ESI Group is one of the nation’s leading providers of employee services and productivity solutions, serving more than 1800 client companies with more than 1,250,000 employee Members nationwide.Our Behavioral Health Clinicians and certified Wellness Coaches provide employees and their families with the help, motivation, tools and support they need to make changes and improve their lives.
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and it’s worth learning more about the risks and the prevention options: In 2018, more than 135,000 people will be diagnosed with this highly preventable disease. Colon cancer and rectal cancer can be prevented. Screening can detect colorectal cancer early — when it is most curable.
All adults (men AND women) over the age of 50 are at risk for colorectal cancer and should be screened for polyps and cancer. People with higher risk (possibly because of another condition or a family history) should work with a doctor to develop a more individualized screening plan.
Among those you can change are lifestyle related factors: Low physical activity, obesity, certain types of diets, smoking and heavy alcohol use might increase a person’s chance of developing colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer. The good news is that you can control these!
Among the most common factors you can’t change include:
Age – over 90% of those with colorectal cancer are age 50+
Personal history – people with a history of colon polyps, colon cancer, rectal cancer or other cancers may be at an increased risk
Inflmmatory Bowel Disorders – if you have ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s Disease or other bowel disorders, you are at a higher risk
Family history – Generally, screening for family members is recommended to begin 10 years prior to the survivor’s age of diagnosis
Type 2 Diabetes
Certain inherited conditions
80% by 2018 Sizzle Reel (40 seconds) - YouTube
Learn more about Prevention
While there is no sure way to prevent colorectal cancer, you there are certain risk factors you can control – and screenings are also a powerful way to prevent cancer. The importance of screenings can’t be over-emphasized:
“From the time the first abnormal cells start to grow into polyps, it usually takes about 10 to 15 years for them to develop into colorectal cancer. With regular screening, most polyps can be found and removed before they have the chance to turn into cancer. Screening can also find colorectal cancer early, when it is highly curable.”
On Dress in Blue Day you can join our mission to end colorectal cancer within our lifetime. By wearing blue and raising funds to support the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, you and your peers become part of a nation of passionate allies, taking on this senseless killer.
In 1964, when the focus began, more than half the deaths in the U.S. were caused by cardiovascular disease. Here are a few current stats from the American Heart Association:
Cardiovascular diseases claim more lives each year than all forms of cancer and Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease combined.
About 2,200 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each day, an average of 1 death every 40 seconds.
Approximately every 40 seconds, an American will have a heart attack.About 790,000 people in the US have heart attacks each year. Of those, about 114,000 will die.
About 92.1 million American adults are living with some form of cardiovascular disease or the after-effects of stroke.
To educate the public, American Heart Association promotes Life’s Simple 7 – measures have one unique thing in common: any person can make these changes, the steps are not expensive to take and even modest improvements to your health will make a big difference. Start with one or two. This simple, seven step list has been developed to deliver on the hope we all have–to live a long, productive healthy life.
Despite increased focus on stroke prevention and efforts to make the public aware of the conditions that can lead to strokes, risk factors for stroke are increasing, neurologists say.
High blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and drug abuse are all factors that increase the likelihood of having a stroke. Cardiovascular and kidney disease as well as coronary artery disease also raise that risk.
Doctors have been telling us this for years, but it appears we aren’t listening. Neurologists reviewed the medical records of more than 900,000 patients admitted to US hospitals for stroke between 2004 and 2014. Of that group, 92% presented with at least one of those risk factors.
“An estimated 80 percent of all first strokes are due to risk factors that can be changed — such as high blood pressure — and many efforts have been made to prevent, screen for and treat these risk factors,” neurologist Dr. Fadar Oliver Otite of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, the study’s main author, said in an interview with National Public Radio. “Yet we saw a widespread increase in the number of stroke patients with one or more risk factors.”
The study, published in the journal Neurology in October, offered a gloomy assessment of the state of stroke prevention: more patients reported more risk factors, and more young and middle-aged people seem to be at risk. While rates of death from stroke decreased by almost 30% during the years studied, stroke remains the second most common cause of death from cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association.
