Measure your health scale.

Measure your health scale. [Credit: Iqoncept] / [Dreamstime]

A healthy weight is an important contributing factor in your overall health. It can help you prevent and control many diseases and conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, breathing problems and certain cancers.

Determining a Healthy Weight
How much you should weigh is not as simple as looking at a height-weight chart. You need to consider the amount of bone, muscle and fat in your body’s composition.

The amount of fat your body carries is a critical measurement, and can be measured using the Body Mass Index (BMI). Our Adult BMI Calculator helps you determine if you are at a healthy weight, overweight or obese.

If your results indicate you are overweight, having extra body weight from muscle, bone, fat and/or water; or obese, having a high amount of extra body fat; you should consider speaking to your health care provider. While BMI provides a fairly accurate assessment, it’s not a perfect measure.

You may also find it helpful to attend our Wellness Screening for Your Health, which provides a free weight risk assessment.

Achieving a Healthy Weight
Many factors can contribute to your weight, and while you may not be able to control factors like family history, the environment, genetics and metabolism, you can change your behaviors and habits.

The service providers of our Journey to Better Health program, a program that provides health monitoring and support services to Howard County residents and faith community members, recommend the following when trying to lose weight to achieve a healthy weight:

  • Set a goal
    Your weight loss goal should be a realistic goal that you can accomplish. You should start slow and change only one habit at a time.
  • Conduct a needs assessment
    Identify what you need to accomplish your goal. Make a checklist of supplies/tools and resources you need to support your goal. For example, identify the amount of healthy food options in your pantry. If you have little to none, you will need to stock up on your healthy food supply.
  • Start immediately
    In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “do not put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” Empower yourself to make small efforts that can be repeated to make your goal come to fruition. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator or include a fruit or salad with your meal.
  • Track your progress
    Whether it be on paper or a mobile app, recording your activity informs you of how you are progressing towards completing your goal. You may find you are on target or need to make improvements. It may seem mundane, but tracking your progress is critical towards achieving success.
  • Celebrate your success
    Find healthy ways to reward your accomplishments. For example, schedule a massage or go line dancing with friends.

For more information on losing weight, read our Five Step Weight Loss Guide for the New Year.

Maintaining a Healthy Weight
Continuing the healthy lifestyle changes you adopt, including eating a healthy diet and engaging in 60 to 90 minutes of physical activity most days of the week, are key to maintaining a healthy weight.

Successful weight maintenance is considered to be regaining less than six to seven pounds in two years and sustaining a reduced waist circumference of at least two inches.

For long-term motivation, ask your friends, family and health care provider(s) for encouragement, consider joining a support group and attend health screenings that assess your weight. Our Journey to Better Health program offers such screenings in the community for free. For a schedule of dates and locations, call 410-720-8788 or send an email to hcgh-j2bh@jhmi.edu.

The longer you can maintain a healthy weight, the more likely you will achieve long-term success.

For more healthy weight information, view Aim for a Healthy Weight from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).


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Just after Thanksgiving, I came across a 30 day fitness challenge designed to get anyone, at any fitness level moving: 30 minutes of walking for 30 days. I figured that committing to something as simple as walking could only be a good thing. I was right!

My doctor has often said that walking is the best kind of exercise I can get. Walking regularly is one of the best things you can do for your wellness. It can help prevent heart disease, mitigate blood sugars, and combats obesity and depression while strengthening your body. Just speak with your family doctor and follow their suggestions on how you might begin a walking program. If you need materials to help get you started, Leslie Sansone is a big advocate of fitness walking. You can find many of her book and DVD titles at hclibrary.org. Until then, I’ll share with you what I did.

#1 COMMIT
In order for me to complete this challenge, I had to have a plan. I made walking a priority in my day. I set aside enough time for warming up, walking, and cooling down. My shoes and clothing to walk in were always ready no matter the weather. My water bottle, cell phone, and inhaler (I’m asthmatic) were always with me. When I walked alone, I told someone when and where I was going for my walk. I did everything I could to ensure I would be able to achieve my goal. After all, 30 days of walking 30 minutes was a healthy, attainable goal.

