Enjoy the Health Benefits of Tea

Keeping fresh iced tea in the fridge is a summer staple. In addition to being flavorful and offering varieties for every taste, there’s compelling evidence that tea reduces the risk of heart disease, and possibly even helps prevent cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Indeed, tea is considered a super food — whether it’s black, green, white, or oolong. All those tea types come from the same tea plant, Camellia sinensis. They are rich in polyphenols, antioxidants that detoxify cell-damaging free radicals in the body. Tea has about eight to 10 times the polyphenols found in fruits and vegetables.

Reducing and preventing disease

Studies show that tea can be highly beneficial to our health. Research suggests that regular tea drinkers — people who drink two cups or more a day — have less heart disease and stroke, lower total and LDL cholesterol, and recover from heart attacks faster. There’s also evidence that tea may help fight ovarian and breast cancers.

Tea also helps soothe stress and keep us relaxed. One British study found that people who drank black tea were able to de-stress faster than those who drank a fake tea substitute. The tea drinkers had lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.

The secret ingredient in tea

Catechins, a type of disease-fighting flavonoid and antioxidant, are the key to tea’s health benefits. The longer you steep the tea, the more flavonoids you’ll get in your brew. To get the best tea benefit, some studies suggest drinking three cups each day to cut heart disease risk. Drink decaffeinated tea if caffeine consumption is an issue for you.

Since iced tea is diluted, it’s a lighter source of flavonoids — but it still counts!

Choose to drink tea whenever you can, especially as a substitute for soft drinks. In the long run, drinking tea helps tote up the antioxidants you get in a day’s time.

Easy sun tea recipe

  1. Get a clear glass gallon-sized jar. The glass lets the sun in, and doesn’t give tea any strange odors or tastes that come from plastic.
  2. Use black tea: 16 teabags to make one gallon (16 cups) of sun tea.
  3. Find a sunny spot outside for your sun tea jar. Let it soak up the sun’s rays for about three hours.
  4. Remove tea bags. Pour over ice for a great summer treat!

 

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Simple Tips for Healthy Eyes

Your eyes are an important part of your health. There are many things you can do to keep them healthy and make sure you are seeing your best. Follow these simple steps for maintaining healthy eyes well into your golden years.

 

Have a comprehensive dilated eye exam.

You might think your vision is fine or that your eyes are healthy, but visiting your eye-care professional for a comprehensive dilated eye exam is the only way to really be sure. When it comes to common vision problems, some people don’t realize they could see better with glasses or contact lenses. In addition, many common eye diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic eye disease and age-related macular degeneration often have no warning signs. A dilated eye exam is the only way to detect these diseases in their early stages.

During a comprehensive dilated eye exam, your eye-care professional places drops in your eyes to dilate, or widen, the pupil to allow more light to enter the eye the same way an open door lets more light into a dark room. This enables your eye care professional to get a good look at the back of the eyes and examine them for any signs of damage or disease. Your eye-care professional is the only one who can determine if your eyes are healthy and if you’re seeing your best.

Know your family’s eye health history.

Talk to your family members about their eye health history. It’s important to know if anyone has been diagnosed with a disease or condition since many are hereditary. This will help to determine if you are at higher risk for developing an eye disease or condition.

Eat right to protect your sight.

You’ve heard carrots are good for your eyes. But eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, particularly dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, or collard greens is important for keeping your eyes healthy. Research has also shown there are eye health benefits from eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut.

Maintain a healthy weight.

Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing systemic conditions such as diabetic eye disease or glaucoma which can lead to vision loss. If you are having trouble maintaining a healthy weight, talk to your doctor.

Wear protective eyewear.

Wear protective eyewear when playing sports or doing activities around the home. Protective eyewear includes safety glasses and goggles, safety shields, and eye guards specially designed to provide the correct protection for a certain activity. Most protective eyewear lenses are made of polycarbonate, which is 10 times stronger than other plastics. Many eye care providers sell protective eyewear, as do some sporting goods stores.

Quit smoking or never start.

Smoking is as bad for your eyes as it is for the rest of your body. Research has linked smoking to an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and optic nerve damage, all of which can lead to blindness.

Be cool and wear your shades.

July is UV Safety Month and a good opportunity to remember that you must protect your skin and your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays. Sunglasses are a great fashion accessory, but their most important job is to protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. When purchasing sunglasses, look for ones that block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation.

Give your eyes a rest.

