Healthy UNH Blogger: Kelley Simpson, All Entries

Kick Your Smoking Habits to the Curb to Decrease Health Care Costs

Monday, August 12, 2013
By: Kelley Simpson

 

Smoking is a tough habit to break, but if you can steer clear of tobacco you can significantly decrease your health care costs! Cigarette smoking is the number one cause of preventable death and disease in the United States. High health care costs are a result of unhealthy behaviors and smoking is certainly one of these. By kicking this addictive habit to the curb you will be creating a healthier lifestyle for yourself and lowering your healthcare costs. The American Lung Association reported that cigarette smoking costs our nation nearly $193 billion annually, or an average of $4,260 for each individual smoker. Cigarette smoke contains nearly 70 different chemicals that are known carcinogens and it is responsible for 90% of lung cancer cases. Trade in your pack of cigarettes for better health!

Not only will smoking cessation save you from many future healthcare costs, but it will also be saving the hole in your wallet! Purchasing cigarettes on a regular basis is expensive! In New Hampshire, an average pack of cigarettes is $5.87. This price adds up quickly. Think about positive things you could be doing with this money instead. Cigarette smoking often adds to higher health insurance premiums and added medical bills due to smoking-related illnesses. Chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and lung cancer are common occurrences. United Health Care reported that quitting smoking can save up to $20,000 in health care bills throughout your lifetime. They also stated that $96 billion a year are spent on smoking-related illnesses. Not only will you be saving money by parting ways with cigarettes but you will also be on your way to becoming a healthier person. It doesn't take long for your general health to improve after kicking cigarettes to the curb!

UNH Health Services offers tobacco cessation programs and wants to help our campus become smoke-free. They reported that 5 out of 6 UNH students do not smoke and 7 out of the 10 smokers want to quit. You can visit Health Services website for more information, and also check out their YouTube video to learn about some statistics and cigarette smoking rules on UNH campus!

Tagged In: bronchitis, carcinogens, cigarette, costs, emphysema, habit, Health Care Consumerism, Health care costs, health costs, Healthy UNH, insurance premiums, Kelley Simpson, lung cancer, smoke-free, smoking, smoking cessation, tobacco, UNH Health Services

The Truth about Antioxidants

Wednesday, July 24, 2013
By: Kelley Simpson

What are antioxidants anyway? Most people understand that they’re beneficial to health, but may be unsure of what they are or how they work! Our cells need oxygen to perform vital tasks, such as transferring energy stored in food, or for powering our muscles. When our cells use energy, they produce a by-product of organic molecules known as free-radicals.  Unfortunately, these free radicals are damaging to our bodies. They can lead to aging, tissue damage, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases. This is where antioxidants come in! They are used to help prevent and repair the damage of the free radicals.   The most common antioxidants are Vitamins A, C, and E, as well as Carotenoids, Lutein, Lycopene, and Selenium. Below is a list of foods to help you find these antioxidants! 

Vitamin A and Carotenoids- Carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, apricots, cantaloupe- Look for BRIGHT colored fruits and veggies!   If you didn’t know- carotenoids are naturally occurring pigments in foods (mostly red, yellow, and orange) that can be converted into vitamin A in your body. 

Vitamin E- Sunflower seeds, almonds, asparagus, green leafy vegetables, bell peppers, and kiwi 

Vitamin C- Strawberries, oranges, citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppers, green leafy vegetables, and broccoli 

Lutein- A green carotenoid pigment found in kale, broccoli, kiwi, spinach, brussels sprouts, peas, zucchini, and other green leafy vegetables 

Lycopene- A red carotenoid pigment found in grapefruit, watermelon, and tomato products 

Selenium- A trace mineral found in eggs, red meat, grains, fish, shellfish, chicken, and garlic

Other common antioxidants include Flavonoids which are found in red wine, tea, and cranberries, and Lignans which is found in oatmeal, flaxseed, and barley. 

Learn more about antioxidants at the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine; they have great resources on usage, safety and general information!

