Health e-News
January 2014
Top 10 Health Investments for the New Year
Take Smart Breaks
Emotional Health Benefits of Hobbies
How to Enjoy the New Year Without Worrying About Extra Pounds
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A new year brings fresh opportunities to improve our health and wellness. At Affinity Occupational Health, we're committed to partnering with you in this important effort. This edition of Health e-News contains some great tips for sticking to your wellness resolutions and taking good care of your physical and mental well-being, so you can enjoy a year of better health. 


We're grateful for the opportunity to link arms with you in 2014. Best wishes for a happy and healthy year! 

Linda Hale-Graves

Director, Wellness and Employer Solutions

Affinity Health System

Top 10 Health Investments for the New Year (and Beyond)

By Brian Harrison, MD, medical director of Health and Productivity Management

Illness has become very expensive these days. So, staying well is more important than ever. You must keep your body and mind healthy if you want your finances to be healthy, too.
But, like many things, it's easy to be penny wise and dollar foolish. If you try to save your money by spending nothing on maintaining your health, you will lose your health and your money, too. Staying healthy requires an investment of a little of your time and a little wisely-spent money. This will pay you big returns. It can be the wisest investment you make!
Here are Dr. Harrison's "Top 10 Health Investment Tips of Time and Money"
1. Use Your EAP
Learn how to access your company's Employee Assistance Program (EAP). It costs you nothing. On the other hand, stress, depression, relationship problems, alcohol or other substance use problems can be very expensive. The mind and body are continuously connected. Mental health issues like these can lead to physical illness, and every type of physical illness is made worse by these mental health conditions. If you are in need, EAP is by far the most economical and accessible resource you can find.
2. Stop Smoking
If you use tobacco, you must quit. Even if it hasn't made you sick yet, it costs a bundle to use tobacco, almost $2,000 a year for a pack-a-day smoker. Once it makes you sick (and it will), your treatment could cost tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. But trying to quit cold turkey, without help, rarely gets the job done. Only 3 to 5 percent of cold turkey attempts work. Nicotine addiction is simply too powerful, and it is far too deadly a problem, to not deal with in the most effective way possible.
  • Most employers offer tobacco cessation assistance; see if there is a program available at work. It may be free.
  • Learn what your health plan offers for cessation coverage, such as for medicines and programs, which are far more effective than trying to quit without help.
  • And, you can always use Call It Quits telephone-based coaching (1-800-362-9900) or the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line (1-800-QUITNOW) free.

So, what's stopping you from getting help to quit tobacco? Whatever the reason, compare it to this: lung cancer is almost entirely fatal (five-year survival rate less than 10 percent) and almost entirely preventable (90 percent of cases are due to smoking). Considering that every smoker has a 10 to 20 percent chance of getting this entirely fatal, entirely preventable, and entirely tragic disease, what's stopping you from quitting right now?


3. Take Your Meds - the Right Way
Prescription medicines can be expensive. But, the most costly prescription may be on one that you don't buy! That is the one your doctor prescribes, but which you fail to take. You must take your prescriptions exactly the way they are written, 100 percent. Not "usually" or "most of the time." Not 50 percent, 75 percent, or even 90 percent. They need to be used 100 percent the way your doctor advised. If your doctor's advice is unclear, ask questions and don't leave the office until you fully understand the answers. If you sense a problem later that worries you or that makes it hard to take your prescriptions 100 percent correctly, talk to the pharmacist. It's free! If the store window is too busy, ask for a time you can return, or a time the pharmacist can call you. But don't stop or skip medicines! Your doctor prescribed them for a good reason. If you disagree with your doctor, get a second or a third opinion. Find two doctors who agree, and choose the doctor you like best. Then follow that doctor's orders, 100 percent.


4. Have an Emergency Plan
It's 3 a.m. Who do you want to take your call? If you or a family member is sick or injured, you need to decide what to do very quickly and in a stressful situation. If the situation seems dangerous to life or limb (chest pain, uncontrollable bleeding, stroke symptoms, seizure, etc.) then call 911. If it isn't that kind of situation, call Affinity Nurse Direct (1-800-362-9900). Sound simple? That's what you need in a time like that, namely a simple plan of attack. Mistakes in those situations can be costly, either of money, or of health. Make the call, get advice, do it right the first time. Don't guess.


