Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Your Health is Everything

The wait is over!  The first fall Family 9Health Fair is September 13 at Saint Pius X Catholic Parish in Aurora from 7:00am to noon.  Find a fair close to you and register online to save time the day of the fair.  This fall, there are fourteen family-friendly opportunities to own your health around our area including Aurora, Castle Rock, Colorado Springs, Commerce City, Denver, Fort Collins, Fountain, Fraser, Golden, Highlands Ranch,  Longmont, and Parker. 

Your Health is Everything - 9Health Fair Can Help You:

  • Enjoy more of the things you like to do:  Get the most out of each day.  Enjoy quality time with family, friends, and your favorite hobbies.  High quality screenings can help you avoid health issues that could slow you down and take time away from your family.  The body is very talkative with the right listening equipment.
  • Save money:  The CDC reminds us that eighty percent of chronic disease is preventable.  Tobacco use, limited physical activity, poor eating habits, and excessive alcohol consumption are  all culprits but can be addressed by each of us.  Change your statistics now with behavior modification and affordable preventive screenings that won’t break the bank.  Whether you have insurance or not, all are welcome.
  • Feel good:  Reducing your risk brings peace of mind that you are in control of your health.  Increasing your overall physical and emotional wellness will help you look your best and live energy-filed, pain free days.
  • Learn new healthy family traditions:  The Family 9Health Fair encourages the entire family to learn more about their health.  Whether you are modeling healthy behaviors for children, challenging them to a jump roping competition in the Wellness Activities Area, or helping those in your family manage current conditions, this is a time to own your health and be more active together.  Start the new school year off right.  Look for children’s height, weight, body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, vision, hearing, and oral screenings at most fairs. 

Do you have time this fall?  It is not too late to volunteer and lend a helping hand in your community.  Sign up on the 9Health Fair website for both medical and non-medical openings and help spread the health!

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Modern Day Treasure Hunt

Are you looking for a more creative, engaging way to get the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity into your week?  Grab your family, smartphone or GPS device, and start up a modern day treasure hunt.  A recent study from Texas A&M suggested those that participate in geocaching (an outdoor seek and find game) not only reported an average of 130 minutes of activity per week, but an increase in physical and mental health as well.  It’s all about the chase.  Keeping your mind creatively active and having fun while gathering the health benefits of the great outdoors keeps you interested and moving more. 

Geocaching, once thought of for only the most dedicated outdoor enthusiasts who invested in a GPS device, is now mostly limited by interest.  Now with more than 2.4 million active geocaches hidden, chances are there are a few right where you live.  After dinner, spice up your family walk by looking for a treasure!

How to start your geocache adventure:

  1. Download the free smartphone app:  iPhone, Android, or Windows Phone 7
  2. Create a free account at www.geocaching.com for more interaction with fellow hunters
  3. Read all about game play, hints and tricks, and what to bring  HERE
  4. Search for geocaches in your area
  5. Have fun!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sit Less at the Office with 3 Easy Steps

You may not be aware that Americans sit approximately 14 hours per day while we are awake, much of which happens at work.  Sitting does not help insulin get glucose out of the blood and into cells.  Instead, cells will begin to resist insulin allowing glucose to collect in our blood, leading to diabetes.  This fall, 9Health Fair can show you where your glucose levels are as a baseline for change.   Even those that reach the recommended 2.5 hours of moderate exercise per week are at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer if they spend the rest of the day in a chair. 

The idea that “sitting is the new smoking” was a conclusion primarily drawn by Dr. James Levine, an endocrinologist for the Mayo Clinic, but has since grown in popularity with numerous corroborating studies.  Dr. Levine’s message is simple: get up more.  Exercise combined with less daily sitting seems to give the most complete health benefits.

How do we learn to stand and move more at the office?
Step 1:  Get up.  Your brain is in the habit of sitting in the office setting.  Set an alarm every hour to remind yourself to stand and stretch your muscles.  Incorporate resistance bands for extra office friendly movements.

Step 2:  Get up more.  Stand up while talking on the phone or eating your lunch.  Use part of a meeting to stand up in the back.  This simple act will also give you a boost of energy to remain alert and remember more of what you heard. 

Step 3: Once you’re up, move.  Master the art of meeting while walking.  Convert your office computer set up to a stand-up workstation.  Place raised shelves on your existing desk for a higher computer workspace.  Fifty more calories per hour are burned by standers than their sitting office colleagues.  In the beginning, only stand at your desk for a couple hours per day so your body has a chance to adapt and develop supportive muscles to prevent back, knee, and foot problems.  Consider comfortable shoes and a supportive mat to stand on as well.

Want to read more?  Check out these sites!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Come On, Get Happy: How getting outside improves your mental health

(This guest post is authored by Melissa Daruna of Get Outdoors Colorado)

It has been a popular fact for years – getting outside improves your health! While there are a variety of reasons that the outdoors can improve your physical health, another critical benefit is the positive impact the outdoors can have on your mental health. The brain is the only organ that continues to substantially mature after birth. Nature can have a profound positive impact on that development.