If you spend a lot of time at the computer or focusing on any one thing, you sometimes forget to blink and your eyes can get fatigued. Try the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds. This can help reduce eyestrain.

Clean your hands and your contact lenses properly.

To avoid the risk of infection, always wash your hands thoroughly before putting in or taking out your contact lenses. Make sure to disinfect contact lenses as instructed and replace them as appropriate.

Practice workplace eye safety.

Employers are required to provide a safe work environment. When protective eyewear is required as a part of your job, make a habit of wearing the appropriate type at all times and encourage your co-workers to do the same.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Protecting Yourself from Tick and Mosquito Bites

While it is a good idea to take preventive measures against ticks year-round, be extra vigilant in warmer months (April through September) when ticks are most active. And in summer, when we’re out hiking, biking, camping, and spending a lot more time in and around grass and woods, there are several steps you can take to limit bites from ticks, mosquitoes and other disease-bearing insects.

Avoid Direct Contact with Ticks and Mosquitoes When Possible

If you can, avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter. When hiking, picnicking or walking, try to remain in the center of trails.

You can repel ticks and mosquitoes with DEET or Permethrin. Here are some useful hints:

  • Use repellents that contain 20 percent or more DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) on the exposed skin for protection that lasts up to several hours. Always follow product instructions. Parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding hands, eyes, and mouth.
  • Use products that contain permethrin on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents. It remains protective through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is available and remains protective for up to 70 washings.
  • If you’re using other repellents, go to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website for safety information.

Find and Remove Ticks from Your Body

Finding and removing one of these little critters embedded in your skin can be gross, but painless. The best bet, of course, is to keep them at bay. But if they do find you, here are tips for dealing with them easily and effectively:

  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
  • Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.
  • Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and day packs. Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks.
  • Consult your doctor or a nurse (or Internet sources) to determine the best method for removing the tick; it’s important to remove the entire tick, or it can leave parts embedded in your skin.

Should you or a family member develop a bulls-eye-type red rash near the bite site, or exhibit other side effects such as a fever, lethargy or extreme exhaustion, consult your doctor. You may need to be tested for Lyme Disease, which is common in New England and treated with antibiotics.

Preventing Mosquito-Borne Diseases

When dealing with West Nile virus or other mosquito-related diseases, prevention is your best bet. Fighting mosquito bites reduces your risk of getting this disease, along with others that mosquitoes can carry. The chance that any one person is going to become ill from a single mosquito bite remains low. The risk of severe illness and death is highest for people over 50 years old, although people of all ages can become ill. Obviously, avoid bites whenever you can by covering up exposed areas, especially during peak feeding times (dusk to dawn). Clean out the areas that attract mosquitoes where you live and work, and help your community control these pests whenever possible.

Clothing Can Help Reduce Mosquito Bites

When possible, wear long-sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors. Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, so spraying clothes with repellent containing permethrin or DEET will give extra protection. Don’t apply repellents containing permethrin directly to skin. Do not spray repellent containing DEET on the skin under your clothing.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Workplace Obesity Prevention Programs Work

In a comprehensive study conducted just three years ago, the annual healthcare cost of obesity in the United States was estimated to be as high as 147 billion dollars a year. The annual medical burden of obesity had increased to 9.1 percent compared to 6.5 percent when measured in 1998. In fact, medical expenses for obese employees are estimated to be 42 percent higher than for a person with a healthy weight. So, even though an employee’s weight can be a sensitive topic, workplace obesity-prevention programs are effective ways for employers to reduce obesity and lower their healthcare costs, lower absenteeism, and increase employee productivity.

What is the cost of obesity to your organization?

Obesity and the health conditions associated with it, such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, stroke, coronary heart disease, and certain types of cancer are responsible for much of the increase in healthcare spending by employers. Obese persons spend 77 percent more money for necessary medications than non-obese persons.

It is estimated that employers spend $13 billion annually on the total cost of obesity. But obesity affects more than healthcare costs — it also has a significant impact on worker productivity because the more chronic medical conditions an employee has, the higher the probability of absenteeism or increased presenteeism (when an employee is physically present but ill or not at the top of “their game.”)

Organizations can benefit directly by improving employee health through wellness programs that include an obesity-prevention component. A survey of CEOs found that “healthier employees” is the number-one reason why companies choose to implement health promotion programs. Additionally, well-designed programs have the potential to extend beyond the worksite and positively influence dependents (spouses and children), and thereby reduce an organization’s overall healthcare costs.

