Follow These Tips to Avoid Catching the Flu


Is something going around the office? Or did your kid bring it home from school? The sounds of coughing, sniffling, noses being blown—these are signs that flu season is back.

 We thought it would be a good time to offer some tips on how to avoid and/or contain the spread of flu in your immediate world. Take note:

  • Get a flu vaccine. The vaccine protects you and the people around you from three to four different strains of the flu that experts predict will be the most common this flu season. This means, of course, that the vaccine is not 100% effective, so keep reading for other ways to stay healthy.
     
  • Wash your dang hands. And do it a lot! Keep alcohol-based hand sanitizers at your desk. Use it frequently. Clean your keyboards, mouse, and telephone, too.
     
  • Cough or sneeze into your sleeve. Or if you’re worried about phlegm all over your good cardigan, keep tissues handy. Keep your tissues next to your hand sanitizer.
     
  • Stay hydrated and eat well. Drinking plenty of water and maintaining a good diet have been shown to boost the immune system and help rid your body of toxins.
     
  • Be mindful when in “flu zones.” Wherever lots of people congregate—at the mall (especially during the holiday shopping season), in the lecture hall, on public transportation—be extra aware of all the things that all the people touch! Think of door handles, light switches, table tops and other surfaces. Keep your hands away from your face and mouth. Have a travel-size bottle of hand sanitizer on you.
     
  • Get plenty of sleep and stay active. Your immune system will thank you. And stay on top of your weekly Activity Points goals!
     
  • Remove stressors from your life when and where you can. The flu loves nothing more than when you’ve pushed yourself past your limits. Stress can hamper your immune system’s ability to fight off the flu. Here are some tips on how to stay chill during the holiday season—or anytime, really.

Obviously, we can’t guarantee you’ll successfully avoid the flu by following these tips, but you may protect someone else from getting sick.

If you do get sick, stay home! Don’t go to work, keep your distance from frail loved ones like small children or elders, and don’t plan on rejoining civilization until you’ve been fever-free for at least 24 hours.

For more information on influenza, including symptoms and other prevention techniques, head over to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Five Things You Need to Know to Lose Weight


Losing weight is often difficult to do, especially if you have tried in the past, maybe even shed a few pounds, but failed to keep the weight off. This feeling of failure makes it even harder to build up the motivation to give it another go.

I am here to quell some myths about weight loss, and to empower you with the knowledge you need to lose weight healthfully—and to keep it off!

Here are 5 things you need to know to lose weight:


1. Calories in, calories out.

For the most part, the only way to lose weight is to consume fewer calories than you burn from exercise, daily life, sleep, and the thermic effects of food (i.e. calories burned while digesting). If you consume 500 calories less than you burn every day for a week, you will lose one pound. If this sounds difficult or confusing, here’s a way to make it easy: Your Microsoft Band will accurately estimate the number of calories you burn throughout a day, so all you have to do is track the calories you consume. And there are great apps for tracking calorie consumption, such as “Lose It” and “MyFitnessPal.” And, really, all you have to remember is to eat 500 fewer calories than you burn!

 
2. Exercise is your friend.

While not necessary to lose weight, exercise will make your body burn more calories and therefore speed up the process. It’s just that simple. Check out my tips on how to get started with an exercise routine. There are also numerous other health benefits associated with exercise, including reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, and it increases bone and muscle strength.


3. Watch what you put on your plate.

There is no one-size-fits-all meal plan for every person, and we all have different dietary needs, based on age, sex, cultural/religious beliefs, activity level, and health history. But here are some tips that everyone can adopt as positive eating habits:

  • Choose foods and beverages with less saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.
  • Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein foods, dairy (unless otherwise specified by a dietician), and oils.
  • Make sure to monitor portion size and track calories using a food diary or an app like "Lose It."
  • For more information about how to balance your meal plan, go to https://www.choosemyplate.gov/

 
4. Drinking your calories is a no-no!

This may be a tough one for a lot of us. Drinking sugary drinks like soda, Gatorade, and sweet tea is a quick way to consume too many calories! In fact, did you know that one 20-oz. bottle of soda contains your maximum recommended sugar intake for 2.6 days?! Stick to water, low-fat milk, and coffee and tea without sugar to achieve fluid balance.