Here are three amazing benefits the great outdoors gives your noggin:

1.     Easiest Vitamin D Intake - You know that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when the sun hits your face on a cool morning? Studies show it is much more than a good feeling. Sunlight on the skin triggers the creation of Vitamin D in the body. Responsible exposure for 10-15 minutes can help the body get all of the good stuff it needs.  Physical benefits of Vitamin D range from protection against osteoporosis, heart attack, stroke and even cancer.  Vitamin D also helps protect against depression and activates the genes that release dopamine and serotonin.

2.     Lower Stress and Increased Focus - Have you ever seen a stressed out tree? Of course not; nature is the antithesis of stress - and you can be too! The great news is that research from the journal Environmental Science & Technology shows it only takes five minutes to lower stress and improve self-esteem and overall mood.  This is especially effective when coupled with vigorous activity or being near water. Nature can help children increase focus and even reduce symptoms of ADD. Time spent outside also helps adults focus and increases work productivity.

3.     Nature Makes You Nicer!  With a boosted mood, people who are exposed to the outdoors and nature are actually nicer. Nature increases social feelings and a sense of value for community.  People who spend time outside build close relationships and even care more about others.

 So come on, get outside and get happy!

Monday, August 4, 2014

An Integral Role Played by the Colorado National Guard

Most everyone living in Colorado today can remember a time when the Colorado National Guard has stepped in to keep us safe and lend a helping hand in the darkest moments of natural or man-caused emergencies.  Floods, forest fires, and events such as the Aurora Theater or Columbine shootings bring out the best in these service men and women who have trained and taken an oath for the people of Colorado and the United States.

We are all acutely aware of our service men and women in times of crisis, but they are also at our service in many other ways, including helping communities all over the state own their health. Starting thirty-five years ago, 9Health Fair had a need to get hundreds of boxes full of medical supplies and materials to fair sites all over Colorado.  Colorado National Guard saw this need and realized it could lend a helping hand.  A perfect union was born!

Every year since, the Colorado National Guard has used delivering 9Health Fair supplies as a training exercise – this continues to be an opportunity to remain in peak performance with procedures for delivering materials and supplies during any number of emergencies Coloradoans might face today. 

“This affords us the opportunity to have a direct daily impact across our state and our local communities,” said Master Sergeant Roger Carstensen.  9Health Fair could not have asked for a more admirable partner with whom to pursue a mission of advancing health awareness. 

This year, 888 boxes of medical supplies and materials traveled with 34 Service Members on a combined journey of 9,200 miles to over 130 sites all across Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming.  Colorado pulled out all the stops this spring for weather, heightening the training experience for the service members.  The spring brought snow storms requiring chains on the semi rear drive axles to make it over mountain passes, followed by frequent rainstorms leading to near flooding conditions.  The National Guard still made it to their destinations right on time.

MSgt Carstensen mused that Air National Guard members always encounter great attitudes and personalities while delivering boxes.  Even having just met, some 9Health Fair site volunteers whisked the service members away to relax Colorado style after a long day’s work.  As a means to say thank you, the volunteers entertained the men and women of the 233rd Space Group at their homes and took them out to enjoy mini fishing expeditions.  

After supplies have been delivered and the 18-wheelers start rolling once again, the same sentiments seem to be had by all.  Full of gratitude and waving, volunteers and service members alike say they can’t wait to see each other next year! 

Friday, July 11, 2014

All Thanks to One Small Choice

Julia, a CPA by trade, had no idea where her gallbladder was in her body (like most of us), nor what the small pear-shaped organ’s function was. But, every spring, Julia makes a point to attend a 9Health Fair because she says it is an inexpensive way to check up on her health. 

Monday morning after a Saturday blood draw at Garden County Elementary, she was surprised to receive a phone call from a 9Health Fair medical professional.  Julia listened to unsettling news that she should immediately book an appointment with her doctor to investigate high liver toxins.  These numbers could indicate many different forms of liver disease, blocked bile ducts, or even liver damage by strenuous exercise.  She was symptom-free, so what was the next logical step?  After the knowledgeable and kind 9Health Fair volunteer explained it all, Julia knew she needed to act quickly - and she was right.

Gallbladders typically range in size between a small pear (before meals when the organ is full of bile) to a deflated balloon (after bile has been released into the small intestine to help with digestion.)  Julia was walking around with an overextended avocado-sized gallbladder without being the wiser.  After reading over the faxed lab results, Julia’s doctor initiated further testing and an ultrasound.  All of the new information pointed to one conclusion: the enlarged gallbladder’s time was up.  Julia was prepared for surgery.  Due to its size, Julia would part with the organ through a five inch incision in her abdomen instead of the less invasive laparoscopic approach.

Living without a gallbladder requires very little alteration to your lifestyle, but not catching an enlarged gallbladder in time can lead to infection, tissue death, or rupture.  Even though Julia did not experience nausea, vomiting, pain, or other ways the body signals a gallbladder problem, one simple blood draw at the 9Health Fair caught the stress signal in her blood.  Julia is now fully recovered and has not needed to cut back on spicy or high fat foods, dairy, caffeine, or alcohol, as some do.  She is back to enjoying all the summer activities Nebraska has to offer, thanks to the one small choice she made in the spring to own her health.  

