Saturday, September 14, 2013

Laura to kick off new blog series

By Laura

Hi, everyone. I realize you need to hear more about how to prevent injuries, especially repetitive-movement injuries at work.
That is why I am kicking off a new series of blog entries related to the small changes that you can make in your desk or cubicle to ease problems before they threaten your career and livelihood.
I will be making suggestions on how to prevent or ease problems with shoulders, wrists, necks, and prevent eyestrain and carpal tunnel syndrome.
You do not have to let anyone bully you into surgery or drugs that may not address the causes of your discomfort and may end your career prematurely.
Thanks for tuning in and see you again soon.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Sit-Stand Workstations Improving Overall Health in Workplace Revolution

by Laura

Possibly the one single transformation that is to blame for the poor present physical condition of many Americans is the computer revolution in the 1990s that made the computer the focus of most office jobs, and many other types of workplaces as well. Suddenly workers were doing nothing but SITTING in front of monitors most of the day. And rather than rush to exercise once off work, they went home and sat in front of the television for another four hours.

Since the 1950s, there has been a 60 percent reduction of workers in occupations that require moderate to intense activity. Some statistics equate sitting 9 or more hours a days with smoking a pack and a half of cigarettes, in terms of heart health.

In an attempt to reverse some of that, a few companies are experimenting with standing work stations. They even have stand-up meetings.

A Minneapolis company that starting a program to stand more during the work day found that as a side benefit, it reduced upper back and neck pain by over half.

There are a few different models of sit-stand workstations and sit-stand programs offered in the marketplace, but I would like to pass on some info about the Ergotron, since that is the one I have the most data about. Ergotron offers an online Sitting-Time Calculator at It calculates how much you are sitting but also offers tips on how to reduce cardiovascular risks associated with sitting too much.

Anyway, it's a movement that is spreading slowly, either through hardware – adaptive stand-sit work stations – or through software – such as the Hotseat phone app that schedules activity breaks during your work day. (Get more information about the latter at

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Wellness Tools Expand to Include Smartphone Apps, And More

by Laura

I wholeheartedly support managing one's own health and so that is why I am pleased to read that there are more and more tools being made available to keep tabs on it, or to prompt an exercise break.
Here are a few of the newer apps available out there.

The AHA is offering this app, called Hotseat, in a test with its employees. It is a program to help couch potatoes get moving and get their heart rates up. The AHA launched the test of the app in June (it ran through July), and achieved a remarkable 33 percent participation rate among employees. Hotseat has only one goal, to get employees up and out of their chairs to take a short activity break during the workday. Users select activities from a list in the app's library of options, to program into their own plan; it will even sync with the employee's work calendar. Comes with a timer that ticks off the seconds as the user does his activity. Go directly to the site at for more info and details.
RedBrick Health decided to listen to enrollee feedback and added a wellness and disease-management app to its Journeys program. Engagement rates have quintupled.
Participants can select from a list of goals such as lose weight, get active, eat healthier, etc. They answer a few questions, and receive a step-by-step, bite-sized pieces of the program through their phone app.
One of the keys to this program's success is that participants are kept accountable by noting progress via email or social networks.
The app is customizable so that if you want reminders about dieting goals, you can receive an alert at say, 11 am, before your lunch break, or even on the weekend before one goes grocery shopping.
Achieving one's health goal earns you some congrats or rewards, but users generally create a new goal for themselves to keep motivated.
Participants in the Optum program use texting to help adhere to their medications schedule. Users set up reminders to take their meds, or just an alarm for specific times each day.
It saves money for the insurer and protects the enrollees by cutting down on emergency room admissions. One source claims that as much as 70 percent of ER admissions are due to “poor medication adherence” or in other words, forgetting to take one's meds.
Provant offers wellness apps for its enrollees, where they sign up on the mobile site to do such tasks as log their food and exercise, check nutrition info, share biometric screening data with their healthcare providers, or related functions.
Provant teams up with companies to urge employees to get moving, so there's an app for an employee exercise challenge. Large companies have as many as 15 teams competing in a step challenge.
5- 100 PLUS.
An interactive app allows the user to create mini fitness challenges based on your location.
An online meal-tracking platform. You take a picture of your meal and the app visually shows you how much you ate by increasing or decreasing the virtual plate size. It asks the user how they felt about the food they ate, with the aim of detecting possible food sensitivities.
Tracks your heart rate while underwater. I assume this is for divers?
Detects biometric data through an earbud interface.
Detects heart rate variability with the goal of stress management.
Tracks steps, meals and sleep, so this seems like a good overall wellness management tool.
All of these apps are for tracking physical activity, for us couch potatoes who would like to get more active.
Provides prescription reminders and determines non-adherence patterns. This mobile app is offered by mHealthCoach.
This app also offers prescription reminders, plus it gives coupons and rebates to help users with medication costs. The coupons and rebates are a reward for users to adhere to their medications schedule.
This one is available to the general public as well as to enrollees of a specific insurance carrier. The website allows family members to coordinate and track all care for a family member. Personal service provided by a nurse will, in addition, help manage those health care services.
Kudos to the American Heart Association for planning to make their app available to the general public and setting a standard for other apps providers. I do hope that more apps will be made available either through your own health insurance carrier or to the general consumer. Perhaps an inquiry to your own insurer will prompt them to include a phone app in their wellness program, if they do not already have one. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Eye Wellness Tips – Because I Can't Massage Your Eyes!

by Laura

Tension from long hours in front of a computer all day can tire you or even give you headaches, but it won't affect acuity.
That was the message in a recent roundup of tips and myth-busters on eye health.

