Tag Archives: exercise

Heart Health in Young Adults

Heart Health in Young Adults

It’s American Heart Month, and this year’s focus is on preventing heart disease and promoting heart health in young adults. More young adults are dying of heart disease, and their rates of risk factors are rising.

When you’re a young adult, the best way to protect yourself from heart disease is with smart lifestyle choices, like eating a heart-healthy diet.

Heart Healthy Lifestyle Choices


Find time to be active, from yoga class to lunchtime walks. Aim for 2.5 hours of physical activity per week.

Teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely to smoke tobacco products. Avoid tobacco altogether, or kick it now to protect your heart.

Avoiding Tobacco and Addiction


You’re never too young to know your numbers. High blood pressure and cholesterol can affect you younger than you might realize. Learn to take your own blood pressure.

Learning About Blood Pressure


Stick to a medication routine to manage and control conditions like high blood pressure that put your heart at risk.

A Medication Routine


Reduce stress in your life to protect your heart. Even high levels of noise, like living by railroad tracks, may be bad for your stress level and your heart.

Stress, Noise, and Your Heart


Stay in the know and see your doctors annually. Even now, we’re still learning more about what can cause heart attacks in healthy people.

Staying On Top of Your Heart Health

Go Red for Heart Health

Long View: You Can’t Beat a Healthy Heart or 6 More Weeks of Winter

Just when you think the holidays are over and the thrill of the new year has finally tapered down, here comes February — Groundhog Day, Super Bowl Sunday, Mardis Gras, Valentine’s Day, and Presidents Day. February is a multi-themed, food-filled month of celebration.

We anticipate the shadow reveal of Punxsutawney Phil, we break out the football-shaped cheese ball to root for our team, we plan our menu of anything and everything on Fat Tuesday, and if that isn’t enough, we love to eat chocolates on the day of love. Then when it’s all over (and after a slight weight gain), we hit the mall for some comfy stretch wear with Presidents Day sale bargains!

But wait, how about doing something this month to celebrate our health and focus on our heart? If we can take advice from a small woodchuck about the weather, we surely can take advice from the American Heart Association about our health!

February is American Heart Month, and part of that is National Wear Red Day. For those of you who know me, my wardrobe pretty much consists of drab colors and neutrals, but this year, I broke out my red floral scarf for a splash of color as a symbol of support!

The American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute encourage all of us to take action against this killer disease. Studies show that 80% of cardiac and stroke events may be preventable with education and action.

Find time to talk to your family and get everyone on board with heart health. Encourage healthy eating habits by making healthier versions of your favorite food. Choose foods and recipes low in sodium and with no added sugar or trans fats. When you shop, buy colorful fruits and vegetables, which are all powerhouses when it comes to nutrition, and stay away from dairy and meat products that are high in fat.

Fiber is important in your diet, and you can find fiber not only in fruits and vegetables, but also in beans, nuts, and whole grain. Take the time to read the nutrition labels on items, and check out the sodium content. (A general rule is, if anything has more than 250 mg of sodium, you may want to search for something with less.)

Physical activity can also help you stay heart healthy. It’s not only what you put into your body, it’s also what you put out. Exercise helps to improve heart health, and it can even help reverse certain heart disease risk factors. Our heart becomes stronger from exercise, which helps it pump more blood through the body and work at maximum level without strain.

Aerobic activities at least 3 to 4 times a week are the best. Choose walking, swimming, or biking, and allow for a good 5 minutes of stretching beforehand to warm up your muscles and a cool down period after you’re through. And of course, always check with your doctor before starting any new physical routine.

So this February, maybe forego indulging in lavish holiday food choices (remember that New Year’s resolution?) and celebrate in a new way. Go out and buy something red to wear to celebrate heart health AND 6 more weeks of winter, or will it be an early spring? Better check with Punxsutawney Phil before you go!

Mervet Adams is a community liaison with Health Alliance. She loves her grandson, family, nature, and fashion.

Pregnancy Diet and Exercise

Pregnancy Diet and Exercise

Taking care of yourself with a healthy pregnancy diet and exercise routine is an important part of a healthy pregnancy overall. These tips can help you plan a balanced diet, exercise routine, and more.

Eat a Balanced Diet

While it’s normal to have crazy cravings while you’re pregnant, it’s also important to get plenty of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Together, you and your baby have different nutritional needs than you do separately.

It’s less like eating for 2, and more like eating for yourself and 1/8. You’ll need to get around an extra 300 calories a day. For example, if you’d normally drink a 10-oz. glass of juice, now you should drink an 11- or 12-oz. glass.