Dehydration Myths

(This guest post is authored by Kate Jerman of Get Outdoors Colorado)

Coloradoans are excited to be outside all-year round, but this is especially true in the summer. Whether you are climbing a fourteener, paddling on the lake, hiking the local trail, or simply on a picnic at the park, it is important to know your hydration facts.  Living at elevation, Coloradoans are more susceptible to dehydration and therefore require more water to stay healthy.  Anytime you leave your house, don’t forget your water bottle.  Read on as Get Outdoors Colorado busts common dehydration myths.

  1. Myth: Dehydration Is Not Dangerous.
Fact: Wrong!  Not drinking water or not drinking enough water can have dire consequences from headaches and fatigue to more serious complications like swelling of the brain, kidney failure and seizures.  Dehydration symptoms can be especially problematic to identify in children. If you are hiking with little ones make sure to monitor their status closely.
  1. Myth: Thirst Is Not A Reliable Hydration Tool.
Fact: It is not reliable in all cases, but it is a good starting point to see where your body is.  When you exercise, for instance, your body’s thirst mechanism cannot keep up.  Be sure to drink water before, during, and after physical activities.  Maybe not the best summer fun, but monitoring urine color is a reliable way to tell if you are hydrated. Producing roughly six cups of colorless or light yellow urine each day likely means you are getting enough fluids.
  1. Myth: Staying Hydrated Eliminates Heat Stroke Risk.
Fact: While dehydration makes you prone to conditions such as heat stroke, hydration alone does not prevent it.  A number of other factors play a role, such as body size, exercise intensity, health conditions, age, humidity, and air temperature.  Hydration will greatly reduce your risk, but also pay attention to other contributing factors.

You know H2O is the way to go. There are numerous benefits of staying hydrated – mainly it improves your quality of life and keeps you healthy especially when you are playing outside. Keeping hydrated helps you maintain your body fluid levels, keep your energy levels up and keep you having a great time outdoors.

Want more?  Grab a water bottle and quench your thirst for outdoor adventure at:  www.getoutdoorscolorado.org

Beef: It's What's For...Breakfast!

(This guest post is authored by Colorado Beef Council)

Recent research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that eating a protein-rich breakfast, such as beef and eggs, boosts satiety and reduces hunger signals and brain activation responses involved with food cravings more than a typical ready-to-eat breakfast cereal. Study participants, overweight late adolescents who normally skip breakfast, experienced a significant reduction in unhealthy evening snacking following a protein-rich breakfast.

Lean beef is a complete high-quality protein that contains all the essential amino acids your body needs for optimal health. Even better, a 3-oz serving of lean beef is about 150 calories on average and provides more than 10 percent of the Daily Value for 10 essential nutrients. Lean beef is a perfect partner for fruits, vegetables and whole grains, so it’s easy to enjoy more high-quality protein in your diet.

Is your mouth watering from the picture above?  Get the recipe from Colorado Beef Council here!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sabor Carnaval

With busy and hectic schedules, opportunities to connect with a natural environment can be hard to fit in.  Studies collected by Texas A&M Agriculture show nature can wake the mind and senses and help you improve your memory and attention span by twenty percent.  Capitalize on the health benefits on August 1 at the Denver Botanic Gardens - enjoy the flavor styles of 60 local restaurants for one of Denver’s most popular events, the 7th Annual Sabor presented by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Denver.  While nibbling on cuisine that is sure to dazzle your palate, take a stroll through the Gardens.  Let the music, art, flowers, and greenery remove the stressors of the day, leaving you feeling more alive and energized. 

The Denver Botanic Gardens is also currently home to the famed Chihuly glass outdoor sculpture exhibit.  During Sabor, burn extra calories walking beside vivid colors and dramatic glass shapes seemingly coming up from nowhere on land and pond alike.  The creations of artist Dale Chihuly will round out the festive atmosphere unique to this annual cultural experience.

WHEN: Friday, August 1, 2014 5:00pm - 9:00pm
WHERE: Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York St, Denver, CO 80206

For more information and to buy tickets, visit www.sabordenver.com.

Be Swim Savvy

Swimming is the fourth most popular sports activity in the United States and remains an excellent low-impact exercise that decreases the risk of chronic illness, diabetes, and heart disease.  But for youth, it also has the distinction of being the 2nd leading cause of death overall according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Even though recreational facilities and water parks provide good safety equipment, children are not automatically safe.  Watch for and help them pay attention to how they feel and how comfortable they are being in the water.  Take the Pool Safety Pledge together and follow these steps for a safe and happier summer water experience.

