Stick a Cork in It! Living with Sleep Apnea

“But I don’t snore.” How many times have you heard that denial?! We joke about it, and we can be sensitive to a point, but the truth is that excessive snoring can be a symptom of a dangerous sleep disorder. Fortunately, there are simple, non-invasive tests to help determine why people snore and solutions to help them breathe more clearly and to assist them – and their families, partners, or neighbors – sleep well.

Chronic snoring is often the result of obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where the breathing pathways are partially blocked by cartilage and tissue. The sufferer experiences lapses in breathing and fails to receive oxygen for brief moments during the sleep cycle.

Obstructive sleep apnea can be very serious. It contributes to daytime sleepiness, which can lead to reduced productivity, irritability, decreased ability to fight infection and illness, and possibly accidents in vehicles and at work due to fatigue. Other health problems have been tied to sleep apnea including high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease.

Sleep apnea is diagnosed through a comprehensive exam and often requires participating in a sleep study. This takes place in a laboratory designed to look like a typical bedroom. The patient spends the night hooked up to electrodes and is monitored by cameras which record movement, breathing patterns, oxygen content, and other evaluative criteria. This information is then reviewed by experts, who can recommend an effective treatment plan designed to improve your quality of life by improving your breathing and sleeping.

One of the most effective treatments of obstructive sleep apnea is a breathing system called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). CPAP uses a machine and breathing mask to help the person breathe more easily during sleep. The CPAP machine increases air pressure in your throat so that your airway does not collapse when you breathe in.

Often, people who have sleep apnea don’t know they have it. They’re not aware that their breathing stops and starts many times while they’re sleeping. Family members or bed partners usually are the first to notice signs of sleep apnea and can suggest medical intervention.

Family members can do many things to help a loved one who has sleep apnea, such as:

  • Let the person know if he or she snores loudly during sleep or has breathing stops and starts.
  • Encourage the person to get medical help.
  • Help the person follow the doctor’s treatment plan, including CPAP treatment.
  • Provide emotional support.

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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!

Wash Away Your Troubles . . . or at Least the Germs

You’d think by now we wouldn’t still be writing or reading articles about the value of proper hand washing in limiting the spread of bacteria, germs and common disease. But for all the buzz and promotion and hand wringing by caring mothers everywhere, people still don’t seem to get the message: Thorough, proper hand washing is the easiest, most cost effective and smartest way to prevent the spread of germs that cause a variety of diseases that are passed from person to person. Period.

Keeping hands clean through improved hand hygiene will help you avoid getting sick and reduce the spread of germs to others. Many diseases and conditions are spread when people don’t wash hands with soap and clean, running water. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol to clean hands. But also know that if your hands are visibly dirty, sanitizer is not going to do the trick.

So, even though it’s an old story, we’re going to tell it again, especially since it’s summer and you and your kids are playing and working outdoors, attending fairs and picnics, visiting farms and beaches, and visiting all the places germs love to congregate.

You should always wash your hands:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

And while you’re at it, washing your hands improperly negates the value, so here are some simple hand-hygiene tips:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
  • Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well.
  • Be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Of course, you don’t want to be a germaphobe, but common sense is always the best policy. ATMs, debit machines, gas pumps, door handles, laundromats, playgrounds…the list of potential incubation sites is endless. Our bodies are built for this, but with a little help from you, you’ll have fewer colds, infections, and other inconvenient ailments by practicing this simple, easy step. Post this article on your refrigerator, and have a great, healthy summer!

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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!

Travel Wellness: Plan and Be Happy

As you pack for your summer vacation, there are a number of extras you should consider sticking in your luggage and other preparations you should consider prior to getting on the road, in the air, or boarding your cruise.

If traveling abroad, be sure to investigate recommended vaccinations for the country or region you are visiting. Your PCP or an infectious disease specialist can guide you and offer suggested protection. They may even provide antibiotics “for the road,” if needed.

The last things you want to struggle with anywhere (especially while vacationing in a foreign land) are stomach ailments. These are very common, and travelers are more susceptible in areas that don’t share our highly regulated standards for water sources and purity. Know when it’s safe to “drink the water,” which includes ice cubes in your beverages, fountain drinks that use local water, and in warm beverages which may never get hot enough to kill bacteria.  In questionable areas, you should also avoid tap water for rinsing your mouth while brushing your teeth. Additionally, you may have to avoid or use extra caution when eating locally grown vegetables and fruit that are washed in local water.