#2 GET SUPPORT
Support meant letting people know this was a goal of mine. I asked friends to walk with me and check-in to ensure I completed my daily walk. This was great because I was building a network of support and accountability. Let’s just say, I leaned on my husband a lot. I essentially told him that no matter what excuse I came up with would only hurt me in the end. That is, not completing this challenge wasn’t an option. Thanks to him and others, I was able to do it!

#3 DO IT
Finally, I just started walking. Without judgment or additional pressure. I warmed up by walking to my starting point on my planned route; set my timer for 15 minutes and started walking. When the time was up I would turn around and start my timer for 15 minutes back. At the end of the 30 minutes I walked from my starting point to my front porch to cool down and I did some easy stretching. I varied my route daily so it would never get boring and I’d have some hill variations in my walk too. I have gotten to the point where I can walk a good while at a decent pace where I can’t hold a long conversation, but can answer with a word or two.

Some days were easier than others. Believe me, the days that were miserable were the greatest when I got back to my house. My reward was that feeling of accomplishment- never giving up. My results are not that surprising. I feel better, my clothes fit better, and my posture has definitely improved. Now that my 30 days are up, I’m pretty proud of myself.  I’m going to do what I can to ensure a minimum of 30 minutes of walking daily because it’s the easiest and best thing I can do, 30 days at a time.

JP is the HCLS Editor & Blog Coordinator for Well & Wise. She is also a Children’s Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch & STEM Education Center. She is a storyteller, wannabe triathlete, KPOP-addict, baker of cupcakes, cancer survivor, and liver transplant recipient.

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Family caregiver serving food to loved one. [Credit: Katarzyna Bialasiewicz] / [Dreamstime]

Dementia touches most everyone, whether they have it or know someone who does.

Dementia is the gradual loss of cognitive functioning (thinking, remembering and reasoning), which eventually interferes with a person’s daily life. Dementia is a set of symptoms, not a disease. Memory loss is a common dementia symptom and Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.

As dementia progresses, people cannot manage their lives on their own and depend more on others for help. Their caregivers are often family.

When caring for a loved one with dementia, caregivers should:

  1. Make decisions in advance. Have conversations about finances, health care, transportation and living arrangements, while it is still possible for the loved one to participate in the decision making process.
  2. Research resources. The Alzheimer’s Association is a great place to start—offering a 24-hour hotline and local support groups.
  3. Stay active. Encourage the loved one to remain socially active and continue to pursue activities he/she enjoys.
  4. Play music. Dementia patients often respond to music from an era when they were active, and music is a great way to involve a younger generation in caregiving and connecting with the loved one.
  5. Make safety a priority. Keeping the loved one safe becomes a big issue as dementia progresses. It may be necessary to schedule additional in-home help or move the loved one into a care facility.
  6. Manage medications. Keep a current medication list and seek medical assistance in eliminating drugs that might cause or add to your loved one’s confusion. Use pill boxes to manage medications and seek pharmacies that can prepackage medications in daily doses.
  7. Stay calm. Personality and behavior changes, especially agitation and depression, are all common symptoms of dementia. Try to be agreeable in your conversations and do not argue, unless there is imminent danger.
  8. Keep to a routine. Maintain regular routines in a calm, familiar environment to help reduce the stress and anxiety that often occurs in people with dementia.
  9. Take care of yourself. Caregiving can be extremely stressful and comes at great cost, often including a loss of the relationship with the loved one.

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Girls on the Run

According to research done by Running USA, about 17.1 million people participated in running events in 2015, about 57% of those female and 43% male. With the start of the new year, many of us look for new workout ideas, to start something different or to restart something old. For many, this includes a running or walking program. Sometimes it’s the “I want to run a marathon before I turn (insert age)” or a search to experience that runner’s high. Regardless the reason, finding the right program with appropriate progress and balance can be difficult.

