Setting Holiday SMART Goals

By Kimberly Faulkner, Fitness Technician & Certified Personal Trainer, Meriter Wellness Center

woman flexing armThe holidays are quickly approaching which means added stress, increased calorie intake, and avoiding fitness and dietary goals. Believe it or not, the holiday season is a perfect time to set simple SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound) goals relating to diet and exercise. Setting SMART goals will help you get through the holiday season without added stress and possible weight gain.

Setting SMART goals helps you reach your objectives because if a goal is too general and not attainable the goal will be harder to accomplish. Having unrealistic goals can lead to guilt and additional stress. The goal should be set for your lifestyle and not overwhelm you. For example, if you have a busy schedule and you can’t exercise daily, set your goal for four days a week, 20-30 minutes per session. Or if you normally drink 4 glasses of water per day make a small adjustment and increase to 5 glasses.

Here are some tips to help you achieve your SMART goals during the holiday season.1. Keep the goals simple.

  1. Establish one exercise goal and one dietary goal. Try to focus on these two goals and if you get off track don’t stress or feel guilty. Get back on track the next day.
  2. Schedule exercise into your daily calendar. Scheduling will make exercise more of a priority and not just a thought.
  3. Try a new class that meets 1-2 times per week. This will allow your exercise time to already be planned and give you more accountability.
  4. Check out exercise videos. If going to an exercise class is overwhelming, check out an exercise DVD from the library, find one on YouTube or borrow one from a friend. If you are a beginner find one that involves low impact cardio, strength and flexibility.
  5. Go digital. Use a tracking app like MyFitnessPal to track calories and exercise minutes. Tracking will allow you to be more mindful with the number of calories consumed and exercise minutes.
  6. Sit less, move more. Use a pedometer or a phone app to track steps per day. Increase your steps per day by 50-100 or more depending on your goal.
  7. Prep for a party. If you have a holiday party to attend, go for a 20-30 minute walk and focus on eating more fruit and vegetables that day. Don’t go to the party starving.
  8. Set a timer. Use an alarm on your phone to remind you to stand up and move or drink a glass of water.
  9. Find an exercise partner. Ask a friend or co-worker to exercise with you. Exercising with someone gives you more accountability and motivation to continue.
  10. Every bit counts! Remember, something is better than nothing. A 5-10 minute yoga routine or walk will benefit you!

The holidays are a busy time but it is still important to put your health at the top of the priority list. Setting small goals during the holiday season will also give you momentum into the New Year. The New Year is a good time to re-evaluate your goals and make changes if necessary. Continue to use the SMART goal method and keep it simple yet concise. If you didn’t reach your daily goal, don’t give up and focus on accomplishing it the next day!

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Managing Holiday Stress & Diabetes

By Sara S. Lasker, MEd, MCHES, Diabetes Educator, Diabetes Care Team

woman breathingAs Diabetes Awareness Month draws to a close, the stress of the holiday season begins. However, there are some ways to combat the stress and take care of your diabetes.


Stress is a physical and mental reaction to perceived danger. Conditions that seem uncontrollable or require emotional and behavioral change tend to be perceived as a threat. When the body and mind sense a threat, they get ready for fight or flight. Whether the threat is real or imagined, the body prepares for survival by turning up some bodily functions while turning others down.


  • Sleeping too much or not enough
  • Changes in appetite (eating more or less)
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Frequent bouts of crying
  • Trouble with memory and/or concentration
  • Anxious thoughts (often taking the form of “what if ____________ happens?”)
  • Muscle tension (that ache in your neck)
  • Irritability
  • Feeling down or depressed
  • Being easily angered or being angry a lot of the time.
  • Stomach problems (vomiting, nausea, stomachaches, diarrhea or constipation)
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Avoidance of work or school tasks and/or difficulty completing them
  • A change in relationships (either avoiding or feeling the need to seek out the company of others more than usual)
  • Headaches
  • Feeling your heart beating (often when trying to fall asleep)
  • Difficulty swallowing or feeling as though you are choking
  • Trembling or shakiness
  • Feeling faint
  • Profuse sweating
  • Teeth grinding
  • Feeling uneasy or on edge


During this time of year our stress levels are up and our anxiety is higher. Excessive stress is a major barrier to effective glucose control. The food eaten gets digested and broken down into a sugar the body’s cells can use. This is glucose, one of the simplest forms of sugar.

However, excessive stress works against diabetes management by increasing blood glucose levels quickly. Additionally strong negative emotions impair sound thinking and decision-making thus, tempting compulsive, poor eating and derailment from healthy choices.


By taking a few minutes to relax and breathe it can help put you in the right mindset to handle the hustle of the holiday season. It also helps to reduce stress and promote good mental and physical health. We all begin life breathing correctly. Just watch a baby’s natural, full breathing. The stomach moves up and down. The chest cavity hardly moves at all. Most adults however, do not breathe this way. Adults usually use only their chest muscles for breathing. If you learn to breathe correctly, you can use breathing exercises to reduce your stress. A breathing exercise takes only a few minutes and can be done anywhere including at your desk or seated in a quiet place. Just remember to avoid doing breathing exercises right after you have eaten as it could interfere with your digestive process.

  1. Sit comfortably with your back straight. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. You can keep your eyes open or close them.
  2. Breathe in through your nose. The hand on your stomach should rise and the hand on your chest should move slightly.
  3. Exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale.
  4. Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your lower abdomen rises and falls. Count slowly as you exhale.
  5. Start breathing easily and naturally through your nose, concentrating on filling your stomach with each breath.
  6. Continue to do this for about 5 minutes.
  7. Gradually open your eyes if you have closed them.
  8. Sit quietly for another minute or two before continuing with your tasks.

Take care of yourself, and your diabetes, during this holiday season by taking time to breathe!

*SOURCE: American Diabetes Association and Using Breathing Exercise to Reduce Stress.

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Learning Healthier Ways to Manage Stress

by Megan Matuszeski, M.S., CHES, Employee Wellness Coordinator

stressed womanIf your methods of coping with stress aren’t contributing to your greater emotional and physical health, it’s time to find healthier ones. There are many healthy ways to manage and cope with stress, but they all require change. You can either change the situation or change your reaction. When deciding which option to choose, it’s helpful to think of the four A’s: Avoid, Alter, Adapt or Accept.

