May is National Arthritis Awareness Month, and arthritis is America’s number one cause of disability. There are also nearly 1 million hospitalizations each year because of arthritis.
Nearly 53 million adults and almost 300,000 babies, kids, and teens have arthritis or a rheumatic condition. Learn more about arthritis.
People with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis miss 172 million days of work per year. Learn about the different kinds of arthritis and be prepared.
Many people with arthritis also have other serious conditions. 57% of adults with heart disease, 52% of those with diabetes, and 44% of those with high blood pressure, have arthritis. Learn more about arthritis research.
1/3 of adults with arthritis who would normally be working have limitations in their ability to work, and overall, they’re less likely to be employed than those without arthritis. If you have arthritis, learn more about managing your pain.
Arthritis and its related conditions account for over $156 billion in yearly lost wages and medical expenses. If you have arthritis though, you have treatment options.
If you need support emotionally or the tools and resources to make healthy changes like exercise and diet that can improve your arthritis, the Arthritis Foundation can help.
It’s Defeat Diabetes Month. 9.4% of Americans have diabetes, and 1 in 4 of them don’t even know they have it.
Diabetes affects 1 in 4 people over 65 years old. Managing your diabetes is even more important as you age.
The most common types of diabetes are type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.
If you have diabetes, monitoring your blood sugar, exercise, and diet change can all help you manage your disease long-term.
These resources are packed with lifestyle tips that can help you make smart day-to-day choices when you have diabetes.
Diabetes can lead to more health problems, like heart disease, stroke, nerve damage, and more.
Curious about the history of diabetes? Learn more about how humans have made sense of it through the years.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our community liaison team has never met a health fair or expo they didn’t love! Health fairs and expos are great places to learn about the abundance of services available in our communities to support seniors and their families.
With brightly colored, free shopping bags in hand, visitors gather pens, lip balms, and hand sanitizers, along with informational brochures and contact information for everything from beautiful, new living communities to financial planning. I’ve never seen so many butterscotch hard candies in one place since my grandmother’s candy dish in the 1970s.
Many health fairs and expos offer free checkups for various parts of your body and health. Participants aren’t the only ones taking advantage of a little free TLC. So far this summer, I’ve had the kinks rubbed out of my neck, the skin on my face analyzed for sun damage, and my blood pressure checked.
But one of the most interesting tests I’ve done recently came from my friends at Memorial Hospital in Carthage, IL. They measured my A1C level.
“What is A1C?” I asked, with a donut in one hand and a cup of coffee with cream in the other.
A1C is the measurement of the average blood sugar levels for the past 3 months, they told me. “Oh no,” I said. “I can’t get that done today. I’m eating a donut!”
The kind nurses assured me to sit down and relax. No fasting is required. In the blink of an eye, my finger was (painlessly) pricked, and a small amount of my blood slipped into a tiny little tube. The tube took a 5-minute spin in the centrifuge, and bingo, my A1C for the past 3 months is…. I’ll keep you in suspense until the end.
The National Diabetes Education Initiative recommends that diabetics have the A1C measurement taken at least twice a year. Everyone else should measure A1C once every 3 years. The nurses from Carthage recommended that most people should have measurements below 5.7%, since measurements between 5.7 and 6.4% indicate a greater risk for becoming diabetic.
The daily measurement of glucose levels is very important for diabetics who need to keep their levels within healthy ranges. Knowing your 2- to 3-month average can help you determine your overall glucose health, which in turn can help you make healthy choices throughout each day, like about sleeping, playing, working, eating, and more.
And if you don’t have diabetes, knowing if you have a higher than average A1C level can be a valuable piece of information to help you make healthy changes to curb your chances of getting diabetes at some point in your life.
Those who are already diabetic should strive to lower their A1C to at least 7% when possible. This could be a struggle for those who suffer from the disease, but the research points toward a much lower risk of developing diabetic complications like eye, heart, and kidney disease the closer you can get to 7%.
To tell you the truth, waiting for my blood to spin around for those 5 minutes in the centrifuge had me sweating a little. This could be the year my chickens come home to roost. I’ll be having one of those special birthdays next year where everyone wears black. I’m not exactly the healthiest eater. Leggings and stretchy-fabric pants have become my best friends.
This A1C measurement was an important wake-up call for me. The good news is that I measured well below 5.7%.
While I could have spiked the football, declared myself invincible, and grabbed a second donut, I didn’t. I decided to really pay attention to this information and be grateful for my health today, maybe take an extra walk around the block every week. Next year, I’m setting my sights on something in the high 4s.
Pass the kale.
Lora Felger is a community and broker liaison at Health Alliance. She is the mother of 2 terrific boys, a world traveler, and a major Iowa State Cyclones fan.
Focusing on a balanced diet is one of the best ways to make healthy eating a part of your life.
Dietary Guidelines for Americans
The USDA sets Dietary Guidelines for Americans regularly to help guide balanced diet choices. While these guidelines can seem complicated, there are key takeaways from them you should know.