Before you start out to become a runner, do a little self-analysis. When did you last run or walk with any regularity? Do you have any ankle, knee or hip issues that might resurface? What other workouts do you do throughout the week or month? The process of building a foundation focusing on form and safely adding miles often gets overlooked with running and walking programs and people start to aggressive.

If you’re just beginning (or restarting) your journey, start slow and give yourself time to build up both duration and miles. Allow a few weeks to get your body accustomed to the movements of running. Set aside three days each week and go out for 20-30 minutes with a combination of running and walking in an interval format. Don’t worry about distance for now.

While you’re building your foundation, pay attention to specifics with your form. Position your body in a slight forward lean from the ankles, not a bend at the hips. Try to keep from bouncing up and down to minimize the stress on your lower body. Hold your head and chest up and swing your arms forward and backwards letting your fingertips lightly brush your ribs. Be careful to not cross your arms in front of your body. Finally, pay attention to your breathing and be sure to not hold your breath and keep a steady rhythm.

Girls on the RunOnce you get through several weeks of consistent training or if you started out with a little bit of a foundation, start planning for your event or mapping out your goal for miles. Use an app such as Map My Run on your phone or a device like the FitBit to check in on your miles. On your next outing, track the miles on your normal route to determine your baseline. From there, maintain a three day a week program and build by adding between 0.5 – 1 mile per week on at least one of your runs. If it feels difficult at any mileage level, stay there until you feel comfortable moving on.

It takes time to create that foundation so don’t rush the process. If you want to run an event over 10 miles, give yourself several months to slowly build your routine. If something starts to hurt, pay attention and back off if needed. In addition to running, be sure to add a day or two of cross training, especially strength exercises to balance out your running. Take time to enjoy the process, stop and smell the roses and vary your routine to see places and experiences only your feet can take you.

[Editor’s Note: Always consult your doctor before starting any kind of diet or exercise program.]

Lisa Martin founded the Girls on the Run program in Howard County in 2009. Lisa is AFAA & NSCA certified, has more than 15 years of personal training experience, and practices a multidimensional wellness approach at her studio, Salvere Health & Fitness. Lisa says that one of the best things about being in the health and fitness industry is watching people accomplish things they never thought possible.

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Woman on scale happy about weight loss. [Credit: Edward J. Bock III] / [Dreamstime]

Woman on scale happy about her weight loss. [Credit: Edward J. Bock III] / [Dreamstime]

Weight loss is one of the top items that appear on New Year’s resolution lists. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of people succeed, while most see it as a reoccurring item for the next new year.

What most people do not realize is that is takes more than just desire to lose weight. It takes commitment and planning, beginning with our step-by-step guide.

Step 1: Make a Commitment
Rather than just committing to losing weight, commit to specifics. Commit yourself to the amount of weight you want to lose, the date by which you want to lose it, diet changes you will make to establish healthy eating habits and your plan for exercising regularly.

The best way to lose weight is to set a reasonable goal and lose it slowly and gradually. An initial weight loss goal of 5 to 7 percent of body weight is realistic for most individuals.

Step 2: Know Your Current State
Speak with your health care provider about the state of your health, specifically asking about weight-related risks. Healthy weight is especially important if you have or have had heart disease; type 2 diabetes; stroke; high blood pressure; high total cholesterol level; cancer of the uterus, gallbladder, kidney, stomach, breast or colon; and arthritis, especially osteoarthritis of the back, knees and hips.

Keep a food diary for a few days to realize what and when you are eating so you become aware of the types of food you eat most often and your mindless eating tendencies. If you find you eat a lot of processed foods, know that those foods tend to be high in trans fats, sugar and sodium or salt, which make it difficult to lose weight.