Since everyone has a unique response to stress, there is no “one size fits all” solution to managing it. No single method works for everyone or in every situation, so experiment with different techniques and strategies. Focus on what makes you feel calm and in control.

Dealing with Stressful Situations: The Four A’s

**Change the situation:

  • Avoid the stressor
  • Alter the stressor

**Change your reaction:

  • Adapt to the stressor
  • Accept the stressor


Not all stress can be avoided, and it’s not healthy to avoid a situation that needs to be addressed. You may be surprised, however, by the number of stressors in your life that you can eliminate.

  • Learn how to say “no.” Know your limits and stick to them. Whether in your personal or professional life, taking on more than you can handle is a surefire recipe for stress.
  • Avoid people who stress you out. If someone consistently causes stress in your life and you can’t turn the relationship around, limit the amount of time you spend with that person or end the relationship entirely.
  • Take control of your environment. If the evening news makes you anxious, turn the TV off. If traffic’s got you tense, take a longer but less-traveled route. If going to the market is an unpleasant chore, do your grocery shopping online.


Attempt to make a change for the better by:

  • Respectfully ask others to change their behavior and be willing to do the same in return. Small problems often create larger ones if they aren’t resolved.
  • Communicate your feelings openly. Remember to use “I” statements, as in, “I feel frustrated by shorter deadlines and a heavier workload. Is there something we can do to balance things out?”
  • State limits in advance. Instead of stewing over a colleague’s nonstop chatter, politely start the conversation with, “I’ve got only five minutes to cover this.”


There will be times in our lives when the best choice is to accept things as they are. For those times, it may be helpful to:

  • Talk with someone. You may not be able to change a frustrating situation, but that doesn’t mean your feelings aren’t legitimate. Phone or schedule a coffee break with an understanding friend. You’ll feel better after talking it out.
  • Forgive. It takes energy to be angry. Forgiving may take practice, but by doing so you will free yourself from burning more negative energy.
  • Practice positive self-talk. It’s easy to lose objectivity when you’re stressed. One negative thought can lead to another, and soon you’ve created a mental avalanche. Be positive. Instead of thinking, “I am horrible with money and will never be able to control my finances,” try this: “I made a mistake with my money, but I am resilient. I’ll learn from my mistakes and move forward.”


Thinking you can’t cope is one of the greatest stressors. That’s why adapting, which often involves changing your standards or expectations, can be most helpful in dealing with stress.

  • Adjust your standards. Do you need to vacuum and dust twice a week? Would macaroni and cheese be an unthinkable substitute for homemade lasagna? Redefine success and stop striving for perfection, and you may operate with a little less guilt and frustration.
  • Reframe the issue. Try looking at your situation from a new viewpoint. Instead of feeling frustrated that you’re home with a sick child, look at it as an opportunity to bond with your child, relax and finish a load of laundry.
  • Adopt a mantra. Create a saying such as “I can handle this” and mentally repeat it in tough situations.
  • Look at the big picture. Ask yourself, “Will this matter in a year or in five years?” The answer is often no. Realizing this makes a stressful situation seem less overwhelming.

By practicing several of these techniques, you can begin to reduce the amount of stress that you feel on a daily basis. Stress management takes practice. Give yourself the time and effort necessary to make these positive adjustments. Your mind and body will thank you!

Information adapted from the Mayo Clinic Healthy Lifestyle Information section.

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Attend Raising Children on the Autism Spectrum

Free Class: Parental and Professional Perspectives on Raising Children on the Autism Spectrum

Many families in our community have children with a diagnosis of autism, or they are concerned that their child may receive a diagnosis of autism. This presentation is an opportunity to hear firsthand from a mother about her experience raising her son with autism, who is now 21 years of age. Leslie shares her family’s story to be of help to others who may be traveling a similar path. Leslie’s son has faced many challenges along the way, and is doing well as a young adult.

To compliment Leslie’s perspective as a parent, we will also hear from Dr. Glinis Benson, who has worked for many years in the Madison community with individuals with autism, and has worked closely with Leslie’s family.

Please join us for this meaningful discussion which is sure to be of value to many families and caregivers. We are sorry that we are not able to provide childcare for this event. We ask that only adult caregivers and family members attend this presentation. Light refreshments will be served.

Date and Time: Thursday January 21,  2016 from 6:30 – 8:00 PM
Meriter Hospital  Pediatric Therapy Clinic  on 2 North

Register Today

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Managing Diabetes Through the Holidays

By Sara S. Lasker, MEd, MCHES, Diabetes Educator, Diabetes Care Team

Thanksgiving DubberThe fight to eat right during the holiday season is upon us as well as the festivities and added stress. Just because it is the holiday season does not mean diabetes has to slow you down. There are plenty of ways to stay on track with diabetes throughout the holiday season!

Plan Ahead

Before heading out to a gathering, have a glass of water or a healthy snack. It will make you feel fuller and help cut down on your consumption. Plan ahead and bring your favorite dish to share. This is beneficial if you count carbohydrates because you can check the recipes nutrition facts to know how many are in one serving and how that works into your meal plan. You may even find a way to make a lighter recipe which will help both you and others trying to stay on track during the holiday season.

Time for Food—Use the Plate Method

Use the Plate Method just like you would for any other meal. What is the Plate Method? It is a method to help control portion sizes while being able to choose foods you like to eat. Utilizing a 9 inch plate there are five basic steps to follow for the Plate Method:

  • ½ of the plate should be filled with non-starchy vegetables (lettuce, green beans, etc.)
  • ¼ of the plate should be filled with lean protein (for example: turkey) or other protein sources (like tofu)
  • ¼ of the plate should be filled with starchy foods (like potatoes or bread)
  • 1 serving of milk, yogurt or calcium (for example an 8 oz. glass of milk)
  • Add a piece of fruit for desert (Yes, that may be challenging during the holidays but that’s why knowing the nutrition facts for the food you prepared is helpful—especially if it is a desert recipe.)