Stay Safe by the Water with These Tips:
  • Watch children at all times and without distractions:  Drowning can happen so quickly - and quietly.  Supervisors should avoid alcoholic beverages and be free of phones, books, and other distractions.  Take turns with other responsible adults watching children so you too can harvest the physical benefits of this popular water activity.
  • Teach young swimmers how to swim:  Even though this is a great method to preventing accidents, children still need to be supervised while playing in and around water.
  • Have immediate access to life jackets: After putting on the jacket, if it moves more than 1 inch in any direction, the wearer needs a smaller size.  Air-filled or foam water toys such as “noodles” or “water wings” are not designed to keep swimmer’s safe.
  • Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration:  When swimming, it is harder to notice how much water you have lost through sweat.  Take note of anyone feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or nauseated as these can be signs of dehydration.   
  • Monitor yourself and others for chills and muscle cramps:  It is possible to get too cold while swimming.  Water can quickly drop your body temperature resulting in hypothermia.  Chills and muscle cramps are warning signs to get out of the water and warm up.

Don’t forget to slop on sunscreen with SPF 30 or more while swimming outdoors and take shade periodically to avoid getting too hot. 

For more information, click on the links below:

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

How Well Do You Know Your Summer Trivia?

Can you score 100% on the University of California Berkeley’s Summer Savvy Trivia Challenge?  Let’s see how you do!  You may choose one or more responses for each if needed.

1.       Which of the following foods/beverages can help cool you off?
  1. Hot tea
  2. Ginger
  3. Chili peppers
  4. Cold water

2.       Which of the following is the least effective low-tech way to keep mosquitoes away in your backyard?
  1. Sit near an electric fan
  2. Burn a citronella candle
  3. Replace porch and deck lights with yellow bug lights
  4. Eliminate standing water

3.       How do you safely remove a tick?
  1. Hold a match to it
  2. Coat it with petroleum jelly
  3. Pull it straight out with tweezers
  4. Twist it out with tweezers 

4.       A “broad spectrum” sunscreen protects against which of the following?
  1. UVA rays only
  2. UVB rays only
  3. Both UVA and UVB
  4. Infrared rays

5.       After applying sun screen, how long should you wait before going out in the sun?
  1. 5-10 minutes
  2. 15-30 minutes
  3. 45 minutes
  4. You don’t need to wait at all


1.       ALL:  Have you ever started sweating after you drank hot tea, or after eating ginger or chili peppers?  Sweating is the body’s natural reaction to excess heat, even in the mouth.  Even though it seems backwards, foods that cause you to sweat will cool your skin and lower body temperature when the sweat evaporates.  A cold beverage is a better choice in humid locations where sweat does not evaporate as quickly.

2.       B:  Candles containing citronella, an essential oil derived from a geranium species, seems to be effective only when a person’s skin is in the smoky plume of the candle.  Since mosquitoes are slow, weak flyers, an opportunity to feed on you when an oscillating fan is nearby might not be possible.  Outfitting your house with yellow outdoor lights instead of white and keeping your yard free of standing water will also help to keep those pesky critters at bay.

3.        C:  Using fine tipped tweezers, gently pull the tick straight up until it releases the skin.  Covering the insect with petroleum jelly and holding a match to it are not effective methods.  Pulling the tick straight out ensures the mouth parts remain intact and lessen the chances of infection.  Ticks are commonly found at higher elevations in grassy fields, woodlands, and shrublands.  Here, Colorado tick fever is the most common disease (only 200 reported cases per year) given to us by ticks in our area.  No human cases of Lyme disease have originated in Colorado.   Read more about ticks and tick-borne diseases from Colorado State University.

4.        C:  When shopping for sunscreen, choose a “broad spectrum” lotion which is designed to protect against both UVA (causes skin wrinkling and age spots) and UVB (burns your skin).  Coloradans must be extra cautious when enjoying outdoor activities.  Due to the elevation, skin cancer here is a larger concern.  After a season of summer sunshine, skin professionals at 9Health Fair can help you at a fair this fall by answering any questions you have and reviewing anything suspicious looking.  Beginning in August, watch our website for a location near you that offers a free skin screening. 

5.        B or D:  It all depends on the ingredients of the sun screen.  If your lotion contains titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, they physically block the sun’s UV rays and are effective right away.  If the lotion has avobenzone or octisalate, these can take 15-30 minutes to soak into the skin and begin working chemically.  Regardless of which one you have, reapply it at least every two hours or more if swimming or sweating.  Even waterproof sun screens need reapplication after 40 or 80 minutes according to the directions.  Click HERE for more sunscreen facts!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

9Health Fair Brings Communities Together

Barely through recovery mode after the torrential September 2013 rains, a group of dedicated Volunteers in Lyons began organizing a 9Health Fair that would serve almost 400 people.  In the fall, roads to get to Lyons barely resembled their former selves.  Residents were without primary amenities such as water, electricity, and sewage.  Some people were evacuated all together, barred from returning to their home, unless they were issued a day pass that granted permission to do so.  National Guard sightings became as typical as the washed out roads themselves.

