Stop Working to Increase Productivity

Our brains and our bodies run out of steam after sitting or standing too long at our desks, work stations, machines, counters or work sites. Excessive sitting, in fact, wreaks havoc with our physiology, and is a known factor for increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks, stroke, cancer, depression and obesity.

Our metabolism slows after 20 minutes of physical inactivity, lowering HDL, which is the “good” cholesterol. And without some physical stimulation over an extended period, we tire, lose focus, productivity drops and opportunities for mistakes and accidents increase.

Taking breaks is smart business practice, though many people choose to work through lunch or avoid breaks. That may be due to deadlines and important projects, piecework, service coverage or because of a work culture that doesn’t encourage downtime. Many managers and senior executives often set that pace by not taking breaks themselves or by not encouraging their workers to take time for healthy movement, stretching or recreation time during the day.

According to a workplace study conducted by Tork, a leading global hygiene, medical supplies and health company, nearly 20 percent of North American workers surveyed worry their bosses think they aren’t working hard enough if they take regular lunch breaks. Another 13 percent worry that their co-workers will judge them, and 39 percent say that don’t feel encouraged to take a lunch break.

And their fears appear justified, in that 22 percent of North American bosses say that employees who take a regular lunch break are less hardworking. To the contrary, nearly 90 percent of employees surveyed said that taking a lunch break helps them feel refreshed and ready to go back to work.

Taking Breaks Increases Productivity

Smart organizations realize that productivity and quality are negatively affected when employees are more tired, stressed and physically inactive. To help mitigate productivity loss and employee burnout, they are making great strides toward changing this paradigm by encouraging employees to regularly stand up and move, stretch, walk or exercise during breaks and lunch and generally move around during the work day.

For some workers, it’s simply knowing the importance of getting up and moving for three or four minutes at least once an hour. That can be walking to get a beverage, going to another office or work area, or strolling for a few minutes. Proper stretching to loosen muscles and limbs is valuable, and encouraging individuals or groups to walk together at or after lunch or dinner promotes exercise, safety and teambuilding.

For good health, adults should engage in moderate physical activity at least 30 minutes a day. Many organizations now offer fitness, yoga or meditation instruction at the workplace, have fitness rooms, or subsidize local gym memberships. Companies also sponsor charity walks, runs or bicycling activities, team athletics such as softball, basketball, volleyball and tennis, and support personal interests such as swimming, climbing and dance.

Here are some simple and easy steps you can take to get moving during work hours:

  • Take daily breaks from work and go for a short walk. Over time, try increasing your distances or taking multiple short breaks several times a
  • Take a few minutes for some easy, natural stretching. Do this several times a day at your desk or in a private area, such as a fitness space. If you go for a walk, include a few minutes for gentle
  • Join a lunch-hour fitness program, or choose a time that works for you, such as in the evening or before work. Select activities that you can also do on your own time so it can become a regular part of your
  • Consider taking public transportation and daily walks to transit stops. Try to enjoy the walks and the fact that they allow you to be more
  • For those with disabilities, or medical or mobility issues, take breaks that are right for you and approved by your doctor. If you have a medical condition, you may be able to participate in or modify some of the exercises in a fitness
  • Support fundraising events with your co-workers for charitable causes that support active living events by training regularly with your co-workers; this can be good for both your health and for
  • Host walking meetings for small groups. Also, getting outside for a walk can invigorate participants, encourage creativity and reenergize everyone.

Worksites can encourage physical activity through a multicomponent approach of offering management support, physical access to opportunities, policies, and social-support programs. We each have to take personal responsibility for our own health and wellness. But when organizations demonstrate their commitment to employees’ health in the workplace, that benefit carries over out of the workplace, as well, and results in reduced absenteeism due to illness and stress, and increased productivity, morale, personal engagement and teamwork.


If you’re not enjoying 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!