If the meal is going to be served close to your normal meal time try to eat the same amount of carbohydrate that you normally would for a meal. Unsure about how much that is? 1 carbohydrate choice is equal to 15 grams of carbohydrate. The recommended amount per meal for women is 3-4 carbohydrate choices (45-60g) and for men are 4-5 carbohydrate choices (60-75g).

Friends and Family

Remember the holidays are about family and friends and not just food. Thus, one day of indulging yourself is not the end of the world! So don’t pass up your favorite foods or deprive yourself completely. Portion control is the key! Find active ways to interact with loved ones such as playing games, watching sporting events, volunteering or spending time outdoors together.

Stay Active

Getting moving is proven to reduce stress and help digest food. Including a walk as an after meal family activity to stay active. Some other ways include:

  • Start a game of football, soccer, basketball, or another game in the yard.
  • Offer to help clean up after a meal to get you moving.
  • Walk/Run in a Thanksgiving Day morning organized run such as the Turkey Trot. It’s a great way to meet others wanting to make good holiday choices and to get you off on the right foot to a positive healthy day!


If you have eaten more carbohydrates or food than planned, it is OK! Tomorrow is another day to make a new game plan for being successful. Stay happy and healthy this holiday season by keeping track of diabetes and remember to focus on the positive times spent with friends and family!

***Information adapted from the American Diabetes Association article Six Holiday Tips***

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Meriter to Join UW Health Rehabilitation Hospital

Meriter-UnityPoint Health® has signed an agreement to become a partner in the new UW Health Rehabilitation Hospital that recently opened on the city’s east side. The hospital is currently jointly owned and operated by UW Health and Kindred Healthcare, the nation’s largest diversified provider of post-acute care.

“This new rehabilitation facility offers Meriter an opportunity to work with partners to transform care locally, preserving access and quality and channeling resources into a new state-of-the-art, dedicated facility,” said Art Nizza, president and CEO of Meriter-UnityPoint Health. “Our joint efforts will ensure that this facility is a regional destination for inpatient rehab care.”

The 50-bed, free-standing hospital opened in late September. It includes a brain-injury unit, with monitored rooms and specialized equipment; a dedicated stroke unit; two large gymnasiums; and an adaptive kitchen and “functional living” apartment suite for patients and families to practice living independently before the patient returns home.

The current 16-bed Meriter inpatient rehab unit will close in late January 2016. Meriter will continue to offer outpatient therapy and outpatient rehabilitation medicine services.

“We are happy to welcome Meriter as a partner in the new hospital,” said Dr. Jeff Grossman, interim CEO of UW Health. “The physicians from UW and Meriter will work together for the best patient outcomes.”

“Adding Meriter as a partner is an example of how health care organizations can work together to wisely use resources and share expertise to best serve the region,” said Greg Banaszynski, CEO of UW Health Rehabilitation Hospital.

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Prevent a Failing Heart

Red Apple Heart


HEART FAILURE OCCURS when your heart muscle cannot keep up with your body’s need for oxygenated blood. Although the name may sound scary, heart failure is not necessarily fatal, and many people with the condition go on to live healthy lives, provided they take the right steps to control it.

Know – and Manage – Your Risk

Many of the same lifestyle factors that increase your risk for heart attack and stroke put you at risk for heart failure – obesity, inactivity, unhealthy eating habits and tobacco use. Making healthy changes to your diet and lifestyle can significantly reduce your risk or help manage heart failure if you already have it.

Certain pre-existing health conditions can also increase your risk. Talk with your health care provider about heart failure if you have had a previous heart attack or have:

  • coronary artery disease
  • high blood pressure
  • heart muscle disease or inflammation
  • congenital heart defects
  • severe lung disease
  • sleep apnea

Spot the Signs

Heart failure can be difficult to diagnose, as symptoms often mimic those of other conditions. The most common symptoms are shortness of breath, fatigue, and excess swelling or weight gain in the lower extremities. It’s also common to wake up feeling out of breath, anxious or restless. Increased heart rate, coughing and lack of appetite are also common.

If you are experiencing any of these and have any of the above-mentioned risks for heart failure, talk with your health care provider.


The best way to live a normal life with heart failure is to make lifestyle changes that greatly reduce your chances of becoming hospitalized.

“If you are proactive in managing heart failure, you’ll feel more in control of your overall health,” said Katie Diaz, A.P.N.P., nurse practitioner with Meriter – UnityPoint Health®. “Even small changes to your diet and exercise routine can lead to big improvements in your quality of life.”

The most significant of those changes includes limiting salt, which causes you to retain water and generally feel unwell, and adding a daily walk, according to Diaz. In addition, it’s important to reduce stress and anxiety and get enough sleep – the better you feel, the more proactive you’ll be in managing your condition.

Learn more about your heart care options by visiting our Heart & Vascular page or calling (608) 417-2100.

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Nov. 14 is World Diabetes Day

By Sara S. Lasker, MEd, MCHES, Diabetes Educator, Diabetes Care Team

What is World Diabetes Day?

World Diabetes DayWorld Diabetes Day is led by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and celebrated annually on Nov. 14. It was created in 1991 by the IDF and the World Health Organization (WHO) in response to growing concerns about the escalating threat posed by diabetes.

Wear Blue to Show Your Support

Similar to the pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness or red ribbon for AIDS awareness, a blue circle is worn for diabetes awareness.

The circle was chosen because it occurs frequently in nature. The significance of the circle is overwhelmingly positive. Across cultures, the circle can symbolize life and health. Most significantly for the campaign, the circle symbolizes unity. Our combined strength is the key element that made this campaign so special. The global diabetes community came together to support a United Nations Resolution on diabetes and needs to remain united to make a difference.

The blue border of the circle reflects the color of the sky and the flag of the United Nations. The United Nations is in itself a symbol of unity among nations. It is the only organization that can signal governments everywhere that it is time to fight diabetes and reverse the global trends that will impede economic development and cause so much suffering and premature death.