Also analyze your lifestyle. Identify obstacles that could be a challenge for your weight loss, and think of solutions to overcome those challenges. Recognize opportunities that can support your weight loss (e.g. living near a fitness center) and how to take advantage of those opportunities.

Step 3: Set Milestones
Establish short-term goals for yourself that will act as milestones to getting you to your long-term goal weight. These goals should be specific and realistic. For example, lose 1/2 to 1 pound a week. Achieving your milestones will motivate you to continue making progress.

Your milestones should also be forgiving when you experience occasional setbacks. Rather than criticize yourself and give up, forgive and get back on track as soon as possible. It’s realistic for you to sporadically have setbacks.

Step 4: Take Advantage of Resources and Support
Reach out to family, friends and co-workers who will support you. Perhaps they are trying to lose weight as well, in which case you can support and motivate each other. You are more likely to eat better and exercise more if your friends and family are doing the same.

Also look to local organizations for information and guidance. For example, Howard County General Hospital offers a free Looking to Lose Weight class where a certified nutritionist and registered dietitian discusses the physiology and health challenges that affect weight, and teaches meal plans that taste great, provide a balanced diet and promote health.

Learn to read food labels to make better food choices. Foods like gravy, mayonnaise, sauces and salad dressings often contain hidden fat and lots of calories, and some yogurts may be low in fat, but are high in carbohydrates and sugars. Or, eat foods in their natural state, and you will not have to read labels at all!

Step 5: Monitor Your Progress
Evaluate your progress of the milestones you set in Step 3. Identify areas of your plan that are working well and areas that need adjusting. It may be necessary to rewrite your short-term goals and plan accordingly.

As you are monitoring your progress, you may find you need to focus more on the fit of your clothes and less on reading the scale, especially if you have increased your exercise level. As you increase muscle mass and lose fat, the reading on your bathroom scale may not change much, but the fit of your clothes may be looser. Measure your waistline and compare the results.

Do not forget to reward yourself for your successes, but not with food. If achieving your milestones are coming too easily, consider adding a new, more challenging milestone that will get you to your long-term goal.

Using this step-by-step guide will get you on your way to achieving your New Year’s weight-loss resolution and having a healthier new year.


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pure-soapmaking-693912The winter holiday season is joyful for many reasons. You get to spend time with friends and family, decorations are all around, the crisp air and blankets of snow bring a stillness like no other season, uplifting music swirls through the air, and the power of giving is in full force- just to name a few.

This holiday season, I decided I wanted to hand make as many gifts as possible and spend less money. I found myself getting too caught up in the consumerism aspect of the holidays and didn’t like what I was feeling. I love giving and making people smile, but that doesn’t have to be the result of frivolously spending money.

Handmade gifts are cost efficient and add a special touch to the gift-giving season. They are thoughtful and fun to create. Many times the fun comes in learning a new skill or technique with a handmade gift. You can make something useful and unique. Consider this: do you ever have the problem of not being able to find exactly what you’re looking for? Make it! There’s an endless sea of resources available to assist you in even the most daunting do-it-yourself projects. Try Howard County Library System’s new Hobbies & Crafts Reference Center.

beeswax-alchemy-592956I’ve been wanting to make more of my own everyday products instead of buying them. I started an expansive essential oils collection and did a lot of research on the many ways they can be utilized. These oils can be used in everything from body care products to household cleaning products- truly a great investment.

I decided to make soap and hand scrub for gifts this season considering both of these necessities can be great for absolutely anyone. I was able to experiment with scents and other natural elements to make each product specially designed for each individual based on their needs and preferences. For example, using real lavender to soothe skin, bits of oatmeal for exfoliation, and ground coffee for a kick of caffeine.

