Live Your Healthy Lifestyle

Healthy tips that fit your lifestyle in Pennsylvania, powered by Geisinger Choice
~ Friday, July 25 ~
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Total Body Training with Kettlebells

What in the world are kettlebells? They’re cast-iron balls, similar to a cannonball, with a handle. They’ve been an Olympian Russian training tool for centuries and used for weightlifting. Today, they are a great workout piece for both men and women. Kettlebell training is a combination of strength-training, aerobic training and burns significantly more calories compared to other methods. 

The Workout
Starting with the first move, complete each exercise back-to-back without resting. Rest for one to two minutes, then repeat for a total of  two or three circuits. Follow this routine  two or three days a week, using a 10- to 15-pound kettlebell.

Move 1: Around-the-Body Pass

 Hold the kettlebell with both hands in front of your torso and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Release the kettlebell into your right hand and move both arms behind your back. Grab the bell with your left hand and bring it back to the front (completing a full circle around your body). That’s one rep. Do 10, then switch directions and repeat without stopping to rest.

Quick tip: Keep your core engaged and avoid moving your hips throughout the entire move.

Tags: fitnessfriday kettlebells easy workouts for women at home Indoor Workout no gym no problem
~ Thursday, July 24 ~
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GHP Moms: What you’re not expecting when you’re expecting baby #1 

Andrea and Adam Krum are expecting their first baby on August 31st. The couple lives in Danville and has been together for 11 years, since age 16, and married for the last two years. With her due date quickly approaching, they are making the transition from kids to adults. 

When was the first time you knew you wanted to be a mom?
After being together for so long, it finally came up in discussion after we were married. Adam was all about it! I eventually warmed up to it and started to get excited. I had always been curious about what it would be like, seeing pregnant people and newborn babies, but it wasn’t a “that-has-to-be-me” kind of thing. I guess we were just waiting for the right time, and it all fell into place.

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How did you decide on the name Daphne?

After we found out we were pregnant, we threw out names but nothing stuck. It was, “Nah, I don’t like it,” or it was just OK. … Adam’s sister’s friend is named Daphne, and I told him I had always liked that name after she came up in conversation. He said he did too. That decided it!
What’s been the biggest challenge with your pregnancy?
Well, it wasn’t being pregnant in the hottest summer months. That part actually hasn’t been too bad. My ribs are expanding and pushing things I never knew I had before! I have intercostal neuralgia, which is an inflamed nerve in my chest wall. It began at 29 weeks. It’s a constant pain, just strong enough to let you know it’s there. Because you’re not able to have NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to reduce the swelling, there’s no way to treat it except apparently through clichés like, “Hang in there,” “You’re almost there,” and “It’s worth it in the end.”

What are you looking forward to the most with the arrival of baby Daphne? 
I can’t wait to see what she looks like, hearing her cry, and figuring out her personality. Will she be more like me, or Adam, or completely different? Who knows?! 

What’s the most unexpected thing you’ve experienced so far in your pregnancy?
At 22 weeks we found out that Daphne has a unilateral cleft lip. My initial reaction was devastation: “Oh no, my baby’s not perfect!” I was a hot mess. But Adam handled it very well. He tried to assure me that it would be OK. (He wasn’t much help with that though).

I just needed time to process it. She is perfect. It’s just another thing to deal with, and it definitely could have been much worse. I am most nervous about the surgery—general anesthesia at 3 months is scary. In the end I am hoping it will teach her to be humble and compassionate toward others less fortunate. We have a care team that is already planning her surgery and recovery so everything will be fine!

There’s still a million looming questions:
How bad will it hurt? Will she have 10 fingers and toes? Will my experience be one of those horror stories (think 20- pound baby!), a breeze, or somewhere in between? Will she have birth marks? When will her birthday be? Will I deliver naturally or through a C-section?

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Tags: We Are GHP Andrea Krum maternity blog pregnancy blog pregnancy GHP babies
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New Health Risks of Sitting Too Long [Study]

If you work a typical 9-to-5 job, then you’re no stranger to sitting at your desk for hours at a time. And it should come as no surprise that there are certain health risks associated with sitting too long. There have been studies that tied sedentariness with heart disease, blood clots, weight gain, high blood sugar, and overall shorter life expectancy. Most recently, a new study revealed that sitting too long may put you at risk for developing certain types of cancer. Here’s what you need to know about these findings and how you can become more active throughout the day.