After the flood, “the whole leadership team went right into looking toward the future and how to continue to provide this great service,” said Jonelle Tucker, the Site Coordinator for the Lyons 9Health Fair.   In this role, Tucker oversees all aspects of the fair, including Volunteers, screenings, budget management, and logistics.  With even more diligence this year, she wrote (and received) a grant to cover blood work and pap tests for those who could not afford it.  Tucker was so “proud everyone stuck together to pull it off.  Some of our volunteers lost their homes, but they still came to volunteer.”  One such medical screener was paying a mortgage and renting a new home all at the same time.  When asked why he joined the fair to volunteer, he said he felt so blessed and overwhelmed by how much time and assistance the community had given him.  9Health Fair offered an opportunity to help those who helped him.

“The day of the fair was like a big party,” observed Tucker.  Fair participants and volunteers alike saw neighbors and friends, some for the first time since the flood, and exchanged stories and hugs.  “People went out of their way to find and thank a coordinator.” 

To many residents, it feels like a thing of the past now.  “You can’t even tell unless you drive through the canyon.  Life goes on,” Tucker reflected.  Despite incredible environmental odds, Volunteers of Lyons assembled together this spring all for the same reasons; to help one another take care of their health.  Tucker retires from the leadership team with this final extraordinary 9Health Fair experience.  Hats off to her and all of the other team members that made this fair a reality.

Sugar Surprise

Breakfast is still an important start to anyone’s day.  But can you guess what breakfast food might not be as healthy as you think?  If you guessed breakfast cereal you are correct (and more informed than the average parent.) Shockingly, it’s the fifth highest source of added sugar in children’s diets. Heading off to school or work after eating a sugary cereal might leave you feeling unsatisfied and hungry much sooner than lunchtime.

According to the latest research by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), children’s cereals have 40% more added sugar than those marketed to adults.  The average children’s cereal contains 2.5 teaspoons of sugar (or 40 calories) per unrealistically small serving size.  That is equal to eating three Chips Ahoy cookies…for breakfast.

EWG Recommends Looking for Three Things When Choosing Cereal:
·         Short ingredient list: the shorter the list, the less processed the food is.
·         Fiber content:  A good source of fiber will provide 2.5-5.0 grams of fiber per serving.
·         Very little added sugar:  Cereals with no more than 1-1.5 teaspoons (4-6 grams) of sugar per serving are best.  Watch out for hidden sugar in the ingredient list including honey, molasses, fruit juice concentrate, brown sugar, corn sweetener, sucrose, lactose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, and malt syrup.

Too much added sugar is a large contributor to child and adult obesity and diabetes.  9Health Fair monitors trends in these areas closely and provides adult participants with helpful screenings such as glucose, cholesterol, and triglycerides.  Starting up again this fall, 9Health Fair will offer these screenings at various Denver area locations.  Bring your family and learn and own your health together.

The next time you are in the cereal aisle, don’t despair.  EWG reports Cheerios, Sesame Street’s C is for Cereal, regular and gluten free Rice Krispies, Corn Flakes, and Crispix all containing 1 teaspoon or less of added sugar.  Enjoy breakfast cereal with a little less guilt!

Improve Family Health by Camping S’More!

(This guest post is authored by Bernard Taylor of Get Outdoors Colorado)

From setting up a tent and gathering firewood to hiking and exploring, camping has numerous health benefits for the entire family.  Get Outdoors Colorado teamed up with friends at The Coleman Company and the US Forest Service to bring the Denver community family-friendly and efficient camping tips! Here is what we found out from our friends:

Mother Nature is your Gym
·         Camping removes everyone from their screens and places them in the largest gym there is!  Activities such as canoeing and rock climbing will make your family “feel the burn” but have fun while doing it!  Whether you are staying the trail or just setting up your campground, you can burn at least 165 calories per hour and improve your overall health.

Grow in the Outdoors
·         Engaging your child in camping activities will increase self-esteem and add self- worth.  Try assigning your child meaningful tasks such as gathering firewood, steering the group the right way with a compass, or putting them in charge of ensuring your family leaves no trace

What’s Cookin’?
·         After a day of hiking, swimming, or playing, gather everyone for a healthy family dinner.  Provide a serving of lean protein by throwing chicken or fresh fish over the fire or portable stove. Pack vegetables, trail mix, and low-sugar granola to keep your family full of energy. Be sure to look over Smokey Bear’s camping safety guide and take the pledge as a family before your trip to prevent wildfires.

Nature is Affordable
·         You will quickly find that preparing your next camping trip can be affordable. Echo Lake Campground in central Colorado for instance is only $17 per day/night.  Save money by purchasing used camping equipment; especially if you are new to camping.  Craigslist, thrift stores, and yard sales can provide larger items such as a tent and camping stove.  After the one time purchase of gear, only campground fees, gas, food, and ice are left.  A weekend family getaway should cost less than $150. 

When deciding your next adventure visit www.getoutdoorscolorado.org or www.recreation.gov . Remember to check the weather before you depart the house. 

Oh Heck Yeah!

In the evening’s fresh air, duck and dodge your way out of being a sedentary lifestyle statistic in Denver’s Immersive Street Arcade, “OhHeckYeah!” Immediately brush away thoughts that this is your typical gaming experience of being huddled in your home in front of a small computer screen for hours.  These larger than life game innovations require you to use your body as the game controller to move through the challenges on Denver Theatre District’s enormous LED screens. 

