroke. However even if you aren't overweight, lack of exercise can shorten your life. Many of the problems associated with aging are exacerbated by lack of exercise or disuse. So if you aren’t getting at some exercise every day, get off the couch and get going! Taking our Heart Challenge is a perfect way to start:
Take the Challenge Now
The Doctor-phobe. You know who you are, the man who feels healthy but avoids regular doctor visits even though you might have several risk factors. Regular visits to the doctor can ultimately help you live a longer and happier life by monitoring and preventing health problems right when they arise.
If you don't have a doctor, we can help you find a doctor.
Seniors: Know your risk for osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a disease that causes very weak bones that can break easily. In the U.S., more than 40 million people either already have osteoporosis or are at high risk due to low bone mass. Osteoporosis can strike at any age, but it is most common among seniors. And, although 68% of sufferers are women, it affects men as well.
Other risk factors include:
- A family history of osteoporosis
- Osteopenia – or low bone mineral density
- Low body weight
- A diet low in calcium
- Low levels of physical activity
- Ovaries removed or early menopause (before the age of 45), without hormone replacement
- Being past menopause
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Excessive caffeine intake (more than four cups a day of coffee, tea or cola) or excessive alcohol intake (more than two drinks a day)
- Long-term oral use of some medications such as cortisone, prednisone or anticonvulsants
If you are at risk, talk to your doctor about getting a bone density test and take preventive action to reduce the risk. And no matter what your risk level, follow these tips for better bone health:
- Eat well. A diet rich in lean protein, low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables has been shown to reduce their risk of chronic diseases such as osteoporosis. Ask your doctor if you should be taking a calcium supplement.
- Be active every day. Bones become stronger with increased activity. Include regular weight-bearing exercise such as dancing, walking, hiking or tennis in your daily routine. Exercise that improves balance and coordination such as yoga, tai chi swimming and flexibility exercises will help reduce falls and prevent fractures.
- Avoid smoking. Smokers have faster rates of bone loss and a higher risk of fractures than non-smokers. Women who smoke also tend to enter menopause at an earlier age than non-smokers. This means more rapid bone loss - and at an earlier age.
- Prevent falls. If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis or have some of the risk factors, preventing falls is particularly important. An exercise program geared to your abilities will help. Wear comfortable shoes that give good support. Watch for uneven ground, sidewalks and floors. Don't rush to catch a bus, answer the phone or a doorbell. Make your house safe to reduce the risk of accidents.
If you have already been diagnosed with osteoporosis or osteopenia, talk to your doctor about medication that may help with your condition.
Are you taking time for your health?
Taking care of yourself and watching out for your health and well-being doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Every month we'll include a few more ideas for quick and healthy tips that can really make a difference. This month, put a few of these into practice whenever you have a few minutes:
1 minute tips:
- Walk up and down a flight of stairs – twice!
- Replace your afternoon soda with a glass of water instead. Add a slice of lemon or lime for some extra zing
5 minute tips:
- Pull out a jump rope and get your heart rate up in less than 5 minutes
- Check the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
15 minute tip:
- Clean our your freezer by tossing anything that’s over a year old or has a lengthy list of ingredients you can’t pronounce
- Search for a new recipe that features beans or lentils instead of meat
30 minute tip:
- Turn off all of the electronics and read an old-fashioned book for 30 minutes before going to bed
- Find a neighborhood pool, and try swimming 20 or more laps for a fun and low-impact workout.