SLCo Healthy Lifestyles Blog
December Health Hub - New Year, New Screening Guidelines!
by Health Educator, Maggie Spicer
You may notice some changes when you log into WellSteps
after ringing in the New Year. In 2018 Healthy Lifestyles will be modifying one
of the ways you can earn points: monthly self-exams. Long-time participants may
be surprised to see this change, but don’t fret! You will still be able to earn
points for practicing what we have dubbed self-awareness.
Beginning in January, when you track your monthly points you
will no longer see this option:
"I completed my monthly testicular or breast self-exam".
Instead you will be asked to check off the following:
"I spent 15 minutes practicing self-awareness to learn what’s
normal or identify changes in my breasts/testes, mouth and skin (including
discoloration or moles)."
This new WellSteps activity will earn you a total of 10
Our team strives to keep us updated with the latest
recommendations when it comes to our health, and cancer screening is no
different. We would like to encourage everyone to not only notice changes when it
comes to breast and testicular cancer, but all aspects of our body. This new
phrasing does not exclude monthly self-exams. Instead, it aims to increase
self-awareness of your whole body. Continue reading for specific
recommendations regarding breast, testicular, skin and mouth cancer.
If you participated in Paint the County Pink this year, then
you are probably aware that the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the US
Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) no longer recommend monthly
to the ACS, most breast cancer is detected when a symptom is found during
usual activities like bathing or dressing. As an alternative, they now
recommend all women be familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel and
report any changes to their doctor right away. Click here for a list
of warning signs and symptoms.
Unfortunately, current recommendations for testicular
self-exams are less clear. Like breast cancer, the USPSTF
does not recommend self-exams for testicular cancer because most cases are
discovered accidentally by patients or their partners. For this reason, the ACS
does not have an official recommendation regarding self-exams. It is important
to be aware of testicular cancer and talk to your physician right away if you
find a lump. If you are at increased risk of developing this form of cancer, it
may be beneficial to perform monthly self-exams. Click here
Both the Skin Cancer Foundation and American Academy of
Dermatology recommend checking
your skin from head-to-toe about once a month. Although roughly 20%
Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, it is very treatable if
detected early. You should be familiar with the warning signs of skin cancer,
which can be found here.
You may also want to consider keeping a body
map that you can update each time you check your skin can help you
recognize any changes that need to be reported to your doctor. In addition, it
is always important to take the proper precautions when having fun in the sun
like wearing sunblock or protective clothing.
Like other forms of cancer, screening for oral cancers
increases survival rates and if caught early the chances of successful
treatment are high. Certain lifestyle factors can increase your risk of
developing mouth cancer, like tobacco use or alcohol consumption. Oral cancer
can occur anywhere in the mouth, including lips, tongue and throat. It is
detected by a variety of symptoms, which can be found here.
If you experience one or more of these symptoms for more than two weeks it is
time to call your doctor or dentist, especially if you use tobacco products of
As you can see, it is wise to be familiar with your body so
that you can easily notice changes. You also probably noticed that each of
these cancer recommendations highlighted the importance of understanding your
personal risk factors and working closely with your doctor. At Healthy
Lifestyles, our goal is to empower you to make the best decisions regarding
your health. Not only can you increase your body self-awareness, but you can
also earn more points while doing so!
For more information visit:
American Cancer Society Recommendations
Breast Cancer Warning Signs
Testicular Cancer Recommendation
Testicular Cancer Early Detection
Skin Cancer Foundation Skin Check
Skin Cancer Foundation Early Warning Signs
Mayo Clinic Oral Cancer
By Christina McWhinnie
The holidays are a time of fun,
family, friends and celebrations. It is also a time to focus on staying healthy
and happy instead of getting overwhelmed, rundown and sick. Here is a list of
10 ways to have a great and healthy holiday season….
skimp on sleep
Getting enough rest is one of the
key ways to stay healthy over the Holidays. Adults need 7 – 9 hours of sleep
every night. A study in the Archives
of Internal Medicine found that people who slept at least eight hours
nightly were about three times less likely to catch a cold than those
who snoozed for less than seven.
2-Say “Yes” to less!
activities happen over the holiday season, it is easy to pack our calendars too
full and get overwhelmed with too much going on and cause unneeded stress. Be picky about your commitments and eliminate the
unnecessary, Say yes to less. Really guard your time and don’t take on more
than you can or want to deal with.
3-Eat well (in moderation)
parties are filled with delicious food and treats, but to keep your body
feeling good, remember to eat well and moderately. It is fine to enjoy and
savor a bite of a few treats, but no one needs to down 5 full desserts in one
night. Be sure to remember your vegetables first to give your body a great
boost of vitamins and minerals.
