SLCo Healthy Lifestyles Blog
Health Hub Jan 2016
"It Won’t Happen To
Written by: Jordan Bradfor :Health Educator
commute to work on December 14th seemed to last forever; freeway
traffic was crawling due to the massive snow storm that hit overnight. Radio traffic updates would report accidents resulting
from 8 inches of valley snow. Listening
to those traffic updates my first thought was, “It’s a good thing ‘THAT’ never happens to me”. I realized how naive that thought was; of
course it could happen to me – I was still only just halfway to work!
There is a term used to describe the
“it will never happen to me” tendency we often experienced, psychologists call
bias. It is important to recognize this attitude in
ourselves, because when we underestimate the likelihood that we could
experience an adverse event (such as a car accident), we are more likely to
disregard precautions and safety measures (such as wearing a seat belt), intended
to reduce risk (Moss,2009).
Optimism bias occurs often when it comes to adverse
events that impact our health. Unfortunately,
heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the
United States. Most of us personally
know individuals and families whose lives have been impacted by this terrible disease
or other adverse health conditions.
Disease is always a difficult and painful situation to deal with for all
people involved, not just the diagnosed individual. Yet do we ever consider the
possibility that one day we may be diagnosed or impacted as well? On average 735,000 Americans
experience a heart attack each year.
Does that cause us to ponder our own individual risk and the safety
measures we could take?
The purpose of this article is not to scare people,
but to encourage everyone to avoid optimism bias so they don’t overlook
precautions they can take to help reduce the risk of disease. Here are just a few of the recommended
Knowledge is power. Knowing what disease and conditions we might
be at a higher risk for allows us to be better prepared and take additional preventative
measures. For example: If a relative (immediate family, parent, or
grandparent) has ever had a stroke or a heart attack you are at higher
risk. There is a strong correlation for
developing heart disease and having a family history of heart disease (AHA, 2015). Unhealthy behaviors can
also increase risk of developing certain diseases. For example: Individuals who
smoke cigarettes are 15 to 30 times more likely to develop lung cancer (CDC, 2015).
checked and screened
This is probably one of the best measures of prevention –
screenings and annual physician check-ups.
The purpose of screening is to catch developing disease or additional
risk factors early when it is usually easier to treat (NIH, 2015). This is why your blood pressure is taken at
doctor visits and at your healthy lifestyles screening. Sometimes referred to
as the “silent killer”, high blood pressure has no warning signs or symptoms –
but it can greatly increase risk of heart attack or stroke. Getting checked also helps you to have a
better picture of your health. (Don’t
forget to mention your family medical history to your primary physician as this
may influence what screening tests are done upon your visit)
Last but not least is to develop a healthy lifestyle! This is at the core of our values at healthy
lifestyles – to create healthy, lifelong, and sustainable habits. The LiVe Well campaign gives a great list of 8 to LiVe By healthy habits to “have more energy, feel stronger, and stay a
healthy weight.” (IHC, 2014)
- ALWAYS EAT A HEALTHY BREAKFAST
- EAT MORE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
- LIMIT SWEETENED DRINKS
SLEEP AND SUPPORT
- GET ENOUGH SLEEP
- EAT MEALS TOGETHER AS
- BE POSITIVE ABOUT FOOD
AND BODY IMAGE
Give these 8 healthy habits a try this year. You can read about more healthy habits and tips in our monthly Health Hub articles, and you
can even come up with some on your own! What
is most important is that we all take ownership of our health. By knowing our risk factors, getting
checked or screened, and developing healthy habits we are taking precautions
and following safety measures that could be lifesaving. We hope your Holidays
were bright, and we look forward to another year with you, promoting Healthy
Health Hub Non verbal Communication and Social Wellness
One of the dimensions of wellness that often gets overlooked
is our social health. Research has shown
a strong correlation between health and social relationships. Benefits include:
- Increased quality of life
- Increased years of life
- Decrease risk of cardiovascular conditions
- Decrease risk of depression
Check out this video about the benefits
of social relationships and health
This upcoming holiday season provides us many opportunities
to socially interact with others around us.