Photo Credit: bikeriderlonder/Shuttestock

Take a minute and write down how long you think you sit within a 24 hour period. What number did you come up with? If you’ve calculated six or more hours, you’re not alone. In fact, up to 70% of Americans are sitting at least six hours a day. This includes sitting at work, in the car, during meals, and most notable, in front of the TV or computer screen.

According to new research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers found that prolonged sitting (or sedentary behavior) can increase your risk of colon cancer (8%), endometrial cancer (10%) and lung cancer (6%). Even if you are physically fit, you too are at risk. Researchers reviewed 43 previous studies that included more than 4 million participants and close to 69,000 cancer cases to see if there was a connection between hours spent sitting and certain types of cancers. While the study concluded that there is a relationship between sedentary behavior and an increased risk for certain cancers, the research does not prove absolute cause and effect since there are several other factors to consider that can increase your risk of cancer. These factors include drinking or smoking in excess, poor eating habits, being obese and family history.

What can you do?

To help reduce your risk of developing certain health conditions related to sitting, follow these tips:

  • Speak to your office manager or HR about implementing standing desks or standing meetings.
  • Work out when you get home instead of flopping down on the couch
  • Go for a walk during your lunch break, after dinner, etc.
  • Walk over and talk to your coworkers instead of calling or emailing.
  • Get up a few times an hour and walk around for a few minutes.
  • Ride your bike or walk to work if it’s within a reasonable distance.
  • If you drive, park your car further away from work to get in a few minutes of walking.
  • If you take public transportation, get off the train or bus a few of stops early and walk the rest of the way.
  • Review this article on how to squeeze more exercise into your day.
  • Need a nudge? Check out this neat seat cushion currently in development that will nudge you when it senses you have been sitting too long.

Most of our day revolves around sitting, and unfortunately, it’s severely affecting our health. This latest research reminds us that we need to seriously consider increasing the amount of physical activity in our day if we want to live longer, healthier lives.

A healthy lifestyle starts with making healthy choices, like choosing the right health insurance. Get with the plan and choose Geisinger Health Plan today.

Tags: cancer health risk sitting sedentary lifestyle exercise
~ Tuesday, July 22 ~
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Summer Swimming: How Chlorine Can Affect Your Health

Swimmers and those who enjoy the occasional dip in the pool are all too familiar with chlorine. One of the most common chemicals produced in the U.S., chlorine is used as a swimming pool disinfectant – killing harmful bacteria like E.coli that can make swimmers ill. But can this chemical that prevents us from getting sick also have adverse effects on our health? Let’s find out.

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Photo Credit: JaySi/Shuttestock

Chlorine can take the form of a liquid or a gas and has the potential to be poisonous from misuse or overexposure. In addition to being used in pools, chlorine can also be found in water sanitation systems to disinfect drinking and bathing water. Humans can also be exposed to chlorine from the air, through eating or drinking, and via the inhalation of chlorine fumes.

How does chlorine affect the body?

If you’ve ever emerged from a swimming pool with dry, flakey skin, chlorine is to blame. Chlorine strips the skin of its natural oils, causing it to become dry and cracked. This can lead to damaged skin and premature signs of aging. These effects are more noticeable in the summer due to repeated exposure to pools and water parks.

Chlorine can also affect your respiratory system. If you suffer from allergies, you may develop a sinus problem from inhaling chlorine vapors. This can lead to respiratory complications, chest tightness, and other breathing issues. These problems are especially true for swimmers who suffer from asthma. In addition, if you spend an extended amount of time in swimming pools (with low levels of chlorine), you may experience irritation of the throat, nose and eyes.

Similar to how chlorine strips away the natural oils from our skin, it has the same damaging effects on our hair. Chlorine is meant to break down and remove dirt and oil. Unfortunately, our scalps naturally produce oils to protect our hair from damage. If that oil is stripped from your hair, you may experience over drying, increased porosity, and discoloration. These effects are most common among swimmers who have chemically or color treated hair.

Believe it or not, chlorine also has the ability to erode tooth enamel. Over-chlorination of large swimming pools can produce an excess amount of hydrochloric acid. This lowers the pH balance of the water, making the water more acidic and eventually causing enamel erosion in swimmers.

