TAG: "Wellness"

7 must-know calorie facts


Berkeley Wellness explains the ins and outs of calories.

Calorie-consciousness has lately been on the upswing, as people turn away from disappointing low-fat or low-carb diets, and as more and more restaurants post calorie counts, often in response to new local laws. But many people have no idea what calories are and how they work. Here are the important (and sometimes surprising) answers to seven key questions about calories from Berkeley Wellness.

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Medical education team wins worldwide design challenge


UCSF team a winner in OpenIDEO/Mayo Clinic Challenge.

Emma Kahn, a longtime volunteer at UC San Francisco Medical Center, brightens the day of patient Robert Watson. (Photo by Susan Merrell, UCSF)

Emma Kahn, a longtime volunteer at UC San Francisco Medical Center, brightens the day of patient Robert Watson.

“How might we all maintain well-being and thrive as we age?”

This question was posed in a worldwide OpenIDEO/Mayo Clinic Challenge that produced 133 concepts and eventually six winners, including a team from UC San Francisco.

UCSF’s team ranked in the top three in terms of popularity and number of views to its proposal.

“Nine medical education staff decided to take on the challenge and over the course of two months they participated in a worldwide community who were inspiring, ideating, prototyping and refining solutions to the challenge,” said Kevin Souza, M.S., associate dean for medical education at UCSF. “Eventually the team coalesced around the solution titled ‘More than just a doctor’s visit, a bridge to wellness,’ which proposes a different approach to the learner-patient health care visit.”

The nine members of the UCSF group, all from the medical education staff in the School of Medicine, envisioned reshaping a doctor’s visit by creating a wellness team. Consisting of medical students and senior volunteers, the team members would serve as coaches for aging community members in inpatient settings, where they could talk about everything from prevention and nutrition to depression and other mental or emotional issues.

“My overall goal is to empower the staff to look at the system around them,” Souza said. “For example, if you’re at the front desk at the Student Affairs Center, how could it be better? We started training our staff in these skills, and I started looking for ways to practice them. This challenge came up and it was health-related, which fit beautifully with our focus.”

Souza invited his entire staff to participate if they wished. The nine members of the final team brought diverse skills and backgrounds. Their work is also directly tied into the UCSF Bridges Curriculum now being designed, which will allow medical students to learn systems improvement skills and work on quality improvement projects.

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Guide to buying sunglasses


Berkeley Wellness offers tips for what to look for in sunglasses.

Woman wearing sunglassesMany people choose sunglasses by how they look and feel. But the most important feature to consider is how well they shield your eyes from ultraviolet rays (high-frequency invisible energy emitted by the sun), as well as blue light (high-frequency visible light).

Chronic ultraviolet (UV) exposure is implicated in a range of eye conditions, including cataracts, benign growths on the surface of the eye, skin cancer on the eyelid and around the eyes and even melanoma of the eye itself. Blue light is particularly damaging to internal eye tissues and over time may permanently damage the retina, leading to macular degeneration.

Sun damage is cumulative, so the more time you spend outdoors with your eyes unprotected, the greater your lifetime risk. The good news is that it’s not hard to find affordable sunglasses that are fashion-forward and protective.

Read tips from Berkeley Wellness.

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Can wellness cure?


UCSF scientists prove benefits of living a healthy lifestyle.

Should anyone doubt America’s mounting health crisis, a new report from the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine makes it crystal clear. On average, Americans of all ages die sooner and experience higher rates of disease than people in 16 other rich countries.

Even advantaged Americans with health insurance, college educations, and higher incomes appear to be sicker than their peers in other wealthy nations. While the reasons are varied and potential solutions complex, experts at UC San Francisco are proving that your mother’s admonishments – eat your vegetables, get off your duff, quiet down – may be just the prescription this nation needs.

Turns out, a healthy lifestyle can not only keep illness at bay, but it may even stop a disease like cancer dead in its tracks.