Focus on healthy eating and sugar reduction

The focus of this year’s fight against diabetes is on healthy eating and sugar (carbohydrate) reduction. Given the evidence that increased sugar intake is associated with increased obesity and risk of Type 2 diabetes, the IDF supports the WHO’s conditional recommendation to reduce recommended sugar intake to 5% of daily energy intake.

Do You Know How Much Sugar You Are Consuming?

Not quite sure what a serving size of sugar looks like? Try this simple experiment at home. You will need: table sugar, a plastic baggie, a teaspoon, your favorite food/beverage item (with a label), and the knowledge that 1 teaspoon of sugar is equal to 4 grams of carbohydrates.

  • Step 1: Read the label on the back of your food/beverage item. Let’s say it is a can of regular soda. The label reveals the soda has 40g of carbohydrates. 40g divided by 4g is 10g—that is 10 teaspoons of sugar.
  • Step 2: Now place 10 teaspoons of sugar into your plastic bag.
  • Step 3: Hold up the baggie and really take a look at how many grams of sugar are being consumed in one 12-ounce regular can of soda.

So help support diabetes awareness this Nov. 14 and wear your blue! For more specific information on World Diabetes Day visit the International Diabetes Federation website.

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The Healing Power of Pets

Pet TherapyAT THE END of a hard day, there’s no greater emotional comfort than a cuddly animal that will simply sit, listen and let you shower him with belly rubs.

Research has shown that interacting with pets lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol and boosts levels of the “love hormone,” oxytocin. That, combined with a pet’s need for walks or playtime, helps reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides while also motivating you to fit in the 30 minutes of physical activity you need every day.

Pets may also alleviate loneliness and encourage owners to interact with other people. Plus, with their constant unconditional love, pets are a good reminder of your self-worth and value.

Learn more about pet therapy and Meriter Hospital’s Dogs on Call.

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Study Provide Early Warning for Pregnancy Complications

Pregnant Woman with hands in heart over stomach The Center for Perinatal Care, located at Meriter Hospital, is involved in a first-of-its-kind study to help identify early warning signs for pregnancy complications.

The project’s goal is to increase the understanding of the placenta, which is a baby’s home and source of all nutrients during pregnancy. The study, funded through a 4-year $4 million grant, will use imaging techniques to identify pregnancy problems at a very early stage.

Dr. Dinesh Shah, OB/GYN at the Center for Perinatal Care and professor at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, is the project’s lead.

“Previous studies have focused largely on the placenta after delivery, but in order to understand it fully we need to be able to study it while it’s doing its job,” said Shah. “Modern imaging makes it possible to study it from outside of the body. Too often damage has already begun by the time a mother with a problematic pregnancy appears in clinic, limiting the health care providers’ ability to correct the course of her pregnancy.”

Clinical studies, including ultrasound imaging, will occur at the Center for Perinatal Care, which specializes in providing high-risk pregnancy care. The Center for Perinatal Care is part of shared Mother-Baby Care program between UW Health and Meriter – UnityPoint Health.

Imaging techniques will be developed in collaboration with UW Radiology and Medical Physics (working through the MR Research Group). These clinical studies are also supported by the Image Analysis Core (IMAC) Facility at the Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research (WIMR), and the Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (ICTR).

This grant is a part of the Human Placenta Project, funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

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Mind the Stress

MindfulnessCONSTANT STRESS CAN take a toll on your mental health. Whether you’re juggling work, family or upcoming holiday obligations, let mindfulness help you identify situations that drain your energy.

Mindfulness is the practice of focusing your attention on the present. For 15 minutes each day, sit quietly and concentrate on nothing but your breathing. Stressful thoughts will arise – let them come and go while redirecting your focus to your breath. Even fitting in just a few minutes of mindfulness can make a big difference in how you feel.

You can also practice mindfulness throughout your day, simply by focusing on one task at a time and being aware of any emotions or sensations that arise while doing it. Over time, mindfulness will help you understand how you react to the inevitable ups and downs of everyday life.

Learn about mindfulness and other stress-coping strategies.

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Keep Your Kids Health

Smiling ChildrenThese Five Autumn-Related Aliments can be prevented – all it takes is a little vigilance and a visit to your child’s health care provider.

  1. Ear infections. The most common reason kids visit their pediatricians any time of year is an ear infection. Often secondary infections caused by other illnesses, such as cold and flu, ear infections are best prevented by keeping your child healthy with good hand hygiene and staying up-to-date on vaccines.
  2. Sports injuries. Fall sports keep kids fit and active,but they also put kids at risk for serious concussions. Make sure a child is evaluated by a qualified professional immediately following any head injury, even if the injury seems minor.
  3. Cold and flu. A cold often presents with runny nose, low-grade fever and cough, while the flu leads to high fever, body aches and chills. The flu can cause serious problems for children, especially those who have a chronic health condition. Make sure all your children ages 6 months old and older receive an annual flu vaccine, and make sure they wash their hands – it’s the best way to prevent the spread of both colds and flu.
  4. Seasonal allergies. Ragweed is the problem plant in fall. A visit to your child’s health care provider can help identify if his or her sneezing can be solved with allergy medications or shots.
  5. Asthma. The leading cause of school absences among children in the United States, asthma can be triggered by anything from changes in temperature to stress to indoor air pollution. A back-to-school checkup gives you the chance to talk to your child’s health care provider about the best ways to manage asthma, whether with medications or simple lifestyle changes.

We’re Here When you Need Us

At Meriter – UnityPoint Health, our clinics offer extended hours and same-day appointments to ensure your child gets the best service possible, and our doctors work together to make sure they’re available when needed.“As parents ourselves, we want to provide for our patients the kind of care we would want our own children to receive,” said Kathryn Cahill, M.D., pediatrician with Meriter West Washington clinic. “If your physician knows your child, care can be much more tailored and personalized, and our patients receive a higher level of care.”

Need care after business hours? A Pediatric Center in the emergency room and a Pediatric After-Hours Clinic are both available at Meriter Hospital.

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Attend our Family Night Out – Nov. 24

Enjoy a FREE night filled with ways to stay active indoors.

