Top 10 Tools for Coping with Stress

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With so many things going on in your day, stress can easily build and become a usual part of your life. While occasional stress can be positive and can motivate you to meet your goals, prolonged stress can have a negative effect. In this week’s post, HealthTap doctors offer ten tips and tricks to help you find ways to unwind. As Sydney J. Harris put it, “the time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”

What can I do to de-stress?

Relaxation_techniques“Reducing stress is one of the best ways to enhance health. Avoid stressful situations if possible, meditate, exercise, eat well, get enough sleep, take time out for pleasure, seek support/counsel from friends, family& professionals. Do your best to live in the present moment. Herbs like ashwagandha & holy basil & supps like magnesium & b complex often help. Read books like full catastrophe living.” - Dr. Randy S. Baker

“To my mind stress is consequence of a mind ruled by the physical body. People subjected to stress and affected by stess should study relaxation therapies and biofeedback. An internet service at heartmath.Com is an effective training tool. Perhaps the all time most useful book has been “the relaxation response” by Harvard professor Herbert Benson.” - Dr. Laurence Badgley

HealthTap“Exercise regularly, at least 40 to 50 minutes, 4 to 6 times a week in your target zone, a little breathy. Eat a plant based diet, get plenty of rest, and try to perceive as accurately as possible, as our misperceptions drive anxiety and stress. Best.” - Dr. Arthur Ciaramicoli

“A certain amount of stress is normal, however unchecked, stress can cause and contribute to disease. Anxiety, hypertension, lowered immune response are all linked to stress. The best remedy for stress is mindfulness and meditation. Meditation can come in many forms from breathing, to yoga, and even sustained exercise. Whatever you choose, sustained stress management is the best prevention.” - Dr. Maiysha Clairborne

“1. Stress management techniques: relaxation exercises, meditation, mindfulness, thankfulness journals. 2. Letting go of problems that are not ours to solve; solve problems with solutions one step at a time; releasing unnecessary worry by setting realistic goals. 3. Using social support to help us manage stress and give us perspective 4. Self help materials. 5. Time for oneself. 6.Exercise.” - Dr. Kathryn Seifert

HealthTap“It is often helpful to take time out during a day when you feel stressed, and even if you do not, to focus and center yourself with a brief period of meditation and relaxation. Even 5 minutes during your work day can help you recharge and re-focus your energies in a positive direction.” - Dr. Kristine Gerwell

Manage stress with E-A-S-E. 1) Eliminate the stressor from your life (be assertive; delegate; take breaks & vacations) 2) Alter the impact of the stressor (problem solving; time management; social/group action); 3) Shift your outlook (reduce unrealistic expectations, irrational beliefs & negative self-talk); and 4) Ease your response (relaxation, exercise & good nutrition). Counseling can help.” – Dr. Bob Stewart

“Stress is your reaction to things that happen in life. So it’s best to make sure you are doing the right things to react better. Start with eating fresh wholesome foods, make sure you get some type of exercise (walking is great) 2-3 times per week, and look up sleep hygiene to get tools to use for restful sleep. If you need medication have a plan with your doctor for when to stop.” – Dr. Troy W. Ross

Relaxing at home with cup of teaTip Taps

Do’s and Don’ts

“How to de-stress?  Go for a 10 minute walk in nature, or a park.  It can help clear your head.”  - Dr. Pamela A. Pappas

Interesting Fact

“Develop a good pre-sleep ritual. A good book, a cup of tea, anything that helps you relax/unwind.” - Dr. Marlis Gonzalez-Fernandez

Looking for more ways to de-stress? Visit HealthTap and ask a question today!


7 Quick Tips to Avoid Eye Injuries

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July is Eye Injury Prevention Month! Your eyes are incredibly sensitive and can be injured very easily; this is especially true in the summer months when you are spending lots of time outside. Here are seven quick tips to prevent eye injuries and keep your eyes safe all year long.

Older woman pruning bushes in the garden with sun hat and sunglasses

How can I prevent an eye injury when working in the garden?

“Most eye injuries in the garden are from branches striking the unprotected eye. So wear safety glasses and be alert. Also take caution around things like lawn mowers and power equipment which may launch something towards your eye. Note also that someone near you could be affected by debris set flying by a lawnmower or cutting machinery like power saws.” – Dr. Richard E. Bensinger

What is the best protective eye wear whilst doing sports?

“Each sport that risks the eyes has unique protective gear. A hockey player needs different protection than a racquetball player.” – Dr. Tim Conrad

How can I prevent eye injuries in my workshop?Protective Eye Wear

“Wear safety glasses, goggles, or face shields when you hammer nails or metal, work with power tools or chemicals, or do any activity that might cause a burn to your eyes. If you work with hazardous chemicals that could splash into your eyes, know how to flush chemicals out, and know the location of the nearest shower or sink.” – Dr. Michael H. T. Sia

Why is there excessive tearing after eye trauma?