Tips for Tick Season

We’re not even through the sneezy, sniffly, coughing and wheezing allergy months and now we’re faced with the itching, biting and scratching bug season. It isn’t fair – but that’s spring in Connecticut. Unfortunately, the number of people infected with diseases transmitted by ticks, mosquitos and fleas has more than tripled over the past few years, and the prognosis for 2019 doesn’t appear any better.

Of great concern is the possibility of contracting Lyme disease caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. It is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks, which are common to Connecticut. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.

Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (such as a rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics. Steps to prevent Lyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides, and reducing tick habitat. The ticks that transmit Lyme disease can occasionally transmit other tick-borne diseases as well.

First recognized in the Lyme, Connecticut area in 1975, the State Department of Public Health (DPH) reports about 3,000 cases annually to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But the CDC estimates that there are approximately 10 times more people diagnosed with Lyme disease than the yearly reported number. Using the CDC estimate, approximately 30,000 people are afflicted with Lyme disease each year in Connecticut alone. Nationally, that number is thought to be close to 300,000 cases annually.

Bacteria cause most tickborne diseases in the United States, with Lyme disease representing the majority (82 percent) of reported cases. Borrelia burgdorferi  is carried by hard-bodied ticks that then feed on smaller mammals, such as white-footed mice, and larger animals, such as white-tailed deer. Scientists believe that increased seasonal warming, caused by climate change, is a contributing factor to the proliferation of these pests.

Although there are likely many additional factors contributing to increased Lyme disease incidence in the United States, greater tick densities and their expanding geographical range have played a key role. Although most cases of Lyme disease are successfully treated with antibiotics, 10 to 20 percent of patients report lingering symptoms after effective antimicrobial therapy.

Tick Season is Here

Tickborne virus infections are also increasing and can cause serious illness and death. Another invasive and disease-carrying tick, the Asian Longhorned tick, has been discovered in Connecticut. Fortunately, it preys primarily on livestock and wildlife and isn’t yet considered a threat to humans, experts say. The newly arrived pest was found by scientists at Western Connecticut State University last summer during a monitoring project in Fairfield County. It had previously been identified in New York, and across the eastern and southern United States over the past few decades. Found in grassy and wooded areas, researchers suggest using the same precautions against this species as for native ticks, including protective clothing, insect repellents and close checking of skin after being in the outdoors where ticks are present.

In addition to tick concerns, certain types of mosquitos carry diseases such as West Nile Virus (WNV), which has been present in Connecticut since 1999 in mosquitoes, horses, wild birds and people. Most people who are infected with WNV have no symptoms or may experience mild illness such as a fever and headache before fully recovering. In some individuals, particularly persons over 50 years of age, West Nile virus can cause serious illness, including encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord). Symptoms range from a slight fever, headache, rash, swollen lymph nodes and nausea to the rapid onset of a severe headache, high fever, stiff neck, disorientation, muscle weakness, and coma. West Nile virus infection can lead to death in three percent to 15 percent of persons with severe forms of the illness.

Health professionals also are keeping a vigilant watch for the Zika virus, which is spread mostly by the bite of infected Aedes species mosquitos, which bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus, and infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika, and while local mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission has been reported primarily in tropical climates like Florida, Connecticut experienced a few dozen cases in 2018.

Unless you plan to spend the summer indoors, you’re likely to come in contact with some of these annoying pests. You can improve your odds of not getting bitten by wearing protective clothing, headgear and socks, using insect repellants and citronella products, minimizing use of cologne and perfume when planning outdoor activities, avoiding swampy areas, and moving the party indoors during the height of bite time. You also can spray clothes with repellent containing permethrin, and use a repellant like DEET on your skin.

Protecting Against Ticks and Mosquitoes

While it is a good idea to take preventive measures against ticks and mosquitoes year-round, be extra vigilant in warmer months (April through September) when ticks are most active. In summer, when out hiking, biking, camping, and spending 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 as 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.
  • 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.

Ridding Ourselves of Ticks

 Ticks embedded in your skin can be gross, but painless. The best bet 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.