In addition to the benefits of moving your body, play of any kind can relieve stress, boost creativity for problem solving, and keep you feeling young and energetic. Considering that almost a quarter of Americans reported not participating in any physical activity in the 30 days prior to being asked, it’s a good bet that unique activities like this are much needed!   

On Thursdays and Saturdays through July 26 (7-11pm), travel to Champa Street between 14th and 16th Street Mall to experience this multi-faceted, collaborative gaming experience for all ages. 

After game play, round out your summer night with these additional activities on Champa Street:
  • June 26 & 28, 8:00pm:  Yoga in the Street presented by LiveWell Colorado
  • Each Thursday and Saturday, leaving at 7:30pm and 9:30pm:  Walking Tour by History Colorado
  • July 3 & 5, 8:00pm: Dance Party USA
  • July 17 & 19, 8:00pm: Karaoke on the Street
Click HERE to learn more about Denver’s Immersive Street Arcade.  Have fun!

Reach Your Goals with 9Health Fair

How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions?  Even if you have not accomplished everything you would have wanted by this point, there is still time to make a difference before the end of the year.  Use your 9Health Fair results to reevaluate and modify your goals.

A simple way to get started on your health and wellness path is to join us for the Live Healthy Challenge! Choose one activity from one of the four pillars of health: active play, care for self and others, sleep, or nutrition and do that activity (or rotate activities) each day for three weeks – that is just long enough to form a habit.  It can be as easy as drinking one more glass of water each day or walking your dog!  You can win a free lunch and a 9Health Fair lunch bag.  Visit our website to learn more and join in!

Once you have identified something specific to work on, try these tips to get back on track at the 6th month mark:
·         Refine your goals:  make sure it is realistic in the time remaining in the year.  It takes your brain time to literally rewire itself for healthier habits.
·         Put your goals out there:  say them loud and proud.  Write them down and keep them visual in your everyday places.
·         Develop an Action Plan: start at the end and backtrack to identify attainable milestones along the way.  Enter your action plan into your calendar to monitor your progress and look for when and how to reward yourself.
·         Try, Try Again:  You cannot succeed without failures.  Be prepared for some set-backs and take them for what they are.  Pick yourself up and remember you can do this.
·         Get a Buddy:  Check in with someone you are close to.  They can help you stay motivated and celebrate with you when you reach milestones along the way! 

Read more from the Checking in on Your New Year’s Resolutions article HERE.    

Monday, June 9, 2014

Six Tips for Using Your Health Insurance

(This guest post is authored by the Department of Regulatory Agencies - Division of Insurance)

Health insurance can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. With some advance planning and information gathering, Colorado consumers can be better prepared to use their health insurance. As many Coloradans are newly enrolled in health insurance, the Colorado Division of Insurance offers these tips on successfully using your health insurance. 

1.    Choosing a Doctor. Many insurance companies offer a search service on their websites for finding a provider or a facility that is “in network” (in most cases, meaning your costs will be less). You can also contact the customer service telephone number located on the back of your insurance card to find out how to choose a provider. 

2.    Prescriptions. Review your policy to see how your plan covers prescription drugs.  Typically, insurance companies offer a detailed list (called a formulary) showing the types of drugs covered and how payments are categorized. Find out what types of drugs are covered and what you are required to pay. Remember, some medications may cost more than others and some may not be covered at all. Also, many insurance companies offer mail-in prescriptions at which you can receive 90-day supplies of many drugs for less than at a regular pharmacy.

3.    Telephone Help. Many insurance companies now offer a dedicated telephone line (“nurse line,” “advice line,” “health line” or similar), allowing you to get medical advice on for a variety of issues. These can help you decide whether or not you need to see a doctor or seek emergency care. Look to your insurance carrier’s website or your insurance ID card for a health advice telephone number.

4.    Emergency Care. Make sure you know which facilities are covered by your plan for after-hours and emergency care. Some facilities may not be included in your provider network. Especially if you have children, it’s helpful to know the nearest after-hours urgent care facilities that participate in your insurance.

5.    Billing and Payments. Understand how you will pay, when you will pay and how you will be billed. Do you have a co-payment, coinsurance, and/or a deductible? With some plans you may be expected to make a partial payment at the time of service, with others you will be sent a bill after the service. If you don’t understand the amounts you are asked to pay, ask questions. Billing and payment mistakes happen in all areas of life, including healthcare. 

6.    Keep Good Records. After your visit to health care provider, you will receive an Explanation of Benefits (EOB), or a similar document, that communicates what portion of the provider fees you will be responsible to pay. Typically, this is not a bill, but a summary. Pay attention to these documents and the amounts shown.  If something doesn’t look right, ask questions.