UC San Francisco has long led the way in demonstrating the positive effects of living a healthy lifestyle. Read more about studies by UCSF researchers such as Dean Ornish, Peter Carroll, Nobel laureate Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel.

Related link:
UCSF Magazine

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Getting help to live tobacco-free, one day at a time


UC Riverside offers services to help quit smoking as UC system going tobacco free by January.

Smoking cessation expert V.J. Sleight (left) and UC Riverside Wellness Program Coordinator Julie Chobdee (right) with Bob Slater, the senior superintendent for building maintenance and operations, who is working to give up smoking after having the habit for 40 years.

About 40 years ago, one of Bob Slater’s friends offered him a cigarette. Smoking was the “cool thing to do”, so he succumbed to “peer pressure” and smoked it. That cigarette was the first step on a pack-a-day habit that lasted four decades.

Now in 2013, Slater, the senior superintendent for building maintenance and operations at UC Riverside, is enlisting the help of his family, friends, co-workers and Mayo Clinic-trained tobacco cessation expert V.J. Sleight to help him break the habit. With the entire University of California system going smoke and tobacco free on Jan. 2, 2014, Slater is one of many UCR staff, students and faculty who are taking advantage of services offered through campus wellness programs to help them kick the habit. Estimates are that as many as 70 percent of smokers want to stop using tobacco, but are not ready to do so.

For Slater, while the campus’ pending ban provided some motivation, he made the decision to give up tobacco for himself and his family. He smoked his last cigarette on April 23.

“My wife, Karen, had wished that I would quit smoking for some time,” he said. “I finally realized that smoking negatively affects my daily health would certainly shorten my life or quality of life which would affect my children, grandchildren, loved ones and friends. I’ve only been off cigarettes for three weeks and I already feel better and can taste and smell things differently.”

“As an ex-smoker V.J. has helped me tremendously to understand the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal and educated me on many little tricks to get by the initial challenges in the first two weeks,” he added.

Julie Chobdee, the UCR Wellness Program coordinator, explained that the university partnered with Sleight because it is important to support employees and students who want to stop using tobacco.

“Smoking cessation education and support can significantly improve compliance and the UC is committed to supporting all students, staff and faculty who wish to stop using tobacco products,” Chobdee said, adding that assistance is available through the Campus Health Center and The Well, in addition to the Faculty/Staff Wellness Program.

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How to manage low back pain


Berkeley Wellness offers insight into the second most common medical complaint.

Four out of every five people will experience low back pain at some point in their lives, and many will contend with repeated episodes of debilitating pain on and off, sometimes for years. Low back pain is the second most common medical complaint after headache. It’s a leading cause of doctor visits and missed days from work, second only to the common cold.

So what should you do about low back pain? Find out more in an interview with William Pereira, M.D., M.P.H., adapted from the UC Berkeley Wellness Report “How to Manage Back Pain,” of which he is the co-author. Pereira is associate chair of the editorial board of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter and is board-certified in occupational and environmental medicine. He has more than 30 years of clinical experience in occupational, preventive, primary care, physical and emergency medicine.

Read Berkeley Wellness Q&A with William Pereira

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Emotional-health connection not limited to industrialized nations


UC Irvine study finds phenomenon more marked in developing countries.

Sarah Pressman, UC Irvine

Positive emotions are known to play a role in physical well-being, and stress is strongly linked to poor health, but is this strictly a “First World” phenomenon? In developing nations, is the fulfillment of basic needs more critical to health than how one feels? A UC Irvine researcher has found that emotions do affect health around the world and may, in fact, be more important to wellness in low-income countries.

The study, which appears online in Psychological Science, is the first to examine the emotion-health connection in a representative sample of 150,000 people in 142 countries. Previous research on the topic has been limited to industrialized nations.

“We wondered whether the fact that emotions make a difference in our health is simply because we have the luxury of letting them,” said Sarah Pressman, assistant professor of psychology & social behavior and the study’s lead author. “We wanted to assess the impact of emotions on health in places where people face famine, homelessness and serious safety concerns that might be more critical correlates of wellness.”