5. Limit Alcohol
Question: What do you call it when a man consumes five servings of alcohol in a day, or a woman consumes four servings? Answer: a drinking binge.


To some people, that seems like a lot of alcohol. To others, it sounds like nothing. But it doesn't matter how it "sounds" to you, what matters is what it really is. And, it really is a serious health risk! People who have drinking binges aren't necessarily alcoholics. And an occasional binge is not the same as a "bender." But regardless, it is a strain on your health. That amount of alcohol is enough to increase accident risks, both on that day and the next. It is enough to increase blood pressure, cause heart rhythm irregularities, and stress the liver. The binge drinking definition (five or more drinks for a man, four or more for a woman) comes from research that shows this much alcohol is too much for the body to handle safely.


If you choose to drink, you must do so only moderately, generally not more than two drinks in a day. As many people know, moderate drinking can be healthy. But binge drinking is definitely dangerous. And most people don't know that it's only a fine line between healthy moderate drinking and dangerous binge drinking. That extra beer or two will cost you more than just what you pay the bartender.


6. Prevent Diabetes
How easy is it to get diabetes? Very easy! In fact, if for some reason you wanted to get diabetes, you would be almost guaranteed to get it if you follow these "Four Easy Steps:"

  • Have relatives with diabetes (most of us do)
  • Get older (all of us do!)
  • Don't get enough exercise (very easy)
  • Eat the ordinary American diet (too many calories and too much sugar)

So, what do you do if you don't want diabetes? You have to avoid the Four Easy Steps! Obviously, the first two are things you can't do anything about. So you must change the only two things on the list that can be changed: diet and exercise. Eat fruits and vegetables every day. Exercise and be active. It's what you do every day that matters. Take the stairs, walk around the parking lot, kick a soccer ball around the back yard with your kids, bike to work, dance, jog, and push your vacuum cleaner around to fast and jazzy music. Do whatever it takes! You don't want diabetes!


7. Cut the Soda
What's the single unhealthiest thing in the average American diet? Without a doubt, it's soda. Sweetened sodas contain high fructose corn syrup, which is clearly linked to an increased risk of diabetes. It is an unnatural sugar, which stimulates a prolonged insulin response by the body. Over time, this "dulls" the body's ability to respond normally to its own insulin. Then a condition called "insulin resistance" begins. This leads to another set of problems called "metabolic syndrome." This is a pre-diabetic condition that also increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Studies have shown that people who average just one can of soda a day have an almost 50 percent greater chance of developing metabolic syndrome than people who average less than one soda a day. Considering that a 12 oz. can of sweetened soda contains the equivalent of almost 10 teaspoons of sugar, this shouldn't be a surprise. But how's this for a surprise? Even diet sodas increase the risk of metabolic syndrome! Apparently their artificial sweeteners "sharpen the sweet tooth" and make people eat more sweets. So, drink less soda - a lot less. It should be only an occasional treat or reward, like dessert.


In the long run, the healthiest beverage is also the drink that is free and available everywhere - good old H2O!


8. Aspirin Therapy
Has your doctor advised you to take an aspirin, or a baby aspirin, every day to reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke? Then, you'd better take your aspirin! As simple as it sounds, aspirin is among the most effective preventive treatments known to science, for those people in need. If your doctor hasn't advised you about this, then ask your doctor if you should take it, particularly if you've ever had a heart problem or stroke. But let your doctor decide. A doctor who knows you will know what's best for you.


9. Safety First
Home accidents are common, can be tragic, and cost money. Spend your money on home safety instead. Falls are the most serious type of home accident. Prevent them by throwing away that old and rickety ladder. Replace it with a new one that is safe and solid. It will cost less than the co-pay from an emergency room visit for a broken arm. Put up secure handrails in stairways and use them. Fix broken steps. Use a night light. Don't tolerate throw rugs that may slip and slide. Promptly salt or sand your slippery, icy steps this winter. And, Christmas lights that you can hang while both your feet are on the ground are just as festive as the ones your crazy neighbor puts on his rooftop!