The hand scrub is such an easy process that you can make it right in your kitchen with items you most likely already have. A little bit of brown sugar, coconut oil, and vitamin E oil makes for a delicious smelling and nourishing treat for your hands. Add a couple drops of your favorite essential oil for more benefits and yummy smells. Winter weather can dry out your skin and cause cracking which makes simple tasks more difficult. With a small tub of hand scrub, you can remedy the issue while on-the-go.

idiots-guide-making-soap-248383The soaps that I decided to make are lemon cupcake, basil clementine, lavender chamomile, and sandalwood sage. After a test batch of each, I tweaked the recipe and got exactly what I wanted. Using essential oils allows for you to make the smell as subtle or as strong as you’d like. Different soap bases add even more benefits. I used goat’s milk, honey, shea butter, oatmeal, cocoa butter, aloe vera, and hemp oil. All bases are a simple melt and pour recipe (full of moisturizing properties) that you can customize to your liking.

the-chew-citrus-scrub-528399Another great aspect of handmade gifts is that I got to experience the process with a close friend. It was a fun way to deter from our normal hangout routine while being productive, learning a new skill, and spending quality time together. We got to test the product and do something we had been talking about for a long time. Even better, we made gifts for over 50 people at a great cost. Handmade gifts are something that I’ve always appreciated. The time and love that go into such creations just can’t be beat. This holiday season, consider making some, or all, of your gifts and learn a new skill in the process. Now get out there and start brainstorming!

Laci Radford is a Children’s Instructor & Research Specialist at Miller Branch. She is a music lover, writer, and an avid reader. She enjoys attending concerts, plays, and other forms of live entertainment. Her favorite activities include scoping out unique items at thrift stores, bonfires with friends, and having tie-dye parties. She is studying Psychology and plans to become a music and art therapist sooner rather than later.

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Adult children caring for aging parents.

Adult children caring for aging parents. [Credit: Goldenkb] / [Dreamstime.com]

Caregiving for an aging parent can be challenging. Follow these tips to make the process easier.

Prepare for Doctor’s Visits

Older patients often have more health issues to discuss. Create an agenda and questions for the appointment. Attend appointments with your loved one, if you can, or send someone you trust, who can take notes and help remember and understand everything that was said.

Also bring all of their prescription bottles to their appointment. Elderly patients are more susceptible to side effects and interactions between medications and they often see many physicians—so bringing bottles is extremely helpful to the physician.

Organize Daily Medications

Use a pill dispenser with compartments for each day of the week or another reminder system to let your loved one know when to take medications. You can also keep a medication schedule and post it somewhere visible—the refrigerator or medicine cabinet.

Set an alarm on your loved one’s phone, watch or clock to help make taking medications a part of the daily routine.

Make a List of Medications

Maintain a list of medications—with the name of the drug, the dose, how often it is taken and why. Keep a copy somewhere immediately accessible, like your purse or car, in case there is an emergency. Schedule annual medication reviews with your loved one’s primary health care provider. Keep in mind, many common drugs can have interactions with food.

Fill Prescriptions at One Pharmacy

Using one pharmacy makes refilling prescriptions simpler and it helps your pharmacist protect against drug interactions and avoid potential problems. Some pharmacies even deliver.

Take Advantage of Technology

Many health care providers, pharmacies and insurance plans offer apps or websites to manage records. These online tools can help you retrieve and share health care information quickly. If you rely on electronic files, be sure to keep a back-up of logins and passwords. Johns Hopkins MyChart is one example—for more information, visit MyChart.

Discuss Advance Directives

Start the difficult but important conversations about end-of-life care early, when you are not in a crisis, and there is more time to think and make better decisions.

Advance directives identify who will make decisions regarding treatments, such as life support measures, when your loved one is too sick to do so themselves. The designee should have a full understanding of the patient’s wishes.

Know that you are not alone. There are many great resources for caregivers. To start, download a free copy of the Johns Hopkins guide “Take Care: A Guide for Family Caregivers.”

Anirudh Sridharan, M.D., is a board-certified geriatrician on staff at Howard County General Hospital.

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