To avoid the harmful effects of chlorine, follow these tips:

  • Use a pre-swimming lotion formulated to protect your skin and block chlorine absorption.
  • Saturate your hair with clean water before getting into the pool to reduce chlorine absorption.
  • Use a swim cap before diving in. Note: You should still wet your hair with clean water and apply a light conditioner for added moisture.
  • Rinse off with water immediately after chlorine exposure to slow down signs of skin or hair damage.
  • Wear goggles to reduce eye irritation.
  • Make sure the pool you visit has proper ventilation/air circulation to disperse chlorine vapors.
  • To disinfect a pool without using chlorine, consider using chemical-free or ionizing systems.

Take extra precaution this summer when looking for your next cool dip in the pool. Use these tips to protect your family and your summer fun.

A healthy lifestyle starts with making healthy choices, like choosing the right health insurance. Get with the plan and choose Geisinger Health Plan today.

Tags: swimming pools pools chlorine summer health
~ Friday, July 18 ~
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Challenge your body with a stability ball

Working on a stability ball versus a grounded work bench improves flexibility. You’ll get a greater range of motion and better sense of balance with the ball. The soft, unstable surface of the ball activates the entire core (abs, hips and back) structure. When on the ball, you have to tighten your abdominal and leg muscles to stay balanced. Taking almost any basic floor or workbench routine to the stability ball will burn more calories by activating more muscle fibers.

Research has found that using a stability ball may benefit individuals who spend a lot of time sitting or who are prone to back pain.

Stability balls come in different sizes.  They are sold in sizes ranging from 45 to 85 cm. It is important to determine which ball is right for you.  The rule of thumb is, when sitting on a stability ball, your thighs should be parallel to the floor at a 90-degree angle, and your hips should be in line with or slightly higher than your knees. 

Helpful guideline when you buy a fitness ball: 

  • If you are 4’11” - 5’4”, get a ball that is 55cm
  • If you are 5’5” - 5’11”, get a ball that is 65cm
  • If you are 6’ - 6’7, get a ball that is 75cm
Tags: GHP Wellness GHP exercise stability ball
~ Thursday, July 17 ~
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Protect your skin with more fruits and veggies

Carotenoids, which give fruits and veggies their red, yellow and orange color, accumulate in skin tissue to destroy free radicals and protect skin from UV damage. Try this tasty tomato tart for a punch of Vitamin A. 

Tomato Tart (serves 8)

½ (14.1 oz.) pkg. refrigerated pie dough

Cooking spray

2.5 oz. (2/3 cup) fontina cheese, shredded

½ cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped

½ cup sliced shallots

3 tomatoes, cut into ½ inch thick slices

3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp. cornmeal

1 Tbsp. thyme

1 tsp. Kosher salt, divided

½ tsp. pepper

1¼ cups reduced fat milk

1½ tbsp. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

3 large eggs

2 Tbsp. fresh basil leaves

1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered

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Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Roll dough to a 12-inch circle; press into a 9-inch deep-dish tart of spring form pan coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with fontina, olives, and shallots. Arrange half tomato slices over shallots. Combine flour, cornmeal, and thyme; sprinkle over tomatoes. Top with remaining slices; sprinkle with ¾  tsp. salt and pepper.

3. Combine milk, cheese, and eggs; pour into pan. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until set; let stand 10 minutes. Top with basil. 

4. Combine ¼ tsp. salt and cherry tomatoes. Slice tart; serve with cherry tomatoes. 

Nutrition per serving: 244 calories; 13 g fat (6 g sat., 5 g monounsaturated, 2 g polyunsaturated); 96 mg cholesterol; 22 g carbohydrates; 9 g protein; 2 g fiber; 596 mg sodium

Tags: GHP Wellness GHP healthy recipes UV Safety Month protect your skin
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Celebrate National Ice Cream Month

I scream, you scream, we all scream for… ice cream! It’s National Ice Cream Month which means all month long you can enjoy your favorite frozen dairy treat guilt-free – well, sort of. During the month of July, the International Ice Cream Association (IICA) encourages retailers and ice cream lovers across the U.S. to celebrate ice cream and all its delicious glory. But as we all know, we can get carried away with choosing decadent ice cream flavors and piling on mountains of unhealthy toppings. Here’s how you can observe National Ice Cream Month without the added guilt or calories.

Photo Credit: Maryna Pleshkun/Shutterstock

The origins of National Ice Cream Month date back to 1984 when President Ronald Reagan recognized that ice cream is both fun and nutritious and that 90% of U.S. citizens enjoyed this food. “The Gipper” declared July as National Ice Cream Month and called for all Americans to observe this month with “appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

The ice cream industry is big business, generating $10 billion in revenue in 2010 and churning out 1.53 billion gallons of ice cream and other frozen desserts in 2011.  In fact, the production of ice cream is a major contributor to the nation’s dairy industry, making up about 9% of all the milk produced by U.S. dairy farmers.