 
5. Don’t stress about it.

Don’t try to do it all in the first day. Make incrementally healthy changes every week, and over time you will gain confidence and your hard work will begin to pay off.

~Marco

Marco Day, an ImagineCare Health Navigator, is a Certified Personal Trainer and Movement Training Specialist. Prior to joining ImagineCare, he worked with clients at River Valley Club in Lebanon, NH, on exercise program design and prescription, weight-loss corrective exercise prescription, and personal training. He loves any opportunity to help people make positive health changes.

Tackling Vitamin D Deficiency and a Case of the SADs


If you live in the northern half of the United States, you're noticing the air getting cooler, the leaves on the trees in full color (and falling), and the birds heading south. Yes, fall is definitely here, winter’s on the horizon, and with that comes shorter days and longer nights.

You (or someone you know) may be noticing that during these shorter, darker days you’re feeling symptoms of depression, less energetic, and more irritable. No, you’re not going crazy. What may be happening is that you’re experiencing the lack of a rather underappreciated vitamin: Vitamin D.

Vitamin D, created by the body when UVB rays from the sun come in contact with the skin, is best known for being responsible for helping the body absorb calcium, and in this way it helps to strengthen bones. Vitamin D is also partially responsible for control of genes related to different cancers, autoimmune diseases, and infection.

And although research is still being developed around the link between depression and Vitamin D, researchers have pinpointed a correlation between people who are battling depression and lower-than-normal levels of Vitamin D in their blood. Conversely, people who have higher levels of Vitamin D in their blood have a lower risk of becoming depressive.

Location Matters

If you live above the 37th parallel (37 degrees latitude) anywhere in the world, you are at an increased risk for Vitamin D deficiency between the months of September and May. During these months, the angle of the sun does not allow for our bodies to synthesize Vitamin D from UVB, and at the peak of winter we are lucky if we get 10 hours of daylight per day. This combination leads some individuals to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD can cause irritability, tiredness, anxiety, depression, poor appetite, weight loss, and excessive sleepiness, to name a few symptoms.

Food Matters

So now you’re probably saying to yourself, “Well, Nat, I can’t move south every winter like the birds, so what should I do to reduce my risk of Vitamin D deficiency?” Well, you’re in luck!

Preventing Vitamin D deficiency—and the negative health aspects associated with it—can be easy. A study published in Harvard Women’s Health Watch has shown that by taking 1100 IUs of Vitamin D and 1400-1500 mg of calcium per day, you can reduce your risk of Vitamin D deficiency and other diseases by up to 77% after four years.

One way to get your recommended Vitamin D is from a pill supplement. Or, that same Harvard study points us to certain foods that are high in Vitamin D, such as:

Salmon (3.5 oz.) = 360 IU
Mackerel (3.5 oz.) = 345 IU
Tuna (3.5 oz., canned) = 200 IU
Orange juice (8 oz., fortified) = 100 IU
Milk (8 oz., fortified) = 98 IU
Breakfast cereal (1 serving, fortified) = 40-100 IU

(Source: Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health)

Eating foods that are high in Vitamin D and combining them with supplemental Vitamin D and calcium can make all the difference in your mood during these months.

It is important that you pay attention to how you are feeling as the seasons change, and if you are noticing that you are feeling sleepy, slower, sad, or just plain lousy this winter, and if you’re north of the 37th parallel, you might just be suffering from Vitamin D deficiency. Now you know what to do.

If you’re showing symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency and want to talk to one of our Registered Nurses or Health Navigators, send a text in the ImagineCare app.

~Nat

Nat Williams, a Resource Health Navigator for ImagineCare, earned a degree in Wellness and Alternative Medicine from Johnson State College. As a wellness coach, he loves to be able to have one-on-one conversations with people about their health and is passionate about finding new ways to empower them to take control of their own health. Outside of ImagineCare, you’ll find Nat outdoors, going for a hike, riding his mountain bike, camping, or just lying in his hammock. You can’t spell Nature without Nat.