If you know you have an allergy to one or more biting insects, you should always carry an epi-pen or other backup medication in case you’re stung or bitten, and seek immediate medical attention. For the rest of us, most bites or stings leave a mark and cause some swelling and irritation. Ice or a cool compress applied directly to the site can bring relief, as can topical salves, ointments or sprays sold over the counter. If the area around the bite continues to expand or becomes blistery and weepy, you have to get checked for a possible infection.


Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Boning Up on Osteoporosis

Embracing change isn’t always easy, especially those transformations that affect or challenge our health. But, like it or not, chemical, biological and physiological changes take place as we age, and understanding these processes helps us maintain our quality of life and even prolong our years on earth.

As we grow older, new bone is made and old bone is broken down. When we’re young, our body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone, increasing bone mass. Most people reach their peak bone mass around age 30. After that, we lose more bone mass than we gain.

Osteoporosis, which affects more than 53 million Americans, is a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle, making them easier to fracture or break. Our likelihood of developing osteoporosis depends on how much bone mass we attain by the time we reach age 30 and how rapidly we lose it after that. The higher our peak bone mass, the less likely we are to develop osteoporosis as we age.

Osteoporosis affects the structure and strength of bones and makes fractures more likely, especially in the spine, hip and wrists. It is most common among females after menopause, but smoking and poor diet increase the risk for women and men. There are often no clear outward symptoms, but weakening of the spine may lead to a stoop, and there may be bone pain.

We can build strong bones by getting enough calcium and weight-bearing physical activity during our teen years and into our early 20s, when bones are growing the fastest. Young people in this age group have calcium needs that they can’t make up for later in life. In the years of peak skeletal growth, teenagers build more than 25 percent of adult bone. By the time teens finish their growth spurts around age 18, 90 percent of their adult bone mass is established.

It’s important to understand that our bodies continually remove and replace small amounts of calcium from our bones, so stemming the loss of calcium is important. After our late teens, however, we can’t add more calcium to bones, but can try to maintain what is already stored to help our bones stay healthy.

Keeping Our Bones Healthy and Strong

Calcium is found in a variety of foods. Low-fat and fat-free milk and other dairy products are great sources of calcium. Teens can get most of their daily calcium from three cups of low-fat or fat-free milk, but they also need additional servings of calcium to get the 1,300 mg necessary for strong bones.

Other good sources of calcium include dark green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and bok choy.  Other sources of calcium include almonds, broccoli, kale, canned salmon with bones, sardines and soy products such as tofu.

There also are foods with calcium added, such as calcium-fortified tofu, orange juice, soy beverages, and breakfast cereals or breads. Adults or kids who can’t process lactose also can take calcium supplements, but should check with their physician to ensure compatibility with other medicines or conditions.

When muscles push and tug against bones during physical activity, bones and muscles become stronger. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, tennis and climbing stairs can help build strong bones and slow bone loss. So, exercise as well as proper nutrition play vital roles in helping us build and maintain healthy bones at any age.

A number of additional factors can affect bone health. For example:

  • Tobacco and alcohol use.Research suggests that tobacco use contributes to weak bones. Similarly, having more than two alcoholic drinks a day increases the risk of osteoporosis, possibly because alcohol can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium.
  • Gender, size and age.You’re at greater risk of osteoporosis if you’re a woman, because women have less bone tissue than do men. You’re also at risk if you’re extremely thin (with a body mass index of 19 or less) or have a small body frame, because you may have less bone mass to draw from as you age. Also, our bones become thinner and weaker as we age.
  • Race and family history.You’re at greatest risk of osteoporosis if you’re white or of Asian descent. In addition, having a parent or sibling who has osteoporosis puts you at greater risk — especially if you also have a family history of fractures.
  • Hormone levels.Too much thyroid hormone can cause bone loss. In women, bone loss increases dramatically at menopause due to dropping estrogen levels. Prolonged absence of menstruation before menopause also increases the risk of osteoporosis. In men, low testosterone levels can cause a loss of bone mass.
  • Eating disorders and other conditions.People who have anorexia or bulimia are at risk of bone loss. In addition, stomach surgery (gastrectomy), weight-loss surgery and conditions such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease and Cushing’s disease can affect our body’s ability to absorb calcium.
  • Certain medications.Long-term use of corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone, cortisone, prednisolone and dexamethasone, are damaging to bone. Other drugs that may increase the risk of osteoporosis include aromatase inhibitors to treat breast cancer, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, methotrexate, some anti-seizure medications and proton pump inhibitors.