Tagged In: antioxidants, Carotenoids, free-radicals, Healthy UNH, Kelley Simpson, Lutein, Lycopene, Nutrition, prevent, repair, Slelnium, Vitamin A, vitamin C, Vitamin E

Meditation for Mental Health

Wednesday, June 26, 2013
By: Kelley Simpson

Do you often find yourself being anxious, stressed, or tense? Have you ever considered trying meditation to help you overcome these feelings?    Meditation has been shown to improve mental health, physical well being, and achieve an overall feeling of inner peace.  When taking part in meditation you will learn to let go of all thoughts and enter a state of consciousness.  This state can bring you the serenity and clarity you have been searching for.  This is a great way to clear your mind of crowded thoughts that are leading to your increasing stress levels.  Not only will you experience benefits while taking part in meditation, but the feeling of calmness will continue with you throughout your day.  Meditation is not only used to decrease stress levels but it also a great way to help reduce chronic and acute pain, decrease depression, and help rid yourself of sleep problems.  It has been shown that as little as 20 minutes of meditation a day can lead to decreased levels in blood pressure, lower heart rate, and deeper breathing.   A study published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes found that participants taking part in transcendental meditation had a 48% reduction for overall risk of stroke, heart attack, and cardiovascular disease.

Here are some quick fun facts about how meditation can help improve your health!

  • Increases your frontal brain activity which helps to create a positive mood
  • Long term meditators are shown to have increased grey matter which helps to control emotions
  • Protects the brain and heart from increased levels of stress
  • Reduces levels of psychological distress and anxiety
  • Increases self-awareness and helps you to focus on the present
  • Creates ways to manage your stress levels
  • Can help to stop feelings of fatigue and lessen issues such as binge eating, asthma, and allergies

Why not give it a try? Meditation is inexpensive and does not require any special equipment.  It can actually be done anywhere you are, at any time! The Institute of Applied Meditation gives great information on the different types of meditation that you can take part in. Check out their website as well as UNH Health Service's to decide which type fits best for you!

Tagged In: anxiety, cardiovascular, distress, Fatigue, Health, Healthy UNH, Meditation for Mental Health, Mental Health, mental wellness, pain, positive, Sleep, Stress, UNH Health Services

The Benefits of Dietary Supplements

Monday, June 24, 2013
By: Kelley Simpson

Dietary Supplements have become a staple in many Americans diets today.  There are hundreds of different dietary supplements available on market shelves and it can be overwhelming trying to decipher which products are both safe and effective.  One important thing to note is that the FDA does not monitor the production and safety of supplements—that is the manufacturer’s job.  This is why it is extra important to make sure you are purchasing from a reliable source! When consuming a healthy diet and purchasing a reliable product, many dietary supplements have been shown to be effective and very beneficial to health. Below is a list of some effective dietary supplements that may be beneficial to you. As always, before starting any health or nutrition program, check with your healthcare provider to make sure it is safe for you to do so.   

Chamomile- A popular herb that has been used to improve sleep patterns, soothe a sore throat, settle the stomach, relieve congestion, relieve nausea and heartburn, reduce menstrual cramps, and stimulate appetite. It acts as an antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory. You should not take Chamomile if you are pregnant, allergic to daises, or are taking an anticoagulant.

Flax Seed- Known as one of the most powerful plant foods it can help to combat chronic diseases, lower cholesterol, promote regular bowel movements, and help maintain clear arteries. Studies have shown that flax seed may help to reduce your risk of everything from heart disease to breast cancer, stroke and diabetes.  Its main ingredient is omega-3 fatty acids which help fight inflammation in the body and normalize heartbeat.  Flaxseed is also a great source of fiber!

Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements-  Studies have shown that this supplement may help to lower blood pressure, reduce triglycerides, slow the development of plaque in the arteries, and reduce the likelihood of heart attack and stroke

Coenzyme Q-10- This has become a very popular supplement lately.  Do you suffer from a lot of headaches? Lack of CoQ10, which is a compound made in the body, may be the cause of this! It also helps to stimulate metabolism, lower high blood pressure and enhance your immune system.

St. John’s Wort- This herbal supplement is used to treat mild depression, stomach upset, nausea, insomnia, skin wounds, burns, and other skin irritations. When taken as the only drug/supplement,  St. John’s Wort is one of the most effective dietary supplements on the market.  It may reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptives , so be cautious if you are using both.

Women’s Health, Dr. Oz and The Livestrong Foundation have also put together lists of what they consider the most beneficial supplements. 