Bring medicines with you. We’re spoiled in the U.S. with multiple pharmacies nearby and a plethora of medications available in supermarkets and mini marts. In other countries, many of the medicines we take for granted, like over-the-counter antacids and heartburn remedies, nausea medicine, cold and flu options, antihistamines, decongestants, hydrocortisone creams, and traditional painkillers may be hard to find or unavailable outside of a hospital or clinic, especially outside of a city.

Don’t count on being able to refill your prescriptions easily. Anticipate what you’re going to need for the time you’re away, and get enough to carry you. Many pharmacies will allow you to take extra meds beyond your 30-day standard dose with a second prescription from your physician, but don’t wait for the last minute. If you’re asthmatic and use an inhaler, or require an EpiPen in case of allergic reactions, plan in advance. It’s also smart to have every medicine you are taking written down – both name and dose – in case you end up needing medical care.

Smart travel wellness extends beyond food choices and medication preparedness, no matter where you vacation. It’s important to listen to your body’s natural rhythms when it comes to sleep and physical activity. There’s always more to see and do than there is time, but when you overextend yourself for prolonged periods, your natural immunities and protections may be compromised, and you’re more likely to get sick or sustain an injury.

Common sense continues to be your best guide. Use sunscreen, wear hats, and use insect repellants.  If you’re riding a bike or motorized bike, wear a helmet. Use seatbelts in cars and taxis, just like you would at home.

Be smart, use your head, plan wisely, and have a great time!

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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!

Employers, You Don’t Have to Do it All Yourself!

You know in your heart and in your head that wellness programs work effectively for improving your employees’ physical and behavioral health. Wellness programs also promote teamwork, contribute to improved productivity, can boost quality, retention and customer service, and reduce absenteeism. Yet for all that we believe to be true – and have seen work effectively, especially with large employee populations – wellness efforts for small employers are still relatively new and largely unmeasured.

Large employers have embraced and invested in workplace wellness programs for many years, and have seen a strong return on investment (ROI) in having a healthy workforce that can help stem rising healthcare costs and boost employee productivity. In contrast, the landscape for small businesses varies greatly from the large-employer community, even though there are valuable lessons to be learned and shared. Many factors contribute to this contrast, including:

  • Lack of Data: Lack of research and gaps in data result in an absence of a strong case for support (including ROI) to small employers to offer workplace wellness programs;
  • Lack of Awareness: Small business owners, in addition to employees of these businesses, lack awareness about the benefits of workplace wellness programs;
  • Lack of Financial Incentives: Multiple, credible studies over many years on large company wellness programs suggest that when there is a measurable ROI and financial incentives for either or both the employer and employee, wellness programs work. There is no such option currently for small employers.
  • Variability among Size and Workforce Makeup: Small businesses vary greatly in size and in the makeup of their workforce, and there is a deficit of effective adaptable and scalable models and other tools. However, that picture is changing as a groundswell of support and resources are now becoming available. Organizations and programs have been established regionally and nationally to provide training, education, and information that all small employers can review, use and relate to.

A great place to start is CBIA Healthy Connections, a wellness program specifically designed for your small business that’s available for free to CBIA Health Connections participants. Visit cbiahealthyconnections.com to learn why wellness programs make sense for small business and how to get your company started.

Another valuable resource is the Wellness Council of America (WELCOA), which offers training, newsletters, educational materials, and workshops. Most of this information is free, and they offer access to employers and to employees at www.welcoa.org.

As more research is conducted and small employers continue to search for support and additional resources, new statistics are likely to emerge validating the effectiveness and return on investment inherent to small business wellness programs. Meanwhile, employers can find and implement a variety of support services that will help them initiate or expand their current efforts, and continue their positive journey toward employee wellness.

Excuse me while I chew on this rock

Have you ever experienced one of those obsessive, “I’m not going to be able to sleep, work or play until I satisfy my craving for a Twinkie” kinds of moments? Except instead of a small snack cake, your craving may be for chocolate, potato chips, ice cream, broccoli, bananas, or just about anything?