If you have questions about health insurance, the Colorado Division of Insurance can help you understand your options. If you have a problem or feel you’ve been treated unfairly, go to our website at www.dora.colorado.gov/healthinsurance or call us at 303-894-7490 or 1-800-930-3745 outside the metro area. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Advances in Medical Technology are Keeping Henry in the Garden

(This guest post is authored by Tim Rodgers, MD, of IPC/Senior Care of Colorado)

There’s no mistaking it: every day, technology is changing healthcare in ways that we probably never imagined. We’ve seen some astounding technological advances which have dramatically improved safety and patient outcomes. When medical interventions are required today, they are generally safer and less painful; patients get better faster and stay healthy longer.

To illustrate the advances in medical technology, let’s follow the story of Henry, a typical 65-year-old man, from his first chest pains through heart surgery and all the way to his full recovery at home.

Scheduling. Henry is working in his garden when he stands up and is unpleasantly surprised to find he is short of breath and lightheaded. He senses a strange, uncomfortable swelling in his chest. Although the sensations are not debilitating, it is not the first time he’s felt this way. His wife insists that he call Dr. Stephens, his primary care physician. Henry dials the number and is greeted by an automated attendant, a pleasant recorded voice speaking to him through a system called an IVR, or Integrated Voice Response. An IVR is software that sits inside a computer or is attached to the physician’s telephone system. Although we are sometimes frustrated with phone menus and interacting with a computer, the purpose of the IVR is to get you to the right person as efficiently as possible. Henry chooses an option from the menu and the IVR routes him to the appropriate person to make an appointment. He tells her about the chest pain and she quickly locates his electronic records using his name and birth date.  Thanks to the visual user interface in the scheduling system, she can instantly see that there is an opening for Henry in Dr. Stephens’ schedule that afternoon.

The Office Visit. Henry arrives at Dr. Stephens’ office and goes to the computer at the reception desk. Since he has enthusiastically embraced technology—he uses email, plays online poker, and “Skypes” with  his grandchildren—checking in for his appointment on a computer is a piece of cake. He selects his appointment and adds some more information about his chest pain. This is saved to his record, along with the time he arrived.  

All of the components that run Dr. Stephens’ practice (scheduling, medical records, pharmacy records, lab and x-ray results, billing) are linked together. The Electronic Medical Record, or “EMR” maintains a paperless record of the patient’s health history and, ideally, is linked to other physicians (such as specialists and surgeons), hospitals, and pharmacies to provide comprehensive and up-to-date information to anyone who might be caring for a given patient.

The nurse calls Henry’s name and takes him back to the exam room. She waves a device across Henry’s forehead to record his body temperature. Dr. Stephens orders an EKG, or electrocardiogram, to diagnose Henry’s chest pain. The results arrive quickly and they include a complete interpretation to help him make a more informed decision about what action to take.  Henry’s EKG shows a troublesome irregular rhythm so Dr. Stephens makes arrangements for him to be admitted immediately to the hospital.

In the Emergency Room. Upon arrival, Henry is given a wrist band with a scannable bar code connected to sophisticated computer software. It is his unique identifier, like a social security number, and will serve as his interface to the myriad of technological helpers throughout the hospital during his stay. Everything that happens to Henry will be logged through the bar code, then checked and double-checked by both humans and software to ensure that Henry is getting the correct treatment.

Henry gets an IV line. Not just the traditional bag with a tube hanging from a stand—this IV is attached to a “smart pump” connected wirelessly to the hospital pharmacy. To administer medications and fluids, the nurse must scan the bag with a handheld wand, scan Henry’s bar code, and scan the pump. The pump continually communicates with a database in the pharmacy checking for potential conflicts and errors.

Surgery. Based on all the data they’ve gathered, Henry’s clinical team ultimately determines that he needs a heart operation. In the operating room (OR), the surgeon is seated behind a big electronic box looking at a monitor. Thanks to advances in robotic surgery, Henry will have a minimally-invasive robotic-assisted laparoscopic surgical procedure on his heart. Traditional open heart surgery requires a 10-12” incision in the chest followed by a rib spreader—both of which contribute to a painful recovery. Instead, very small, extremely high-tech sterile instruments, including a high-definition 3D video camera, are inserted into Henry’s body through tiny incisions in the stomach and between the ribs. The images from the camera are sent to the surgeon’s box and displayed on the screen directly in front of him, greatly magnified. The surgeon’s hands are connected to devices (like video game controllers) that respond to and refine his movements and guide the scopes inside Henry’s body. The surgeon can use these highly-precise instruments to gently move nerves and arteries out of the way, lessening the chance for damage. When he finds the artery that needs to be repaired, he removes or replaces it, or uses a tool to open it up. Then, the scopes are pulled out and the incisions are closed.

Now, this surgery might have taken somewhat longer (although as surgeons become more skilled, robotic OR time will decrease). But thanks to the tiny incisions, risk of infection is dramatically decreased, outcomes are better, and recovery is faster.