The Importance of Healthy Eating
Healthy eating helps prevent and slow the onset of diseases, like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Include in a Balanced Diet
A healthy and balanced diet, which for most people is around 2,000 calories a day, includes a variety of:
- Vegetables, including a variety of dark green, red, and orange veggies, legumes, which include beans and peas, and starchy veggies, like corn and potatoes.
- Fruits, especially whole fruits, like apples and oranges, which are the perfect serving size.
- Grains, at least half of which are whole grain.
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy (like milk, yogurt, and cheese) or appropriate substitutes.
- A variety of foods high in protein, like lean meats, poultry, eggs, seafood, beans, soy-based products (like tofu), nuts and seeds.
- Oils (like canola, olive, peanut, and soybean) or naturally occurring oils in nuts, seeds, olives, and avocados.
Limit in a Balanced Diet
- Added sugars should make up less than 10% of your daily calories, which can be hidden in processed and prepared foods, like soda, cereal, cookies, and more.
- Limit saturated and trans fats, which should make up less than 10% of your daily calories. Foods high in these include butter, whole milk, and palm oil. Replace with unsaturated fats, like canola and olive oil whenever you can.
- Limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day. Processed foods, like pizza, and canned soup and sauces can be high in this salt.
A Balanced Diet with MyPlate
MyPlate replaced the food pyramid as the guide to making sense of servings. It helps you look at your plate and strike a balance with each meal.
Fruits and veggies should make up about half of your plate, with just over a quarter filled with whole grains, and protein should be under a quarter. (A few ounces of meat, a piece about the size of the palm of your hand, is a good serving size for most people.) Also work in a small serving of dairy through milk, cheese, or yogurt to round out your meal.
Making Smart Choices
Combine these guidelines with smart choices, and you’ll be well on your way to eating a balanced diet. And making these smart choices doesn’t have to be difficult. There are lots of tips and tricks that can help you make a balanced diet a part of your daily life.
Tracking Your Food
- First of all, make sure you know how many calories a day you should eat.
Then, you can target the number of servings you should be getting of the different food groups.
- Use food labels to guide your decisions.
These can help you figure out calorie counts and limit sodium and sugar.
- While you’re switching to a more balanced diet, it’s a good idea to track your food or calories.
This can help you understand how balanced your diet and food servings are and set and reach food goals.
Making and Meeting Food Goals
- Start small.
Making small changes in your eating habits can have long-term effects:
- Switch to high fiber, low-sugar cereals.
- Give up soda with flavored sparkling waters.
- When you’re hungry, try drinking a glass of water before you eat something.
- Plan for all of the places you go in life:
- Instead of eating out for lunch at work, start planning and meal-prepping ahead of time, and avoid the vending machines.
- If you know your kids aren’t making great food choices at school, get them involved in packing lunches they’ll love ahead of time.
- When you know you’ll spend the day at the mall, carry snacks and a water bottle, eat a healthy breakfast or snack before you head out, and skip the food court. If you just can’t avoid a meal or a snack while you’re out, find the healthiest option. Load up a sandwich with veggies, get frozen yogurt without all kinds of extra sweet toppings instead of ice cream, and choose hot tea or unsweetened iced tea instead of a frappachino.
- Check menus for calorie counts when you’re eating out. Ask for salad dressings and sauces on the side, avoid fried foods, and keep in mind that alcoholic drinks can be full of calories.
- Many communities have community gardens. Join in and help out to get moving and to grow things your whole family can enjoy in meals.
Results and Rewards
- Don’t beat yourself up when you have missteps.
Everyone struggles with giving up the foods full of sugar and salt that they love, so it’s important to stay positive and get back on track.
- Plan your cheat day.
Many people have found that planning a weekly cheat day can help them stay on course knowing they can treat themselves later. And once you get used to a balanced diet, you’ll find that you’ll cheat in smaller and smaller ways, even on the day you’re allowed to.
- Find healthy ways to treat yourself.
For example, do you love watermelon or raspberries? Splurge on the healthy treats you love. Enjoy a piece of dark chocolate each day or a glass of red wine each week. Another option, reward meeting your goals with a treat that isn’t food-related, like a new outfit, book, or manicure.
Chewing tobacco can be just as dangerous for your health as other forms of tobacco. It’s time to quit for Through with the Chew Week.
Chewing tobacco is tied to many mouth problems, including mouth, tongue, cheek, and gum cancer, and can also cause cancer in the esophagus and pancreas.
Chew can cause leukoplakia, or gray-white patches in the mouth that can become cancer.
Chewing tobacco also stains your teeth, causes bad breath, and destroys your gum tissue.
If you regularly use smokeless tobacco, you’re more likely to have gum disease, cavities, tooth decay, and expensive dental issues.
All forms of tobacco, including the smokeless kind, increase your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.
When you chew tobacco, you also raise your risk of heart attack, stroke, and serious pregnancy complications.
Smokeless tobacco can also lead to nicotine poisoning and death in kids who mistake it for candy.