So even as the risk of dying from a stroke is decreasing thanks to better care and treatment, the risk of having one may be on the rise.
Lowering risk factors
Fortunately, the risk factors for stroke are well-known and most can be addressed with diet and lifestyle changes. The single biggest risk factor, diabetes, is linked to all the others; proper medication, blood sugar monitoring, changes in diet, and following the advice of your doctor can go a long way toward lowering your risk of stroke.
Is your blood pressure through the roof these days? You aren’t alone. Based on new high blood pressure guidelines published by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, almost half of US adults have high blood pressure (hypertension).
High blood pressure is second only to smoking in causing heart disease and stroke. The “silent killer” often does its damage asymptomatically. That means that early diagnosis and treatment is crucial in stopping the damage hypertension causes.
The new guidelines change the threshold for the diagnosis of hypertension from a resting blood pressure of 140/90 to 130/80; they also eliminate the diagnosis of “prehypertension.” Doctors hope the lower threshold will encourage patients whose blood pressure runs even a little high to take action through diet and lifestyle changes and consultation with their physician. The guidelines’ changes particularly impact younger people with elevated blood pressure who were previously classified as having prehypertension. By clearly stating that even a small rise in blood pressure can be debilitating, doctors hope to detect and address high blood pressure in their patients earlier than ever.
What this means for hypertension
Hypertension doubles your risk of cardiovascular problems, said the lead author of the new guidelines, Dr. Paul K. Whelton of Tulane University. “We want to be straight with people – if you already have a doubling of risk, you need to know about it. It doesn’t mean you need medication, but it’s a yellow light that you need to be lowering your blood pressure, mainly with non-drug approaches,” Whelton stated.
Doctors expect the new guidelines will result in an increase of about 14% in the diagnosis of hypertension, mostly among patients aged 45 and younger. They don’t expect to see a similar rise in the prescription of anti-hypertensive medication, though. Early diagnosis means more cases will be treatable with diet and lifestyle changes instead of medication.
The new guidelines were presented at the American Heart Association’s annual Scientific Sessions conference in Anaheim, CA, on November 13. They were written by a panel of 21 scientists and experts who reviewed more than 900 published studies. The last time the guidelines for the treatment of hypertension were updated was 2003.
Welcome to holiday weight gain season, which kicks off sometime around October (think Halloween candy), gathers steam in Thanksgiving, and peaks over the December holiday season. Researchers and health pundits vary in estimating the average American weight gain – some say a pound or two, conventional wisdom says as much as ten pounds. But it really doesn’t matter how much weight the average American gains or loses – the real metric that matters is whether you gain weight or not!
It’s not just the extra holiday eating that can add to end-of-year weight gain, either. Another culprit can be our winter tendency to hibernate. Studies show that people generally enjoy outdoor physical activity more than indoor physical activity. But in colder months with shorter daylight hours, we are generally less physically active outdoors.
As you eye that second piece of pumpkin pie, remember that it can take up to six months to shed any of the weight you gain over the holidays. A study of holiday weight gain in three countries that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine says: “although up to half of holiday weight gain is lost shortly after the holidays, half the weight gain appears to remain until the summer months or beyond.” Study authors add, “Of course, the less one gains, the less one then has to worry about trying to lose it.”
On way to avoid the pitfall of year-end weight gain is to approach the season with a plan. Have a strategy to approach the parties and holiday meals and a strategy to add more indoor and outdoor exercise and activity to your schedule. Before those parties and events, spend a little time researching best and worst food options, calorie wise. Before attending an event at a restaurant, check out the healthier menu options. And if you are doing the cooking, look for ways to make your favorite recipes a little healthier. The Mayo Clinic offers a good start: Healthy recipes: A guide to ingredient substitutions and Greatist offers suggestions for 67 more recipe substitutions. Also, don’t under-estimate the impact of alcohol. Most alcoholic drinks are heavy on sugar and calories so be sure to factor that in and limit your intake accordingly.