Most pregnant women need about:

  • 1,800 calories per day during the first trimester
  • 2,200 calories per day during the second trimester
  • 2,400 calories per day during the third trimester

ChooseMyPlate.gov can help you make the right food choices, and you can enter in your info to create customized daily food recommendations in a helpful checklist for each stage of your pregnancy.

You should also be careful when eating out because you’ll be more susceptible to foodborne illness while you’re pregnant.

Take a Prenatal Vitamin

Pregnant women need more folic acid, iron, and calcium. Folic acid, a B vitamin, can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord when taken early in your pregnancy.

Take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid every day during early pregnancy as part of a healthy diet. Avoid any supplements that give you more than 100% of the daily value for any vitamin or mineral.

Keep Moving

While you may not always feel like it, moderate exercise for 30 minutes a day during pregnancy can benefit both you and your baby. It helps you prepare your body for labor, and it will help you feel better before and after birth.

Safe Exercises to Try

  • Walking
  • Riding a stationary bike
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Swimming
  • Water aerobics

Activities to Avoid

  • Bouncing
  • Leaping
  • Too much up and down movement
  • Exercise that could make you lose your balance
  • Laying flat on your back after the first trimester
  • Anything where you could get hit in the stomach
  • Sitting in saunas, hot tubs, or steam rooms

Always talk to your doctor before starting an exercise routine, drink plenty of water, don’t get overheated, and be sure to listen to your body.

Handy Apps

Healthy Resolutions like Fitness

Vantage Point: Healthy Resolutions Without the Cost

What just happened? I blinked, and all of a sudden, it’s 2018! The holidays came and went, and now it’s time to go back to our normal routines. I’m personally excited for spring to get here. I’m over this cold.

As I go back to my routine, I think of what I’m going to do differently this year. It is very cliché, but I really do look back on my previous year and reflect on what I can improve on for 2018. We can improve in every aspect of our life: relationships, work, finances, and health.

We all try to set goals and keep them for the entire year. But sometimes we set unrealistic goals, or we just don’t try hard enough. The most common goal I hear is having a healthier lifestyle. We all have at least one unhealthy habit that we want to kick to the curb. As I get older, I realize it is not about looking good or having “rock hard” abs, it’s about being healthy and strong.

There are so many ways we can have an active lifestyle. Many people would join a gym to reach that goal, but what happens if you can’t afford a gym membership? And the older we get, the harder it is to do heavy lifting or the more dangerous it is to use a treadmill.

We are so lucky to have an organization like the Wellness Place in the Wenatchee Valley. Its mission is “[t]o improve and enhance the health and well-being of community members through programs and education; inspiring every person to live their best life now.” Their current programs include targeting and supporting cancer patients, Stay Active and Independent for Life (SAIL), and diabetes support services.

The SAIL program started in 2006 and focuses on balance and fitness for those 65 and older. Exercises that improve strength, balance, and fitness are the most important activities you can do to stay active and reduce your chance of falling as you age.

These classes are offered all over the greater Wenatchee area, and they’re no cost to the attendees. It is a great opportunity to kick off a healthier lifestyle for free. Learn more about the classes and when and where they take place and start your new year the right way.

Jessica Arroyo, born and raised in the Wenatchee Valley, is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties in Washington. During her time off, she enjoys spending time with her husband and infant son.

Exercise Just Right for You

For Providers: Talking Exercise with Patients

Exercise has been a part of daily life for John Kim, a Carle family nurse practitioner, from an early age, but he realizes that’s not the case for everyone.

Kim, who started at Carle in 2015, stresses the importance of exercise with all of his patients.

“I talk about exercise consistently to every patient because not only can it treat comorbidities, but it can also prevent future illness and disease,” Kim said. “I believe exercise along with diet is the foundation of health, and so I make it a priority to talk about exercise with each patient.”

He treats exercise like a vital sign, having his certified medical assistant ask all patients if they exercise and how much.

“Asking about exercise as a vital sign has made it extremely easy to bring up the topic of exercise to each patient,” he said.

Kim offers his patients advice about how to get started if they’re new to exercise and offers ways to increase physical activity if they aren’t active enough. He caters each plan to each patient’s individual interests and lifestyle and tries to help them take one small step at a time.

“If I have a patient that is completely sedentary, I will find out what his or her interests are and try to tailor some kind of physical activity from that,” Kim said. “I try to shoot for my patients to start off with a number they know they can do, whether it’s 5 minutes or 20 minutes a day.”

He also has patients fill out exercise logs to help hold them accountable and initially follows up with them every 2 weeks or once a month until exercise becomes more routine.

Through it all, he’s learned that being patient and nonjudgmental is key.

