My DIY Standing Desk

I hope you’re not sitting down as you read this.

Reading Susan Orlean’s article in the latest issue of The New Yorker about her life-changing experience of switching to a treadmill desk inspired me to take action to improve my own workstation.

The article, “The Walking Alive,” highlights the work of Dr. James Levine, an expert in “inactivity studies” at the Mayo Clinic who created his first treadmill desk in 1999, according to Orlean. The article also references a number of alarming studies that show sitting for long hours can have serious health impacts, including a rate of death that’s about 20–40 percent higher for people that sit six hours or more each day than that for people who sit three hours or less, news I’ve heard before but never took too seriously.

As a writer, spending long hours in front of the computer is unavoidable. While I enjoyed reading about Orlean’s experience of walking as she types, talks on the phone and even shops online, I decided installing a treadmill under my own desk would not be necessary (nor cost effective). It was time to give a simple standing desk a try. Continue reading

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Shake up your pre- and post-workout snacks

Image courtesy of -Marcus- / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of -Marcus- / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tired of the same protein shake after a tough workout?

Check out Greatist’s “50 Awesome Pre- and Post-Workout Snacks.” They’re creative, yet simple.

In many cases, you’re likely to have the ingredients on hand. But you might want to stock up on frozen and dried fruit, coconut oil and sweet potatoes in order to try others.

Greatist recommends fueling up 30–60 minutes before your workout. In my opinion, here are a few of their most enticing suggestions:

Protein Creamsicle: Put a twist on the classic kids’ treat by blending 1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder, 1 cup orange juice and 1 cup ice.

Cha-Cha coconut shake: Infuse 1 scoop chocolate whey protein with 2 teaspoons of extra virgin coconut oil.

Wafflewich: Spruce up this classic by combining 1 frozen Kashi waffle with 2 teaspoons of almond butter and 1 teaspoon of jam.

To aid your recovery, try the following within two hours of finishing your workout:

Chunky Monkey shake: Monkey around with 1 medium banana, 1 tablespoon peanut butter and 1 cup low-fat chocolate milk blended with ice.

Black bean omelet: Four eggs whites, 1 ounce low-fat cheese and ¼ cup canned black beans—then spice it up with a savory salsa, if you dare. Continue reading

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This week in CA: Affordable Care Act Roundup

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

State lawmakers approve Medi-Cal expansion, paving the way for at least an additional 1 million low-income Californians to enroll. Critics say Wal-Mart has no business peddling health-insurance plans on behalf of the state’s health benefit exchange. Blue Shield of California and Aetna move forward with unpopular double-digit insurance rate increases, despite protests from state officials.

Whew! It’s been a busy week on the health-care front in California:

- Yesterday, the California State Legislature approved the expansion of Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program covering low-income families and individuals, to include Californians making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The expansion, which was motivated by efforts to comply with Obamacare, is expected to add at least 1 million Californians to the program. The federal government will cover the cost of expansion for the first three years, but the state must cover 10 percent thereafter. The Assembly passed its bill 53-22, while the proposal gained approval with a 24-7 vote in the Senate.

- Some labor unions and consumer advocates oppose Covered California’s proposal to allow consumers to shop for health-care plans at Wal-Mart, the Los Angeles Times reported yesterday. Critics say the retailer should not advise consumers on the purchase of health insurance when the company does not provide adequate health-insurance coverage for its own employees. Continue reading

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Who needs strength training?

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For years, I’ve ignored the advice that runners should incorporate strength training into their workouts, despite touted benefits of increased speed and reduced risk of injury.

I’ve never cared much for lifting weights. I’d rather just hit the trails, cover some ground and clear my head. Plus, I’m not a competitive runner, so why would I need to work on my muscles?

In January when I was in New-Year’s-resolution mode, I discovered this article, “Five Essential Strength Training Exercises for Runners,” on Competitor.com, which recommends doing the exercises just two to three times a week. Wanting to improve my running experience, I gave it a try. I haven’t compared times, so I can’t say I’ve transformed into a speed demon, but I do feel a difference when I run.

My favorite part of this workout? It can be done entirely with my own body weight, which I think is a great way to get into strength training. No equipment or gym membership required! Another thing I believe helps when starting out? Not trying to do too much, whether it’s reps, sets or amount of weight (if you’re using free weights). (Note: I am NOT an expert; just speaking from personal experience.) Continue reading

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Solve public health crises with new CDC app

iPad-STO-largePut that game of Angry Birds on hold.

Earlier this month, the CDC released a free iPad app called “Solve the Outbreak” that invites players to put on their epidemiologist caps. As disease outbreak investigators in the Epidemic Intelligence Service, players get clues, review data and make decisions to figure out the cause of three fictional outbreaks based on actual events.

“The public no longer have to experience an outbreak investigation through fictional Hollywood films like Contagion,” CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said in a statement.  “Users can now get their own first-hand experience of being a disease detective through this new application.”

CDC also touts the app, which aims to educate users about epidemiology, as a learning tool for science teachers, teens and public health enthusiasts.