Join us for:
•    Dancing
•    Games
•    Face painting
•    Balloon artist
•    Snacks and infused water
•    Register to win prizes

Location: Meriter DeForest-Windsor
4200 Savannah Drive, DeForest
(near the intersection of Hwys. 19 & 51)

Date: Tuesday, November 24 from 5:30-7:30pm

This event is open to the community and the drawings are free, without any obligation.

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Improving Health Literacy

By Megan Matuszeski, M.S., CHES, Employee Wellness Coordinator

Elderly Couple Laughing “Health Literacy” is the ability to read, understand and act upon health information. There is a significant gap between the way health information is communicated and the ability of most people to understand it.

All people are affected by limited health literacy. According to the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy, nearly 9 out of 10 adults have difficulty using routine health information. Poor health literacy can lead to people being more likely to skip necessary medical tests, having a harder time with their diabetes or high blood pressure, and visiting the emergency room more often.

There are several things that you can do to improve your understanding of health related information:

1.  Improve Communication With Your Doctors and Other Health Professionals:

  • Before you leave for your appointment make a list of your symptoms and when they   started. Bring a list of your current medications, write down your questions, and bring paper to take notes.
  • Ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist to use familiar language and write down their information.
  • Ask questions if something is not clear. Let the health care person know if what they are telling you is confusing in any way. Ask for written materials written in plain language.
  • Make sure you know who to call with any questions you may have after you get home.

2.  Take action within your community:

  • Ask your librarian how to find clearly written and relevant health information. Take classes offered by librarians on Internet and social media tools.
  • Attend health education programs at your public or hospital library, community centers, or faith-based organizations. Request these programs if they aren’t offered.
  • Request that local schools teach children about health education and deliver clear health messages to children, like proper hand-washing techniques.

3.  Check these websites for more information:

*Information obtained from Mayo Clinic Health System*

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Men’s Health Movember

By Dr. Luke Fortney, Family Medicine

About Movember

November is upon us and only recently has the term Movember entered the American lexicon. Movember is now widely recognized as the men’s health fundraising campaign that started in Australia in 2003 to raise awareness of Prostate cancer. Since then it has evolved to include nearly all aspects of men’s health and has expanded to over 21 countries worldwide.

Movember arrived here in the U.S. with the introduction of “No-Shave November” on Facebook in 2009 with the idea that you start clean-shaven Nov. 1 and stop shaving for 30 days. With the growth of mustaches and beards, the idea is to raise awareness and conversations about all aspects of men’s health. Moving beyond just fundraising for cancer research, this year’s campaign in the U.S. will also emphasize movement and mental health, which is appropriate given new data showing that physical activity cannot only help prevent cancer but many other diseases as well.

Men’s Health

When we step back and look at the numbers here in the U.S., we see that heart disease is by far and away the top killer of both men and women. However, one-and-a-half times more men die from heart disease compared to women—but underage 65, three-times more men than women die from heart attacks. For diabetes, the numbers are similar with men being one-and-a-half times more likely than women to die from complications of this growing health problem. Men are also one-and-a-half times more likely to die from accidents such as drowning and car crashes—but for men underage 44, accidents are actually the No. 1 cause of death. Furthermore, death from suicide is four times higher for men than women, and men are also the victims in 4 out of 5 homicides.

What do all these statistics have in common? They point back to lifestyle factors, which are the most significant drivers behind all these deaths. These numbers are heavily influenced by what and how much we eat, what and how much we drink, how much we move or don’t move, whether or not we smoke, and what we do with our thoughts and emotions. Given that all change starts with awareness, it is highly appropriate that Movember has transformed into a multifaceted campaign to help men live happier, healthier, longer lives.

Healthy Living Tips

Practically what does this mean and what can we do on a daily-basis to turn the tide? It’s not as complex as it might seem and here’s how:

  1. Don’t smoke, or if you do smoke, QUIT. November is also the “Great American Smoke-Out” for smoking cessation nationwide. Tobacco contributes to nearly every known cancer (including lung cancer, which is the TOP cause of cancer death among men), but smoking also fuels lung diseases like COPD and pneumonia, which are the fourth top-killers of men nationally.
  2. Get active and MOVE everyday of MOVEmber – 30 MOVEs in 30 days, with no movement being too big or small.
  3. Control, cut back, or eliminate alcohol use and abuse, which is hard on the liver and contributes significantly to liver disease (two-and-a-half times more men than women die from chronic liver disease and cirrhosis), high blood pressure, obesity and cancer.
  4. Take a stand against violence and abuse. Not only are men the overwhelming majority of homicide and suicide victims, but sadly they are the perpetrators of nearly all domestic violence and abuse against women. This has to stop, period. In combination with alcohol abuse, my sister Sargent Schwartz of the Madison Police Department says, “alcohol and testosterone don’t mix well together.”
  5. For mental health issues like depression and anxiety (which are also made worse by alcohol abuse), reach out and get help. Suicide is the seventh top-killer of men and is made worse by social isolation and alcohol abuse. Movember is also a big month for football here in the U.S., which is fitting because it takes teamwork to tackle complex situations like this. Rather than closing down and turning to alcohol, reach out to anyone in your health care team and ask for a game plan.
  6. Finally, this Movember, embrace the positive aspects of masculinity and do whatever you can to help yourself, a friend, or family member take one step closer to living a happier, healthier life.

Celebrate Movember

Grow a mustache and/or beard to raise awareness, and keep your face warm in these cooler temperatures. Can’t grow a mo? No problem. Not every man can grow a mustache, and that’s OK. “There’s no such thing as a perfect mustache. Every mustache is perfect in its own unique way,” says Adam Paul Cousgrove, the chief executive of the American Mustache Institute. Be creative, have fun, and see what you can do. You can use a tool like Mustache Makeover Lite or grown your own!

And ladies, you can join in the fun by encouraging the men in your lives to participate in Movember, or by skipping the salon or leg shaving etc.

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Join us at the Women’s Expo

Grab your girlfriends and head to BRAVA Magazine’s Women’s Expo, November 21 and 22! Snap a photo in our photo booth and learn about the variety of wellness services we offer that help you take care of (and spoil) yourself, inside and out!