ICU and Recovery. Following surgery, Henry is taken to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where his heart rhythm and other vital statistics are monitored wirelessly by sophisticated software informed by cardiologists. The nurses follow specific clinical protocols developed by using data about many patients collected over time.  Along with technology, anesthesia agents have greatly improved. And what’s more, minimally-invasive procedures can be done with lighter anesthesia. So Henry becomes conscious more quickly and has far less pain (meaning fewer pain management medications are necessary.) Foreign objects, such as endotracheal tubes and catheters, are removed faster. After a relatively short period of time in the ICU, Henry is moved back to his hospital room and soon thereafter is discharged to home. Henry’s hospital stay is about half of what it would have been with traditional surgery, meaning he is at lower risk for urinary tract infections or pneumonia, which can occur with long hospital stays.  

Discharge and Follow-up Care. In years past, the patient’s discharge from the hospital was a dangerous juncture at which mistakes could happen. Today, many of the sources of error have been detected and remedied and the process has been improved. Henry’s medication list is checked through the pharmacy before he leaves the hospital. The discharging physician is able to reconcile the new drugs that Henry needs with the prescriptions he already has at home to eliminate confusion and decrease risk related to drug interactions.

When Henry returns to Dr. Stephens’ office for a follow-up visit, the doctor has electronically received all of the up-to-date information about his surgery and hospital stay. All of this data is integrated onto Henry’s EMR, available to guide Dr. Stephens through the follow-up care. The EMR system runs the physician through a checklist of critical items to ensure nothing is missed and Henry receives the appropriate care and instruction. It’s not long before Henry is back in the garden again, feeling fit and well.

All of the technology in Henry ‘s story is fairly commonplace today. Unfortunately, the cost of implementing technological advances can be prohibitive to some hospitals (especially in rural areas and small towns) and physician practices. But there is no doubt that we will continue to witness exciting technological advances in the future of medicine. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Food Addicts Find Solutions

Food Addicts (FA) members are men and women of all ages.  Some have been obese; others have been severely underweight, bulimic, or so obsessed with food or weight that normal life was difficult or impossible. The common denominator uniting members of FA is addiction and a relationship with food that parallels an alcoholic’s relationship with alcohol.

Before learning about FA, one member’s weight was 314 pounds and climbing - yet again.  He would eventually reach a top weight of 341. (He was actually heavier than that but would not get on a scale.) Besides being morbidly obese, he had plantar fasciitis in both feet, a bad right knee and lower back, heart palpitations, acid reflux, undiagnosed sleep apnea, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.  He suffered from anxiety and panic attacks, bouts of vertigo, depression, fear, doubt and insecurity.  Since coming to FA, getting a sponsor and utilizing the tools of the program, the weight came off.  He now weighs 165 pounds and has maintained that weight for more than five years.  He no longer suffers from any of those physical or mental ailments.  

Up and down the Front Range, FA members seek the hope of long-term recovery that the program can provide.  Many members have continuously maintained a normal weight and healthy eating for periods of 25 or even 30 years. Accountability to another person, an encouraged relationship with a higher power, consistent sharing of experience, strength and hope at meetings and by phone, and the study of the 12-Steps are a few successful tools for recovery. 

We encourage anyone who is interested in learning more about the program to attend a meeting. They are free and open to all who are interested. 

Or, to learn more about FA, please visit:  www.foodaddicts.org. To read stories of other food addicts who have found recovery, please visit:  http://www.foodaddicts.org/in-the-news.

Monday, May 19, 2014

BMI is Only Part of the Story

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the Body Mass Index (BMI) is a good place to start when determining the likelihood that weight will lead to future health problems.  However, BMI only tells a portion of the story.  It’s an inexpensive assessment that is easy to perform (all you need is a person’s height and weight), but it does not take into account gender, age, and muscularity of individuals.  A high BMI does not necessarily mean the individual is overweight or unhealthy since it does not measure body fat directly.   

BMI has been shown to predict health issues associated with being overweight, so BMI is still considered a good first step for most people, as long as it is interpreted carefully.  For instance, women tend to have a higher percentage of body fat than a male counterpart of the same BMI.  Older adults generally have more body fat than younger adults, while athletes tend to weigh more due to the amount of muscle needed for their sport.     

For a more comprehensive assessment of health risk due to weight, use these measures together:
1.      BMI:  Calculate by dividing weight in pounds by height in inches squared and multiply by 703, or calculate electronically HERE
2.      Waist Circumference:  Stand and place a tape measure around your waist, just above your hipbones.  Measure your waist after you gently breathe out.  There is greater risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes if your waist size is 35 inches or more for women and 40 inches or more for men. 
3.      Risk factors for heart disease associated with obesity:  In addition to being overweight or obese, there are other factors that can lead to higher risk of heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high LDL “bad” cholesterol and low HDL “good” cholesterol, high blood triglycerides and glucose, family history of premature heart disease, physical inactivity, and cigarette smoking.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends weight loss consideration for those with BMI readings greater than 25, waist circumferences greater than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men, and two or more of the above risk factors for heart disease.  

9Health Fair can start you on this assessment path.  BMI screening will be one of the many free and low-cost health screenings offered at the last 9Health Fair on June 1 at the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver.  In addition to the basic free and low-cost screenings, free breast, pap smear, oral health, and stress management screenings will be available, as well as a low-cost Hepatitis C blood screening ($25).  Register online to save you time the day of the fair.