In honor of National Ice Cream Month, Baskin-Robbins, the world’s largest chain of ice cream specialty shops, partnered with a behavioral food expert to reveal the top 10 ice cream flavors that make people the happiest:

  1. Chocolate
  2. Jamoca® Coffee
  3. Very Berry Strawberry
  4. Rocky Road
  5. Vanilla
  6. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
  7. Mint Chocolate Chip
  8. Chocolate Chip
  9. Pralines ‘n Cream
  10. Rainbow Sherbet

While these flavors may put a smile on your face, your waistline may not be too pleased. Take advantage of National Ice Cream Month with these healthy ice cream tips and alternatives:

  • Skip the sugary add-ons like ooey-gooey sauces, marshmallows, candy pieces, cookie bits, and sprinkles (also known as Jimmies). Remember, each topping adds more calories, more sugar and more fat.
  • Traditional flavors will most likely have fewer calories (vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry), so avoid over-indulgent options like chocolate peanut butter, cookie dough or butter pecan.
  • Don’t be fooled by sorbets and sherbets. Sorbets can actually contain more sugar than ice cream, so be careful and read the nutrition labels.
  • Opt for a cup or a bowl of ice cream instead of a cone. Ice cream shops have gotten creative with their cone offerings like dipping them in chocolate. Unfortunately, this can add unwanted sugar and carbs.
  • Gelato is not always healthier than regular ice cream; in fact, they are virtually the same, with the exception of the churning process and varying fat content.
  • There are sugar-free and non-dairy ice cream options out there for those who have certain health restrictions or are lactose intolerant, so be on the lookout.
  • You can always make your own ice cream at home– without an ice cream machine. It’s fun, easy and something the whole family can enjoy! To add a healthy twist on toppings, use fruit and nuts like almond, cashews and pistachios.

Whether you choose a few scoops of ice cream, sorbet, sherbet or gelato, make it a healthy choice not just for July, but all year round.

A healthy lifestyle starts with making healthy choices, like choosing the right health insurance. Get with the plan and choose Geisinger Health Plan today.

Tags: ice cream dessert frozen sorbet gelato National Ice Cream Month
~ Wednesday, July 16 ~
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What the Hail: Part Three

Dave’s Story

Hi, my name is Dave Jani, and I am the Director of Strategic Business Development. I’ve worked for Geisinger for over 20 years. Time flies! I have a wife, and two children who are both in college. We live in Riverside, PA.  In my spare time I enjoy writing and recording music, traveling, motorcycling, skiing, bicycling, running and eating.

We’ve all heard the advice, “Stay away from windows during a storm.” As you can see from this picture of my office window, it’s advice worth taking! The window has proven to be a great conversation starter for fellow employees entering my office: “Hey, did you get your window fixed yet? Haha!”

We all have similar hail stories. Other than what happened to my office window, mine is pretty typical: 2 cars wrecked with many dents. A lot of scrambling around trying to get them fixed ASAP. Local body shops booked solid.

I believe the interesting take-away from this inconvenient event is how we can apply our individual experiences with the storm to our jobs at GHP or just lessons in life:

  1. When people are super-stressed, they may behave “less-than-ideally.” Likewise, when our members are having health problems and they need to contact us, we can cut them some slack… knowing that they are probably not being rude on purpose. Just stressed and weary of what they are going through. Kind of like we were when we saw glass-littered seats and sledgehammer-sized dents!
  2. Crazy things will happen. Be there for the customer when it does. The moment I realized the extent of the damage to my car, I called my insurance agency. Being a local company, they were clearly overwhelmed at first. But it did not take long for my agent to assure me with confidence that not only would I be getting my car fixed, but that a rental car would be provided free of charge. (And I had not even purchased rental coverage in my policy!) That was really nice. What can we do for our customers when something crazy happens?
  3. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Well, maybe. We have all been through this painful experience together. Looking at the storm’s path afterward, it seemed the storm was meant just for GHP and our neighbors, as Woodbine Lane was hit the hardest. This event has helped us to realize we are all in this GHP boat together. Together we will sail or sink. Not that different from our vision of trying to be the best health plan there is. We all benefit as we work together to accomplish that goal.
  4. Know your deductible: How many of us knew before the storm what our comprehensive deductible was? We aren’t that different from our members who often don’t know what their deductible is until they need to use it.
  5. And finally: If the hail stones are big enough to punch a hole in an office window and sound like a herd of elephants on the roof, everyone’s car is toast! The entire event helps us to remember what we all know, but sometimes forget: In 10-20 years most of the cars we now drive and enjoy will be in a landfill somewhere, rusty and destroyed. Cars aren’t permanent. People are what really matter. No one was hurt too badly in the storm. So at the end of the day … “It’s all good.”
Tags: We Are GHP GHP hail storm danville hail storm Geisinger employee blog
~ Tuesday, July 15 ~
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Food safety at the grill