Questions about skin rejuvenation or plastic surgery? Our experts will be at the booth all weekend, available to answer questions or recommend the appropriate product or procedure, based on your unique features, aging process and desired outcome.

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November is Diabetes Awareness Month

Sara S. Lasker, MEd, MCHES, Diabetes Educator, Diabetes Care Team

Knowledge is PowerNovember is Diabetes Awareness Month & knowledge is power! Each week throughout November we’re posting different diabetes related articles. Diabetes is continuously in the news so, this week we are going to cover the basics of the various types of the disease to help give you a better understanding of diabetes. To begin, there are several different types of diabetes but the 4 main types commonly talked about include: Type 1, Type 2, Pre-Diabetes and Gestational Diabetes.


Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and was previously known as juvenile diabetes. Only 5 percent of people with diabetes have this form of the disease. In Type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas. The pancreas helps the body to break down the sugars and starches you eat into a simple sugar called glucose, which it uses for energy. People with Type 1 diabetes must receive insulin through injection to maintain blood glucose levels in the normal range.


In someone with Type 2 diabetes the body does not use insulin properly. This is called insulin resistance. At first, the pancreas makes extra insulin to make up for it. But over time it isn’t able to keep up and can’t make enough insulin to keep blood glucose at normal levels. Some people with Type 2 can control their blood glucose with healthy eating and being active often times it is treated with a combination of lifestyle changes, oral medications, diet, exercise, and/or insulin.


Before people develop Type 2 diabetes they almost always have “prediabetes”—blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Doctor’s may refer to pre-diabetes as impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) or impaired fasting glucose (IFG), depending on what test was used when it was detected. This condition puts you at a higher risk for developing Type 2 diabetes but it can be reversed. Unlike Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes can be prevented through early detection. Research has shown that losing 7 percent of your body weight and exercising moderately 30 minutes a day, five days a week is beneficial to preventing the prediabetes from progressing into Type 2 diabetes.


During pregnancy women may develop gestational diabetes. A diagnosis of gestational diabetes does not mean that you have diabetes before you conceived, or that you will have diabetes after birth. Gestational diabetes starts when your body is not able to make and use all the insulin it needs for pregnancy. Without enough insulin, glucose cannot leave the blood and be changed to energy thus it builds in the blood to high levels, called hyperglycemia.


When someone is first diagnosed they may be exhibiting some of the following signs prior to their diagnosis:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Drowsiness or lethargy
  • Increased appetite
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Sugar in the urine
  • Fruity, sweet or wine-like odor on breath
  • Heavy or labored breathing
  • Stupor or unconsciousness’s and symptoms

Looking for more information and resources?  For more information, check out out diabetes educational materials.

Please note: This information was adapted from the American Diabetes Association.

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Spooktacular Tips for Halloween

Spooktacular tips for halloween

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Snack Smart This Season

football tail gateFootball season doesn’t have to come with unhealthy snacks.  Try trading some of your typical tailgate food for healthier options that are low in empty calories, high in nutrients and delicious.

Instead of …

Ground beef patties –Try grilled portobello mushrooms marinated in your favorite spices and heart-healthy olive oil. This hearty vegetable is packed with nutrients like iron, niacin, phosphorus and potassium.

Hamburger buns – Wrap your proteins in red leaf lettuce, a low-carb, vitamin A-rich substitute for white bread.

Potato chips – Crispy kale cooked in the oven one-ups plain chips. The leafy green vegetable is filled with nutrients, such as vitamins A, C and K. Simply drizzle a freshly washed bunch with olive oil and bake until the edges are brown.

Sour cream – If you’re in the mood for something creamy,try velvety Greek yogurt in your dips. Rich in calcium, protein and vitamin B12, this low-calorie swap can add nutritious indulgence to your game-day meals.

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Health Insurance Q&A

What’s a Health Insurance Exchange?

health insurance Americans are now required to have health insurance, and health insurance exchanges are a new way to purchase it. Exchanges are online portals where you can shop for a plan that meets your budget and your family’s health care needs.

How Much Do I Have to Pay?

Exchanges offer four tiers of health plans – bronze, silver, gold and platinum – that offer different levels of coverage, monthly premiums and deductibles. You may be eligible for federal subsidies to help pay for a plan that meets your needs.

What Do They Cover?

The new health care law requires all plans to cover essential benefits, such as emergency room care and pediatric services. A number of preventive services, including vaccinations, annual physicals and annual visits to the OB/GYN, are covered at no cost to you.

How Do I Sign Up?

Visit during Open Enrollment season, which runs from Nov. 1, 2015, to Jan. 30, 2016, to enroll in a federal or state-operated plan.

Meriter accepts most major insurance plans. See all the insurance options we accept.

To learn more about potential penalties, check out this article from NBC News.

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Welcome Dr. Sampene and Andrea Bushaw

Meriter – UnityPoint Health would like to welcome Katherine Sampene, MD and Andrea Bushaw, WHNP to our clinics. Both Dr. Sampene and Andrea are UW Health providers offering obstetrical and gynecology services.

Dr. Sampene practice at Meriter McKee and Meriter DeForest-Windsor. She cares for a variety of female patients throughout all stages of life from pre-puberty to post-menopause. She provides comprehensive women’s health care for patients with both high and low risk pregnancies, benign gynecology, cervical dysplasia, colposcopies, contraception, pelvic pain, basic infertility, urogynecology and post-menopausal symptom treatment. She enjoys taking care of her patients and listening to their needs to find the right solution for their unique health issue.

Andrea practices at Meriter McKee and Meriter Monona. She has always been passionate about women’s health and enjoys working with women during all stages of their lives. The broad field of OB/GYN allows her to manage a variety of issues including low- and high-risk pregnancies, contraception, abnormal uterine bleeding, preconception, fertility, breast health and annual exams. She tries to make all patients’ feel comfortable during their visit while helping them achieve their desired goals, so they return for future care.

Schedule an appointment with Dr. Sampene at Meriter McKee (608) 417-8800 or Meriter DeForest-Windsor (608) 417-3300. Call to schedule with Andrea Bushaw at Meriter Monona (608) 417-3000 or Meriter McKee (608) 417-8800.