Against expectations, researchers found that the link between positive emotions (enjoyment, love, happiness) and health is stronger in countries with a weaker gross domestic product. In fact, the association increased as GDP decreased, according to Pressman.

People in Malawi, which has a per capita GDP of $900, show a more robust connection between positive emotions and health than residents of the U.S., which has a per capita GDP of $49,800.

“A hostile American with hypertension can take blood pressure-lowering medication. A Malawian cannot,” Pressman said. “Medical interventions might lower the impact of emotions on health.”

Using data from the Gallup World Poll, researchers noted whether participants had reported experiencing enjoyment, love, happiness, worry, sadness, stress, boredom, depression or anger during the previous day. They also measured physical health and the degree to which subjects’ basic needs were met. Security was assessed by asking if participants felt safe walking alone at night or whether they had been robbed, assaulted or mugged.

“We hope that by showing that this phenomenon is prevalent and stronger than some factors considered critical to wellness, more attention will be drawn to the importance of studying both positive and negative emotions,” Pressman said.

She co-authored the study with Shane Lopez of the Gallup Organization and Matthew Gallagher of Boston University.

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How good are generic drugs?


The Berkeley Wellness Letter explores the issue.

In the last few years, many blockbuster prescription medications — including some leading statins, antidepressants and drugs for hypertension, reflux disease and osteoporosis — have become available as generics, and more brands will soon join the list. About three-quarters of prescriptions in the U.S. are now for generic drugs. This has trimmed hundreds of billions of dollars from the nation’s rising health care costs and, by allowing more people to afford the medication they need, has undoubtedly saved countless lives.

The government (notably the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, which regulates drugs), insurers and virtually all medical groups insist that generics are as effective and safe as the original products. Still, some people believe that cheaper drugs can’t be as good as the brand names and fear that switching to a generic is risky.

The FDA (as well as Health Canada) requires generics to measure up to the originals in terms of strength, quality, purity and safety. Generics must deliver to the body the same amount of active ingredient, at very close to the same rate, as their brand-name counterparts — this is called bioequivalence. (Some generics are made by the same manufacturers that make the branded drugs and are then sold to the generics companies, in which case the drugs are truly identical.) The FDA requires manufacturers to do bioequivalence testing of generics, though not necessarily of all formulations; it rarely does the testing itself. Complicating matters is the fact that generics for a specific drug are typically made by several companies.

Even though brand name and generic drugs have the same active ingredient, the drugs can differ in shape, color and inactive ingredients, such as preservatives and fillers. A generic tablet may be harder or softer than the original, which could affect how quickly it dissolves and is absorbed. And a generic of a time-release drug may employ a different mechanism to gradually release the active ingredient.

For these and other reasons, generics may not be the exact bioequivalent of the originals. The FDA does allow some leeway for generics (as well as for differences among brand-name drugs). Its reviews of thousands of studies have found that the absorption of generics differs from the brand names by only 3 to 4 percent, on average, comparable to differences among batches of many brand-name drugs. Such a small difference won’t matter for most drugs, but for some it may reduce effectiveness and/or safety. Moreover, that “average” difference disguises a wider range of variability in bioequivalence.

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Watching your weight


UC brown bag event offers nutritional tips.

Susan Algert

>>Listen to an audio recording of the event

By Alec Rosenberg

If you want to maintain a healthy weight, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition advisor Susan Algert, Ph.D., R.D., has some sage tips: snack wisely; eat more fruits and vegetables; keep a food record and stay active.

Algert shared the latest dietary advice from the U.S. departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services with UC Office of the President employees at a brown bag event Wednesday in Oakland co-hosted by UC Health and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“How many of you really watch your weight?” Algert asked the audience. “No matter how hard we try, it seems to creep up a little bit as we get older.”

