Friday, December 14, 2012

We Moved!

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By Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom
My blog now has a new home! Come check us out at

We hope you like the new look! Please remember to OPT IN to our mailing list since we can't carry over our present email subscribers. 

At our new site, you'll still find my twice weekly "MyHealth Matters Blog." We are also introducing some additional bloggers from our health team. From time to time, you'll be hearing from two of our health coaches, and two physicians who will be covering topics from preventive health to physical activity to recipe makeovers. 

With our new interactive site, we hope you’ll provide feedback and comments on our blogs to expand our health dialogue with you. And feel free to suggest some topics you’d like to hear about.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Walking 101

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By Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom
College credit for walking? That’s what the University of Georgia offers as one of its fitness classes for students. Whether this is a good sign or bad sign for our nation’s fitness is debatable. 
Most of us are very familiar with the public health message about the multiple benefits of walking. A daily 20- to 30-minute walk supports cardiovascular health, weight control, and stress management. But how many of us actually follow that advice? The results might surprise you.
Nearly 40% of Americans report that they “do not exercise.” This percentage has remained stable for many years. National recommendations for daily physical activity are actually quite modest: a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. This translates to about a half hour of brisk walking five days a week. Some recent evidence using more sophisticated activity sensors (instead of self-report information) suggests that only around 4% of adults meet that goal.
Why is it such a challenge for us to move more? There are many behavioral strategies used to engage people in lifestyle changes that can be both initiated and sustained, and these ideas have been translated to making physical activity a “habit.” This is a big help to many people. 
But I also believe we sometimes over-think the concept of moving more. When we think too much about being physically active – creating the time and determining the activity – it can sometimes be too daunting and discouraging. I’d like to borrow the iconic line from Nike: “Just do it.” 
Just do what, you might ask? Become a more active person in everything you do – what I call the “activity of daily living.” Be mindful of taking more steps in your day. Stand instead of sit, have a walking meeting, and be less efficient in your home so you make multiple trips up and down the stairs. 
Small steps – literally – add up to big change. How have you tried to boost your activity in everyday ways?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Holiday Season Energy Boosters

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By Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom

With the holiday season adding extra activities to our already busy lives, we all sometimes feel we’re running low on energy. And this lack of energy can become a barrier to enjoyment. Below are three of my favorite strategies for boosting holiday energy in a healthy way.  I hope they’ll also work for you!
Structure Your Eating.  Make sure to pre-plan your eating day; avoid skipping meals. No time for lunch? Try a protein bar or shake along with fruit if you’re on the run. Carry a small bag of nuts and/or dried fruit with you for a quick emergency energy boost, especially in the late afternoon. When you avoid getting “over-hungry” it’s much easier to resist the holiday treats on every desk and in office break rooms! 
Don’t Skimp on Sleep. While it might be tempting to cut back on your sleep to lengthen your active day, fight that urge. Aim for at least seven hours nightly during this busy season. When you’re rested, you’ll be much more efficient with your time the next day and you’ll get more accomplished.  
Actively Manage Your Stress. Most of us accept that high stress levels go along with the holidays and believe there’s no solution. There are many stressors you can control to support a happier and less frazzled season. Learn to say NO. You don’t have to say yes to every holiday request. When you do say yes, make the request work for you. Asked to bring cookies for your child’s holiday party? Don’t add the pressure of baking; visit a local bakery. Or offer to bring napkins and plates instead of food. 
And avoid the “energy booster” drinks on the market. Loaded with caffeine, sugar, and often other stimulants, chugging down these drinks can be risky to your health.
Watch the video below and let me know what tips you have for boosting your holiday season energy. At this time of year, we need all the help we can get!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The “Fat Tax” in Denmark

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By Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom
There’s a lot of debate about whether high-calorie “junk” foods should be taxed to help stem the obesity epidemic in our country. Maybe we can gain some insights from the recent policy change in Denmark.
About a year ago, Danish lawmakers instituted a fat tax — a surcharge of foods high in artery-clogging saturated fat. The Danish tax ministry has now repealed that decision, citing a negative effect on both businesses and consumer buying power.
So what went wrong? Perhaps one problem was taxing a whole category of nutrients (fat) rather than specific foods. The bigger problem seems to be that consumers just bought these foods elsewhere. They went to neighboring countries where prices were lower to buy their favorite butters and ice creams.
Most of us are familiar with the “soda tax” issue in our country. Most recently, a bill that would have imposed taxes on sugary drinks was defeated in California. 
The Danish legislature has now cancelled plans for a tax on sugar. 
Is taxing food a good way to improve the health of a nation? What do you think?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Don’t Mix These Meds with Grapefruit!

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By Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom
Grapefruits are one of nature’s perfect fruits – low in sugar, rich in fiber, and a great source of vitamin C. But this fruit also contains a compound that can interfere with the activity of some prescription medications. A new study published this week in the Canadian Medical Association Journal reveals that the number of these drugs has significantly increased over the past few years. Researchers estimate that there are 43 drugs (26 having been introduced to the market in the past 4 years) that have been shown to cause serious harm in susceptible individuals when mixed with grapefruit.

There are three major categories of drugs that can have serious negative effects when combined with grapefruit:

- Cholesterol lowering statins
- Some heart drugs, like beta-blockers
- Some antibiotics

While food and drug interactions are printed on every label and stated on package inserts, many people do not take these warnings seriously.  The best step is to talk with your doctor, or stop in and speak with the pharmacist where you fill your prescriptions to see if grapefruit (or other foods) interact with your medication.  For some medications, grapefruit can increase the apparent dosage substantially due to grapefruit’s impact on drug metabolism. Grapefruits contain compounds called “furanocourmarins” that inhibit the normal metabolism of a medication, producing higher levels of medication in the bloodstream. 

This is of particular concern for seniors,  who generally take more medications and cannot tolerate higher dosages.

Importantly, most drugs do NOT interact with grapefruit, so it’s important to know which medications might put your at risk.  

And all citrus is not created equal when it comes to  medicine interactions. Oranges appear to have an effect, but to a much lower degree. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist for all food and drug interactions that might impact on your overall health.