4-Celebrate…but don’t regret it in the morning
cocktails are just as creative and fun as desserts, but remember to limit
alcohol consumption also. Evoke the desire to feel good the next morning when
you awake after a party, instead of hung over and in misery.
plenty of water, especially if traveling. Dry air in the cold weather takes a
toll on our skin and can cause headaches. Avoid dehydration by drinking room temperature
water because it is easier to drink.
of us really need more stuff in our lives? The financial burden of the holidays
can cause additional stress and anxiety. Our friends and family know we love
them regardless of how much money we spend on them. Avoid the consumeristic
mindset that puts us into credit card debt every year, and scale back or hand
make gifts that come from the heart. When your next credit card statement
comes, you will feel good about your choices.
7-Do things differently
further than consuming less, by deciding to forego gifts this year all
together. Donate the money to a worthy charity, or use gift money for experiences
instead of items. Take the family out to dinner, play laser tag, or try skiing
this year. Spending time with those you love will stay in everyone’s memory
long after the new toy or gadget is forgotten.
8-Stay physically active
physically active will help keep your body ready to fight germs and illnesses.
Make YOU a priority and carve out time to move your body every day. Physical
activity not only keeps your body healthy, but also your mental health, which
can aid with depression, stress and anxiety.
get run down by swarms of people in stores and long checkout lines. This drains
our energy and wastes our time. Instead of waiting for January to refresh and
start new, use the holiday time to recharge. Spend a day getting a massage,
drinking tea, take a peaceful bath or read a good book.
10-Remember the “Golden Rule”
with kindness and respect. If you are feeling the urge to yell at a store clerk
or cut someone off while driving, take a step back and rethink your priorities.
Is your frustration worth making someone else miserable? Or raising your blood
pressure while screaming at another driver to race to an activity where you
“feel the holiday spirit”? If these are things you find yourself experiencing,
seek some professional help to deal with the stress and pressures you are
experiencing. (Contact SLCo’s Employee
Assistance Program for help)
October is Health Literacy Month
Written by Emma Thompson
Lake County benefit-eligible employees have different options for health insurance and other
benefits. Employees can opt for non-county insurance, or choose to be insured
through the county. There are only certain times during the year that you can
enroll in or make changes to your health benefits: as a new employee, when your
life changes, or during open enrollment. Open enrollment is your annual opportunity to make coverage changes, and
add/drop a dependent, and begins
on Monday October 23rd, 2017 and ends on Friday
November 3rd, 2017. For those who choose to be insured
through the county, the next step is to choose a network and plan:
1. Choose a Network:
- PEHP: Non-Intermountain Healthcare
2.Choose a Plan
- High Deductible Plan with a Health
have lower premiums but higher deductibles. SLCO’s high deductible plan has no
premium and an Optum HSA account to help cover cost.
The plan and
network you choose will depend on your unique situation. You can check the benefits website for more information and HR offers several information sessions during
the open enrollment period.
some open enrollment basics you may want to be familiar with now so when the
time comes you can make the best choices for you and your family.
-The new benefits year will start
Jan 1, 2018 and go through December 2018.
-Cigna will be replace EMI for
dental coverage and you must reelect coverage
AxisPlus for Flex Spending plans and you must reelect coverage
- Review voluntary benefit and other employee perk information
-Make sure you’ve consented to PHI through
your PeopleSoft portal or filled out a paper form if you are a spouse for
healthy lifestyles points and additional HSA contributions.
Feel free to contact Healthy Lifestyles
or the benefits team with questions.
Written by Charles McGregor
When you typically think of summer, what normally comes to mind? For
most of us, it might include going on a summer vacation, spending time with
family and friends, and even completing that long list of projects you’ve been
putting off all year. But if your list includes making improvements to your
home, it’s important to remember before you start tearing down walls and
pulling up that old vinyl flooring in the kitchen to know if, and where,
asbestos could be hiding out in your home.
It wasn’t all that
long ago that asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral known for being
incredibly heat-resistant and durable, could be found in thousands of products.
The one-time wonder mineral was included in everything from home construction
and automotive applications to everyday products like ironing board covers and
crock pots. However, once doctors and researchers determined asbestos was a carcinogen, the
government acted swiftly to try to change course. The Toxic Safety Control Act
of 1976 heavily regulated asbestos and banned its use in certain types of
products like spray insulations.
newly-manufactured products may only contain up to one percent asbestos, but in
homes built or renovated before the mid-1970s there is the potential risk of
coming into contact with errant airborne asbestos fibers. In many cases, if a
product containing asbestos is left alone and in good condition, it doesn’t pose
a hazard to people. It’s when the materials are disturbed (broken, cut or
damaged), that asbestos fibers become friable and are released into the air
where they could be ingested or inhaled.
