Your Monthly Check-Up: March toward Good Health during National Nutrition Month®

Alright, so there might be only a few days left of March, but it’s not too late to get the most out of National Nutrition Month®! When it comes to your overall health and well being, it’s never too late to start adopting better eating habits and a solid exercise routine – both for yourself and your loved ones. 

National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign sponsored annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association). It began in March 1973 as “National Nutrition Week” but became a month long observance by 1980 due to growing public interest in nutrition. 

With more than 70,000 members, the Academy is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. Its mission is to promote optimal nutrition and well being for all people by advocating for its members. The majority of the Academy’s members are registered dietitian nutritionists and dietetic technicians. 

National Nutrition Month focuses attention on the importance of making smart food choices and developing solid eating and exercise habits. This year’s theme, “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle,” encourages everyone to adopt eating and physical activity plans that are focused on consuming fewer calories, making informed food choices and getting daily exercise in order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of chronic disease and promote overall health. 

The Academy provides a number of resources for people looking to get on or stay on the path toward good health. For example, the Good Nutrition Reading List includes publications from both the Academy and otherwise collected into the following categories: 

  • Children and teens
  • Diabetes
  • Food Sensitivities
  • Nutrition and lifestyle
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding
  • Special needs
  • Sports nutrition

Another resource is MyPlate, a tool of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). According to the MyPlate website, the MyPlate symbol is an “easy-to-understand visual cue to help consumers adopt healthy eating habits consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” (The USDA replaced MyPyramid with MyPlate in June 2011. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is in development.) According to the Academy,

MyPlate provides practical information to individuals, health professionals, nutrition educators and the food industry to help consumers build healthier diets with resources and tools for dietary assessment, nutrition education and other user-friendly nutrition information. The online resources and tools can empower people to make healthier food choices for themselves, their families and their children.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans focus on balancing calories with physical activity and encourage Americans to consume more healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products and seafood, and to consume less sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugars and refined grains.

The Academy offers a few rules of thumb to help consumers work some of these Dietary Guidelines into their daily lives: 

  • Enjoy your food, but eat less
  • Avoid oversized portions
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1-percent) milk
  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread and frozen meals and choose the foods with lower numbers
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks 

Ready to take your nutrition and exercise goals a step further? Check out the SuperTracker, an interactive tool via the MyPlate site that can help you plan, analyze and track your diet and physical activity. Gain insight on how much you should be eating, track your foods, physical activities and weight and personalize with goal setting, virtual coaching and journaling. 

Wellness is an important part of life at Hinda, which is why we dedicate at least one post per month to wellness news and trending topics. No matter where you are in your health and fitness journey, there’s no better time than National Nutrition Month to take a step back and review your goals, analyze your results and make whatever tweaks you can in order to achieve optimal health and overall well being. 

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Your Monthly Check-Up: Do You Know Your Blood Pressure?

February is American Heart Month – perfect timing as we just celebrated Valentine’s Day – and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is asking, “Do you know your blood pressure?”  According to its website, “The CDC and Million Hearts® – a national effort to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes in the United States by 2017 – are encouraging Americans to know their blood pressure, and if it's high, to make control their goal.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. In fact, more than 67 million Americans have high blood pressure. People with high blood pressure are four times more likely to die from a stroke and three times more likely to die from heart disease, compared to those with normal blood pressure.

High blood pressure often shows no signs or symptoms, which is why having your blood pressure checked regularly is important. It's easy to get your blood pressure checked. You can get screened at your doctor's office and drugstores or even check it yourself at home using a home blood pressure monitor.

If you already know you have high blood pressure, the CDC lists some steps you can take to get it under control:

  • Find out from your doctor what your blood pressure should be
  • Take your blood pressure medication as directed
  • Quit smoking, and if you don’t smoke, don’t start
  • Reduce your sodium intake

It’s important to note that, “While heart disease doesn't discriminate, your gender, race, ethnicity and where you live can increase your risk,” according to the CDC. “African American men are at the highest risk for heart disease. About two in five African Americans have high blood pressure, but only half have it under control.” 