As of 2:45 this afternoon there were three customer reviews on iTunes, all of which were postive. Jmconde said, “Well done application and the most fun one can have while talking about diarrhea.” Another reviewer who identified herself as an RN said, “Well put together, excellent factual information, you use your critical thinking skills to solve.”

The free app is available on iTunes.

Editor’s note: As I don’t have an iPad, I have not tested this app. Just thought this sounded like a fun thing to share.

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California’s health benefit exchange announces standardized plans

California’s health benefit exchange, known as Covered California, outlined today the standardized benefits consumers can expect to purchase through the marketplace, which will go live this fall with insurance coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2014.

Peter V. Lee, executive director of the state-run program that was established to comply with the Affordable Care Act, said the standardized health benefits would be adjusted according to income.

“Standardization is a game changer. It lets consumers shop from one insurance provider to the next, knowing that the benefits are the same,” Lee said in a statement. “This is about removing barriers to care; about changing the focus of health insurance on prevention and on taking care of the sick.”

Consumers will have a choice of four basic levels of coverage—platinum, gold, silver and bronze—with different monthly payment and co-pay rates. In general, individuals with higher levels of coverage pay more per month, but pay less when actually receiving care.

coveredca.com chartSource: CoveredCA.com

Depending on income, some individuals might be eligible for financial assistance in the form of tax credits, based on a sliding scale. In addition, some consumers might qualify for cost-sharing subsidies offered by the federal government. Continue reading

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Crisis Response Teams support trauma survivors

Photo courtesy of Luigi Diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Luigi Diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looking for a way to serve your community? If you can stay calm and offer compassion in traumatic situations, serving on a crisis response team (CRT) might be for you.

Last week, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced that the City of Los Angeles’ CRT is currently seeking volunteers.

“The Crisis Response Team plays an important role in our City’s ability to respond to emergencies,” Villaraigosa said in a statement. “We’re fortunate to have Los Angeles residents who are willing to join CRT and help their neighbors during a crisis.”

At the request of LAPD or LAFD, the CRT’s civilian volunteers respond to traumatic incidents such as homicides, suicides, serious traffic accidents, natural deaths and multi-casualty incidents. The CRT provides on-scene crisis intervention, attends to comfort needs, acts as a liaison between the victim and emergency personnel, and provides referrals to individuals affected by death, serious injury, violent crime or other trauma. Continue reading

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Going red to raise heart-disease awareness

The Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute professionals celebrate Wear Red Day. Photo courtesy of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

The Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute professionals celebrate Wear Red Day. Photo courtesy of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

The Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute was seeing red on Friday—but not in anger.

The health-care professionals were among participants across the country that donned their best red apparel on Feb. 1 to kick off Heart Disease Awareness Month, which aims to increase understanding of the No. 1 killer of American men and women.

To mark the occasion, the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute hosted a heart-healthy luncheon and presentation about gender differences in heart disease by Cedars-Sinai physician Dr. Puja Mehta, who is director of the Non-Invasive Vascular Function Research Laboratory at the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center.

Check out resources from the American Heart Association (AHA) for more info on its Go Red For Women campaign, which aims to educate women about heart disease risk factors and provide resources for taking control of heart health. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s Heart Truth campaign has similar objectives, including encouraging women to adopt healthier eating and exercise habits and to discuss personal heart-disease risk with their doctors. Continue reading

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New report tracks foodborne illnesses over a decade

Image courtesy of Feelart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Leafy vegetables were the leading source of foodborne illnesses between 1998 and 2008

Image courtesy of Feelart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Between 1998 and 2008, more foodborne illnesses were linked to leafy vegetables than to any other food category.

A new CDC study that will be published in the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal in March tracks the origin of foodborne illnesses between 1998 and 2008.

According to the CDC, 48 million people (1 in 6) suffer from food-related illnesses each year. More than one-fifth of those illnesses (9 million) are caused by major pathogens tracked by the CDC. By focusing on known causes of illness and studying data from about 4,600 outbreaks, researchers developed estimates of how many illnesses could be attributed to each of 17 food “commodities” or categories.

If you ever want to enjoy eating leafy greens and poultry again, you may want to stop reading now. The study found that among all food types studied, leafy vegetables were linked to the highest number of illnesses—2.1 million or 23 percent. Contaminated poultry was responsible for more deaths—277—than any of the other food categories. Continue reading

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California Legislature begins special session on health care today

A special legislative session, which Governor Jerry Brown called for in his State of the State address last week, to continue California’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is expected to begin today.

A proclamation issued by Brown’s office outlined the items the special session will address:

- Private health coverage market. Bring rules and regulations relating to guaranteed coverage, preexisting conditions and rating restrictions into conformance with federal law.
- Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program covering certain low-income families and individuals. Address requirements for eligibility, enrollment and retention.
- California Health Benefit Exchange, one part of the ACA that has faced significant resistance from some Republican governors. The Legislature will focus on low-cost coverage for individuals with income of up to 200 percent of the poverty level through the exchanges, which provide a marketplace for individuals and small businesses to shop for insurance plans. If states opt out of setting up these marketplaces, which should be established by October, the federal government will run the exchanges for them. California received a $674-million grant from the federal government to establish its health benefit exchange, Covered California.

More info to come soon.

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