“The eye tears when it’s irritated. This can occur immediately from dirt or a scratch on the surface of the eye. It can be sensitive to light and tear the next day from a bruise of the eye as well. If something is poking the eye like an eyelash the eye can tear. Finally, if the eye is having trouble closing it can dry out and tear. Most often, tearing from trauma is transient.” – Dr. Scott M. Goldtstein

Can you suggest activities for someone on bed rest for eye injury?

“Depends. You need to ask your treating ophthalmologist what the limits of activity are for you which depends upon the extent of the injury and the means, medical or surgical, used to treat it. A good chance for communication and to learn isometric exercise.” – Dr. Richard E. Bensinger

What are common symptoms of an eye injury?Eye exam

“Depending on the structure injured, and the nature of the injury, symptoms can include blurred vision, pain, redness of the eye, tearing, loss of central or peripheral vision, among others. Treatment depends on the nature and degree of the injury, but can include drops, patching, special bandage contact lenses, or surgery.” – Dr. Jeffrey B. Paul

How likely to develop glaucoma after eye injury?

“The link between blunt trauma recession of the anterior chamber angle and secondary glaucoma was established by wolff and zimmerman in 1962. The risk is 3-4% in the first year and 10% later on. Other eye trauma features associated with increased risk are hyphema (blood in the anterior chamber), excess pigment clogging the trabecular meshwork, elevated baseline eye pressure, and lens displacement.” – Dr. Harold Peltan

Can someone get an eye injury due to contact lens?

“If overused (like sleeping in them) and not correctly cleaned, you are at risk for a corneal infection which can lead to scarring.”  - Dr. Richard Scartozzi

Looking for more ways to treat or prevent eye injuries? Ask our doctors now!

US Chief Tech Officer Aneesh Chopra & Health 2.0

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Tuesday night at a Commonwealth Club talk, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra discussed some of the important technological innovations the current administration is pursuing to help increase American efficiency and innovation. Several HealthTap execs were among the sold-out audience of high-tech executives and venture capitalists at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. Chopra paid particular attention to new health technology and partnerships. He and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had made a joint announcement earlier in the day about the launch of a California Telehealth Network.  This public/private partnership, run by the University of California, will use telehealth and broadband technology to link 800 health care facilities statewide. This will allow increased patient care through increased data sharing capabilities and more accessible acute and specialty care, especially for urban and rural areas currently underserved by the traditional health care system. California’s network is expected to serve as an example for programs in other states.

Chopra also emphasized the need for public and private partnerships to drive healthcare technology innovation. He expressed particular appreciation for the work of Indu Subaiya, a joint MD/MBA, who is Co-Founder of Health 2.0.  She launched the 2010 Health 2.0 Developer Challenge  on June 2nd, 2010 with support from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  The goal of the Developer Challenge  is to  bring the Health 2.0 Community together for rapid application development, using new and existing government and private health care data. HealthTap Founder and CEO, Ron Gutman, a Stanford MBA, formerly CEO of Wellsphere, has been in dialogue with Indu about ways to collaborate to achieve their common goal of patients using user-generated healthcare data and new tools, to guide their own care.

HealthTap is privileged to be holding the first Developer Challenge hackathon at our downtown Palo Alto offices on Saturday, September 11. This event is open to all engineers and developers who are interested in exploring the wealth of health data and integrating it with other mashup data sources.  For more information and to register for the Hacking for Health Hackathon, click here.

Indu Subaiya, Health 2.0 Co-Founder and Ron Gutman, HealthTap Founder and CEO at the Aneesh Chopra Event

Blood Glucose Testing for Nondiabetics

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A lot of our efforts to be healthier suffer from the problem of lack of feedback. While people can track changes in strength and endurance quantitatively as they exercise, effects of dietary choices are much harder to track. You can monitor weight, but weight is far from the complete picture of health.

Enter the glucose meter. Diabetics are constantly poking themselves to determine their blood glucose levels. However, there are many good reasons for nondiabetics to use them as well.

People who are trying to eat healthier are constantly talking about the glycemic index of foods — food with high glycemic index such as sodas full of corn syrup tend to cause big spikes in blood sugar, which put stress on the body and can lead to numerous health issues.

It turns out that for around $30 or so, you can test your blood sugar numerous times and get a sense for how different types of meals affect your blood sugar levels. This basically gives you feedback about how much you´re stressing your body. I think this is one of the things that people who are interested in maintaining their health should do. It´s a lot better than making dieting decisions in the dark. Even if you know what you *should* eat, seeing the consequences of your actual diet will help motivate you to change. Psychologists have found that this sort of real-time feedback greatly aids self-improvement.

You can also do a full-on glucose tolerance test, which gives an indication of whether you´re likely to develop diabetes. The glucose tolerance test involves consuming 100g of glucose (around three cans of soda) and then watching what happens to your blood glucose levels over the next six hours.