Although it may seem that only large organizations can implement obesity-prevention and control programs, organizations of all sizes have done so successfully. Many types of organizations, including those with few employees and resources, are implementing successful obesity prevention programs.

Why should employers get involved?

Potential benefits to employers for initiating obesity-education efforts include:

  • Reduced cost for chronic diseases
  • Decreased absenteeism
  • Reduced employee turnover
  • Improved recruiting efforts
  • Increased worker satisfaction
  • Demonstrated concern for your employees
  • Improved morale

Potential benefits to your employees include:

  • Greater productivity
  • Reduced absenteeism
  • Improved fitness and health
  • Additional social opportunities and source of support within the workplace

“CDC’s LEAN Works! Leading Employees to Activity and Nutrition” is a free web-based resource that offers interactive tools and evidence-based resources to design effective worksite obesity-prevention and control programs. It includes an Obesity Cost Calculator  that lets you calculate your company’s ROI. The tool allows employers to create scenarios to estimate the financial impact of specific obesity interventions, including the costs, benefits, and time required to break even.

To reap the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Discover the Health Benefits of Swimming

As the fair weather returns, thoughts return to outdoor recreation and water sports. If you’re not already a swimming enthusiast, this might be a good time to discover the health benefits of swimming, and start building momentum for this comprehensive and healthy exercise. It can be practiced indoors or out and can also provide a welcome alternative to bored or injured runners.

Swimming provides a comprehensive workout

Swimming is a whole body workout. To swim for any sizable amount of time, you need to engage all your limbs or you risk getting quickly exhausted. As a consequence, all the muscles in your body are mobilized during a typical swim workout.

You will get an even better workout if you use several swimming strokes because you activate the muscles in several different ways. And as swimming engages all limbs in different kinds of motions, it promotes joint flexibility and allows you to participate in a great aerobic activity that often is easier on backs, hips, and knees than traditional track, court, and field athletic activities.

Good cardiovascular benefits, and low-impact exercise

The health benefits of swimming don’t stop there. Swimming is an endurance sport and one of the best cardiovascular exercises. Swimming exercise reduces your blood pressure, strengthens your heart, and improves your aerobic capacity.

When you swim, your body is supported by the water. The water has a much greater density than air, and this limits the speed at which you can move in the water. These factors make swimming one of the best low-impact exercises than can be practiced even when other forms of exercise aren’t possible. Swimming:

  • Can be practiced safely at any age
  • Can be practiced during pregnancy
  • Can be practiced as an alternative exercise for injured athletes
  • Is a good exercise regimen for overweight people

Weight control and recovering from injuries

There are other health benefits of swimming. As an endurance sport, swimming allows you to lose (or control) weight. It burns about three calories per mile per pound of body weight. To be effective for weight control, you need to swim at a continuous pace at least two or three times a week for at least half an hour.

Swimming also is an excellent sport that can relieve certain types of aches. It is often prescribed to patients experiencing back problems and pain. Swimming backstroke is an excellent exercise to loosen up and strengthen the back. Swimming is also an excellent exercise for people who suffer from arthritis because of the support and soft resistance of the water.

One caution. Even though swimming is a low-impact exercise, there is a possibility to develop certain swimming injuries, so consult your physician or physical therapist to be aware of these potential consequences.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

The Importance of Sunscreen: How to Select, Apply, and Use It Correctly

Now that the warm weather’s finally upon us, it’s important to remember that while we may love the outdoors, going to the beach and how we look with a tan, there are serious consequences when we get too much sun exposure. Overexposure to the sun causes sunburn, premature aging of the skin, wrinkling, and skin cancer, including melanoma. Here are tips to help you enjoy the outdoors without hurting yourself.

What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer, and the leading cause of death from skin disease. Melanoma can spread very rapidly. Although it is less common than other types of skin cancer, the rate of melanoma is steadily increasing.

The development of melanoma is related to sun exposure or ultraviolet radiation, particularly among people with fair skin, blue or green eyes, and red or blond hair. The risk of developing melanoma increases with age. However, the disease also frequently affects young, otherwise healthy people.

Risks for melanoma include the following:

  • Living in sunny climates or at high altitudes
  • Long-term exposure to high levels of strong sunlight, because of a job or other activities
  • One or more blistering sunburns during childhood
  • Use of tanning devices

Unprotected sun exposure is dangerous

Sunlight consists of ultraviolet (UV) rays, as well as related rays such as UVA, UVB, and UVC.