Indeed, studies have shown that adults gain an average of around a pound a year. How that happens might surprise you, according to Algert, a nutrition advisor with UC Cooperative Extension of Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco counties.

Research from a large representative study of women in the U.S. shows that as little as an extra 13 calories per day – the equivalent of consuming one extra ounce of soda and walking one minute less – has led to an average weight gain of 35 pounds in 28 years since the 1970s. Eating an extra chocolate chip cookie every day for life? Expect to gain 6 pounds.

“People always say, ‘I don’t know how I gained it.’ We don’t usually gain weight by eating fruits and vegetables. It’s all those goodies loaded with fat, sugar and salt that we snack on,” said Algert, who previously was a clinical research nutritionist with UC San Diego School of Medicine’s Warren Celiac Center.

Snacking is the worst culprit, Algert said. Instead of soda and chips, try fruits and vegetables, nonfat yogurt, or nuts, she said. If you drink sugar-free soda, limit yourself to one or two cans a day. Better yet, drink water flavored with cucumber or lemon.

People also need to be careful when eating out. She pointed to examples such as Cheesecake Factory’s Bistro Shrimp Pasta, which has more than 3,000 calories – 1 ½ times the recommended daily caloric intake for an average adult – and Smoothie King’s 40-ounce Peanut Power Plus Grape smoothie, which contains about a cup of sugar and nearly 1,500 calories.

“If you eat out more than a couple of times a week, you’re in trouble because you’re likely consuming more fat and calories than you realize,” Algert said. Other key factors that lead to weight gain are decreased physical activity, increased television viewing, increased alcohol intake and poor sleep.

So what should you do?

Algert said two reliable sources of nutrition information are the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate dietary guidelines and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan, which focuses on healthy fat, fruits, vegetables and reduced-fat dairy and limits sweets to no more than five servings a week. Also, UC offers a variety of nutrition education, including the CalFresh program, which reaches 140,000 Californians a year.

Algert encouraged people to buy fresh, local food. “Vote with your fork,” she said. “Don’t buy junk food. Support a healthy food environment by going to the community gardens and by going to the farmers markets.”

Another suggestion is to keep a food record — track what you eat, when you eat and what your mood is (do you eat ice cream when you are stressed?).

Most of all, keep trying. Even the experts wrestle with their weight.

“I am trying to increase my fruit and vegetable intake to the eight-10 per day recommended in the DASH diet. I have a bit of a sweet tooth. It is a challenge in today’s food environment!” Algert said.

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Healthy mind, healthy body


UCTV airs a woman’s guide to wellness in today’s challenging world.

In today’s fast-paced world, many women face a unique set of pressures as they juggle life at home, at work, with their friends and even their appearance. This six-part UCSF Osher Mini Medical School series on UCTV investigates the origins of these stressors and their physiological impacts, as well as current scientifically-proven strategies for managing priorities, fostering wellness and achieving a balanced portfolio for health.

Programs include:

The Female Brain: Balancing Social Expectations with Your Own Health
First air date: Feb. 4

Body Image: Don’t Let “Ideal” Get in the Way of Real Health
First air date: Feb. 11

Women and Sleep: From Stressful to Restful
First air date: Feb. 18

Mind Your Heart: Stress, Mental Health and Heart Disease
First air date: Feb. 25

Family Caregiving as Fate but also Opportunity: Views from Mind and Body
First air date: March 4

Overcoming the Superwoman Syndrome: Creating Your Personal Path to Wellness
First air date: March 11

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UC WorkStrong helps employees with repeat injuries get healthier


Program taking shape on UC campuses such as UCLA.

UCLA's Danny Flores, in a warehouse at University Apartments South where he works, shed 20 pounds so far through the WorkStrong program.

Danny Flores’ New Year’s resolution has a ring of familiarity to many of us: He’s determined to eat healthier, exercise and shed 10 pounds. Fortunately for Flores, a 16-year employee with UCLA Housing and Hospitality Services, there’s a high probability that he will actually reach his goal.