First, let us list factors that DO affect eye health.
1- Smoking. By far the number one factor affecting the eyes. Smoking can be a direct contributing factor to diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, and cataracts. Smoking has been estimated to be related to 20 percent of new cases of blindness in people over 50 years of age.
2- Medications. Your doctor may or may not discuss the risks drug interaction with eye health, so you may have to buttonhole your doc or a nurse to get that information. On the other hand, a positive benefit has been found in taking supplements of vitamins A, E and C, and omega-6 fatty acids.
3- Pregnancy can have short-term effects on eyes, such as blurry vision or dry eyes. Fluid retention can affect the shape and thickness of the cornea of the eye.
4- Aging. As we get older the eyes' acuity can change for the better or for worse. Far-sighted people may gain near-normal vision. But others can suffer changes directly related to age, called presbyopia.
5- UV exposure. Women especially should wear sunglasses when going outdoors, because they are twice as likely to develop macular degeneration as men. Yet we do need some ultraviolet light on a daily basis, which can be satisfied with as little as ten minutes a day of being outdoors.
6- Lack of sleep. It isn't just that it gets harder to peel your eyes open when you burn the candle at both ends. Your eyes really do need to rest just as much as your body does, so do yourself a favor and get your beauty sleep.

NOT a factor in eye disease was watching excessive television or using a computer for many hours a day. Sorry, mom, but you cannot use that threat on your kids anymore. And anyway, they are not likely to give up their smart phones, computers, iPads, or YouTube.  

Monday, July 29, 2013

Lowering Blood Pressure with a Surprising Exercise

by Laura

Reducing high blood pressure can involve a whole complex of dietary and lifestyle changes. In addition you might want to incorporate something as simple as squeezing a ball to bring down your readings.

Studies at the University of Michigan by Dr. Robert D. Brook found that just four weeks of isometric hand exercises produced a 10 percent drop in both diastolic and systolic blood pressure readings. This would include squeezing a ball or an athletic gripper.

Lesser improvements were noted with traditional exercise such as aerobic exercise (walking, jogging, swimming, even gardening), or with strength training.

This study reviewed over 1,000 other studies to glean the best of the best. The findings were published in “Hypertension” medical journal.

I can also add that another effective gambit was to add plenty of fresh celery to the diet. Yes, the studies are out there to support this veggie as part of a good diet plan to fight hypertension.  

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Massage could help with shingles pain, but you could get a shot for that!

by Laura

I am all for natural modes of pain relief, but sometimes there is a good reason for an inoculation. One case in point is shingles. Do you know that there is a vaccine for that?

You have to be at least age 60 and have had chicken pox as a child to benefit from the shot.
Shingles strikes about one million Americans a year and can bring crippling pain and headaches. Shingles can cause permanent nerve damage.

A neighbor gets shingles attacks and is out of commission for a few days at a time because of the headaches. Some people experience attacks that last three or four weeks at a time, and no one I know of can afford to be out of commission for that long!

Now I have to admit that the shot may only work completely for about half the people who receive it. However, the others have much less severe attacks and may escape permanent nerve damage. The only real obstacle is that the vaccine may cost you a rather hefty co-payment of about $60 or $75 or so. Still, it can save you a heck of a lot of pain and lost work time. Worth thinking about!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Did you get your Vitamin N today? Back to Nature offers surprising benefits

by Laura

It may really surprise you how much you can benefit from spending just an hour in a natural setting. They are even calling it Vitamin N – n for Nature. You can take a walk in the park or spend time in a home or office designed to take advantage of views of nature.

Hospitals designed with nature in mind find that patients have less stress, can heal faster, and need less pain meds.

A 2008 study by the University of Michigan showed that hour-long “doses” of nature helped people not only deal with stress, but they had a 20 percent better attention span, and also showed improved memory. And in 2012, a University of Kansas study showed people had as much as a 50 percent improvement in creativity after being immersed in a natural setting for a few days.

It is a bit hard to apply these findings because there is little description of the Vitamin N exposure that the participants were given.

But still, we can offer some popular ways of getting back in touch with nature. Such as:
1- Plant a garden, preferably something that will attract some wildlife, birds or butterflies that you can enjoy watching.
2- Encourage your children to interact with nature in a creative way. Small children often spend hours in a sand box. Take them on a nature walk to pick up interesting leaves in the fall that they can use in art projects at home.
3- Join a group at a nature center for spring and fall hikes to note the change in seasons and migrating birds.
4- Taking up photography forces you to look for subjects out there in fields and parks, or even in your back yard.

5- Put a comfortable chair on a patio, porch or sun room to watch the change in seasons.