  • UVA rays are present throughout the day and are the most important cause of premature aging of the skin. In addition, UVA rays are responsible for photosensitivity reactions and also contribute to skin cancer.
  • UVB rays are most intense from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm and are most responsible for sunburn and skin cancer development.
  • UVC rays are filtered by the ozone layer and do not reach the earth’s surface.

Increased exposure to UV radiation occurs nearer the equator, during summer months, at higher elevation and during peak daylight. Reflection from the snow, sand, and water increases exposure, a particularly important consideration for beach activities, skiing, swimming, and sailing. You can limit your dangerous exposure and help prevent burns and long-term damage by covering exposed areas when possible, wearing hats, and using the wide variety of sunscreens available in most stores and pharmacies.

When to apply sunscreen

  • Apply sunscreen approximately 30 minutes before being in the sun (for best results) so that it can be absorbed by the skin and less likely to wash off when you perspire.
  • Remember to reapply sunscreen after swimming or strenuous exercise.
  • Apply sunscreen often throughout the day if you work outdoors, and wear hats and protective clothing.

How to apply sunscreen

  • Shake well before use to mix particles that might be clumped up in the container. Consider using the new spray-on or stick types of sunscreen.
  • Be sure to apply enough sunscreen. As a rule of thumb, use an ounce (a handful) to cover your entire body.
  • Use on all parts of your skin exposed to the sun, including the ears, back, shoulders, and the back of the knees and legs.
  • Apply thickly and thoroughly.
  • Be careful when applying sunscreen around the eyes.

What to look for when you buy sunscreen

  • Pick a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UV-A and UV-B rays and has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.
  • Read product labels. Look for a waterproof brand if you will be sweating or swimming. Buy a non-stinging product or one specifically formulated for your face.
  • Buy a brand that does not contain para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) if you are sensitive to that ingredient.
  • Try a sunscreen with different chemicals if your skin reacts badly to the one that you are using. Not all sunscreens have the same ingredients.
  • Use a water-based sunscreen if you have oily skin or are prone to acne.
  • Be aware that more expensive does not mean better. Although a costly brand might feel or smell better, it is not necessarily more effective than a cheaper product.
  • Be aware of the expiration date because some sunscreen ingredients might degrade over time.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Tips for Exercising Safely in the Heat

As temperatures soar, there are important tips that people of all ages can follow to enjoy physical activity and exercise and also reduce the risk of heat illness that may occur from activity in the heat of summer. June is Men’s Health Month, and while we can experience high temperatures as summer approaches, this awareness is especially timely in July and August when participating in summer activities, outdoor recreation and sports.

“Many cases of heat illness are preventable and can be successfully treated if such conditions are properly recognized and appropriate care is provided in a timely manner,” said athletic trainer Brendon P. McDermott, assistant professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. “We’re hoping to educate athletes, coaches, parents and health care providers about what can be done to prevent and treat heat illnesses.”
 

Watching for certain factors is key to safe summer activities

To guard against heat illnesses, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) recommends following these easy steps:

  1. Gradually increase activity in terms of intensity and duration in the heat. This prepares your body for more intense, longer duration exercise in warm conditions, and helps prevent injury and heat illness.
  2. Intersperse periods of rest during activity and assure adequate rest between exercise bouts. Rest breaks are an important defense against heat illness, and proper sleeping habits decrease your risk as well.
  3. Begin outdoor activities only after you’re properly hydrated. Drink water or sports drinks throughout physical activity in the heat.
  4. A darker urine color is a quick indicator of dehydration. Your urine should look more like lemonade than apple juice.
  5. Exercise during cooler portions of the day (early morning or late evening), if possible.
  6. Do not participate in intense exercise if you show signs of an existing illness (i.e., fever, diarrhea, extreme fatigue, etc.). These can decrease your body’s tolerance for heat and increase your risk of a heat illness. Back off on exercise intensity or duration if not feeling well (walk instead of run, cut the session short, etc.)
  7. Athletic events should employ an athletic trainer for coverage to assure proper medical supervision, recognition and treatment of possible injuries and heat illness.

Heat-related ailments – what to watch for

“We are not invincible when it comes to exercise in the heat,” said McDermott. “In extreme cases, if medical care is not provided in a timely manner, long-term damage can occur.”

Following is an overview of the heat-related ailments to be aware of when working or playing in the heat:

  1. Exertional Heat Stroke is an extremely serious illness that can result in death unless quickly recognized and properly treated. Signs and symptoms include an increase in core body temperature (usually above 104°F/40°C); central nervous system dysfunction, such as altered consciousness, seizures, confusion, emotional instability, irrational behavior or decreased mental acuity; nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea; headache, dizziness, or weakness; increased heart rate; decreased blood pressure or fast breathing; dehydration; and combativeness.

