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HealthPerks Newsletter for June 2014

Help Your Health: Break the Sugar Habit

How much sugar do you eat every day? Chances are it's a lot more than you think! According to the American Heart Association, the average American eats between 22 and 30 teaspoons of added sugar each day. But some people eat a lot more than that. Sugar has no nutritional value, is directly linked to rising obesity rates, and can contribute to a whole host of health concerns.

So why do we continue to eat more of it every year? The obvious reason is that sugary foods taste good. Another reason is that added sugar is hidden in all kinds of foods, such as yogurt, tomato sauce, and salad dressing, so you may not even be aware of how much you are consuming.

To achieve optimal health, added sugar should be 10% or less of the total calories in a balanced diet. For someone consuming 2,000 calories a day, just 200 of that amount should come from added sugar. That's 12.5 teaspoons – or about half of what the average person is consuming now.

Reducing the amount of sugar in your diet doesn't mean you have to give up treats completely, and you don't need to feel deprived. Kick your sugar habit with some simple steps that can help you manage your weight and improve your long-term health.

First of all, keep a regular eating schedule to avoid dips in blood sugar, which can lead to cravings. Then, focus on making quality food choices by emphasizing unprocessed, whole foods at each meal or snack, such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts.

Tips for reducing sugar intake include:

  • Go easy on caffeine. The low energy that follows a caffeine kick may lead you to look for something sweet to jump-start your day.

  • Read labels carefully to determine the sugar content. Remember that sugar is disguised by many different names: high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, honey, syrup, or any word ending with "ose" – such as sucrose, maltose or dextrose.

  • Be especially careful with low-fat or fat-free foods. Sugar is usually added to make up for the lack of fat, and the calorie content can be even higher than the regular fat version.

  • Experiment with sugar-free seasonings. Spice things up with cinnamon, chipotle or cayenne, and you won't even miss the sugar.

  • Don't keep sugary snack foods in the house. Just one bite can trigger a craving for more, and a bag of cookies can become an overwhelming temptation.

As you start to pay attention and eat healthier, you'll probably notice you have more consistent energy, sleep better, and have fewer mood swings. Even better, your waistline will start to disappear. But, the best benefit to eliminating sugar will be good health and longevity!

For more advice on how to improve your nutrition, schedule an appointment with an El Camino Hospital Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. HealthPerks members are eligible for one free 30 minutes consultation. To schedule an appointment, call 650-940-7210.


Understanding Back Pain

If you've ever complained about your "aching back", you aren't alone. Back pain affects more than 30% of the adult population every year, and is a leading cause of lost work time. It can range from mild to severe, and build gradually or strike suddenly, but one thing is clear: back pain can affect everything you do.

What Causes Back Pain?

Back pain itself is a symptom of a medical condition, not a diagnosis. Aging, poor physical conditioning, smoking, stress, and being overweight can increase risk, but many things can cause back pain, including:

  • Overuse or strain that can occur with strenuous or repetitive lifting

  • Injury or trauma from falls, accidents or sports

  • Degenerative changes, such as decreased cushioning between discs

  • Osteoporosis, arthritis, scoliosis or other conditions or diseases

  • Infections or growths in the vertebrae or discs

Treating Back Pain

Mild back pain often goes away on it's own, and can be alleviated at home with one or more of the following:

  • Sleeping with a pillow under your knees, or sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees

  • Over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

  • Applying heat or an ice pack. Just keep the heating pad on low or medium heat, and avoid applying ice directly to the skin.

  • Gentle movement and activity. Prolonged bed rest can actually delay your recovery.

If your back pain is chronic (lasting longer than six weeks), you need to see a doctor to determine the cause and treatment. For severe or debilitating pain, or pain accompanies by numbness or tingling, loss of bladder or bowel control, or fever, seek immediate medical help. Your doctor may need blood or urine tests, X-rays, or CT or MRI scans to determine the cause and appropriate treatment for your pain.

Depending on the cause, most pain can be effectively treated with medication, physical therapy, or spinal injections. A small number of people who don't respond to treatment or experience worsening pain may require surgery. New surgical options, including minimally-invasive lumbar spinal fusion, can result in excellent outcomes and reduced recovery time. Learn more about the innovative surgical options available from the neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons at El Camino Hospital with this video.

For a referral to an El Camino Hospital specialist who can treat your back pain, call 800-216-5556.


