Dr. Dobro’s Debrief: Eat Dinner Together to Keep Everyone’s BMI In-Check

Jeff DobroWith the new year upon us, undoubtedly many of us have made goals to improve our health in 2014. As a result, gym memberships are purchased, and new diets are tried in an effort to lose weight and improve our health. But what if I told you that new research shows that where you eat can also have a proven impact your BMI?

Typically, the majority of research and health advice focuses on what is being eaten and how the foods that we consume impact our health. That’s why a recent study on the influence of where families eat dinner caught my eye. The study of dinner rituals that correlate with child and adult BMI found that families who frequently eat dinner in the kitchen or dining room had significantly lower BMI (lower for both the adults and their children) compared to families who ate elsewhere (especially in front of the TV – no surprise.)

The study involved 190 parents and 148 children. BMI, or Body Mass Index, is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. It is used as a screening tool to identify weight categories that may lead to health problems. Healthy BMI for adults 18 years and older is in the range of 18.6 to 24.9.

The study found significantly lower BMI measures in families where everyone participates in the dinner conversations and family members most often remain seated until everyone is finished with their meals. The practice of rituals such as these places emphasis on the social interactions as opposed to the food. In addition, within this environment the meal is often prepared in home, with you in control of the portions, ingredients and cooking method.

So make it a habit to gather regularly for dinner at the kitchen or dining room table, turn off the TV, and enjoy each other’s company. Your whole family will benefit.

Dr. Jeff Dobro, Chief Medical Officer, RedBrick Health

Source: Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013 Oct 1. doi: 10.1002/oby.20629  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24123987

Dr. Dobro’s Debrief: Pass the Veggies for a Longer Life

Jeff DobroTo help break through the clutter of the myriad of studies and reports that get published each month, RedBrick Health chief medical officer, Dr. Jeff Dobro, will share a brief synopsis on some of the more interesting peer-reviewed studies that he assesses in an on-going series on the Health Innovation Blog.

With the holiday eating season in full-swing, it’s as good of a time as any to be aware of how a few simple changes in diet can have a positive impact on your life. Recently a study offers evidence that a vegetarian diet has shown to lower mortality rates. The study of more than 70,000 people over a 6-year period found that vegetarians (with or without consuming fish or eggs) were less likely to die from any cause compared to non-vegetarians. Death rates were reduced by 8 – 19% over the 6 years of the study. The reduction in mortality rates were attributed to the primary benefits of vegetarian diets, which are lower blood pressure and improved cholesterol levels as the majority of meals consist of low-fat vegetables, whole grains and fruit. What’s more, the study notes that the vegetarian group tended to be older, more highly educated and more likely to be married, to drink less alcohol, to smoke less, to exercise more and to be thinner.

As I noted, the study considered someone a vegetarian if they also consumed fish or eggs as part of their plant-based diet. This is significant, as while most people consider a vegetarian-only diet as one of the healthiest approaches, there are significant benefits to observing a pescatarian diet. In fact the study found  that a semi-vegetarian diet in which fish and seafood are also consumed was the most influential in helping people (especially males) live longer.

The reason for this is likely that including fish and seafood gives pescatarians many nutrients and vitamins that are absent in other vegetarian diets. Varying the types of seafood is recommended, as are other sources of protein such as beans and nuts. This combination of food-sources is most like the Mediterranean diet you’ve heard so much about and one that can be delicious and fairly easy to stick with. So if any of the traits of the vegetarian group in the study are ones that you are hoping to achieve in the new year, why not make your first step towards that goal be a simple change in diet.

- Dr. Jeff Dobro, Chief Medical Officer, RedBrick Health

Source: JAMA Internal Medicine July 2013, Vegetarian Dietary Patterns and Mortality in Adventist Health Study 2. http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1710093

Exercise as Payment – I’ll Bet You Ten Buck…Burpees It’s Real

As the world evolves, so does everything in it. Currency is no different. Over the last several decades, the standard form of payment has steadily transitioned from cash and checks, to credit and debit cards. Recently Bitcoin has been grabbing the headlines as a new form of currency that is starting to be accepted by the masses. Could exercise be next? Yes, you read that correctly. Is exercise a possible form of currency and payment?

The Value of Exercise

What is a push-up worth? How about a squat? The latter can now be concretely answered. To help promote the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, the Moscow subway systems are now accepting exercise as a form of payment. 30 squats are worth a 30-ruble subway ride ticket. So is this just a marketing ploy, or could this really be a form of payment that could become a part of our everyday lives?