Tagged In: chamomile, Coenzyme Q-10, Dietary Supplements, flax seed, Healthy UNH, Kelley Simpson, Nutrition, Omega-3 Fish Oil, St. John’s Wort

Employee Wellness Programs

Wednesday, May 22, 2013
By: Kelley Simpson

Employee Wellness Programs Cutting Healthcare Costs

An employee wellness program is a great way to promote health and wellness among your staff. Prevention is key to lowering healthcare costs! Not only will this benefit each employee on an individual level but it will also help to lower healthcare costs within a company.  Employee wellness programs are designed to improve general health and well being, increase work ethic and decrease potential injury or illness.  These programs also help to encourage employees to become stronger team players within their work environment.  Program topics may include weight management, tobacco cessation, healthy snack choices, prevention strategies, physical activity importance and onsite health care availability.  The program can go in many different directions depending on what is most interesting to each employee and will be most beneficial for them in the long run.  How about creating some fun competition in the workplace by joining together to train for a 5k race? Or maybe by recording your daily number of steps using a pedometer and comparing them with your fellow employees? It’s easy, fun and rewarding!  A healthier worker leads to decreased absenteeism and possible increase in productivity.  Reduction in health care costs leads to saved money for both the business and the employees.  This seems like a win-win situation!

One example of an employee wellness program is Sentara Health Care; a large health-based company out of Virginia. They launched a three year wellness program called “Mission Health” where they were able to save $3.4 million in employee health care costs throughout 100 work sites. Not only did they save a great deal of money but they also prevented many potential chronic diseases and injuries for their employees! Their program focused on addressing risk factors for chronic diseases and obesity and looked at ways to improve physical activity and decrease tobacco use. Prevention is the easiest way to reduce healthcare costs and employee wellness programs are a great example of this! By working with large companies to increase healthy habits and improve overall wellness we are working to decrease healthcare costs for our nation as a whole. 

For UNH students graduating this year and entering a professional work setting, keep this in mind! Before committing to a new job, make sure to look into the company’s health insurance program and see what health benefits they offer. Check to see if they offer an employee wellness program!  By participating in one of these programs you will be helping yourself move toward a healthier lifestyle while also saving money. As for students interested in the health and wellness field, consider a job as a wellness program specialist or coordinator!

Tagged In: employee wellness program, Fitness, Health Cost, Healthy UNH, Kelley Simpson, lower costs, Physical Activity

Is Overuse of Technology Affecting Mental Health?

Monday, May 13, 2013
By: Kelley Simpson

Whether we like it or not, technology has become a part of our everyday lives.  We rely on it for quick information, social networking, job searching, school related assignments, and entertainment for when we are bored. But is being constantly connected to the technological world affecting student’s mental health? It is rare to find a college student that does not have a cell phone, laptop computer, email and Facebook account.  A poll taken by The Jed Foundation found that 90% of college students used a social networking site within the last week.  These tools are great for getting school work finished, communicating with friends, staying connected with family while away at school, and for getting in touch with professors.  It is important though to make sure that students are not becoming overly reliant on their technological devices and letting them take control of their lives.  Maintaining face- to- face interaction is a key part of mental health. 

School is definitely a very stressful part of life and although technology can work to ease the stress and simplify your work load, it may have the reverse affect.  Do you ever find yourself stressing over not getting a reply from your latest text message? Or maybe you find yourself constantly checking your Facebook to make sure you’re caught up on your social circle, or to see the number of likes you got on a photo.  If the results were not what you expected or had hoped for, it could really take a toll on your emotional health.  Over thinking a situation, excessive worrying, misreading a person’s feelings or taking something out of context can all be a result of this.  Many people have been harassed or disrespected online which can lead to lower self-esteem and other insecurities.  Social media websites can also negatively affect relationships through misunderstandings of things that were said or done online.  Talking over an issue face-to-face still remains the most efficient and successful way to resolve a problem.    Technology was created to make our lives simpler…not stressful!  Removing negative stress from your life is a major part of mental health.  It is important to recognize your reliance on technological devices to make sure that it is only leading to positive outcomes on your health.  Here are a few tips for balancing technology with everyday life.

Be present! During class time be present in the moment and participate in activities and engage in conversation.  Turn off your cell phone and keep from texting during class.  You don’t want to miss out on something important!

Tagged In: communicating, Healthy UNH, Kelley Simpson, Mental Health, mental wellness, Stress, technology

Pre-Orientation Adventure for Wildcats

Monday, April 29, 2013
By: Kelley Simpson

Will you be an incoming first year student at UNH in the fall or know of anyone that will be joining our campus next year? If so, PAWs is the perfect program to get an early start on your UNH experience! The Pre-Orientation Adventure for Wildcats is a 6-day, 5-night outdoor trip for incoming freshmen.  This is a great trip to help students transition from high school and develop an early sense of involvement at UNH.  PAWs will give you a head start on creating everlasting bonds and friendships within the wildcat community.  Highly trained trip leaders will also be available to help with any questions or concerns prior to your arrival at UNH.  Approximately 140 students arrive on campus early to take part in PAWs.  Registration opened on April 1st so register while you can!  The dates of this program will be 6 days prior to freshmen move in day.  The cost of PAWs is $350 which includes all costs of food, lodging, group equipment, transportation, and instruction.  You will also receive a free PAWs t-shirt!

PAWs participants will be split up into small groups of 8-10 students, each having two experienced group leaders.  Students have the chance to choose between the basecamp and backpacking option.  When choosing the basecamp option you will spend most of your time at Mendums Pond Outdoor Recreation Area which is just seven miles from Durham. You will get to take part in hiking, canoeing, exploring campus, and bonding with other incoming students and upper class group leaders.  If you decide on the backpacking option you will spend 3 nights backpacking the White Mountains and enjoying beautiful scenery.  You will start and finish at Mendums Pond to prepare for and reflect on your adventure.  The PAWs program resembles college in many ways; it is a fun and exciting adventure but will also bring about new challenges that will need to be faced and resolved.   If you want to create new friendships, learn more about UNH, get a jumpstart on your experience here, and challenge yourself in a new way, PAWs is for you! Get all the information you need as well as application information at the PAWs website.

Tagged In: backpacking, Healthy UNH, Kelley Simpson, Mendums Pond, PAWS, Physical Activity, Pre-Orientation Adventure, White Mountains

Empowering a Healthy Community

Friday, April 5, 2013
By: Kelley Simpson

Public health works to prevent disease and prolong the lives of individuals.   To accomplish this, public health works at a community level to improve and protect the health of our communities and empower them to achieve health goals and make lasting changes.  There are many different social determinants that shape the lives of communities throughout the United States and public health officials work to provide services needed for all populations.  The Center for Disease Control has created a Healthy Communities Program in which 331 communities and 52 local state departments help sponsor.  This program focuses on the prevention of chronic disease which affects 50% of Americans with conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.  They work to promote health and identify preventable disease factors such as low physical activity levels, smoking habits, and poor nutrition.   The CDC’s website offers great resources and information on their program.  The work of public health sometimes goes unnoticed because it involves so many aspects of our daily lives!   Some great examples of the roles that public health may play within your community are listed below-

  • Increasing safety of parks and outdoor recreational areas to ensure the safety of your children while they play and take part in healthy physical activity
  • Assure access to healthy fruits and vegetables and work to support local farmers
  • Create neighborhood watch programs to lower the risk of crime rates and improve street safety in a specific area
  • Promote health within community areas such as schools, churches, city halls, etc.
  • Create a local health movement within a community such as a walking or running group, a healthy food co-op, gardening club, play groups for children, etc.
  • Create economic opportunities for low-income communities
  • Increase health care enrollment within a community
  • Improve air quality—work to lower rates of asthma
  • Offer the use of food stamps at local farmers markets
  • Work with residents who lack homeownership
  • Reduce diabetes and obesity rates within a community
  • Introduction of a WIC program
  • Work to lower unemployment rates and increase educational attainment
  • Create youth development programs such as building a community garden

The list could go on and on! Public health plays such an important role in each of our communities so that we can live safe, healthy, and happy lives and receive the resources that are essential to us.  Next time the garbage truck comes to pick up your trash, remember that it is yet another public health system working to keep your community clean. When you are strolling down the sidewalk on a sunny day, remember public health worked to provide you with a walkable community and increase your physical activity.  Working to improve the health of communities one by one, we are slowly improving the health of our nation as a whole!

Tagged In: community, Health Care Consumerism, Healthy Communities Program, Healthy UNH, Kelley Simpson, public health