The need for salty, sweet, and wet isn’t just compulsive longings; it’s often driven by our bodies’ need for essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Many psychologically or pleasure-derived cravings are short-lived. We can always be disciplined, demonstrating restraint until the craving passes, eating small portions of whatever’s calling to us, or substituting healthier options. But the cravings we should heed are those that close a nutritional gap or replace critical chemicals such as electrolytes or salt, which we lose through heavy perspiration and physical activity, or potassium and magnesium, which help regulate metabolism, blood pressure, heart function, anxiety and much more.

An electrolyte is a food item that contains an electrical charge when consumed, making the solution itself electrically conductive. Electrolytes are highly important in our diet; they aid in helping us to maintain hydration, regulate muscle and nerve function, and help improve acid-base balance. It is important to consume foods that are high in potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium.

Sodium is found in most processed foods, snacks and drinks, but too much isn’t good for your heart and blood pressure, so finding a balance is important. You can replace sodium and electrolytes lost to physical activity by drinking sports drinks; too much water “flushes” sodium and can leave you with a deficiency.

We get calcium, which is critical for healthy bone growth and strength, from milk and other dairy products, as well as from fortified cereals, beans, vegetables such as asparagus, and fruits such as figs.

Potassium can be found in many foods, including bananas, kale, tomatoes, oranges, melons and soy products. Milk and yogurt, as well as nuts, red meat, fish and an enormous variety of vegetables (it’s often found in the skin of veggies like sweet potatoes and squash) also are excellent sources of potassium. Fruits that contain significant sources of potassium include citrus fruits, cantaloupe, bananas, kiwi, prunes, and apricots.

Magnesium is equally critical, though doesn’t get as much attention, typically, in articles and on television. Magnesium helps regulate your metabolic rate, heart rate and blood pressure, and helps keep bones healthy and strong. Magnesium deficiency can be found in many forms. If you are suffering from anxiety, panic attacks, stress, high blood pressure, diabetes, muscle spasms, insomnia, osteoporosis, or cardiovascular disease, there could be a magnesium deficiency in your diet.

Foods rich in magnesium include green vegetables, nuts, beans, fish, bananas, avocados, tomato, certain spices, whole grains, and chocolate.

Eating at least three or four of these foods each day will ensure that you are meeting your magnesium requirements and need for other essential nutrients. There also are supplements available at health-food stores, though you should consult with your physician before adding supplements to your diet, especially if you take medication or suffer from chronic diseases.

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!

Understanding and coping with migraines and tension headaches

If ever there was another club you didn’t want to belong to, here’s a doozy:  The Headache Club. Membership is free, and all are welcome. Unfortunately, many people qualify; one out of eight Americans suffer from migraines and millions experience occasional or periodic non-chronic headaches.

Tension headaches are one of the most common forms of headaches. They may occur at any age, but are most common in adults and adolescents. Tension headaches occur when neck and scalp muscles become tense, or contract. The muscle contractions can be a response to stress, depression, a head injury, exhaustion or anxiety. Additionally, any activity that causes the head to be held in one position for a long time without moving can cause a headache. That might include typing or other computer or close-up work, fine work with the hands, sleeping in a cold room, or sleeping with the neck in an abnormal position.

Drinking alcoholic beverages is one of the best-known causes for headaches. Blood flow to your brain increases when you drink alcohol, and impurities in alcohol or by-products produced as your body metabolizes alcohol can cause headaches. Red wine, beer, whiskey, and champagne are the most commonly identified headache triggers.

Other common triggers of tension headaches include:

  • Caffeine (too much or withdrawal)
  • Colds, the flu, or a sinus infection
  • Dental problems such as jaw clenching or teeth grinding
  • Eye strain
  • Excessive smoking
  • Fatigue or overexertion

Tension headaches can occur when you also have a migraine. Migraines usually begin during the teenage years. After puberty, migraines are more likely to affect girls and women. Experts still aren’t sure what causes these often debilitating headaches. They seem to involve a wave of unusual activity in brain nerve cells, along with changes in blood flow in the brain.

Migraines have a tendency to run in families – up to 80 percent of migraine sufferers have a family member who also gets these headaches. Though migraines can trigger severe pain in the head, they aren’t simply headaches. They often also cause other uncomfortable symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, unusual sensitivity to light, noises, and smells, inability to work, sleep, eat or even get off the couch or out of bed. They are complicated, with a variety of symptoms that change over hours or can run for days.