If doing an exercise really doesn’t seem like it should be worth any monetary value – this isn’t the first time exercise has been equated to having monetary value. In fact, there is a long history of just that. With rising health care costs, employers and other organizations have long incentivized people to exercise, eat healthier and pursue habits that lead to a healthier lifestyle.

While the approach is slightly different, the same basic economics exist – do x, get y. Do 30 squats, get a free ride ticket. Exercise at a gym 12 times a month, get $20 off your monthly membership dues. The only difference is instead of ‘getting paid’ to exercise, people can now exercise ‘to pay’. Maybe in the near future, you’ll be able to purchase goods and services with literally a little sweat equity.

Editors Note:

When watching the video, count how many people are smiling while they are ‘paying’ for their ticket. When was the last time you saw happy people paying to ride the subway? While the squats may be worth 30 rubles, their true value to the social wellbeing appears to be worth far more.

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month

Nov1_DiabetesThe candy is most likely gone. Halloween costumes have barely had time to start gathering dust in the closet. And the sounds of holiday ads and music are already filling our ears. But before we move on to baking cookies and doing our holiday shopping, the American Diabetes Association and other health and wellness organizations want us to focus on November, as it is National Diabetes Awareness Month.

Diabetes affects an estimated 26 million Americans, and that number is growing larger. While there have not been any new silver bullet solutions for diabetes since last November, research has continued to reinforce the value of physical activity in helping prevent diabetes, as well as a means to improve the lives of those already diagnosed.

A recent joint statement issued by the College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association found that combining physical activity and modest weight loss has been shown to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 58% in people who are at high risk of getting the disease.

The high-level findings are clear and time-tested:

- Most people with type 2 diabetes are not active, although regular physical activity may prevent or delay complications

- Most of the benefits of physical activity come from improving the way the body responds to the insulin it produces

- Programs that combine physical activity and modest weight loss have been shown to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 58% in people who are at high risk disease of getting the disease

If you’ve read this far and are thinking, “good, but I don’t have diabetes”, you still need to pay attention. In addition to the 26 million in America diagnosed or living with the disease, another 79 million Americans are pre-diabetic and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

The risk factors for having diabetes increase if you are overweight or if you are physically active fewer than 3 times per week. Furthermore, you are at greater risk if you are 45 years of age or older. So what does that mean? Unless you are young with perfect nutritional habits, and have time to work out daily, you or someone you know is probably at risk for diabetes.

So maybe National Diabetes Awareness Month is a good time to get a 60-day head start on your New Year’s Resolutions.  It’s time to find a buddy and pledge to get moving.

Health & Wellness News: HealthCare.gov faces issues, Teens Smoking Cigars, ACA and the Impact on Hospitals, 20 Healthy Fall Meals

light-bulbHealthCare.gov – the Good the Bad & the Ugly
Tuesday marks the 20th day that the government-run health insurance websites have been up and running. Unfortunately, the numerous issues have made utilizing the sites difficult for both consumers and insurance providers. This article from CNN details some of the major issues that many are facing when attempting to utilize the government-run websites. 

light-bulbSmoking & Teens
A recent article appearing in the New York Times covered some unnerving facts discovered by the Center for Disease Control. According to the findings, 1 in 30 middle and high school kids as well as 1 in 12 high school seniors admit to smoking small cigars (or cigarillos) that are flavored to taste like candy or fruit. Cigarettes with candy or fruit flavoring has been banned since 2009 but cigars are not subject to the same restrictions.

GraphThe ACA Cause for Hospital Transformation & Concern
Hospitals are currently in a state of limbo, trying to determine how they must adapt to properly conform to the Affordable Care Act. USA Today reports that more than 35.1 million people were discharged from inpatient care at non-federal hospitals in 2010, in addition to 130 million ER visits and 100 million outpatient visits.  The fear many hospitals have is that the ACA will cause an additional flood or influx of high-use patients which will tax already overburdened medical professionals.

Fork20 Heart-Healthy Fall Meals
As the temperature drops, many American’s cravings for comfort foods begin to surface. This article from Health.com reminds American’s that high cholesterol is no reason to avoid your favorite fall foods. You’ll also find ways to use fall produce at it’s peak season.

