Tag Archives: Karen Stefaniak

Summer in the South

Long View: Beat the Heat in the Dog Days of Summer

As some of you may know, I am originally from Alabama. During a recent visit there in August, I was shocked it was so miserably hot and humid.

I asked my friend Brenda how we functioned in this kind of weather when we were teenagers. She reminded me we were not very sensitive to a lot of things when we were 15 or so. Her husband told me when it’s exceptionally hot nowadays, the schools don’t let the kids go outside for recess or lunch. Really? We never minded the heat as kids.

It seems as we age, we aren’t as tolerant of weather extremes as we were when we were younger. I figure I have a 40-degree window of optimum temperatures these days. Above or below, it’s a problem. Don’t get me started on the humidity. A number of factors can impact comfort levels for any given individual.

I asked Carle Wellness Program Coordinator Karen Stefaniak for a more technical explanation for this reduced tolerance.

“People over the age of 65 are more likely to experience elevated body temperature,” she said. “As we age, the body loses its ability to adjust to sudden temperature changes. In some people, this can be caused by a chronic condition and/or prescription medications. But in general, with the process of aging comes a reduced ability to sweat and shiver. Unfortunately, decreased thirst awareness can lead to dehydration. These factors limit the body’s ability to stay cool when it’s hot outside.”

But there is hope. She shared some tips for handling the heat.

“Prevent heat-related illness by wearing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing, drinking plenty of cool (nonalcoholic) beverages, staying in the air conditioning, and remaining indoors during the heat of the day.”

As usual, Karen makes perfect sense. One thing Alabama taught me about heat is to slow down and enjoy the moment. We should all be mindful during any weather extreme.

Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. If you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange, and he is known for his inability to parallel park.

Sleep for the Whole Family

Long View: Take Time to Rest Easy, Don’t Skip Sleep

I know we all think about ways to carve out more time in our busy lives, and I’m sure we’d all like to be more efficient. Sometimes I think getting by on less sleep is the way to go, but after looking into it, there are some problems with that solution.

There are lots of reasons you might not get enough sleep—illness, stress, family commitments, and job issues. Bad sleep habits, like irregular schedules and eating too much before bed, can lead to insomnia whether or not you’re actually trying to skip sleep. The causes of a bad night’s sleep seem endless, and so do the effects. But your primary care doctor can get you started on the right path to better sleep.

I can’t close my eyes to the fact that my sleep habits aren’t always the best, but I try to maintain a regular schedule. Typically, I read a few pages from a book with a serene topic before I drift off. For a while, I was concerned about afternoon drowsiness until I was able to tie the symptoms to carb loading at lunch. I also took a medicine that had vivid dreams as a possible side effect. My dreams are vivid enough as is. The medicine made them unbearable, so my doctor and I decided we would take another path.

My friend Karen Stefaniak is our wellness program administrator here at Health Alliance. She shared her knowledge on sleep.

“Recent studies are linking reduced sleep duration—five hours or less—to weight gain,” Stefaniak says. “Not getting enough sleep affects the two hormones that tell us when to eat and when to stop eating. People who are sleep-deprived produce more ghrelin, the hormone that tells us when to eat, and less leptin, the hormone that tells us when to stop. Plus, when we don’t get enough sleep, our metabolism slows down, and we tend to crave high-carbohydrate foods that provide a quick energy boost.”

So are we actually helping ourselves at all by sleeping less? Probably not. It lowers our waking quality of life and increases our risk for accidents, and it even makes us want to eat more. I think I need to consider a good night’s sleep a necessity rather than a luxury. You can rest easy knowing I will pay more attention to my sleep habits going forward.

Fried Chicken Diet

Long View: Why the Fried Chicken Diet Doesn’t Work

I am guessing many of you are in the same boat as me—wondering what to do about that pesky winter weight.

It’s a common problem, and I know I should do something about it. I get inspired with the first nice days of spring, but it seems by wintertime, I am adding another layer of winter warmth, so to speak.

I know many fad diets don’t work long-term. I have heard about the Paleo Diet, but I can’t picture myself eating like a caveman. The Grapefruit Diet worked for me, sort of, but only because I hate grapefruit.

Probably not the way for me to go.

When I have a question, I go to an expert, and we have one here at Health Alliance. Her name is Karen Stefaniak, and she is our wellness program administrator. She told me many diets don’t work long-term because people limit what they eat but don’t make behavior changes.

“Unfortunately most people on restrictive diets eventually gain back the weight they lost and possibly a little more,” she said. “It’s a shame to go through all that effort to end up where you started. Changes in a person’s behavior are the only way to ensure a long-term success.”

She continued: “The key to successful weight loss is to set specific goals you can reach. For example, rather than saying you are going to lose 20, set a goal to lose one pound a week. Each week, pick  a couple of things you can do that will help you lose that pound, like exercising more, limiting sweets or cutting down on snacks after dinner. Success breeds success.

“Reaching the goal of losing that first pound in week one will motivate you to keep going. You’ll begin to lose the weight slowly and at the same time learn behavior patterns that will help you keep the weight off. As always, talk with your doctor before starting any type of diet or exercise program.“

Well, Karen shared some do-able suggestions for starting a weight-loss plan. You could recruit a friend or coworker to start the journey together. I will give it a try, but I’m still hoping someone will come up with The Frito and Fried Chicken Diet. Oh wait, I am on that one now.