Migraine sufferers should seek treatment from their physician or a specialist, but may be able to reduce the frequency of their migraine attacks by identifying and then avoiding migraine triggers. For example, recalling what was eaten prior to an attack may help you identify chemical triggers, so experts recommend keeping a “migraine diary.” Eating on a regular schedule and ensuring adequate rest contribute to fewer migraine attacks, as does stress management, coping techniques, and relaxing skills. Additionally, regular exercise, in moderation, can help prevent migraines. And women who often get migraines around their menstrual period can take preventive therapy when they know their period is coming.

Medication can help reduce the number and severity of migraine headaches for people who get them frequently. Caution is recommended, however, as many commonly used pain-relief medications, when taken too often, can cause low-grade or rebound headaches. These potential culprits include aspirin, sinus-relief medications, acetaminophen (Tylenol), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, sedatives, codeine, and prescription narcotics and over-the-counter combination headache remedies containing caffeine.

Additionally, certain foods are suspected of contributing to migraines in some patients. These can include aged cheese and other foods containing tyramine, a naturally occurring substance formed as foods age, especially high-protein foods. Tyramine also is found in red wine, alcoholic beverages, and some processed meats. Food additives, such as nitrates and nitrites, dilate blood vessels and also can cause headaches.

Keeping headaches at bay

Here are some steps you can take to help reduce headache frequency and severity.

  • Follow your headache treatment plan and avoid taking medications that have not been ordered by your doctor.
  • Reduce emotional stress. Make time to relax, try to take breaks from stressful situations, and learn relaxation skills such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.
  • When sitting for prolonged periods, get up and stretch periodically and consciously relax your jaw, neck, and shoulders.
  • Get proper rest and sleep
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat meals and snacks at about the same times every day
  • Quit smoking. Smoking can trigger headaches and make any headache, especially cluster headaches, worse.

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!

Block the sun, not the message

We love the sun, especially after a dreary winter and rainy spring. Whether it’s sports on weekends, working outdoors, parties and picnics, trips to the beach or just hanging on the deck or in the yard, we soak up those rays, get our vitamin D and savor our new tans.

We also are creatures of habit, and that includes hearing and sometimes ignoring information on certain health risks. We register the information, know we should heed the warnings, and go on with our day, good habits and bad. But this year, as the perennial warnings about sun exposure and the dangers of Ultraviolet (UV) rays hit the air waves, take note: skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States.

Unprotected exposure to UV radiation is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer. In fact, UV radiation from the sun and from tanning beds is classified as a human carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization. Each year, more new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. than new cases of breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer combined. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, and one American dies from skin cancer every hour.

Chronic exposure to the sun suppresses our natural immune system and also causes premature aging, which over time can make the skin become thick, wrinkled, and leathery. Since it occurs gradually, often manifesting itself many years after the majority of a person’s sun exposure, premature aging is often regarded as an unavoidable, normal part of growing older. However, up to 90 percent of the visible skin changes commonly attributed to aging are caused by the sun. With proper protection from UV radiation, many forms of skin cancer and most premature aging of the skin can be avoided.

Properly protecting yourself from UV exposure

The best way to lower your risk of skin cancer is to protect your skin from the sun and ultraviolet light. Using sunscreen and avoiding the sun help reduce the chance of many aging skin changes, including some skin cancers. However, it is important not to rely too much on sunscreen alone. You should also not use sunscreen as an excuse to increase the amount of time you spend in the sun. Even with the use of sunscreens, people should not stay out too long during peak sunlight hours; UV rays can still penetrate your clothes and skin and do harm.

When possible, avoid sun exposure during the peak hours of 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, when UV rays are the strongest. Clouds and haze do not protect you from the sun, so use sun protection even on cloudy days.

Use sunscreens that block out both UVA and UVB radiation. Products that contain either zinc oxide or titanium oxide offer the best protection. Less expensive products that have the same ingredients work as well as expensive ones. Older children and adults (even those with darker skin) benefit from using SPFs (sun protection factor) of 15 and over. Many experts recommend that most people use SPF 30 or higher on the face and 15 or higher on the body, and people who burn easily or have risk factors for skin cancer should use SPF 50+.