Whether reconnecting with family and friends or creating new
relationships, communication skills play a crucial role in accurately conveying
and understanding what is being communicated.
We often recognize verbal communication but adding the crucial aspect of
non-verbal communication can enhance our social experiences.
Dr. Edward G. Wertheim authored The Importance of Effective Communication and explained that
non-verbal communication can effect overall communication in 5 different ways:
- 1.Contradiction: they can contradict a message the
individual is trying to convey
- 2.Substitution: they can substitute a verbal
message. For example, a person’s eyes
can convey a far more vivid message than words do
- 3.Repetition: they can repeat the message the
person is making verbally
- 4.Complementing- they may add to or complement a
verbal message. A pat on the back in
addition to giving praise can increase impact of the message.
- 5.Accenting: they may accent or underline a verbal
message. For example, pounding the table
can underline a message.
Communication is critical to our social health and wellness. It can also affect our mental and emotional
health. Understanding the impact of
verbal and non-verbal communication can enhance both our listening and speaking
skills. We will be able to effectively
share our thoughts and messages and allow others the opportunities to do the
same. As mentioned earlier,
relationships can be created, enhanced, or even repaired through effective
non-verbal communication. Below are some
common non-verbal communication methods from helpguide.org, a group that
focuses on mental health and well-being:
- Facial Expressions- Can you recognize your own
as well as others facial expressions?
- Body Movements and Posture- What message is your
body conveying through standing, sitting, etc.
- Eye contact- Where are our eyes drawn during
- Touch- How do you react to touch? How would your
listener react to touch?
- Space- Do you feel bombarded while trying to
communicate? Can others recognize you are communicating?
The understanding and awareness of non-verbal communication
can change your lifestyle. It can also help you better understand who you are
and how you interact with others and your environment. As you practice these skills, be mindful of
your progress and the growth of others because sometimes what is being said
isn’t what is really being communicated.
Check out our Healthy Holiday Tracker for more ways to
enhance our social health
Image Credit: Be
Inspired to Achieve
Image Credit: Lily
Music and Health
MUSIC AND HEALTH
The technological advances of modern times have allowed us
access to endless avenues of information and entertainment. As our lives increase in complexity, we can
simplify our perspective by relying on our technological advances to connect us
with a remedy that is familiar to us, music.
THE FEELING OF MUSIC
Music has a way of invoking feelings, inspiring imagination,
and calming the mind. Many memories are
connected to melodies and tunes.
According to the American Music Therapy Association, music has the
ability to facilitate communication and expression that, at times, cannot be
expressed with words alone. Various
senses are stimulated in response to music are related to familiarity,
predictability, and a sense of security.
These stimulations can aid in emotional health and wellness through the
reduction of stress and tension and an increase ability to reshape perspective
A MUSICAL CONNECTION
Whether from popular
artist or cultural tradition, music is a way to convey messages and bring
people together. The art of making music
can be largely inclusive of many people, perspective, and thinking styles. Music can be a bridge that creates and
strengthen relationships. No matter your
perceived musical talent level, there are music related activities that you can
participate in, try a few of these:
- Play music from various sources ( vinyl records,
cassettes, CD’s, mp3’s) with a group of friends and find commonalities and
- Sharpen your skill at a musical instrument by
trying to teach someone else the basics
- Find those who you can play/sing with and enjoy
- Attend concerts and shows that highlight
familiar and new music
MUSIC ON THE MIND
According to the National Institute of Health, there is
growing research on the positive physiological effects of music on the
brain. The brain converts music and
sound into electrical signals, which allow different parts of the brain to
respond to the auditory stimulation.
Research has shown that the medial prefrontal cortex, responsible for
memory and emotional response, show increase activity with music present. This is encouraging due to the fact that, in
Alzheimer’s patients, this is one of the last regions of the brain to deteriorate,
explaining the link between Alzheimer’s patients being able to remember songs
and melodies. Music can be another tool
to deal with Alzheimer’s and other cognitive degenerative conditions.