The CDC points to a recent article in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that shows that

Americans aged 30 to 74 who live the Southeast—specifically, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia—are at higher risk of developing heart disease over the next 10 years than people who live in other parts of the country. Many of these states have a large African American population.

Visit the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/features/heartmonth/ for information about high blood pressure and resources for helping you or your loved ones get under control and keep stay there. You’ll also find information about smoking cessation, healthy eating and sodium reduction right on the web page.

Wellness is an important part of life at Hinda, which is why we dedicate at least one post per month to wellness news and trending topics. Will you pledge to make control your goal?

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Your Monthly Check-Up: January is Glaucoma Awareness Month

Glaucoma, or the “sneak thief of sight,” is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the United States. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, more than 2.7 million people in the US over age 40 have glaucoma. The National Eye Institute projects this number will reach 4.2 million by 2030, a 58 percent increase. Glaucoma is called the sneak thief of sight because there are no symptoms and a significant amount of vision can be lost before a diagnosis. Once vision is lost, it is permanent. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 4.5 million people worldwide are blind due to glaucoma.

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that involve damage to the optic nerve, gradually causing vision loss without any symptoms. The optic nerve acts as an electric cable that transfers messages from the eye to the brain. Although the most common forms primarily affect middle-aged and the elderly people, glaucoma can affect people of all ages. 

According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation: 

There are two main types of glaucoma: primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), and angle-closure glaucoma. These are marked by an increase of intraocular pressure (IOP), or pressure inside the eye. When optic nerve damage has occurred despite a normal IOP, this is called normal tension glaucoma. Secondary glaucoma refers to any case in which another disease causes or contributes to increased eye pressure, resulting in optic nerve damage and vision loss. 

While there is no cure, medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss. Suitable treatment depends on the type of glaucoma being treated, among other factors. Early detection is vital to stopping the progress of the disease, and regular comprehensive eye exams are necessary for detecting glaucoma as well as a number of other eye and overall health-related maladies. 

“Eye conditions like glaucoma and macular degeneration are best treated when spotted early on,” according to the article “When detecting chronic disease, the eyes have it” in the January/February 2015 issue of Healthy Living Made Simple (published by Sam’s Club). Visiting your optometrist is crucial to maintaining your overall health as many instruments used by optometrists are not used in your primary care physician’s office.

According to the article, many other health conditions can be detected with a retinal scan, including vitamin A deficiency, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, high cholesterol, hypertension, Crohn’s disease, Graves’ disease and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. A retinal scan is quick, painless and inexpensive – and it provides a highly detailed look at the eye, providing a baseline for future visits.

According to the WHO, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world and the leading cause of blindness among African-Americans. Other high-risk groups include people of Hispanic or Asian decent, people over 60, family members of those already diagnosed, diabetics and people who are severely nearsighted. In the most common form, there are virtually no symptoms. Vision loss begins with peripheral or side vision, so if you have glaucoma, you may not notice anything until significant vision is lost. The best way to protect your sight from glaucoma is to get a comprehensive eye examination. Then, if you are diagnosed with glaucoma, macular degeneration or other health concerns, treatment can begin immediately.

The Glaucoma Research Foundation is hard at working searching for a cure for glaucoma and vision loss. For more information, visit www.glaucoma.org as well as the WHO website and the Healthy Living Made Simple article here.

Wellness is an important part of life at Hinda, which is why we dedicate at least one post per month to wellness news and trending topics. What does your company do to promote wellness? 

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Your Monthly Check-Up: November is Diabetes Awareness Month

November is American Diabetes Month®, with November 14 deemed as World Diabetes Day by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). According to idf.org, World Diabetes Day “unites the global diabetes community to produce a powerful voice for diabetes awareness and advocacy.”
The theme for the 2014 to 2016 period is “Healthy Living and Diabetes,” according to the IDF: “Activities and materials in 2014 focus on the importance of starting the day with a healthy breakfast to help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes and effectively manage all types of diabetes to avoid complications.”