When and how to use sunscreen:

  • Adults and children should wear sunscreen every day, even if they go outdoors for only a short time.
  • Apply 30 minutes before going outdoors for best results. This allows time for the sunscreen to be absorbed.
  • Remember to use sunscreen during the winter when snow and sun are both present.
  • Reapply at least every two hours while you are out in the sunlight.
  • Reapply after swimming or sweating. Waterproof formulas last for about 40 minutes in the water, and water-resistant formulas last half as long.

Here are additional safety tips and information for protecting yourself from harmful UV radiation:

  • Adults and children should wear hats with wide brims to shield from the sun’s rays.
  • Wear protective clothing. Look for loose-fitting, unbleached, tightly woven fabrics. The tighter the weave, the more protective the garment.
  • Avoid sun lamps, tanning beds, and tanning salons.
  • Buy clothing and swimwear that block out UV rays. This clothing is rated using SPF (as used with sunscreen) or a system called the ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) index.
  • Avoid surfaces that reflect light, such as water, sand, concrete, snow, and white-painted areas.
  • Beware that at higher altitudes you burn more quickly.

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!

Friendly challenges and incentives help drive wellness participation

It’s coming up on summer, when people are forced to look at their bodies in sleeveless shirts, shorts, and bathing suits. This is the perfect season (and a good internal marketing opportunity) to capitalize on normal worries over body shape and image by enhancing your employee wellness program participation through reminders, incentives, and team activities.

Most wellness programs ramp up in the winter, when people are forced indoors, holiday eating increases, and weight gain peaks. That’s when personal goals are often set, new-year resolutions made, and gym memberships soar. Now, six months later, people are emerging like butterflies from their cocoons, and they may not be happy with what they’re seeing. And even if they are, summer is a good time to reiterate your commitment to their health and wellness, and to parlay your interest in their wellbeing into visible action.

This would be a good time to review wellness program participation, to recognize goals achieved, and to encourage others to set their own or new goals. You can help through any of the following steps:

Offer a company-wide incentive for health assessment participation. When everyone participates in your wellness program, everyone benefits. Even though it’s an individual choice, you can encourage more involvement by rewarding the entire team when everyone completes their assessment. This can be through gift cards, a team meal, time off, or other incentives that work for you and your business.

Offer healthcare screenings.  You can bring healthcare screeners to your workplace, or encourage your employees to get screened on their own. Then consider having them compare notes and share their personal results, goals, and accomplishments. Having moral support at the workplace is invaluable, and it strengthens overall teamwork and morale.

Ask employees to talk about wellness efforts. Host a breakfast, lunch, or afternoon gathering (with healthy snacks, of course!) dedicated to your wellness efforts. Ask employees what’s working right about your program, and what could be done differently or better. Soliciting feedback and involving them directly in their own wellness planning allows you to learn what challenges they (and you) are facing in launching or maintaining a successful effort.

Host a “wellness picnic” or event. Chances are you’re going to do some kind of picnic or team outing before the summer’s over, so why not relate it to wellness? If you tie your activity to wellness, you can have themed events, offer healthy food and involve families in your employees’ personal wellness practices. It also shows that you are fully committed to this program. Let your employees plan the event, then you can pick up the check and be the hero.

Sponsor a walk for charity. There is no shortage of worthy causes, only a shortage of funding! So encourage your employees to choose a charity walk or run, build a team, and train for the event. You sponsor them, your company name gets on their tee-shirts, and they work together to improve their health, improve camaraderie, and support a good cause. The same thinking can be applied to softball, golf, or other physical activities.

Introduce a new wellness element. This might be a good time to offer an incentive such as partial reimbursement on health or fitness club membership, involvement in a smoking-cessation program, replacing candy, soda, and unhealthy snacks in vending machines with healthy snacks and drinks, etc. The point is to keep building momentum and to show you’re vested in your team’s wellness…just saying it isn’t enough.

As your company’s leader, it’s up to you to set a positive, energized wellness example, to offer meaningful incentives and opportunities, to encourage teamwork, and to reward effort. These actions will speak far louder than words throughout the year.

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!

Act now to protect your brain and your heart

When you strive to keep your heart healthy you help keep your brain healthy, too. Following a heart-healthy lifestyle may lower your blood pressure, which reduces your chances of having heart disease or a stroke, and it can also make a big difference in your mental abilities as you age.