And, you must play it safe! Use a bike helmet, and make sure your kids do, too. Be a safe boater, jet skier, water skier, snow boarder, downhill skier - whatever your pastime is.  If you hunt, do it from the ground. If you insist on climbing a tree, get a good deer stand; spend money if you have to. Use it correctly and stay clipped to the safety line. Deer hunters are hurt far more often by faulty tree stands than by firearms. But, that gun you're carrying can obviously devastate a fellow hunter. Whenever you have your hands on a gun during deer season, you are obligated to be wide awake, stone-cold sober and thinking of safety first.


10. Get Your Screenings
Don't miss the preventive screenings that are needed for your age and gender. Men need to begin annual prostate cancer screening with an exam and blood test (PSA) by their doctor by age 50 (45 for African-Americans and for those with a family history). Women need to start annual mammograms at age 40. And, everyone by age 50 needs colorectal cancer screening (colonoscopy, or sigmoidoscopy/barium enema plus fecal occult blood testing).


A word about colonoscopy: it can prevent, not just detect, colon cancer. It can find and remove pre-cancerous polyps. Once removed, a polyp has no chance of becoming a cancer.


So, get your screenings done. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And, it costs a whole lot less!

Try This! Workplace Wellness Tip:

Take Smart Breaks


How do you spend your lunch break? Fast food runs? Hectic meals out with co-workers? Working straight through? This week, take more than lunch. Give yourself a mental health break.


Get your mind off of work with a quick workout at the gym, a good book at a quiet coffee shop, exploring a new mobile phone app, or surprising the kids at school with smoothies for lunch. Start slowly -- aim for one day a week and gradually increase to three or four if you can. You'll find your stress level dropping as you give yourself these mental mini-vacations on a regular basis

Emotional Health Benefits of Hobbies           


Does the start of a new year stress you out? As if December wasn't crazy enough, now we're faced with the pressure of new year's resolutions - losing 10 pounds, calling your mother more often, going on that bi-monthly date you've been talking about since your teenager was born. It's enough to tip anybody over the edge. Unless you have an outlet. Something you LIKE to do, rather than yet another thing you HAVE to do. For some of us, we haven't explored this concept since our Scratch-n-Sniff sticker collection in third grade. Folks, the time has come. Get a hobby!


"Having a hobby is not only beneficial to our personal well-being, but it is therapeutic," says Donna Schmitz, Affinity EAP counselor. She explains that hobbies decrease stress and provide a sense of personal control that is often lost when a person is distracted by worries. "Hobbies bring out the kid in us and that feeling of playfulness that makes us feel alive!"


It's true - the New England Journal of Medicine found that people who engaged in cognitive leisure activities had a lower chance of developing Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia. Furthermore, artistic hobbies were found to reduce the likelihood of anxiety and depression because they provide a health expression of inner thoughts and feelings.


"Having personal interests can fulfill a creative, mechanical or other talent that you are otherwise unable to express in other facets of your life," Donna says. These healthy outlets foster a positive attitude, increase self-esteem and lift the inner spirit by giving life a sense of meaning.


So what hobby should you choose? "Whatever it is, it should inspire you," Donna says. The best hobby is one that's more appealing than flopping on the couch at the end of a long and exhausting day. In other words, you should look forward to it. "A good hobby doesn't drain the life out of you; it gives you energy and perspective," she adds.


Hobbies can be anything from collecting stamps to tracing your ancestry or restoring a classic automobile. Here's a list of ideas that may spark your interest.

  • Photography
  • Scrapbooking
  • Woodworking
  • Hiking, biking or mountain climbing
  • Reading
  • Writing, blogging
  • Volunteering
  • Music, theater
  • Painting, drawing
  • Traveling
  • Cooking
  • Gardening
  • Bird watching
  • Water sports
  • Knitting
  • Pottery, stained glass
  • Flying, parachuting or bungee jumping
  • Family genealogy

If you're struggling with stress, Affinity EAP counselors can help. Call us at 1-800-894-9327.   