“New habits take time to build,” he said. “So I make sure patients know that I am not here to ridicule them, but to encourage and support them as they try to build the new habit of exercising. I have found that when patients know that their provider genuinely cares about their health, it gets to the point where it motivates the patients to push themselves a little more, and I believe this is why I have many success stories of patients going from a sedentary lifestyle to a more active lifestyle.”

Key Takeaways

  • Discuss exercise along with vital signs for every patient.
  • Be patient about results, and don’t ridicule.
  • Set attainable goals with small steps.
  • Follow up frequently until exercise becomes a habit.
  • Have patients use exercise logs and bring them to each appointment
Chronic Back Pain

My Healthy Journey: Chronic Back Pain

The Opioid Epidemic and Chronic Back Pain

Over the last year, the leading news story in health care has been the opioid epidemic. And chronic pain, particularly chronic back pain, has been at the top of the list of reasons why people use opioids long term. 

Chronic pain is pain that lasts longer than 12 weeks, and for many, it’s pain that can last the rest of their lives. Chronic pain can happen because of a genetic problem or disorder or an injury or accident. Many people who survive serious car accidents or workplace accidents deal with chronic pain for the rest of their lives. 

And back injuries are a leading cause of chronic pain. Business Insider took a look at a study that dug into the relationship between chronic back pain and opioid use disorder:

Amino - Chronic Back Pain and Opioid Use Disorder

Having back surgery increases your chances of relying on opioids to manage pain by over 7 times! Other back problems raise your chances by over 2 times. 

Obviously, these are also people who are likely to get long-term opioid prescriptions from their doctors.

How Doctors Treat Chronic Pain

For decades, the standard for doctors has been to treat this kind of ongoing pain with opioids. Now, with opioid drug overdoses skyrocketing, doctors are making changes.

Early estimates show that opioids took 53,000 American lives in 2016, more than those killed in car accidents.

Opioids don’t just turn off your pain receptors. They also let your brain release more dopamine, which can help relieve stress and anxiety and make you happier.

But when you take an opioid permanently, you can build a tolerance to it, which means you need more and more to manage your pain and to feel good. Both the pain relief for chronic sufferers and the way it makes you feel can become addictive.

Not to mention, opioids can change how often certain neurons in your brain fire, which means that when you’re not on opioids, you actually get more anxious and unhappy until you take more, causing serious withdrawals. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revised their guidelines to help doctors try other treatments first, and doctors are hard at work to find new ways to treat pain.

Waiting for Chronic Back Pain

So why is this part of my healthy journey? I have my own chronic back pain.

I’m lucky. I’ve never taken opioids for my back pain, so I’ve avoided those issues, but I do understand what it’s like to live with pain as a part of your daily life and why people would be willing to take opioids to stop it.

My father has had a slipped disc in his back my entire life. I’ve always known what back pain looks like. I also always thought it might happen to me. Not only can these issues be hereditary, but I also take after my father physically.

Combine that with the slouch of someone who hated always being the tallest in her class as a child and now sits in front of a computer all day, and I always suspected that back problems were coming for me.

My Chronic Back Pain

The pain started for me in college, when I was no longer playing sports or working out in P.E. every day. One year, I chose to live in the loop in Chicago instead of by my campus, so as part of my daily commute, I walked about an hour and a half. That was when I really started to throw out my back once in a while.

But it wasn’t until I worked at Starbucks after college that I really started to have serious problems regularly. Being on my feet all day and bending up and down with milk jugs all the time really started to take a toll on my back.

I’ll get building back pain on one side of my lower back. It can switch sides, and one side is usually worse than the other. And when it fully goes out, my knee on that side can sometimes buckle, which if I’m not ready for it, can actually knock me down. And sometimes it’s so bad that getting out of bed, getting up and down, or just falling asleep, is a challenge. 

Getting Help

I’ve always known this pain might hit me one day, and when it started, I talked to my dad a lot about what was going on. My symptoms match his exactly.

Since I knew what the issue was from my father’s medical history, I wasn’t really worried about getting an official diagnosis.

I also already knew that I didn’t want to take opioids or painkillers long term. I’m one of those people who rarely takes even Tylenol. And when I had serious opioids after I had my wisdom teeth removed, they made me feel disoriented and nauseous.

My older brother had a serious workplace injury when I was in high school. He broke his pelvis and some of his spine. He’d seen a chiropractor, among many other specialists, when he was recovering, and he still sees one sometimes to cope with his own chronic pain.

I decided to explore that as a treatment option instead. My new chiropractor ran some X-rays and told me that my pelvis is tilted, which lets my disc slip back and forth instead of holding it in place. 