Mastering Menopause

As women enter their 40s and 50s, there are a number of changes going on within their bodies. Each woman will experience a different menopause, but becoming knowledgeable about the signs, symptoms and treatment options is the first step to ensuring you manage your menopause – rather than it managing you.

The Phases of Menopause

Perimenopause - This is the time leading up to menopause when your body begins producing less of hormones like estrogen and progesterone. Symptoms may begin as early as 35, but often begin between 45 and 55.

Menopause - Your period stops and perimenopause symptoms may increase. Menopause is defined as 12 consecutive months without a period (with no other causes, such as pregnancy)

Post-menopause - Most of the menopausal changes have faded. Hot flashes may seem milder or less frequent; energy and emotional levels may seem to have stabilized. Bone loss and estrogen loss are areas of concern.

The signs and symptoms of menopause can affect each woman differently. Here are some of the more common signs that may indicate that you are in the beginning stages of menopause:

  • Irregular periods

  • Hot flashes (or flushes)

  • Trouble sleeping – Night sweats or trouble staying asleep through the night

  • Mood changes – mood swings or emotional outbursts

  • Changing feelings about intimacy

  • Forgetfulness or trouble focusing

  • Losing muscle, gaining fat, and having a larger waist

  • Feeling stiff or achy

When it comes to treatment, it's important to focus on two goals: management of symptoms and prevention of long-term symptoms. Since a woman can spend 1/3 of her life in the phases of menopause, working closely with your physician will ensure that the correct course of action can be determined.

Women in post-menopause may be at higher risk for bone loss and osteoporosis, heart disease and cancer. Regular check-up and health screenings will help identify your individual risks.

El Camino Hospital is launching a menopause support program in the coming months, and we are interested in your opinion. Please take a moment to complete this brief online survey.


Support For Your Every Need

At El Camino Hospital, we believe that you good health starts from within. Your well-being is just as important as your health.

We offer classes and support groups that provide the support you need to live a healthy and happy life.

The Health Library and Resource Center provides access to health services that are important to wellness and prevention of illness to our entire community including free health screenings, free consultations with health experts and elder care counseling. More details.

Work deadlines, your kid's soccer practice, family dinners, and the list goes on and on. Stress has become a part of our daily lives, especially living and working in Silicon Valley. Learn the tools to master your stress with a Stress Reduction Program.

Our Women's Hospital offers classes for pre-natal and post-natal, childbirth prep, breastfeeding and lactation, baby care, and infant and child CPR. Learn more.

The Cancer Center offers extensive programs for patients and their families, including healing arts, yoga for relaxation, exercise classes for rebuilding strength, and support groups that that provide guidance on each and every need. Learn more.

For those watching their heart health, the Norma Melchor Heart and Vascular Institute offers support group for those suffering from pulmonary diseases, women's heart health and severe cardiac disease. In addition we provide support and classes for those looking to quit smoking. The Cardiac & Pulmonary Wellness Center offers a lecture series covering all topics of heart health. Learn more.

Bookmark it! Our hospital calendar is the best resource for upcoming support groups, classes and health related lectures and events. The calendar is updated regularly, so check back often for up-to-the-minute updates and additions. View the calendar.

For more information on additional support groups, click here.

Whatever your health need may be – we are available to provide you the support you need every step of the way.


Healthy Tips

It's getting hot out there! Remember, just a few minutes a day spent on healthy habits can make a big difference. Try to incorporate these healthy habits into your daily routine, and see how much better you feel in just a few weeks:

1 minute:
Try sleeping on your side or you back – these positions have been shown to be the best ways to sleep to reduce neck and back pain.

5 minutes:
Kegel exercises are easy to do anywhere you are, and can help strengthen your pelvic muscles and prevent urinary incontinence for women.

15 minutes:
Find out what your risk is for heart disease is and get steps to improve your overall health with our online Health Risk Assessment.

30 minutes:
This tip is from one of our winning Healthy Habits Project submissions: "I'm 80 years old…today my habits include getting a good night's sleep and Jazzercize. I went vegan 2 years ago." - Patricia Try a new exercise class – like Jazzercize!

Baby Spinach & Tuna Salad

Try this calcium and vitamin D-packed spinach and tuna salad.

Image of a Baby Spinach and Tuna Saladr - click to download recipe

Download Recipe