How to Enjoy the New Year Without Worrying About Extra Pounds 

By Julia Salomón, MS, RD, CD, corporate dietitian and nutrition educator for Affinity Health System


Food is personal. Food provides us with the nutrition and fuel our bodies need, but it does more than that. It symbolizes who we are; it represents our heritage, ethnicity and culture. It is a reflection of our current environment, our geography and history, and what we eat is influenced by the flavor of food and our taste for it. What and when we eat reflects our feelings and our social interactions. This coming year, take the time to establish a healthy relationship with food.


Be people-centric not food-centric.
Celebrations are all about being with friends and family, being with the people you like and love. The focus of parties and reunions is not about the food--it's about the people. So don't make a big deal out of the food.


Eat only foods you like a lot--not a lot of any food.
If someone gives you something to taste, go ahead and taste it. Then stop and evaluate if this is something you really like and should continue to eat. If so, eat and savor every single bite of it with gusto. If you don't like it, don't eat it. If you are trying a new food, put a small portion of it on your plate, not a big portion. The same holds true with calorie dense foods; eat a small portion, enjoy it and be done.


Review before you eat.
Just like you would peruse the menu at a restaurant before making your choice, take the time to look over the party table and make a mental note of what you really want to taste. Then consider what offerings can wait, and try them only if you are still hungry after you've sampled your first choices. That way you don't end up with a plate piled high as a mountain. Use this same strategy at restaurants, potluck dinners, etc.


Don't eat anything bigger than your face.
This might sound funny, but it is a reminder to keep portion control in mind. Start out with smaller plates; try eating smaller servings of the food. Do you really need two big heaping scoops of mashed potatoes or would one moderate scoop do?


Remember...15 minutes.
It takes roughly 15 minutes for your brain and stomach to connect and really register that you are full after you have started eating. A fast eater easily over-consumes food in that time. To stall the process, try putting your fork down or drinking water between each bite. Another strategy is to eat with chopsticks! All in all, slow eating will allow you to enjoy the food and not get too full.


Is it head hunger or stomach hunger?
We eat for many reasons. We eat because we need sustenance and feel hungry. However, we frequently eat for reasons not related to hunger at all. We eat because the food is in sight; we eat because others around us are eating; we continue to eat beyond fullness because the TV show (or movie) we are watching isn't over yet! Be aware of stomach hunger ("true hunger") and head hunger (mindless eating), and recognize the difference between feeling satisfied after a meal and feeling full. Follow this mantra: eat when you are hungry, and stop when you are satisfied.


Remember Bucky Badger!
Although he does not play in the games, Bucky Badger, the University of Wisconsin mascot, doesn't just watch from the sidelines. At football games he does pushups to match the score after each touchdown, field goal or safety. Like Bucky, find ways to keep active even when purposeful activity is not obvious. For example, take the stairs at the mall and at work. Go for a walk after dinner and arrange to meet your friends for a stroll instead of coffee and a muffin.

For 2014, make wellness a priority in your life! 

Your Affinity Occupational Health Sales Team 
Holly Tomlin, manager of wellness and employer solutions for Affinity Occupational Health, enjoys building relationships with clients while finding creative solutions for their needs.  Holly's background includes 15 years of experience in the health care field, with a strong background in employee assistance programs and occupational health. As a certified massage therapist, Holly has a special interest in educating others on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, including wellness and prevention initiatives. 

Tammy Davis, account manager for Affinity Occupational Health, provides corporate clients with valuable information regarding services offered through Affinity Occupational Health. She works closely with clients to determine their specific needs for health and wellness services. Tammy has a bachelor's degree in business administration from UW Oshkosh and over 20 years of experience in marketing, sales, and customer service. 


Cindy Budiac
, account manager for Affinity Occupational Health, is available to help clients determine the right services and programs for their needs. Cindy has more than 15 years of experience in clinical health care, sales and business development. As our newest account manager, Cindy looks forward to meeting you and partnering on all your occupational health needs. 

To contact Holly, Tammy or Cindy, call the Affinity Occupational Health office located in Menasha, at 1-800-541-0351, or e-mail, or