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American Heart Association Endorses CPR Apps

PulsePoint InfographicThe American Heart Association (AHA) is endorsing the widespread use of mobile apps, like PulsePoint, in sudden cardiac arrest emergencies, according to newly released guidelines.

“Immediate hands-only CPR after sudden cardiac arrest can potentially double or even triple a victim’s chance of survival, but less than half of all victims receives that immediate help,” said Dr. Joseph Bellissimo, Cardiologist at Meriter – UnityPoint Health. “Apps like PulsePoint allow us to connect those who are trained in CPR to those whose life truly depends upon a Good Samaritan’s willingness to help.”

Meriter – UnityPoint Health, in collaboration with Dane County EMS and City of Madison Fire, introduced the PulsePoint app to Dane County earlier this year. The free app alerts CPR-trained individuals when someone experiences a sudden cardiac arrest in a public place near his or her current location. The bystander is then able to begin life-saving CPR until emergency responders arrive on the scene, vastly improving the victim’s chances of survival.

More than 8,000 people have downloaded the app since it was released locally.

The AHA guidelines published last week cite a study from The New England Journal of Medicine that found a significant increase in bystanders giving CPR when alerted via a mobile alert compared to emergencies when no alert was sent.

The PulsePoint app is free and available for download on both Apple and Android devices. Alerts are sent simultaneously with the dispatch of professional rescuers when a sudden cardiac arrest occurs in a safe public place. PulsePoint is not limited to emergency responders or those with official CPR certification; it can be used by anyone who has been trained in hands-only CPR. Those who sign up for alerts are not required to respond and are completely anonymous to the system. Additionally, Good Samaritan laws assure that they are not held liable for the victim’s health outcome.

Download PulsePoint.

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Tips for Putting Your Child To Sleep

Dr. Ronald Grant, Pediatric Hospital Medicine

Sleeping BabyWhen it came to the sleep issues that plague most parents of newborn infants, my third child almost did me in. I was a 54 years old father. It had been many years since I’d had an infant in the house, much less a baby blessed with a terrible case of colic. As a pediatrician who was the father of two grown children who had both been excellent sleepers, I believed the wisdom I’d gleaned as a father and as a pediatrician would ultimately save me from an untimely disaster.

It turned out I was wrong. When my darling child was six months old, I ended up in my pediatrician’s office listening to him give advice that I as a pediatrician had given countless times to numerous weary-eyed parents who had children that wouldn’t sleep. “Babies are trainable creatures,” he said. “You need to take control of the situation, because if you don’t, it will control you. If you don’t do something now, you’ll be back here again. And again and again.”

I remembered the sleep advice I first gave when I started practicing in a private setting – do what works best for you. Who was I to tell a parent who wanted to wake up in the middle of the night not to feed their 18 month old toddler? After all, I wasn’t the one who’d be sleep-deprived and walking around the house like a zombie. If they didn’t mind living on a couple of hours a night, what was the harm?

What I learned as both a doctor and a parent was that lack of sleep would lead to troublesome effects, because people who are tired end up with a decreased immune system. Less sleep not only meant cranky parents, it meant a house full of people who were sick more often.

So using health as a forum for my pedestal, I changed my tone. Babies are trainable creatures, I began telling my parents, foreshadowing that afternoon in my friend’s office. Though newborn babies need constant attention, they will ultimately figure out that they are the ones who control our behavior if you let them. If you attend to every cry and whim, after a certain point the cries and whims never go away.

Do you want to be feeding them in the middle of the night when they start kindergarten? I would say to parents with a knowing smirk on my face. Though I exaggerated a bit, I did learn that babies eventually need to have structure and parents eventually need to get some sleep. So though I would never institute rigid regulations before six months of age, I do think some sort of weaning method is advisable, especially if the baby has already exhibited signs of not having to wake to eat.

In addition, there are a couple of tricks I use that don’t interfere with the love and affection that all new babies need and should get. 1) Feed on demand, but “power feed” in the evening so the baby will be satiated. Then put him or her down (bundled and supine), so he or she senses a “bedtime.” It also helps to have them slightly awake so they can learn their own cues for falling asleep. 2) No matter how hard it is to listen to your child cry at night, the relief and sound sleep that comes with “Ferberizing” a nine month old infant is well worth it. (Google the Ferber Method. One of the most commonly used methods to gradually withdraw your support). I know because I’ve been through both ends of it. And I also know that a good night’s sleep makes us all happier and healthier in the long run. After all, if babies are trainable creatures, can’t we be as well?

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Probiotics: What are they & do you need them?

By Dr. Nicole Baumann-Blackmore, Pediatric Hospital Medicine

Woman Eating YogurtIt seems like probiotics are everywhere these days…from yogurts to pills to gummies. But what exactly are probiotics and do you really need them?

Probiotics are a form of “good” bacteria that naturally live in the body, mainly in the digestive tract and help it to function normally. These probiotics can help to maintain normal digestive functions and can help prevent infections with “bad” bacteria that may make you ill. Probiotics are found in many of the foods that we eat, including dairy products, breads, pickles and others.

Since these naturally occurring probiotics are helpful in maintaining good health, it would make sense that taking additional supplements of probiotics would help even more, right? Well, the evidence is unclear in some situations.

  • Viral gastroenteritis (“stomach flu”): There is evidence that giving additional probiotics to both adults and children early in the course of diarrhea from viral gastroenteritis can reduce the duration of the illness by one day.
  • Antibiotic-associated diarrhea: Probiotics have been found to be somewhat effective in preventing diarrhea associated with antibiotic use in both adults and children, however, there is no evidence that they are effective in treating this form of diarrhea.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Several studies have found improvement in symptoms of patients with IBS who take probiotics, along with improvement in bloating and improvement in quality of life.
  • Ulcerative colitis: Some studies have shown that probiotics are helpful in maintaining remission in patients with ulcerative colitis.
  • Crohn’s disease: Studies thus far have not demonstrated any improvement with probiotics for patients with Crohn’s disease.