Through a series of adjustments, he worked to bring my pelvis back in line, and brought me some real relief. 

Unfortunately, I’ve done some state-hopping since then, and while I’m still in better shape than I used to be, I haven’t had time to find a new chiropractor yet. 

Starting to Deal with Your Pain

So what can you do to tackle your chronic pain? 

  1. First and foremost, go see your doctor, especially if you’ve been injured or don’t have a family history of back issues. You might need surgery or other serious help.

  2. Consider your treatment options. Surgery can be an option for many chronic back problems, but it has costs. It’s expensive and can cause its own set of pain problems. Opioids are highly addictive. Talk to your doctor about other options, like chiropractic treatment or acupuncture.

  3. Talk to your insurance company. Insurance companies want to stop the opioid epidemic too, and more plans are covering alternative therapies like chiropractic visits than ever before.

  4. Talk to your employer. If you have insurance through your employer, talk to them about making sure other therapies are covered on your group plan.

  5. Work with your care team on a treatment plan to cope with and manage your pain.

Learning to Manage Pain

So how do I manage my chronic back pain without drugs?

  • Set expectations. Knowing I would probably grow up to develop chronic back pain means I’ve always been ready for it. Accepting that pain will be a part of my life helps me feel in control.

  • Find a treatment that helps. For me, this has been regular chiropractic adjustments that help relieve tension and keep my disc in place. 

  • Get massages. I get the occasional massage to help relieve tension in the muscles in my back too. Many people with back pain get regular massages and swear by them.

  • Exercise and eat right. Even just a few extra pounds can put enormous stress on your spine if you already have back problems. And exercise can strengthen the muscles in your back. Focus on low-impact activities and strengthen your core if you’re already in pain.

    And choose your cardio wisely. Running outdoors or on inclines can be really hard on your back and pelvis. Try running on a treadmill, walking, or biking instead.

  • Try yoga, pilates, or tai chi. Yes, these are technically forms of exercise, but they’re more than that too. A new study found that yoga can actually help relieve back pain itself, but recommends gentle poses. And the routine they used is free online. I find it highly relaxing and a nice way to stretch and wind down, and you can do it as often as you want.

  • Get plenty of sleep. You’d be surprised how sleep affects other parts of your life. When I’m sleep deprived, my back is much more likely to go out. And since I struggle to sleep once my back’s out, it makes for a long sleepless week in that situation.

  • Try little treatments and tricks. I ice my back and use heating pads. I also take over-the-counter pain meds before bed if my back feels like it will go out during the night. If my back’s already out, lying on the floor (if I have someone handy to help me get up later) can help. Putting a pillow between my knees can also help while I’m trying to fall asleep.

  • Meditate. Meditation can help you clear your mind and refocus, and mindfulness can be surprisingly helpful in overcoming pain. There are easy apps you can try to get started too.

  • Talk to someone or journal. Chronic pain can be emotional. You hurt. You can’t escape it, and it can feel hopeless. Talk to a close loved one, journal about what’s happening, or visit a therapist. It can help you blow off steam, lighten your mental load, feel heard, and document your pain’s progression.

  • Practice self-care. Stress and tension can tighten up everything in your back. Find ways to reduce and fight stress in your life. And find little pleasures that you can focus on each day, like your favorite coffee, trading back rubs with your significant other, or cuddling your pet.

Most importantly, get help when you need it. Never let your pain push you so far that you can’t handle it or you fall into depression. Talk to your doctor to keep your mind and body healthy, even in the face of chronic pain.

Self Improvement Month

Self-Improvement Month

It’s Self-Improvement Month, and we can help you set goals and make changes to improve your health and wellness.

Your food choices are a key part of maintaining a healthy body weight, which can reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and more. Get help making healthy food choices each step of the way.

Healthy Food Choices


Get moving to improve your health and how you feel. Studies have found that any kind of exercise, even deep cleaning your kitchen, can help.

Moving Many Ways


Is there something you’ve always wanted to try? Finding a hobby you love and taking on new challenges is a great way to fight stress and channel your passion.

Pick a Passion


Take an adventure. Traveling is one of the best ways to broaden your horizons, and even if you don’t go far, exploration will be worth the experience.

Adventure Away


Become a mentor. Whether it’s to a new co-worker, your nephew, or at-risk youth, mentoring can help you and someone else grow.

Become a Mentor


Adjust and refocus on your goals. Figure out what’s working and what isn’t, and make a system to stick with them, like a dream board, planner, or journal.

Evaluate your relationships and how you can be a better friend, spouse, or parent to those you love. Focus on small ways to make improvements for each type of relationship.

Prioritize Relationships