If you find it difficult to get enough calcium from your diet, ask your doctor about supplements. Pay attention to foods with vitamin D, include physical activity in your daily routine, and avoid smoking tobacco products or drinking too much alcohol. We can’t get back what we’ve lost when it comes to calcium, but we can do much to minimize future loss and protect our bones and overall wellness.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!


Apple Cider Vinegar: Healthy or Hype?

It has probably come up at a holiday gathering or dinner party – people start comparing home or natural wellness remedies, and someone, invariably, mentions apple cider vinegar and “the mother.” Intrigued, you probably seek more details, and hear anecdotes about how it’s a life-changer, and that a tablespoon a day eases stomach distress, limits weight gain, controls blood pressure and sugar levels, and keeps the user regular.

While some people swear it’s a magic elixir, the medical jury is still out on the long-term benefits of drinking apple cider vinegar, though apple vinegar is an anti-oxidant, and with “the mother” present, contains probiotics, which aid in digestion. So, what is “the mother,” you might wonder?

Well, in case you were worried, “the mother” is nothing like the worm found south of the border in some bottles of tequila. And to understand its origins and value, let’s start with a chemistry lesson.

Vinegar comes from the French phrase vin aigre, meaning sour wine. The sourness comes from acetic acid. When yeast is added to pulverized or juiced apples, it digests the sugars in the apples and converts, or ferments them into alcohol. A bacteria, acetobacter, then turns the alcohol into acetic acid. The “mother” refers to the combination of yeast and bacteria formed during fermentation. If you look at an apple cider vinegar bottle that hasn’t been pasteurized, you can see strands of the “mother” floating around.

Many people attribute apple cider vinegar’s positive effects to the “mother.” It is a probiotic, similar in nature to what you find in cultured yogurts. Aside from probiotics, apple cider vinegar has a vitamin profile similar to apple juice, just a lot more sour-tasting. It is loaded with B-vitamins and polyphenols (plant-based antioxidants). These probiotics, acetic acid, and the nutrients in in the apple cider vinegar are responsible for its health benefits. But “how healthy” is a question whose answer researchers tend to differ on.

Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

Vinegar is used in cooking, baking, salad dressings, and as a preservative. There’s a lot of acid in it, so drinking vinegar straight isn’t good for us. However, while consuming apple cider vinegar straight won’t hurt (as long as we don’t imbibe too much or suffer from kidney disease), it also will not cure cancer, diabetes or control blood pressure, regardless of the myths you may have heard and would love to believe.

On the contrary, it can cause serious problems, including stomach distress, heartburn and tooth decay.

Vinegar has been used as a remedy since the days of Hippocrates. The ancient Greek doctor treated wounds with it. The polyphenols it contains are antioxidants, which can curb cell damage that can lead to other diseases, such as cancer. But studies on whether vinegar actually lowers our chances of contracting cancer are mixed.

Overall, apple cider vinegar is safe. If you’re looking to take some for health reasons, most people recommend adding one to two tablespoons to water or tea.  But before you start ingesting it daily, there are negative side effects including:

  • The acid in apple cider vinegar can erode teeth enamel, so drinking some water after you swallow your cider is a good idea.
  • Acidic foods or liquids like vinegar may exacerbate acid reflux and stomach distress.
  • If you have chronic kidney disease, your kidneys may not be able to process the excess acid from drinking apple cider vinegar.

Apple cider vinegar may moderately lower blood glucose levels, but it won’t cure or control diabetes or replace medications you may be taking for diabetes, cholesterol or blood pressure.  As with any supplement, medicine or herb you may be considering, the smart bet is to check with your physician before you proceed.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!