Time to Weigh In: Do you believe that HealthCare.gove should have been better prepared for the influx of traffic that they would receive upon launch? What could they have done differently? Should candy flavored cigars be subject to the same laws at cigarettes? Do you think that hospitals should prepare for the worst when it comes to the ACA? What are your favorite fall meals?

Emerging Technology in Health Engagement

Emerging TechnologyIt is safe to say that the use of technology in wellness and health engagement has traditionally progressed at a more gradual pace than it has in other industries. However, over the last few years, numerous forward-thinking organizations have been redefining this type of human engagement through relentless innovation. The result? New advances and approaches that have created opportunities for employers to better reach and support their employees as they improve their wellbeing.

Emerging Technology

A study by Buck Consultants and WorldatWork looked at how emerging technology – specifically gamification, social networking and mobile technology – is being utilized in employer health management initiatives.  The following percentages of organizations were found to be currently incorporating various technologies into their wellness efforts.

  • 63% report using gamification (refers to games and contests, as well as game-like features incorporated into non-game situations)
  • 50% report using social networking (refers to a variety of technologies that support communications and connections between organizations, communities and individuals)
  • 36% report using mobile technology (refers to mobile apps and other interactions via a smartphone or tablet)

Making Health Engagement Mainstream

While adoption of emerging technology by employers is now just starting to pick up, these elements have been a part of our everyday lives as consumers for many years. Loyalty programs, social updates, automated reminders and mobile access are a normal part of how we manage our lives and we may not even think twice about how often we use them.

We realize that gamification, social elements or mobile access alone are not enough to improve engagement. However, it is a combination of all three elements, plus timely triggers, personalized choice and a fresh experience that are needed to help someone change their habits for the better.  As an industry, we need to continue to better understand the driving factors in a consumer’s life and then respond by continuing to innovate to help make engaging in their wellbeing simple, rewarding and accessible.

Stress Management: Why Employers Need to Face Stress Head-On & 18 Tips to Help You Get There

Don't StressHow many times have you uttered the words “I’m stressed” or heard them from a friend, family member or coworker? Let’s face it, we’re all stressed. Stress does not discriminate based on age or financial status, everyone is stressed about something.

A stressful life not only causes immediate symptoms but can have some long-lasting effects as well. In order to understand how to alleviate stress, it’s important to identify what is stressing people out and how it affects them.

What Are the Top Stressors For Americans Today?

The American Psychological Association recently conducted an in-depth study titled Stress in America. This study went on to explore Americans perception of their stress, stress by gender, the impact of stress, stress by generation, and stress by city.

Key findings include:

  • Only 19% of Americans describe their health care as good quality
  • 22% of Americans say their health care provider supports them in managing stress
  • Over 31% of people with high stress never discuss stress management with their health care provider
  • Millennials report 5.4 as their average stress level on a 10-point scale (National average is 4.9)
  • 72% report that their stress level has increased or stayed the same over the past five years
  • Only 37% of Americans feel that they’re doing a very good or excellent job of managing their stress
  • 66% believe their stress has a moderate, strong or very strong impact on their physical health
  • 31% of Americans say that a lack of willpower stands in the way of change

18 Tips for Reducing Daily Stress

The Huffington Post, Mayo Clinic, and Psychology Today have all provided scientifically validated methods for reducing stress. Below are some of the top tips to help you or your employees reduce stress.

Huffington Post: 23 Scientifically Backed Ways To Reduce Stress Right Now

  • Try Progressive Relaxation
  • Try Some Light Yoga
  • Meditate
  • Listen To Music
  • Laugh It Off
  • Try Guided Visualization

Mayo Clinic: Stress Relievers: Tips to Tame Stress

  • Get Active
  • Connect with Others
  • Assert Yourself
  • Get Enough Sleep
  • Keep a Journal
  • Seek Counseling

Psychology Today: 17 Psychology Experts Share Their Best Stress Relief Tips

  • Go Outside
  • Take A Deep Breath
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
  • Slow Down
  • Listen To Yourself
  • Change Your Reactions

Applying These Tips in a Workplace Setting

Your employees may find that some of the tips above are more up their alley than others. Encourage them to find 1-2 new stress relievers over the next 4-6 weeks, commit to doing them and keep a log of their level of stress after they complete the activity. You may be surprised how taking  a small amount of time out of each day to relax and decompress can have a dramatic positive impact.

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