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH),

Diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose – or blood sugar – levels are too high. Glucose comes from the foods you eat. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into your cells to give them energy. With type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin. With type 2 diabetes, the more common type, your body does not make or use insulin well. Without enough insulin, the glucose stays in your blood.

You can also have prediabetes, which means that your blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. Having prediabetes puts you at a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause serious problems. It can damage your eyes, kidneys and nerves. Diabetes can also cause heart disease, stroke and can even lead to limb amputation. Pregnant women can also get diabetes, called gestational diabetes.

A blood test can show if you have diabetes. Exercise, weight control and sticking to your meal plan can help control your diabetes. You should also monitor your glucose level and take medicine if prescribed.

In its 2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 29.1 million people, or 9.3 percent, have diabetes. Of this group, 21 million are diagnosed and living with diabetes while 8.1 million are undiagnosed. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States (in 2010) with an estimated cost – both directly in the form of medical bills and indirectly in the form of lost job productivity, disability, etc. – of $245 billion.

Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults and was previously known as “juvenile diabetes.” Only five percent of people with diabetes have this form of the disease. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin, but with the help of insulin therapy and other treatments, even young children can learn to manage their condition and live long, healthy lives.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form. People with type 2 diabetes do not use insulin properly. This is called insulin resistance. At first, the pancreas makes extra insulin to make up for it. But over time, it isn't able to keep up and can't make enough insulin to keep blood glucose at normal levels.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), some common symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Urinating often
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Feeling very hungry even though you are eating
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Cuts and/or bruises that are slow to heal
  • Weight loss even though you are eating more (type 1)
  • Tingling, pain or numbness in the hands and/or feet (type 2)

Early detection and treatment of diabetes can decrease the risk of developing the complications later on. Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, or go to www.diabetes.org and take the Risk Test for type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes is a common disease, yet every individual needs unique care. The ADA encourages people with diabetes and their families to learn as much as possible about the latest medical therapies and approaches, as well as healthy lifestyle choices. Good communication with a team of experts can help you feel in control and respond to changing needs.

Finally, remember to test your blood sugar often, take your medications as directed and stick to the diet and exercise plan recommended for your individual case. And visit the American Diabetes Association’s and International Diabetes Federation’s web sites for valuable resources for living the best life possible! 

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Your Monthly Check-Up: September is National Cholesterol Education Month

Cholesterol. A funny word with a bad reputation. A waxy, fat-like substance that floats around in your blood. Sounds icky, but it’s something your body actually needs. The problem is, too much of it can cause serious problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

There are two kinds of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). HDL is also called "good" cholesterol. LDL is called "bad" cholesterol. When we talk about high cholesterol, we are talking about "bad" LDL cholesterol.

Seventy-one million American adults have high cholesterol, but only one-third of them have the condition under control…Too much cholesterol in the blood is one of the main risk factors for heart disease and stroke—two leading causes of death in the United States. One way to prevent these diseases is to detect high cholesterol and treat it when it is found.

High cholesterol has no symptoms so you won’t know if you have it until you get a screening. A simple blood test will tell you what your good and bad cholesterol levels are and doctors recommend people ages 20 and over get their cholesterol screened every five years.

Sometimes, if certain risk factors are at play, your doctor may recommend more frequent cholesterol screenings. For example, if your total cholesterol is 200 mg/dL or higher, you’re a man older than 45 or a woman over 50, your HDL is lower than 40 mg/dL or you have other risk factors for heart disease or stroke, your doctor might want to check your cholesterol more often.

The good news is that if you have high bad cholesterol or low good cholesterol, there are things you can do to get yourself more in balance. Making a few lifestyle changes will help lower your LDL. These include:

  • Eating more fiber and avoiding saturated and trans fats
  • Engaging in moderate exercise for 2.5 hours weekly
  • Losing weight
  • Quitting smoking

Coincidentally, making these changes to help lower your LDL can also help raise your HDL. It’s like a two-for-one with regard to your health! According to the Mayo Clinic, incorporating healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats – the fats found in olive, peanut and canola oil – can also help raise your HDL, as well as drinking alcohol in moderation – up to one drink per day for women or two for men. However, if you don’t drink, it’s not a good idea to start just for the purpose of raising your HDL. Go for the many other options instead! Additionally, if you are on cholesterol-controlling medication, take as directed according to your doctor.