We’d also point you to some of our prior posts for tips to avoid weight gain:
Smoothies can be a great way to add more fruit, vegetables and fiber to your diet. If made correctly, they can be delicious, nutritious and a smart meal alternative. They are also a great food option for people who have digestive challenges, such as irritable bowel, malabsorption, Crohn’s or Celiac disease. They can also be good for cancer patients going through chemotherapy and who have low appetite.
Many people confuse smoothies and juices, but they are two distinctly different things. We think both are great and can play a role in your diet. Depending on your goals, one might be better than the other to meet your needs. Here’s the basic difference: Juicers extract all the juice from a fruit or vegetable, while smoothies are made by blending.
Juicing generally removes most or all of the skin and fiber, so they can offer a great nutrition boost. Because fiber has been removed, they pass through your system relatively quickly. Smoothies are blended so they can be made from the entire fruit or vegetable – skin, rind, stalk and all – for extra nutrients. The fiber slows digestion and helps make you feel full. You can also add yogurt, protein powder or other protein boosts to stay full longer.
How to make delicious, nutritious smoothies
A word of caution: Commercial smoothies that you buy in restaurants and stands can be high in calories and sugar. While an occasional serving might be OK, if you want to consume smoothies as a regular part of your diet, you need to learn the contents and nutritional facts. Or better yet, make your own. It’s easy, fast, fun, and you can get creative.
You can use a regular blender if you have one or there are dedicated smoothie makers of varying sizes and price points. Look for one that is easy to use and easy to clean so that you use it often. Some are pretty slim with a small footprint so you can keep them on your counter for frequent use. Here’s some comparison info on popular models of smoothie makers.
Most smoothie makers will offer some recipes and instructions. The type of smoothies you’ll make will partly depend on your goals, such as weight loss, a nutrition supplement for irritable digestive systems, or an occasional healthy treat. (if you are a Member of TotalCare Wellness and need help setting dietary goals, call ESI certified Nutrition Coaching for help.)
There are no shortage of options. Eating Well offers a good selection of low-calorie and healthy smoothie recipes, including smoothie bowls – thicker smoothies that you serve in a bowl, eat with a spoon, and garnish fruit, granola or other toppings.
Even though we know we should, many of us have trouble getting motivated to lead a healthier lifestyle. We know that a sedentary lifestyle is unhealthy and that more time exercising is better than more time lounging around on the couch in front of the TV. We know that more fruit and veggies are better for us than that jelly doughnut. We know that quitting smoking or cutting back on our weekend drinking will help to extend our lives. We know these things, but there can be a huge gap between knowing and getting motivated to lead a healthier lifestyle.
One way to help getting motivated to lead a healthier lifestyle is to get a wellness coach. Wellness coaches are experts in bolstering motivation and helping people to set and reach goals. In a prior post we talked about how to find a wellness coach, as well as the many ways that they can help you achieve fitness goals:
A wellness coach provides several things: Guidance, support, subject expertise and knowledge of and experience in how to support people through change. Change involves much more than just establishing a meal plan, an exercise regime or a quit plan – it requires addressing the psychosocial and emotional issues that can be involved in change. Health improvements generally involve some degree of behavior and lifestyle change. It’s important for a wellness coach to be experienced in behavioral health issues as well as physical health issues. Often, mental and emotional issues may be factors contributing to unhealthy behaviors – or vice versa.
But if you aren’t ready to engage a coach or you’d like to go it alone, then this guide to getting & staying motivated to exercise from The Fix is pretty handy. They suggest that before anything, you need to identify your reasons why you want to change:
One critical factor is essential to your success: you have to know what you want and why you want it. It sounds simple, but many people don’t have clearly articulated goals, nor have they identified the personal reasons behind those goals. Those aren’t just the surface reasons, but the deeply rooted reasons you want something. If you don’t want it badly enough you won’t be willing to put in the work, especially when it’s inconvenient, hard, or boring.