    What to do: It’s very important that treatment for exertional heat stroke be both aggressive and immediate, provided adequate medical personnel are on site. Key steps to take when exertional heat stroke is identified include immediate whole-body cooling, preferably through cold-water immersion, followed immediately by medical treatment in an emergency room or trauma center.

  2. Heat exhaustion is a moderately serious illness resulting from fluid loss or sodium loss in the heat. Signs and symptoms include loss of coordination; dizziness or fainting; profuse sweating or pale skin; headache, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea; stomach/intestinal cramps or persistent muscle cramps.

    What to do: Heat exhaustion patients should immediately be transported to a cool, shaded environment with feet elevated, and fluids should be replaced. If their condition worsens or does not improve within minutes, they should be transported to the emergency room for evaluation and treatment. Those suffering from heat exhaustion should avoid intense activity in the heat until at least the next day. NATA also recommends a trip to the doctor to rule out any underlying conditions that predispose them to heat exhaustion.

  3. Heat cramps are often present in those who perform strenuous exercise in the heat. Conversely, cramps also occur in the absence of warm or hot conditions, which is common in ice hockey players. Signs and symptoms include intense pain (not associated with pulling or straining a muscle) and persistent muscle contractions that continue during and after exercise.

    What to do: People suffering from heat cramps should cease activity, consume high-sodium food and stretch the affected muscle. They should also be assessed by an athletic trainer to determine if they can return to activity. If cramping progresses in severity or number of muscle groups, patients should be transported to the emergency room for more advanced treatment.

  4. Hyponatremia is a potentially fatal illness that occurs when a person’s blood sodium levels decrease, either due to over-hydration or inadequate sodium intake, or both. Medical complications can result in cerebral and/or pulmonary edema. Signs and symptoms of this illness include excessive fluid consumption before, during and after exercising (weight gain during activity); increasing headache; nausea and vomiting (often repetitive); and swelling of extremities (hands and feet).

    What to do: Hyponatremia cases that involve mental confusion and intense headache should be seen by a physician so proper treatment can be administered. A physician should also be consulted prior to resuming outdoor activity in the heat.

Always listen to your body. If you are participating in any fitness routines or general activity in the heat, and you start to feel ill or strange, you should stop immediately and seek medical attention, as needed. Have fun, but be safe in the heat!

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Maximizing Return On Investment (ROI) for Worksite Wellness Programs

The work site is the ideal place for health and wellness programs. Employees spend more than half of their waking hours at work. According to the Wellness Councils of America, the amount of ROI that can be expected from a wellness program depends on the type of program being implemented. They refer to three different types of programs: (1) Quality of Work Life (QWL) Wellness or “Wellness for Fun and Pleasure;” (2) Traditional or Conventional (ToC) Wellness or “the Safe Approach;” and (3) Health and Productivity Management (HPM) Style Wellness, or “Serious Wellness.”

QWL wellness programs focus primarily on improving the morale of employees. They are intended to add quality to work life and to improve camaraderie and relationships between employer and employees. This approach to worksite wellness involves entirely voluntary activities that are generally selected for the positive effect they are likely to have on employees. The ROI for this type of program is quite low with a cost/benefit ratio from zero to 1:1.5.

ToC wellness programs focus primarily on the passive offering of a more extensive set of interventions than the QWL program model. They are intended to offer a wide range of activities in a smorgasbord-style approach where about half the eligible participants will usually initiate the use of one or more program activities. The intention is to offer, on a voluntary basis, many different worksite-based wellness activities and to have something for everybody. The ROI for this type of program is moderate with a cost/benefit ratio of 1:1.5 to 1:3.5.   

HPM wellness programs focus primarily on the proactive offering of a highly structured and substantial set of interventions than either the QWL program model or the ToC program model. They are intended to provide an infrastructure of health-management activities offered to a large portion of the workforce and their spouses. The core intention of the HPM model is to offer an organized, intentional process of health improvement and health-risk reduction for all participants. The ROI for this type of program is higher than that of the other two program types with a cost/benefit ratio of 1:3.6 to 1:7.0.

Regardless of which model you choose, the ROI on worksite-related wellness activities succeeds on multiple physical, emotional and cultural levels, helps reduce health-care related costs, and increases morale and productivity.