See? Cholesterol isn’t all bad – and you’re required to eat fats to keep it in check! Why not celebrate your health this month by adopting a few of these healthy habits and treating yourself to a cholesterol screening? Your heart will thank you, and you’ll no doubt start to see other positive changes, as well!

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Your Monthly Check-Up: June is Men's Health Month

When it comes to our health, it seems women are more apt to see a doctor when something is wrong, whereas men will avoid an appointment at all costs until the situation becomes serious. In fact, men are 24 percent less likely than women to have visited a doctor in the past year, according to recent U.S. Government statistics. For an African American or Hispanic male, the odds of having seen a doctor are even lower. The same for men ages 18 to 44.  

  • June is National Men’s Health Month. Do you know what percentage of adult males are at risk? The following statistics were taken from the CDC:
  • Percent of men 18 years and over who met the 2008 federal physical activity guidelines for aerobic activity through leisure-time aerobic activity: 53.6%
  • Percent of men 18 years and over who had 5 or more drinks in 1 day at least once in the past year: 31.4%
  • Percent of men 18 years and over who currently smoke cigarettes: 21.2%
  • Percent of men 20 years and over who are obese: 34.6%
  • Percent of men 20 years and over with hypertension: 31.6%  

Are these statistics surprising? When you avoid the doctor, you miss out on important health screenings that may catch something early on before it progresses to a more serious health threat. Also, just because you may feel fine doesn’t mean that you are fine. High cholesterol and high blood pressure, among other conditions, can worsen if left untreated. Men are much more likely than women to need hospitalization for conditions that could have been prevented with regular health screenings.

On average, women live about five years longer than men. Could men's avoidance of doctors and routine checkups have something to do with that? Something to keep in mind is that doctors have heard it all, so there’s no reason to be embarrassed about bringing up any and all health issues with your doctor. It could save your life! 

If you’re still feeling uneasy, it’s always good to have a game plan. Start by scheduling a check-up and don’t hold back about anything that’s been bothering you. Be screened and take any medications as prescribed. Create healthful habits and brush up on old ones – limit your alcohol consumption, exercise and eat as many healthy, whole foods as possible. After you check these off your list, give yourself a little pat on the back for taking all the right steps toward a longer and healthier life! 

Read more about Men’s Health Month here here and here !

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Mind Your Health - May is Mental Health Awareness Month!

Each month we try to bring you helpful health-related news with our “Your Monthly Check-up” column. In support of that – and to bring you an extra dose of wellness information – we’re happy to help spread the word about Mental Health Month!

For 65 years, Mental Health America and its affiliates across the country have led the observance of Mental Health Month each May by reaching out to millions of people through the media, local events and screenings. This year’s theme is “Mind Your Health.” Goals of Mental Health America include:

  • building public recognition about the importance of mental health
  • informing people of ways that the mind and body interact with each other
  • providing tips for taking positive action to protect mental health and promote overall wellness

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about one in four Americans age 18 and over suffer from some form of mental disorder in a given year. That shows just how common these disorders are and how imperative it is for all of us to take care of our mental health.

We know what you’re thinking: “This sounds pretty important, but what can I do about it?” Glad you asked. Lime green is not only an amazing color, it’s the color of Mental Health Month. Sporting lime green shows you support the cause and stand up for erasing the stigma surrounding mental illness. You can also learn about how healthy eating, exercise, relaxation and other tools can improve your mental health as well as your overall health.

But most importantly, keep talking about it. Not one single person who suffers from mental illness is alone, even though it may feel that way. Mental disorders are prevalent and no one should have to feel ashamed about their thoughts or feelings. Let’s all do our part to keep this important topic in the “lime light!” 

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