You can read more and interpret results here:

Also, this blogger talks a lot about his experience using a glucose meter as a dietary tool:

Given how common diabetes is, it´s probably worth doing a glucose tolerance test even if you have no family history of diabetes.

Here was my experience:

I´m usually very grumpy in the morning, and the grumpiness is partially mitigated by a nice protein-rich breakfast. Not today. Instead, I drank three bottles of the only soda I find palatable — Reed´s Ginger Brew. Drinking that much soda in one sitting was horrendous, like something out of a college dare. It probably doesn´t help that I don´t drink sugary drinks on a normal basis. Even after the 100g of glucose was happily absorbed by my intestines, I still felt hungry. The hunger and grumpiness got worse over the next six hours. Meanwhile I made my way through the test strips, watching my blood levels fluctuate.

My fasting level was 74, and my glucose never got above 116. Apparently I´m in good shape.

I´ve been testing myself after other meals. I saw a significant bump was after deliberately trying to see what would happen if I consumed a large high-carb meal that was more to my liking. Turkey + pesto sauce + cheese + 180g of carbs from a huge pile of pasta managed to put me up to around 118, and that meal was chosen to really test the limits of my system.

I was curious to see if I am prone to hypoglycemia. The results say no. However, I found the following on wikipedia:

Hypoglycemia (common usage) is also a term in popular culture and alternative medicine for a common, often self-diagnosed, condition characterized by shakiness and altered mood and thinking, but without measured low glucose or risk of severe harm. It is treated by changing eating patterns.

That sounds more like it. I seldom go through the day without frequent snacks.

Click here for more from Matt Bell and here for the article.

10 Tips for Feeling Happier and Less Stressed

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Robin’s Health and Happiness Series

Happiness and health go together whether your biggest health worry is the occasional stubbed toe (ouch!) or a chronic illness. No matter what is ailing you, if you have a smile on your face and possess general tools to handle stress, you will feel better, be more productive, and get more out of life.

Here are 10 of my favorite happiness tips:

1) Smile. Try it. Right this second. Feel better? It has an immediate “feel good” reaction. Even a “fake” smile can turn into a genuine one very quickly.

2) Listen to music every day. It doesn’t matter what kind, there is no wrong music (especially on a headset where no one can complain about it!). I keep my iPod by my bed it is the last thing I hear every night, and the first thing I hear every morning and it helps me dance while making coffee and brushing my teeth. A great start to the day can improve the entire day! Other great places where and activities when I make sure to listen to music:  the grocery store, the car, while exercising, waiting in line … and dance clubs (obviously).

3) Surround yourself with a good support system. Trust a few people, open up, and you’ll be surprised at how fast you can form a lasting bond. Then make sure you interact with them in good times, bad times, and you are there for them when they need you. Check in with your support system regularly to say hi and make sure they are also ok.

4) Be who you are. It sounds simple, but this simple guideline can be hard to follow in the face of social pressure. Don’t be afraid to like something and go do it, even if the people around you aren’t interested in the same thing. Do your new activity and you’ll meet people who also enjoy it! Your “real” friends will be supportive.

5) Compliment someone. Make it absolutely genuine. You can find something about every person you meet that you like or admire and vocalize it to them! Some ideas: compliment a great outfit, personality, intelligence, wittiness, hair, jewelry … really, there is no wrong compliment, as long as it is authentic. Happiness is contagious. If you are helping make someone smile, you will, in turn, feel good about yourself.

6) Volunteer and help. The biggest take away from this list is that if you strive to help others and make a difference in someone else’s life (small or big), you also helping yourself. To help bring happiness to others is to create happiness and fulfillment in you.

7) Exercise and diet. Ok you all know these 2 things are good for you: “Just do it.”

8 ) Breathe. Of course, everyone breathes all the time. But notice your rate right now. Is it fast and shallow or deep and long? Try a couple of deep breaths, the kind of breath that expands your chest and abdomen. Let it out slowly feel how some of your tension melts away. Now smile ….

9) Reach out to someone you care about, every day. This person could be a relative, a child, a friend, coworker, or a romantic partner. Remind one person every day how much they mean to you. All it takes is a sentence, a call, an email, a text. Nothing so easy makes such a big difference in both of your lives.

10) Keep your cool and don’t stress over the small stuff. Then remember, almost everything is small stuff. When you are feeling stressed about something specific, ask yourself: “Does it really matter in the big picture?” If the answer is “Yes, it does” then ask yourself if there is anything you can do right now to help solve the issue that is stressing you out.  If not, take a deep breath (see #8 above ) and accept that you are not able to change something in the moment,  and instead start formulating a plan on how to change it in the future. If you have a plan, you are taking control of your own stress which will make you feel better, more secure, confident and happier.

Go forth and start living a happier life!

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