Love grilling, but hate all that grimy bacteria? Reduce your risk of food poisoning by doing this.  

To reduce your risk of food poisoning:

  • Wash hands thoroughly before, during and after food preparation. Pack moist towelettes or hand sanitizer for those moments when soap and water are not readily available
  • Scrub your grill with hot, soapy water prior to each use. Removing charred food debris from the grill reduces exposure to bacteria
  • Keep raw meats, poultry, seafood and eggs separate from ready-to-eat foods; ditto for the utensils used to handle each. Pack extra color-coded plates and utensils to help prevent cross-contamination. Use different spoons and forks to taste, stir and serve
  • Marinades can transform the flavor of food, and also tenderize the meat for a more enjoyable meal. Always marinate foods in the refrigerator, never at room temperature on the counter. Cross-contamination can occur when a marinade is used with raw meat, poultry or fish, then “reused” on cooked foods. So, use a separate brush and utensils for cooked foods and set aside some fresh sauce to use on cooked food. Using a food thermometer is the only safe way to determine the doneness of cooked foods.

To prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, don’t leave food outside in hot weather (90°F or above) for more than one hour. Throw away all perishable foods that have gone unrefrigerated for more than an hour. 

Tags: grill safety ghp GHP Wellness on the grill Summertime family healthy
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The Flip-Flop Flop: How to Upgrade Your Summer Footwear

Flip-flops are synonymous with summer. And now that we’re in the middle of July, you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who isn’t sporting a pair of these sandals. While flip-flops are cheap, comfortable and stylish, they offer little to no protection for your feet. In this post, we highlight some of the hidden dangers of flip-flops and how you can protect your feet with popular alternatives.

Photo Credit: racorn/Shutterstock

It should come as no surprise that flip-flops can be pretty flimsy. Think about it: you’re wearing a thin layer of rubber roughly the size of your foot that is attached by a small strap. This type of footwear lacks arch support, toe protection and provides no form of absorption or cushioning for the heel. Your entire foot is exposed to all kinds of health risks, such as:

  • Stubbed toes
  • Sprained ankles
  • Bacteria
  • Blisters/bunions
  • Lacerations
  • Puncture wounds
  • Tendonitis
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Fractures
  • Broken bones

In addition, flip-flops are not meant to be worn for long periods of time due to the extreme lack of support. When you walk in flip-flops, your toes are actually gripping the rubber bottom in between steps to prevent the shoe from falling off. This can impact the way your heel strikes the ground and can affect your overall gait. However, most people spend their entire day in flip-flops, walking on hard surfaces like pavements and sidewalks. In the UK, it was reported that there were 200,000 flip-flop related injuries in 2010. To minimize your risk of injury, and to increase your chances of having a summer free of foot pain, follow these tips when picking your next pair of flip-flops:

Avoid one-size-fits-all: ensure that your toes and heel aren’t hanging over the sides.

Do the bend test: if your flip-flop bends too easily, it’s time to look for a sturdier pair.

Look for straps: because the flip-flop only provides a singular strap (or thong) between the big toe and second toe, an additional strap around the back of the foot will provide more support.

Opt for leather: look for high quality, soft leather for your next pair of flip-flops as this material will reduce the risk of blisters and other irritations.

For summer footwear alternatives, avoid the dollar store sales bin and consider shopping at these popular footwear companies whose collections hold the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) Seal of Acceptance:

  • Wolky 
  • Chaco 
  • Dansko 
  • Rockport 

Other brands that make models with additional weight and support in the heel and forefoot include: FitFlops, Teva and Merrell.

Put your best foot forward this summer by choosing appropriate shoes  that will keep your little piggies happy and healthy.

A healthy lifestyle starts with making healthy choices, like choosing the right health insurance. Get with the plan and choose Geisinger Health Plan today.

Tags: summer summer clothing footwear flip-flops sandals foot health