Knowing what you want and why you want it is the foundation of successful exercise motivation. If you skip this step or don’t take it seriously, you can forget about implementing the rest of the motivation strategies below. They may work temporarily, but your long-term success is less certain. And yet most of the motivation tips and articles you’ll find online leave out this critical step.
The article offers 18 strategies to motivate yourself, as well as the helpful infographic below.
It’s something our wellness coaches hear all the time: “I’d like to get fit, but I just don’t have enough time to go to the gym” or “there’s just not enough time in my work week to get my weekly exercise in.” The CDC recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week, which breaks down to an average of 5 half hour sessions a week, or about 22 minutes per day. You can also meet your requirements in 2.5 one-hour increments, or a series of 5 and 10 minute intervals throughout the day.
If you don’t have a lot of time, high intensity interval training (H.I.I.T.) might be just the ticket. The New York Times has an excellent overview of what H.I.I.T. is and offers an illustrated guide to suggested routines in the feature Really, Really Short Workouts. (The New York Times is a subscription-base publication, but you can get up to 10 articles free each month.)
This is how they describe H.I.I.T.:
High-intensity interval training — referred to as H.I.I.T. — is based on the idea that short bursts of strenuous exercise can have a big impact on the body. If moderate exercise — like a 20-minute jog — is good for your heart, lungs and metabolism, H.I.I.T. packs the benefits of that workout and more into a few minutes. It may sound too good to be true, but learning this exercise technique and adapting it to your life can mean saving hours at the gym. If you think you don’t have time to exercise, H.I.I.T. may be the workout for you.
You can try it with any aerobic activity you like. The principles of H.I.I.T. can be applied to running, biking, stair climbing, swimming, jumping rope, rowing, even hopping or skipping. (Yes, skipping!)
The downside? Even though H.I.I.T. lasts only minutes, the workouts are tough, requiring you to push your body near its limit.
Their H.I.I.T. feature covers suggested workouts in 4-minute, 7 minute, 10 minute and 10-20-30 minute increments. It also offers tips for getting started, mixing things up and keeping it interesting. It’s really a good feature – check it out. By the way, the New York Times Well Blog is one of our favorite reads, you might check it out.
There are many reasons why corporate wellness programs fail to generate the employee engagement that employers hope for: the program may be poorly designed, incentives may be misaligned or sometimes, there simply isn’t enough buy-in or commitment from senior management. But sometimes the lack of engagement boils down to something that can be relatively easily remedied: Underselling. The communication effort to employees simply isn’t adequate in reach, frequency, or message to sufficiently generate participation.
Often, a new corporate wellness benefit is promoted by:
Announcing the benefit in a letter or a flyer with a bulleted list of features
Including the benefit in new hire orientation
Including a blurb about the benefit in a handbook or Intranet list of benefits
That will likely generate some participation. There are some people who are very interested in fitness, health and wellness and won’t need much to pique their interest. We’d maintain that most of those “early adapters” may not be the ones who could most benefit by the wellness program. Change is hard, and it’s human nature that many people aren’t ready to make change until they need to. People often tune out messaging until they are ready to act.
We’d assert that maximizing wellness engagement beyond the “early adapters” takes a much more aggressive communication program, one that takes a page from successful advertisers: focus on reach, frequency and the simple successful mantra of repeat, repeat, repeat.
It also takes a more opportunistic approach. In behavioral terms, readiness to change is often described as a change continuum, with various stages:
Maintenance and relapse prevention
In sales (think persuasion) terms, Google talks about how sales messaging must show up at the decision moment, which they call the “Zero Moment of Truth.” Avinash Kaushik, a Google Digital Marketing Evangelist, talks about being ready for that Zero Moment of Truth by leveraging all the “tools that are available to us to show up at the right moment in front of the right person with the right message.”
Are you leveraging all the tools available to take advantage of your employees “Zero Moment of Truth”?
Workplace “point of sale” such as bulletin boards, cafeteria table tents, and posters.