When asbestos is inhaled
or ingested, the tiny fibers enter the lungs and settle. Eventually, those
fibers become lodged in the mesothelium (the lining of the lungs), where they
irritate and inflame the area, causing several diseases. Asbestosis and
mesothelioma are two diseases
most commonly connected to asbestos exposure, and
both carry latency periods spanning anywhere from 10-50 years. In the vast
majority of cases, those who develop mesothelioma are older folks who were
exposed to asbestos decades ago, though cases of the disease have been
documented in people as young as their 20s and 30s. While mesothelioma is also
typically found in the lining of the lungs, it can also develop in the linings
of the abdomen or heart, though those cases are considered very rare.
If you’re planning to do
any sort of renovations to your home, first try to determine whether or not
your house contains asbestos. While there is no sure-fire way to determine on
your own if you have asbestos, there are several assumptions you can make based
on clues hidden in and around your home. For example, houses built before the
mid-1970s should be assumed to contain asbestos somewhere, simply because the
products were available for use and were included in new construction. Other
signs include the use of vermiculite insulation, which runs the risk of
asbestos contamination, and the presence of old pipe insulation or popcorn
ceilings, which were also known to contain the mineral.
The easiest way to determine if your home
contains asbestos, however, is to hire a licensed professional to come in and
inspect the areas where you suspect the mineral may be hiding. If asbestos is
found, a professional can easily determine the best way to handle the problem,
whether by encapsulating the materials or by abating them. They may also
suggest that the materials are safe as long as they aren’t disturbed, so be
sure to provide details as to where the renovations are expected to take place.
Asbestos abatement is relatively expensive, but the additional costs now are
much better than possibly exposing yourself and others to asbestos while
performing do-it-yourself work.
Taking the right
precautions now can save you time, money and trouble down the road, and as the
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) state, there is no safe level of
exposure to asbestos. Don’t let asbestos ruin your renovation
projects and get in the way. Do yourself a favor and leave the dangerous work
to the professionals. That way, you can ensure the work has been done right,
and safely, the first time!
Stretching: Not just for athletes!
Written by Megan Tucker, Health Educator
As we gear up
for Summer Corporate games it’s a good reminder to not forget to stretch both
before AND after our games to prevent injuries so we can continue having fun
(and win a medal or two)! But even if you aren't participating in Corporate Games or doing other strenuous activities, should you not worry about stretching daily? Definitely not.
is sometimes considered an afterthought after an intense workout or competitive
sport, but it is something we should all do daily to help our
mobility and independence. Stretching helps to
increase our range of motion and extensibility of our muscles.
our muscles flexible, strong, and healthy. Without it, our muscles shorten and
become tight. Then, when we do engage in a more strenuous activity, those tight
muscles are unable to extend all the way, which puts us at risk for joint pain,
strains, and muscle damage. For those of us who work a more seated and
sedentary job, stretching is even more important!
What is the best way to
- Rethink your Warmup: When we think of warming
up, we typically think of stretching first THEN doing some light activity like
walking. Research has shown that we
need to rethink our routine because stretching the muscles before they are warmed
up can actually be harmful and put us at more risk for injury. So, before you
stretch, do a few minutes of light activity, such as walking. This will get
blood flow to the muscles and make them more flexible.
- Take it Slow: Always stretch slow and
smooth into the desired position, to your own comfort
level, without experiencing any pain. The more you stretch, the easier it will
become. You will
probably feel tension during a stretch, but you should not feel pain. If you
do, stop stretching that muscle, and talk to your doctor. Here are some tips
for safe stretching provided by the American Heart
- Breathe & Hold: Relax and
breathe normally while stretching. Then stretch while pushing the breath slowly
out your mouth. Count to 10 slowly or time yourself for 10-30 seconds. Be sure to repeat each stretch 3-5 times. Breathe
normally during the stretch. A stretch should always be smooth and slow, never
jerky or bouncy. This can cause muscles to tighten and may result in injuries. Don't forget to keep your joints slightly bent, never "locked" in a straight position.
As you become more flexible, try reaching farther in each
exercise. A mild pulling feeling during a stretch is normal but don’t aim for
pain. Sharp or stabbing pain or joint pain means you should stop, you're
stretching too far!
To prevent major
injuries, try to make stretching a habit, and notice the difference in how you
feel and how you perform your daily activities. Even if you aren’t planning on
a more intense activity like 3 on 3 basketball or a 5K, stretching daily can go along way
in improving your mobility. You can find a variety of stretching routines to
meet your needs online or try out a rec center class that focuses on
flexibility (discounted passes for employees and their families!).
Here are a
few to get you started: