Healthy Living

Caffeine: How Much is Too Much?

Sure, many of us love our cup of joe every morning.  Some might like it so much that one cup becomes three or four.  We joke about it.  We laugh about it.  It is part of our culture as Americans.

But what about caffeine and kids?  Not only are kids drinking soda, they are also downing caffeinated energy drinks and coffee-based beverages.

feature-boy-doing-homework-274x168As kids head back to school, it’s a good time to consider just how much caffeine our kids are consuming; more importantly, how much is safe.  As school gets underway and kids must manage not only their academics but also extracurricular activities and jobs, it is easy to turn to caffeinated beverages for a quick pick me up.  But that habit can quickly grow out of control.

This episode of Total Health Radio can help.  Called Caffeine and Kids: What’s the Buzz?, the show shares one family’s personal story of the risks of caffeine consumption in kids.  It also features tips from a physician on recognizing signs of excessive caffeine — and for helping your kids know how much is enough…versus too much.

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Celebrating Summer

Looking to trim down this summer?  Take advantage of the warm weather, skip the gym, and get active outside!

  • Explore your city or town.  Play games at the park, go for a bike ride around town, or do laps at the local pool.
  • Pack your snacks.  Plan ahead for your day and bring along fruit, nuts, and other healthy treats.
  • Bring water.  Avoid the temptation of sugary drinks by staying hydrated from the start.
  • Wear your sunscreen.  And remember to reapply it regularly if you’re outside all day.

If you live in a place that gets really hot, think about hitting the streets early in the morning or later in the evening, when the sun isn’t a factor. Or save these ideas for the cooler fall weather that will be here before you know it.

Want to learn more about a healthy weight? Click here.



Summer is fun. Here’s how to keep it safe, too.

Excited about the arrival of summer? For good reason. Warmer weather brings with it favorite activities — vacations, swimming, camping, cookouts and lazy days in the sun.

To access a full-size PDF of perfect for printing, click here.

To access a full-size PDF of this infographic perfect for printing, click here.

But summer also means something less fun: an increase in visits to the emergency room. With kids out of school and spending more time outdoors — and especially around Independence Day — safety becomes a very real concern.

To help protect yourself and your family this 4th of July holiday weekend and in the coming months, here are highlights from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Red Cross and Kaiser Permanente on how to have a safe — and fun — summer.

Water Safety

Swimming and cooling off in the pool is one of the best things about summer. Be smart, and do it safely:

Spending Time in the Sun and Heat

When you’re spending time in the sun – or even if you are in the shade but the temperature is climbing – protect yourself from the sun’s rays and the summer heat.

  • Heat-Related Illnesses. Take them seriously and drink plenty of water. Dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke escalate quickly and can be especially serious in children and the elderly.
  • Know Your SPF. Not all sunscreens are created equal. Learn why.
  • Sun Safety and Skin Cancer. Guard yourself and your family against the long-term dangers of the sun.

Healthy Getaways

Whether you’re taking a road trip with friends and family or the vacation of your dreams, plan ahead for a safe time away from home.

  • Camping. Keep campouts fun by planning ahead. Learn the ins and outs of insect repellent, safe food and water, campfires and cookouts, and emergency preparedness.
  • Travel. Before you embark on your journey, let your travel clinic or physician help. From vaccines to prescription medication, learn how to plan your travels with your health a priority.

Cooking and Eating

  • Summer Food Safety. Find out how to best protect you and your family from food poisoning, foodborne illnesses, cross contamination — and learn and the importance of cooking temperatures.
  • Grilling Safety Tips. When dealing with open flames, propane, charcoal or starter fluid, help prevent burns, injuries and damages with these precautions and general guidelines.

Injury Prevention

  • Sports. Know how to help your children prevent injuries from sports and recreational activities — including using the right protective gear or equipment.
  • Technology and Youth Violence. Learn more and talk with your kids about the emerging public health problem of “electronic aggression” among young people.

Bottom Line: Be Prepared

Even with the best planning, accidents still happen. You can ensure you’re ready to help if the need arises with professional training. Find a Red Cross class in First Aid and CPR near you and get certified — or take a refresher course.

Keeping the Men in Your Life Healthy

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 4.22.59 PMMany men avoid visiting the doctor. We often joke about it, but when our dads, brothers, partners or friends put off having something looked at, it can result in very real consequences. Even though women on average visit the doctor 20 percent more often than men, it is men who have much higher hospitalization rates for preventable conditions.

So why do men seem to go out of their way to prevent calling the doc? Many men simply aren’t used to communicating about how they feel and aren’t comfortable asking for help.

Total Health Radio has dedicated an entire podcast episode to this topic, including tips for supporting the men in your life in staying healthy. You can check it out — along with additional information and resources — at its official web page. You can also listen to it here, via Stitcher

And to see the above infographic in its entirety, click here for the full-sized version.

Stay Safe This Summer

While most of us look forward with great anticipation to summer’s long days filled with warmth and fun, there is a less sunny side to the story: ER visits actually peak in the summertime months.

kp-infographic-2015-er-summer-months-550x730Fear not: There are things we can each do to plan ahead and protect our family and ourselves. From heat-related illness to water safety, travel to cookouts, this piece from our friends at KP Share has it covered — not to mention a handy infographic perfect for printing out and putting up on the fridge as a reminder (you can also click on the image for a larger, printer-friendly version).

Check out all of the resources and tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Red Cross and Kaiser Permanente in the full article.

Wednesday is National Running Day

running day blank logoThis Wednesday, June 3rd, is National Running Day, a day for running enthusiasts (nuts?) like me to celebrate our love of the sport and for those who want to start to get out there. The thing I love most about the running community is its acceptance of everyone, whether you run a 5 or 15 minute mile, go out once a week or twice a day, started 20 years ago or 20 days ago. So, if you’re a runner, get out there this Wednesday and celebrate your love of this sport with the community. If you’re not a runner, but think you might want to be, this is the day!

You can find official running day information and groups on Facebook and Twitter. If there’s not one in your city, try a local running club or make your own with some friends. See what your fellow runners are up to by following #RunningDay on the usual .social media platforms.

I’ll be out there for an early morning run with a new running club, something I’ve been meaning to do for ages but somehow always avoid. Here’s to new adventures, whatever they may be!



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Celebrate Change This Spring

Maybe it’s because it’s (finally) gotten warm enough along the East Coast for us to leave our parkas at home, maybe it’s the time of year, but I feel like every third woman I see right now is pregnant. Pregnancy brings great joy, excitement, and questions. When you’re eating, drinking, and sleeping for two (or more!), it’s the perfect time to commit to healthy changes. Find information about how to be your healthiest self – before, during, or after pregnancy – on Kaiser Permanente’s website.

As it heats up, many of us reach for iced tea. Try making it a healthy option by picking unsweetened. Jazz it up yourself with this recipe for homemade peach iced tea.

Peach Iced Tea

1 tablespoon dried mint leaves
4 cups water
2 cups pureed peaches, chilled
Fresh mint (garnish)

Steep mint leaves in hot water for 3 minutes.
Pour peaches in a sieve to remove chunks.
Once the mint tea is cool, mix with strained peach puree. Serve cold, garnished with fresh mint.



A Prescription for Activity

This week, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) convened a meeting to address key issues related to establishing a physical activity prescription at every visit as a medical standard of care. Kaiser Permanante’s own Robert Sallis, MD, was in attendance and helped lead a walking break to visit the Supreme Court. You can find a full set of images from the roundtable here.

Dr. Bob Sallis leads a walking meeting to the Supreme Court.

Dr. Sallis leads a walking meeting to the Supreme Court.

There is overwhelming evidence on the health burden of a sedentary lifestyle, and regular exercise has been proven to prevent and treat a wide range of diseases.  For this reason, every health care provider should be assessing the physical activity habits of their patients and recommending they engage in 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise (like a brisk walk), which is consistent with the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines.  While it has become a standard of care to ask patients at every visit about smoking and to assess their weight and BMI, exercise is often not routinely assessed.

For this reason, on April 27 and April 28, a roundtable was convened by the American College of Sports Medicine and Kaiser Permanente: A “Call to Action on Making Physical Activity Assessment and Prescription a Medical Standard of Care”.  This was held at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health in Washington, DC, and it was chaired by Robert Sallis, MD, a Kaiser Permanante family physician and chair of the Exercise is Medicine Global Health initiative.  The meeting was attended by individuals representing a range of major medical organizations with a goal of developing a consensus around including physical activity assessment and prescription at each patient visit.  One of the outcomes of the roundtable will be a white paper that outlines a plan to make this happen in the near future.   

For National Healthcare Decisions Day, a Conversation with Daniel Johnson, MD, FAAHPM, on Planning for Your Care

The Denver Hospice.   (Photo by ELLEN JASKOL)In recognition of National Healthcare Decisions Day on April 16, we spoke with Dr. Dan Johnson, national physician lead for palliative care at Kaiser Permanente’s Care Management Institute, to demystify health care decision making and understand the importance of advance care planning.

Q: What is advance care planning and why is it so important?

A: Advance care planning (ACP) is the process of planning for future medical decisions. ACP enables you to better inform and direct your care in situations where you’re not able to speak for yourself. Importantly, ACP:

  • starts with reflection and conversation around personal values, goals, and beliefs;
  • includes others – loved ones, family members and your health care team; and
  • often results in completion of an advance directive – a written plan for future medical care regarding goals of care or desired treatments for a possible or probable event.

It’s not easy to think about serious illness, much less plan for it. Yet we must. Advance care plans protect us when we cannot speak for ourselves. It’s a precious gift to our loved ones. Instead of guessing, our families and doctors have much needed guidance to ensure the right care.

Q: Why do I need to do this, especially if I’m healthy?

A: Accidents and serious illness sometimes strike suddenly. Terri Schiavo never planned for a cardiac arrest at age 26. Without prior plans or an appointed decision maker, her health care team and family were left to guess her wishes around prolonged life support. Sadly, the guessing irreparably divided her family.

Not everyone is ready to fill out an advance directive. Having a conversation with your health care team is still helpful in these instances to communicate the things that matter most to you. Appointing an agent – someone to speak for you if you cannot speak for yourself – is a crucial step at any time, even when you’re not fully sure of your wishes for future care.

Q: I already filled out an advance directive. Do I need to do this again?

A: Possibly. This question is best answered by your doctor and health care team. For example, sometimes documents filled out in one state are not valid in all states. Documents completed in the absence of informed discussions are rarely helpful (and often confusing). I would recommend re-doing your advance directives if you know your plans have changed or if you did not include your loved ones in your original planning discussions.

Q: Do I need to use any specific forms for an advance directive — from a particular care provider, for example?

A: No.  For instance, many Kaiser Permanente regions are beginning to offer our members advance care planning classes or one-on-one facilitated sessions — but no one is required to use a Kaiser Permanente advance directive form. Talk with your doctor and health care team to learn about your options.

Anyone can use Kaiser Permanente forms. Regardless of the form you use, be sure to discuss your values, preferences and documents with your health care team.

Q: How can I be reassured that the health care provider will look at my advance directive and follow my wishes?

I’d recommend two things. First, insist on including your health care team in discussions. Your physician and other providers will help you ask the right questions, explore your values, and pose important “what ifs” to help you communicate treatment preferences. The team will help you complete a written directive and assure that directive is correctly stored in your medical record. Second, include your loved ones. Ensure your appointed “agent” is present during actual conversations and completion of directives. Give copies of completed directives to your doctor, agent and other loved ones so that those who are most important to you know your wishes.

A: What happens if I want to update my advance directive? Do I need to fill out a new one?

Remember, advance care planning is not a single event. Rather, it is a series of conversations that start when we’re healthy and continue throughout our lives. Yes, refresh your discussions and directives with major changes in your relationships, personal values or health status. Your doctors (in concert with your appointed health care agent) will always use the most recently completed documents to direct your care.

To learn more, check out this article on the Kaiser Permanente Share site, or find additional resources available from NHDD.

One of the Deadliest Cancers: Is Someone You Love at Risk?

Did you know that the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women combined is colorectal cancer? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 140,000 people are diagnosed with it each year, and more than 50,000 die from it. Those are some sobering statistics.

The good news? This type of cancer is highly preventable, mainly due to screenings — starting at age 50 — that can often find precancerous polyps and early-stage cancer. Early diagnosis allows treatment to be most effective.

We can each further reduce our risk by staying physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, drinking alcohol in moderation, and not smoking.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and if you are looking for ways to get the word out and encourage screenings among friends and loved ones, has a great toolkit. Web resources and sample communications are available, as well as a quiz that assesses your risk of developing colorectal cancer and a calculator that helps identify how much fiber you should consume each day.

For a first-hand account of how an at-home screening test (yes, they are available!) saved one woman’s life, check out this video from Kaiser Permanente’s Care Stories site.

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