2013 UNH Kick Butts Day!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013
By: Kelley Simpson

On Wednesday, March 20th 2013, UNH will be celebrating National Kick Butts day! It’s time to kick those smoking habits to the curb!  This day of activism was created to help stop the use of tobacco by youth and college students.   There will be close to 1000 programs taking place throughout the country, and UNH will be a great contributor!  Tobacco is the main cause of preventable death in the United States and costs our country close to $96 billion in health care costs annually.  Help advocate for a tobacco-free generation by supporting the efforts put together on National Kick Butts Day! The Substance Awareness through Functional Education group at UNH, also known as S.A.F.E., will be helping promote this initiative throughout campus on March 20th and 21st.  S.A.F.E. is a peer education group that is designed to recognize the problems and risks associated with alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.  They work with students to provide them with knowledge regarding these topics, ways to help make safe decisions, and work towards living a healthier lifestyle.  Stop by the MUB on March 20th or 21st where S.A.F.E will have a table set up from 11:00am-1:00pm. Here you will have the opportunity to speak with one of their peer educators or pick up your very own Quit Kit to help you get on your way to becoming smoke-free!  They will be working to remind students about the risks associated with tobacco use and to provide them with information on ways to live a smoke-free life.  Raising awareness, providing knowledge, and using preventative measures is key to lowering the use of tobacco!  

Would you be happy with a smoke-free campus?  S.A.F.E has started a petition at UNH to work toward creating a tobacco-free campus.  If you are interested in signing this petition click here!   Want to learn more about S.A.F.E. or become one of their peer educating members? Check out their website at this link! By taking part in this campaign you will be helping the health of our country through promoting wellness and healthy lifestyle habits. If you are interested in learning more about National Kick Butts Day, check out their website.  Here you will find great information on the event itself as well as general facts about tobacco.  Help to spread the word about National Kick Butts Day by advocating for a smoke-free community and a healthier generation!

Tagged In: habits, Health, healthy lifestyle, Healthy UNH, Kelley Simpson, Kick Butts Day, March 20, Nutrition, petition, Physical Activity, S.A.F.E., smoke-free, Substance Awareness, tobacco-free, Wellness

Sleeping Into a Better State of Mind

Monday, March 4, 2013
By: Kelley Simpson

Remember the days when you would cry at the mention of bed time?  All the fighting for only an extra hour of TV time.  As a college student, sleep seems to become more of a reward; one that you could not be happier to achieve!  When your work is done for the day you can finally relax and dream away all of your stress.  More and more sleep is being lost today though, especially in the lives of college students.  Not getting enough sleep can harm your physical health, mental health, and overall quality of life.  Harvard Women’s Health Watch reported that most adults are getting less than 6 hours of sleep each night and 75% of people are experiencing sleep difficulties on a weekly basis.  Not getting enough sleep can affect your mood, ability to concentrate, and your energy levels.  This can lead to many negative outcomes on your school work, job responsibilities, and even your relationships.  Decreased sleep can also have effects on your immune system, making you more susceptible to illnesses and increasing the chance of depression or anxiety.

The Harvard Women’s Health Watch revealed their top six reasons for getting enough sleep and highlighted its importance.  First on the list mentioned the effect sleep has on learning and memory.  Did you know that while you sleep your brain is forming newly learned information into memory? After a long day of class and studying, a goodnight of sleep is exactly what your body needs!  Getting enough sleep will also increase your mood, help your concentration, and increase your patience levels.  Most adults function best with 8 hours of sleep, so try to strive for getting those couple extra hours into your nightly routine!  Click here to find some great tips for improving your sleep!

Tagged In: concentrate, energy, Healthy UNH, Kelley Simpson, Mental Health, mental wellness, Sleep

Want To Be Fierce and Fabulous?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013
By: Kelley Simpson

Do you want to connect with other UNH students and help discover your inner self? UNH created the empowering Be Fierce and Fabulous Women’s Group in 2007, and since then has successfully helped encourage and inspire over 100 individuals. College is a big transition in life, and can cause many mixed emotions for students. This motivational group serves the purpose of improving the confidence of young women and leads them on their way toward living a fulfilling life. Group participants will have the chance for self reflection while connecting with their fellow students in a safe and private environment. This is a great opportunity to make new friends that could last a lifetime! Learning to love, appreciate, and have compassion for the person you are and all you are capable of is a lesson we can all aspire to. Studies from the Mayo Clinic reveal that having a positive outlook on life and being optimistic is a key part of your overall health!

The group facilitators for Be Fierce and Fabulous will be Dawn D. Zitney and Kathleen Grace Bishop. They are both passionate about encouraging women to discover their personal power, and want to help women at UNH feel inspired. The group for this semester will start on February 8th and will run for nine weeks. You can find all of the details about this group on the Health Services website. The program is FREE to all undergraduate students, but space is limited and time is running out so make sure to hurry and reserve your seat now!

Tagged In: Be Fierce and Fabulous, Health Services, Healthy UNH, Kelly Simpson, Mental Health, mental wellness