That’s because Flores has gotten one-on-one help from a personal-fitness trainer, a registered dietitian and a motivational-wellness coach to put him on the road to better health. And he’s now working out at a campus gym on a free pass that’s good through April.

A special 12-week program — offered to him through the combined efforts of UC’s Office of Insurance and Risk Management, UCLA’s Occupational Health Facility and UCLA Recreation and funded by UCLA’s Office of Risk Management — has empowered him to get healthy by giving him access to UCLA’s personal coaches in health, fitness and behavior modification. And it’s paid off — he’s already taken 20 pounds off his 5-foot-8 frame over the last three months.

“Having different people right there to motivate you … it’s an unbelievable support group,” said Flores. “Honestly, if it was just me doing this on my own, I would have given up. But if I make a commitment to someone, I will come through. Obligate me, make me responsible for something, and I will come through.”

Flores is one of a small pool of UCLA employees who have been invited to join the WorkStrong program, which got under way at UCLA last April but really picked up steam over the summer. So far, 46 UCLA employees have participated and eight have completed it to date. The program was launched systemwide by the UC Office of the President to help those employees who are most prone to workplace injuries — people who have been injured on the job at least twice within a 24-month period.

Run on the Westwood campus out of the Occupational and Employee Health Facility on the sixth floor of the Center for the Health Sciences, WorkStrong is designed to help employees improve their overall health and thereby cut their risk for reinjury, said Dr. T. Warner Hudson, director of the facility.

“Many people join an employer when they are young, lean and healthy with good blood pressure and good weight,” the physician said. “But over time, people can gradually pick up weight, get high blood pressure and diabetes, develop sore backs and knees, and maybe even have heart attacks and strokes. But people can turn this around. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have data that show that about 75 percent of chronic health conditions can be avoided if people adopt a healthier lifestyle.”

To find out whether this holistic approach works, UC San Francisco did a pilot study with 73 employees who had been injured and gave them access to personal trainers, dietitians, smoking-cessation programs and behavior-modification coaches. After four years, researchers found only one of the participants had been reinjured.

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Related link:
Healthy Campus Initiative takes shape, thanks to innovative UCLA-wide effort

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Arsenic & old rice


Wellness Letter: Chronic arsenic exposure from rice, other foods poses long-term health risks.

Bowls of rice and grainsArsenic, a naturally occurring element and industrial byproduct, poses a significant health risk to millions of people worldwide when it leaches into drinking water. It’s highly poisonous at high doses, but chronic exposure to lower levels increases the risk of bladder, lung and skin cancer, as well as infertility and possibly diabetes, heart disease and other conditions.

Though this is often thought of as a major problem only in developing countries, such as Bangladesh, the U.S. has arsenic problems of its own. In fact, it’s estimated that over two million Americans drink water from private wells that have high arsenic concentrations. This past year, arsenic made headlines on several occasions for its presence in rice and other foods, too.

Against the grain

In September, Consumer Reports released results of its analysis of 223 rice samples, which included white and brown, organic and conventionally grown, domestic and imported, and brand-name and store-brand rices. It also tested rice-based products, such as rice cereals, beverages, pasta, flour, and crackers. Virtually all were found to contain both inorganic arsenic (a known human carcinogen) and organic arsenic (considered less harmful but still of concern) — many at “worrisome levels.” In this context, the term “organic” refers to the element’s chemistry, not whether the food was grown organically.

There were wide variations in the findings — after all, there are many different kinds of rice grown all over the world and under different conditions. But some trends emerged: White rice from Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas (where most U.S. rice comes from) had more total and inorganic arsenic than rice grown elsewhere (including California, India and Thailand). And within the same brands, brown rice had more arsenic than white rice (some arsenic is removed when the grain’s outer layer is stripped during processing to make white rice). Preliminary results from an FDA analysis of 200 rice products, also released in September, were consistent with those of Consumer Reports; results from about a thousand more samples are due out shortly.

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