Oct 2, 2014, 9:52 AM, Posted by
I recently returned from the Health 2.0 conference in California, which drew 2,000 health care innovators. One of the most popular Health 2.0 sessions was called “The Unmentionables”—where speakers discussed those important things that affect our health but we are often afraid to address. I participated in this year’s session where we talked stress—what it is and how it’s making us sick.
I’m an avid cyclist. That means I train a lot. Training on a bike means purposefully and intensely stressing your body—sometimes ridiculously hard—in order to make your body stronger, fitter and faster. In that sense stress can be really good. You can’t get stronger without it.
But here’s the key: as you ratchet up that stress—the miles, the hours on the bike, the intensity—you must work just as hard on the flipside, the buffering. The more you train, the more you have to focus on the rest, the sleep, your social supports, the yoga, the nutrition—whatever it takes.
If you don’t buffer you will burn out, get injured or sick, or all of the above. Without buffers, the stress will crush you.
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Sep 23, 2014, 11:42 AM, Posted by
As a kid, when you went to the beach, did you ever play that game where you’d wade into the ocean and test your strength against the waves? You'd stand your ground or get knocked over, and after a few minutes, you'd head back to shore.
We didn’t realize it at the time, but as we felt those waves roll by, we were getting an early glimpse of the stresses of everyday life. The difference is, as adults we can't choose to stand up to just the small ones. And for the most part, going back to shore is not an option.
In a survey RWJF conducted with the Harvard School of Public Health and NPR, about half of the public reported experiencing a major stressful event in the past year. In more than four in 10 instances, people reported events related specifically to health. Many also reported feeling a lot of stress connected with jobs and finances, family situations, and responsibility in general.
Over time, those waves can take their toll. And when they become overwhelming, they can truly wear us down, seriously affecting our both our physical and emotional health.
So how can we deal with these waves of stress? Certainly, there are proactive things we can all do help manage its effect on our lives—exercise, for example. At the same time, we’ve probably all experienced instances when we’d love nothing more than to get up early for a run or brisk walk—but don’t have the energy because stress kept us up at night. Or we may just be too tapped out from long hours, relationship struggles, caring for loved ones, etc., to spare the energy or the time.
If this sounds familiar, consider yourself human. Right next to you, whether at work, on the train, in your grocery store, is probably someone whose waves are similar to or bigger than your own. So at the same time as you try to manage your stress, ask yourself: What could be done to help others achieve a solid footing? In this ocean of ours, there’s never a shortage of opportunity to lend a helping hand.
Have an idea to help move from a culture of stress to a Culture of Health in the home, workplace or community? Please share below—we’d love to hear from you.
Sep 4, 2014, 9:18 AM, Posted by
John R. Lumpkin
What word describes the current state of obesity in the United States?
How about the unexpected: Optimistic.
You might think that would be the least likely descriptor. After all, the annual report The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America, released today by Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), says adult obesity rates went up in six states over last year.
The obesity rate is now at or above 30 percent in 20 states (as high as 35 percent in Mississippi and West Virginia), and not below 21 percent in any. Colorado has the lowest rate at 21.3 percent, which still puts it higher than today’s highest state—Mississippi—was 20 years ago. The childhood obesity headlines are difficult to swallow as well. As of 2011-2012, nearly one out of three children and teens ages 2 to 19 is overweight or obese. Similar to adults, racial and ethnic disparities persist. And rates are higher still among Black and Latino communities.
But if we look a little deeper, we see a hint of promise on the horizon.
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Aug 13, 2014, 9:16 AM, Posted by
The second week of August is one of the worst weeks of the year for me. At least it has been since 2008.
Six years ago this week, my friend Dave decided he had enough of the daily struggles of this world and took his own life on a trailhead in the desert near Tucson, Ariz.
He was 31 years old and left behind a fiancé, family, and scores of friends who loved him deeply.