We’ll continue to bring you wellness ROI stories each month, but also encourage you to share your stories with us. Please let us know what you’re doing, how it’s going, and if we can mention your efforts in a future issue of this newsletter. Send your note to Daryn.marchi@cbia.com.

To reap the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Understanding and Controlling Your Blood Pressure

About 74.5 million people in the United States have high blood pressure, which is also called hypertension. May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month, but high blood pressure is a year-round health challenge for every American. Hypertension increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, the first- and third-leading causes of death in the United States.

Who Has High Blood Pressure?

  • Almost 90% of adults aged 45–64 years will develop high blood pressure during the remainder of their lifetime.
  • About 25% of American adults aged 20 years or older have pre-hypertension.
  • One in three U.S. adults aged 20 years or older has hypertension.
  • Nearly one in five people has hypertension and is not aware that they have it.
  • In the United States, high blood pressure is more common among blacks than whites. About 44% of black women have high blood pressure.
  • Mexican-Americans have the lowest level of hypertension control compared to non-Hispanic whites and blacks.

Blood pressure is written as two numbers. The first (systolic) number represents the pressure when the heart beats. The second (diastolic) number represents the pressure when the heart rests between beats. Blood pressure that is slightly higher than normal is called pre-hypertension. People with pre-hypertension are more likely to develop high blood pressure than are people with normal blood pressure levels.

Why controlling your blood pressure is important

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, and kidney disease. It is a primary or contributing cause of death for more than 300,000 Americans every year, and nearly 45 million people visit their doctor for high blood pressure-related issues annually.

You can maintain healthy blood pressure through changing your lifestyle or by combining lifestyle changes with prescribed medications.

Key lifestyle changes include the following:

  • Have your blood pressure checked regularly.
  • Maintain a normal body weight (body mass index of 18.5-24.9).
  • Keep up physical activity (two hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest,  shoulders, and arms).
  • Follow a healthy eating plan including a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and low in sodium.
  • Quit smoking.
  • If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation (no more than two drinks per day for men and one or fewer drinks per day for women).
  • If you have high blood pressure and are prescribed medication(s), take as directed.
  • Reduce sodium intake. A diet high in sodium (salt) increases the risk for higher blood pressure. About 77% of the sodium Americans consume comes from processed and restaurant foods.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Managing Your Hay Fever Symptoms

Okay, so stop sneezing for a few minutes and take a quick inventory:  Eyes watery, nose runny, head achy, throat itchy, feeling tired, irritable and getting worse by the day? Well, join the club!  “Hay fever” (seasonal allergic rhinitis) affects over 20 percent of Americans. 

Most common in early spring, the symptoms of hay fever develop as a reaction to allergens (allergy-causing substances) in the air, most notably to pollens in the early spring. Other examples of airborne allergens include mold spores, dust, and animal dander.

Pollen consists of the minuscule, male cells of flowering plants. Pollen from garden flowers usually doesn’t cause allergies, since this type of pollen is large and waxy and most often carried by insects. Small, light, dry pollens produced by trees, grasses, and weeds can disseminate with the wind and lead to allergic symptoms.

Your doctor can help you determine whether treatments are necessary, such as prescription or nonprescription antihistamines to control the symptoms of hay fever. Whether or not you take medication for hay fever, you can still take steps to reduce the severity of your symptoms. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology has some useful tips for those who suffer from seasonal allergies:

  1. Wash bed sheets weekly in hot water.
  2. Always bathe and wash hair before bedtime (pollen can collect on skin and hair throughout the day).
  3. Do not hang clothes outside to dry where they can trap pollens.
  4. Wear a filter mask when mowing or working outdoors. Also, if you can, avoid peak times for pollen exposure (hot, dry, windy days, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.). Although pollens are usually emitted in early morning, peak times for dissemination are between around 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  5. Be aware of local pollen counts in your area (visit the National Allergy Bureau Web site).
  6. Keep house, office and car windows closed; use air conditioning if possible rather than opening windows.
  7. Perform a thorough spring cleaning of your home, including replacing heating and A/C filters and cleaning ducts and vents.
  8. Check bathrooms and other damp areas in your home frequently for mold and mildew, and remove visible mold with nontoxic cleaners.
  9. Keep pets out of the bedroom and off of furniture, since they may carry pollen if they have been outdoors (or exacerbate your allergies if, for example, you’re allergic to cat dander)

Learn more about allergy treatment and prevention by visiting The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, at www.aaaai.org.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!