Studies are underway to evaluate for possible effects of probiotics in a number of different diseases including allergies, eczema and other skin conditions, vaginal infections and urinary tract infections.

If you decide to take additional supplements of probiotics, the most studied and likely most effective forms are those that contain the bacteria Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium. They can be taken in pill or powdered forms. The powdered forms (or inside of a capsule) can be added to applesauce, cereal, milk, yogurt, juice or water.

Probiotics do have some downfalls to keep in mind before you start taking them:

  • Common side effects are bloating and gas but these are typically temporary.
  • Probiotic supplements should not be taken by chronically or seriously ill young children and people with weakened immune systems, such as those receiving chemotherapy. Probiotics may cause serious infections in such patients.
  • Unlike prescription medications, probiotics, along with many other supplements, are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that the companies that package the probiotics do not have to prove that the ingredients listed on the label are what is actually in the package.

If you are considering taking probiotic supplements, speak with your primary care provider to make sure that they are right for you.

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12 Ways to Stay Safe and Healthy While Exercising in the Cold

Stick-With-It Winter Workout Tips

By Lori Parmenter, Clinical exercise physiologist with Women’s HeartCare

Woman Running in the SnowYou managed to stick with your workouts all summer and autumn, but the cold and dark winter days are fast approaching. Do you have what it takes to winterize your workouts and stay on track? These tips for exercising during the cold weather can help you can stay fit, motivated and warm when the weather turns frigid.

1) Dress dry not just warm.

  • Winter workout gear has to keep you dry first, warm second, because your body will take care of the heat.
  • Choosing the right workout fabrics and smart layering will keep you dry and comfy.

2) Cotton is for sheets, not workout wear.

  • The problem? Cotton soaks up sweat and rain and holds in fluids.
  • Wet fabric next to your skin will zap your body heat and give you an unwanted chill.
  • The smart choices are synthetic fibers, such as polyester, nylon and polypropylene. They wick away moisture about 50 percent faster than cotton.

3) Layer up.

  • The right layers will trap warm air next to your body while allowing moisture to escape.
  • First, put on a thin base layer made of synthetic fabric to soak up excess sweat.
  • If it’s really cold outside, wear an optional middle layer, such as polar fleece, for extra warmth.
  • Add an outer layer (or shell) to protect you from wind, snow and rain.

4) Don’t overdress.

  • The biggest mistake in dressing for cold weather exercise is putting on too many layers and then peeling them off.
  • Exercise intensity makes a difference. Runners need fewer layers than walkers because they move faster and produce more body heat.

5) Protect your extremities.

  • Fingers, ears, nose and toes are affected most by chilly temperatures because blood is pulled to the core of the body, leaving less blood (and less heat) available to hands and feet.
  • Wear gloves or mittens. You can always take them off and tuck them in a pocket.
  • Moisture-wicking socks (wool or synthetic) will keep toes cozy and dry.
  • Don’t forget appropriate shoes. Running shoes are designed to let heat escape but in chilly weather the cold comes right in. Shoe covers help to keep the warmth in and the cold out. You can find winter shoe covers at most skiing or hiking retailers. Wear shoes with deep traction to prevent slipping on wet or icy roads.

6) Cover you head.

  • Trap heat in with a winter hat. Fifty percent of body heat can be lost through the head.
  • If hats are uncomfortable for you, wear a cold-weather headband. It will cover your ears and let your head breathe.

7) Breathe right.

  • In cold weather, airway passages tend to narrow, which make inhalation more difficult. Wrap a scarf around your mouth. A thin fabric layer traps water vapor when you breathe out, keeping your next inhalation moist.

8) Protect your skin.

  • It’s as easy to get sunburned in the winter as it is in the summer—even more so if you’re exercising in the snow or at high altitudes. Protect your face, nose and ears by using a sunscreen that’s at least SPF 30.
  • Wear lip balm that contains sunscreen, as well, and protect your eyes from snow and ice glare with sunglasses.

9) Warm up first.

  • Warmups are especially important for cold-weather workouts.
  • When exercising in colder temperatures, you’re at increased risk for sprains and strains because your muscles are tight.
  • Experts recommend warming up indoors before exercising outside. If you can’t, slowly ease into an outdoor workout to give your body time to loosen up.
  • Warmup for at least 10 to 15 minutes before increasing the pace of your workout.

10) Keep drinking water.

  • Stay hydrated when exercising in cold weather just as you do in warm weather.
  • You can become just as dehydrated in the cold as in the heat from sweating, breathing and the dry winter winds, but it may be harder to notice during cold weather.

11) Start by heading into the wind.

  • The goal is to reduce wind chill during the second half of your workout, when you’re sweaty and at higher risk for losing body heat.
  • The risk of frostbite is less than 5 percent when the air temperature is above 5 degrees Fahrenheit, but the risk increases as the wind chill falls.
  • At wind chill levels below – 18 degrees, frostbite can occur on exposed skin in less than 30 minutes.
  • If the temperature dips below 0 degrees Fahrenheit or the wind chill is extreme, consider choosing an indoor exercise instead.
  • Check the forecast to confirm the temperature and wind chill before going outside to exercise.

12) Don’t forget the cool-down.

  • Once you stop moving after a cold-weather workout, you’ll get chilled fast thanks to all that sweat. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need a cool down.
  • A cool down helps your body eliminate exercise byproducts, like lactic acid and muscle soreness.
  • An adequate cool down is also critical for your heart. Going straight from strenuous exercise to standing around creates stress for your heart. Ease your workout for the final 5-10 minutes. For example, an easy walk will allow the large leg muscles to work as pumps to get blood back to the heart.
  • Once breathing and heart rate normalize, do a stretching routine. Flexibility is key to injury prevention.

Cold weather can discourage even the most motivated exercisers. However, thanks to the lack of humidity and the stimulating aspect of the chill, cold-weather exercise also has the ability to boost one’s mood. Also, as the body works harder to stay warm, the amount of endorphins (feel-good hormones) increases, leaving you with a stronger sense of happiness and lightness following a workout in the cold. These tips can help you safely—and enjoyably—exercise when the weather turns chilly. But the most important tip is to have fun out there!

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