Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

NIFS: Go Red for Heart Health

heart healthThe first Friday in February has been designated National Wear Red Day to raise awareness about heart disease in women.  Over a decade ago, research showed that heart disease was the leading cause of death in women and was deemed the silent killer because symptoms often go unnoticed. 

There are ways you can take steps to reduce your risk for heart disease, take control of your life and your heart health!

  • Be Active: Get off the couch and get moving.  Individuals who get little to no physical activity are at a much higher risk for heart disease.  Get up and moving daily to increase your physical activity, simply cleaning your house or doing yard work can lower your risk. 
  • Healthy Plate = Healthy Heart: Choose foods low in fat and cholesterol and increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables.  Blueberries are a great source of antioxidants which help reduce risk!  Your cholesterol levels are also a risk factor, simply improving your diet will help reduce those numbers which in turn will lower your risk.
  • Quit Smoking: CVS recently pulled the plug on selling tobacco, so now it’s your turn to stop smoking.  Individuals who smoke have twice the risk of having a heart attack than non-smokers.  If you need tips for how to quit, talk to your doctor or ask your corporate wellness staff where you can find resources to help you quit.
  • Control Blood Pressure: As the most common risk factor, over fifty million people have hypertension.  If your blood pressure is consistently 140/90 or higher you are considered hypertensive.  Speak with your physician about how to manage your numbers.
  • Manage your Stress: Find what techniques work for you, exercise is a great way to reduce stress.  Make time to incorporate 30 minutes into your day to take your mind off your stressors. Individuals with poorly managed stress are at risk for heart attack or stroke. 

Join the movement to help raise awareness.  Talk to the women in your family to make positive changes in becoming healthier together.

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Topics: cardiovascular disease heart disease nifs fitness management wear red day healthy behaviors

An End to the Dark vs. Milk Chocolate Debate

chocolate heartIt’s Valentine’s Day… the chocolate lover’s favorite holiday! With boxes of chocolate at home and bowls of goodies at the worksite, you can’t help but indulge. You’ve heard it all before: dark chocolate is better for you than milk chocolate, everything in moderation, and so on, but is one really better for employee health than the other? Let’s divvy up the facts before we divvy up the chocolate.

We know that chocolate is derived from the cocoa bean, but where do the health benefits come from?

  • Antioxidants: A high concentration of antioxidants has been proven to come from the cocoa bean. These chemicals aid the body in eliminating free radicals that promote disease and cause damage to the cells in your body.
  • Flavonoids: Epicatechin, which is found in the cocoa bean, helps to improve cardiovascular function by improving blood circulation and relaxation of the blood vessels, which in turn helps to improve blood pressure. A chocolate a day just might keep the heart doctor away!

So what is the difference between milk chocolate and dark chocolate?

Dark chocolate contains little to no extra sugar and a larger quantity of cocoa (60 percent or more). This increases the amount of flavonoids; therefore, there are more antioxidants present. Since milk chocolate contains milk, along with added sugar, the flavonoids are at lower levels due to a possible interaction with milk. This leaves dark chocolate healthier. By choosing dark chocolate, you can also reduce the risk of blood clots, improve your mood, and help lower cholesterol levels.

It’s recommended that you choose chocolate that is at least 60 percent cocoa and consume only one ounce per day, which is equivalent to about one piece of Dove chocolate or 2 Dark Hershey Kisses. Forget the white chocolate; it contains no cocoa, so it provides no antioxidants for the body.

As hard as it might be, consume chocolate in moderation and don’t overindulge.

With all this chocolate talk, what chocolate treat do you prefer on this chocolate lover’s holiday? Leave a comment on our blog or visit the NIFS Fitness Management Facebook page and take our poll.

Topics: employee health nutrition cardiovascular disease antioxidants cholesterol hypertension

Employee Health: Could You Be a "Heart Attack Waiting to Happen"?

This blog was written by Jenna Pearson. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

heart health, employee wellness, family historyIt is no secret that heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, with more than 27% of all deaths being attributed to Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). What is shocking is that apparently healthy individuals are dying of heart disease every single day. In fact, 39% of American adults perceive themselves as having ideal heart health, while less than 1% actually do.

Are you healthy? You might say “I exercise regularly and eat right,” but is that enough? Doctors agree that, in most cases, a healthy diet and adequate exercise are not enough. While both are very important, they are simply pieces of the puzzle that come together to create a picture of optimal health. It may sound obvious, but in order to get yourself closer to an ideal state of health you need to become educated in two areas:

  1. Your current state of health.
  2. What it actually means to be healthy.

One way to “grade” your heart health is through risk stratification. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) presents the following as positive risk factors for CAD:

  • Family history: Heart attack, bypass, or sudden death in first-degree male relatives before 55 years of age, or before 65 years of age.
  • Cigarette smoking: Current smokers or those who quit within the preceding 6 months.
  • Hypertension: High blood pressure defined as systolic pressure (top number) being greater than or equal to 140 mm Hg, OR diastolic pressure (bottom number) being greater than or equal to 90 mm Hg.
  • Dyslipidemia: High cholesterol defined as LDL (“bad”) cholesterol greater than 130 mg/dL, OR HDL (“good”) cholesterol less than 40 mg/dL, OR on lipid-lowering medication. Having HDL greater than 60 mg/dL is considered to be a negative risk factor, and thus negates a positive risk factor.
  • Impaired fasting glucose: Fasting blood glucose (“blood sugar”) greater than or equal to 100 mg/dL.
  • Obesity: Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 30, OR waist girth greater than 102 cm for men and 88 cm for women, OR waist-to-hip ratio greater than or equal to .95 in males and .86 in females.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Persons not participating in a regular exercise program or not meeting minimal physical activity recommendations.

Knowing your individual risk factors for CAD is the first step toward reaching ideal heart health. Do you know where you stand? Have you had an annual physical or participated in a Know Your Number health screening? If so, congratulations! You are on your way to better health!

Topics: employee health disease prevention cardiovascular disease Body Mass Index heart disease