Gratitude Health Hub
As Thanksgiving Day approaches many of us grow weary of the
word gratitude. We are bombarded with messages about the importance of being
thankful from our friends, family and the media. However, don’t be quick to
write off this advice. Emerging
research about the subject is revealing a multitude of benefits associated
with practicing gratitude in our daily lives. Healthy Lifestyles would like to
encourage you to begin your gratitude practice earlier this year and reap the
What is gratitude?
Put simply, gratitude
is being thankful. However, the term holds a deeper meaning in regards to
mindfulness. According to the Yale
Center for Emotional Intelligence gratitude is a state of mind that arises
when you affirm a good thing in your life that comes from outside yourself.
Some people or experiences are easier to be grateful for than others. The
important thing to remember about gratitude is that it does not depend on your
life circumstances. There is always something to be grateful for because even
bad experiences help us learn and grow. Gratitude is unlike other emotions
because it is a feeling that you can tap into at any time.
What are the health benefits of gratitude?
Practicing gratitude is great for both mental and physical
health! Dr. Robert A. Emmons and other researchers in the field have found that
gratitude increases feelings of happiness other positive emotions while
decreasing anxiety and depression. Gratitude is also a great stress management
Not only does gratitude increase our feelings of well-being,
it is also associated with better physical health. According to Emmons,
individuals who practice gratitude generally participate in other healthy
behaviors including physical activity, healthy eating and regular doctor
check-ups. Gratitude is also linked with optimism, which has been shown to
boost immune system functioning.
How can I begin practicing gratitude?
Like yoga or
meditation, gratitude is a skill that can be practiced. Begin by simply
observing the things in life you can be grateful for. These may be little
pleasures, joyful events, or even unpleasant experiences. Then, take a moment
to acknowledge or reflect on these things. There are many
ways to perform this step! Just a few examples include writing in a
gratitude journal, composing thank you notes, meditating or talking with a
Organic Or Not
There are a lot of mixed messages and opinions when it comes to organic produce, making it difficult to form our own opinions – especially when it can impact our health and finances. So what exactly does an organic label on my produce mean? Why is it more expensive?
Is organic actually better for me? For this month’s Health Hub we will lightly skim the surface of this extremely deep and complex issue to help clarify and reduce some confusion.
To be labeled organic, farmers must follow a set of
certification standards defined by the USDA (including soil and water quality, fertilization, and pest control methods), as well as be able to pay for the annual certification. These organic farming standards are mainly for ecological balance and conservation of resources and biodiversity - which
is a fancy way of saying it’s good for environmental health. In short, organic farming practices are believed to be better for the environment than conventional farming.
Organic produce is generally more expensive to buy at the store than conventional produce due to the expensive farming and handling practices required – unfortunately some of this cost is passed on to the consumer. However, many local farmers will even practice organic farming standards but do not pay the organic
certification fees to the USDA, so ask your local farmer about their practices.
Currently there is
no evidence that organic and conventional produce differ in their nutrient content. The main health concern – and most debated - is regarding the use of
pesticides. For produce growing plants a pesticide is a chemical used to protect from insects, weeds, diseases, and fungi. Now do not assume that just because organic produce has different health and safety regulations that non-organic produce
doesn’t have them at all. The FDA and EPA both play a role in ensuring that “residues of pesticides in foods
are not present at levels that will pose a danger to health”, for ALL produce. Contrary to popular belief, organic farmers do in fact use pesticides; they are just more limited in the types and amount they can use. Both organic and nonorganic produce can have residue from
pesticide and other spray treatments. Although neither will ever make it to the shelf of your grocery store if it exceeds government safety thresholds, it is always a good idea to wash and scrub your produce.
Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen
If you are
interested in purchasing organic but can’t afford to buy everything organic you may consider the “Clean 15” and the “Dirty
Dozen”. These lists, created by the Environmental Working Group, are intended to help us know which kinds of produce tend to have the highest (dirty
dozen), and lowest (Clean 15), amount of pesticides.
Regardless of your personal choice between organic or conventional produce, the experts still agree on one thing – Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is important in
promoting health and preventing disease.