Direct mail – payroll stuffers, letters to the home
Web-based tools – Intranets and apps
SMS text messaging
Events: messaging at company and team meetings, health fairs, brown bag lunches, webinars and trainings
Are you varying the message in consideration of the continuum or change?
Everybody’s “zero moment of truth” — or in this case, readiness to explore health changes — will vary based on personal circumstances and where they are on the continuum of change. For one person, a readiness to change might be triggered by age marker such as turning 40; for another, it might be a recommendation from their physician on an annual visit; or it might be a desire to get back in shape after childbirth; a response to a health crisis of a family member or friend; or simply a desire to lose weight for a special event like a wedding, a vacation, or a high school reunion.
Vary messaging to include educational messages, reminders, health studies, specific wellness benefit features and more. Vary the sender, too. Have messages come from different people: the CEO, HR, healthcare provider, wellness partner, and peers in the form of testimonials.
We learned firsthand that heightened communications can translate to higher utilization via a study conducted by our affiliated ESI Employee Assistance Program. In the study, employers who increased the frequency of messaging saw a 380% increase EAP engagement. We’ve seen similar results with corporate wellness programs via our comprehensive employee wellness communications program and our Automated Digital Communications program, which features:
Corporate wellness brochures, table tent displays, posters, and other collateral materials
Explanation of the Workplace Wellness Coaching process
Nutrition coaching can bolster employee productivity. When employees eat right and feel healthy, they are more energetic and less susceptible to illness.
Let’s face it – most people don’t know the ins and outs of good nutrition. While many people have a general idea that a balanced diet heavier on fruits and vegetables is better than a diet of fast food and sweets, things might get a ltttle blurry when it comes to meal planning for specific health goals. Many people don’t have solid knowledge about which combination of foods bolster energy or which foods produce mood spikes. Plus, everyone is bombarded with dozens of myths, fad diets, junk science and sophisticated enticements courtesy of daily advertising and mass media.
In fact, if you ask people whether or not they have a healthy diet, about 75% would say yes, according to an NPR survey conducted last year. The Centers for Disease Control would disagree since 80% of Americans fail to eat the recommended daily amounts of fruit and vegetables and about 36% of US adults are obese. According to the CSPI, unhealthy eating and physical inactivity are leading causes of death in the US, contributing to approximately 678,000 deaths each year in the U.S., due to nutrition- and obesity-related diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
One of the best ways for someone to improve their eating habits is to work with a nutrition coach to establish a custom plan based on an individual’s unique health situation and personal goals. If your organization has a good wellness program with nutrition coaching, this is a benefit that should be heavily promoted to your employees.
First of all, it’s a great benefit: While one-to-one nutrition coaching can be expensive if purchased privately, your wellness program may offer it at no cost or at reduced cost.
But the advantages of nutrition coaching go well beyond just being a morale booster and a nice benefit: Over time, it can have a positive impact on the overall health and wellness of your workforce, and a healthier workforce just makes good business sense. Nutrition coaching can bolster your workforce productivity. A balanced diet will help employees have better energy and focus. Eating the right mix of foods will also reduce the spikes that can lead to fatigue and mood swings.
Good nutrition coaching can also help minimize absenteeism. Poor nutrition can leave employees more susceptible to colds, flus and other illnesses, while healthy eating can increase physical resilience and shorten recovery time for any illnesses that do occur.
Nutrition coaching can also help employees address specific goals such as weight loss or a custom diet to support a fitness regime. One-to-one sessions can also address health conditions such as diabetes, cholesterol, obesity, heart disease or high blood pressure. For employees who are trying to manage weight, nutrition coaching can also help eliminate the yo-yo diet syndrome by replacing it with a more sustainable plan based on healthier choices.
If your wellness program offers nutrition coaching, why not talk about this great benefit at your next team meeting? Often employers offer wellness programs to employees, but don’t go the extra mile of promoting them. If you have a good benefit, flaunt it! Promoting the availability of nutrition coaching would go a long way to countering the junk science diet advice people are subjected to every day.