Dave was one of the most incredible people I’ve ever known: a generous soul, full of humor, creativity, compassion, and love. He had more friends than anyone I know. Dave elevated everyone who knew him, inspiring them to find joy, open their minds, chase dreams, and see beauty in the world. It is impossible to count the lives Dave changed for the better, including my own.
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Aug 11, 2014, 9:52 AM, Posted by
How can we help people get more sleep?
I asked that question in a blog post back in February. Since then, I’ve been actively exploring the area of sleep health. I’ve talked with researchers, behavioral economists, physicians and mindfulness experts. I’ve talked with people who think they get enough sleep, and people who think they don’t. I’ve talked with anyone I can to discover what we need to know and do in order to help Americans sleep.
Sleep has tremendous ripple effects on our overall health and well-being. Lack of sleep affects your brain. There’s evidence that it affects your working memory. And as any new parent will confirm, we don’t need research to tell us that those who are sleep deprived are less able to control their tempers.
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Aug 7, 2014, 1:30 AM, Posted by
Jane Isaacs Lowe
As we work to build a Culture of Health for all Americans, it is time to end the stigmatizing distinctions between mental and physical health. After all, the brain and the body are in constant contact, and affect the well-being of each other in too many ways to count. A true Culture of Health recognizes the interdependence of mental and physical health, and places a premium on prevention and early detection of illness, regardless of type.
We commonly provide preemptive treatment or suggest early lifestyle changes for people at risk for diabetes before the condition evolves into full-blown disease. Yet, we typically don’t approach care for serious mental illness in the same way. It’s time for that to change.
The results from a recently released national study of the Early Detection and Intervention for the Prevention of Psychosis Program (EDIPPP), a project RWJF funded between 2006 and 2013, demonstrate that early intervention to prevent the onset or progression of psychosis in teenagers and young adults improves health and well-being. By helping family members, pediatricians, teachers, young people, and other community members identify young people experiencing early symptoms of serious mental health problems, EDIPPP was able to engage and treat these young people early. That early intervention in turn helped them stay in school, remain employed, and maintain vital connections to family and friends. These benefits mitigated the effects of mental illness, and allowed these teens and young adults to lead healthier and more productive lives.
This study should shift our thinking about how we best treat young people at high risk of serious mental illness. It should also remind us to look at good health and good health practices through a much broader lens, because building a Culture of Health means finding and sharing solutions, and celebrating signs of progress.
Read a Washington Post article on the program
Read a first-person post about depression and the best way to support those who are suffering with it
Read a post by Brent Thompson on bipolar disorder and the death of a friend
Jul 11, 2014, 12:04 PM, Posted by
Just about everybody experiences stress, to a greater or lesser degree. The bad news: Too many of us fall into the "greater" category.
All of that stress has consequences not just for our mental health, but for our overall wellbeing, says Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, writing in the professional social networking site LinkedIn.
Lavizzo-Mourey cites the results of a recent NPR/RWJF/Harvard School of Public Health poll, which shows:
- One in four said they experienced a great deal of stress in the previous month.
- Almost half reported a major stressful event or experience within the past year.
- Seventy-four percent said stress affected their health.
- Forty-three percent said that a health concern is a leading cause of their stress.
- Eighty percent of people in poor health reported that their health problems raised their level of stress.
If we are to make progress in building a Culture of Health, we need to acknowledge the deleterious role of stress in Americans' lives and health—and everybody needs to be at the table.
"This is clearly an area where health care providers, communities, and employers can help," Lavizzo-Mourey writes.
Read Lavizzo-Mourey's blog post on LinkedIn
Jul 7, 2014, 11:36 AM, Posted by
Nearly half of us suffer through one major stressful event every year, and the weight of that stress can be heavy indeed. Take, for example, trouble at work, problems in a personal relationship, or the death of someone close to you.
At the top of the list: health issues—either yours, or those of a loved one. In fact, a health concern is the leading cause of stress for 43 percent of us. And all of that emotional turmoil can have a ripple effect, extending out into the realm of our overall well-being.
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