May is National Blood Pressure Awareness Month and also National Mental Health Month.

High blood pressure often has no visible symptoms, which is why it’s dubbed “the silent killer.” It can be controlled with lifestyle changes that focus on diet and exercise, and special prescription medications. Many of the same unhealthy lifestyle behaviors (including poor diet and lack of physical exercise) that contribute to high blood pressure also have been linked to dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss and cognitive dysfunction. It is thought that narrow blood vessels caused by high cholesterol reduce blood flow to the brain which can cause memory loss and general mental deterioration.

Stress also is a contributor to mental high blood pressure. When we’re frustrated, depressed, or under tremendous pressure at work or at home, we tend to eat poorly, not exercise and otherwise tax our bodies. Links have been established between stress and our body’s production of excess cholesterol. Stress also interferes with our normal sleep, which causes fatigue and makes us irritable and more susceptible to illness. When unchecked, stress interferes with our general quality of life, and can affect our relationships, productivity, customer service, safety and quality.

Tips for controlling blood pressure through a healthier lifestyle:

  • Exercise regularly. This includes getting outdoors or to the gym, setting reasonable goals for physical activity, and walking every day, if possible.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight. Limit intake of red meat and fried foods, sugar and fat, and adapt to a healthier diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean protein, and fish.
  • Limit your sodium intake by cutting down on processed foods, soda, and other products with a high salt content.
  • Try to reduce or quit smoking, and limit or eliminate the use of other tobacco products.
  • If you drink alcohol or coffee/caffeine products, practice moderation.
  • Have your blood pressure checked regularly. If it’s high, or if you have a family history of hypertension or heart disease, your physician may recommend medications created to help lower or control blood pressure and related conditions.
  • Be aware of situations and behaviors that cause you stress, and try to address or limit them.

Managing your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol are all critical elements you can influence. Our bodies and minds are complicated mechanisms, and all systems are intertwined. Be aware of your blood pressure through regular checkups, know the warning signs, and make conscious decisions to take better care of yourself.

It’s also important to discuss any cognitive problems you’re having with your healthcare provider. We all have a little trouble when we age, like forgetting where we put our keys, but if your memory problems seem greater than usual, you may need to be evaluated by a neurologist, or someone who specializes in cognitive issues.

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!

Listen to your body — drink water!

While you may crave a cold soda or beer after mowing the lawn, nothing beats pure, unadulterated water, the healthiest drink on the planet. It quenches your thirst and is essential in helping avoid dehydration in hot weather.

Our blood, muscles, lungs, and brain all contain water. We need water to regulate body temperature and to help nutrients reach our organs and tissues. Water helps transport oxygen to our cells, remove waste, and protect our joints and organs.

Dehydration occurs when the amount of water leaving the body is greater than the amount being taken in. Symptoms of mild dehydration include thirst, pains in joints and muscles, lower back pain, headaches, strong urine odor, and constipation. Dehydration increases the risk of muscle cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke during exercise in warm weather. Dehydration can leave exercisers and workers groggy for hours.

How much water is enough?

At least twenty percent of the water we need comes from the foods we eat. The rest comes from beverages. You can estimate the amount of water you need by dividing your weight (in pounds) in half. That gives you the number of ounces you may want to drink each day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you might want to drink at least 75 ounces of water or other fluids per day. Many experts recommend at least eight cups of water a day unless exercising, in which case you should drink more.

Water is the best choice for rehydration because it’s cheap and has no calories or added ingredients. Sweetened soft drinks and sodas have sugar that adds extra calories but no additional nutritional value. Sports drinks often contain sugar, as well, but may contain minerals that can help keep your electrolytes in balance, which is good for recovering after a hard workout. Fruit and vegetable juices can be a good choice because they have vitamins and minerals your body needs (read labels, however — vegetable juices, like many sodas, may be high in sugar and sodium).

The other side of the water bottle

As much as we require water, too much isn’t good for us, either. When we perform any high-intensity activity we lose fluid through perspiration. As a result, we increase our fluid intake and may drink too much water. This can lead to water intoxication (hyponatremia), a rare but dangerous condition involving low blood sodium levels.

As a general rule, drink when you feel thirsty, but don’t force down huge amounts. Use common sense, always carry water with you when you work or recreate outdoors, and remember to drink regularly, no matter what you’re doing.

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!