Laughter is the Best Medicine

By: Kristi Passey, Director, Vienna Nursing & Rehabilitation Center

Good health isn’t just about eating right and exercising and staying on top of your annual check ups. Good health is also about being happy. Have you heard the saying “laughter is the best medicine”? Well there’s some truth to that. Laughter is an important part to living a healthy life. Science is finding there are real benefits of laughter. Some researchers think laughter just might be the best medicine and that laughter may help you feel better.

A true belly laugh might be good for you! While there’s some evidence that laughter my help boost your immune system, overall research results have been mixed.

In the last few decades, researchers have studied laughter’s effects on the body and turned up some potentially interesting information on how it affects us:

  • Blood Flow Researchers at the University of Maryland studied the effects on blood vessels when people were shown either comedies or dramas. After the screening, blood vessels of the group who watched the comedy behaved normally — expanding and contracting easily. On the other hand, people who watched the drama tended to tense up, restricting blood flow.
  • Immune Response Increased stress is associated with decreased immune system response, says Robert R. Provine, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland. Some studies have shown that the ability to use humor may raise the level of infection fighting antibodies in the body and boost the levels of immune cells.
  • Blood sugar levels One study of people with diabetes looked at the effects of laughter on blood sugar levels. After eating, the group attended a tedious lecture. On the next day, the group ate the same meal and then watched a comedy. After the comedy, the group had lower blood sugar levels compared to the lecture.
  • Relaxation and Sleep Professor Provine says that the most convincing health benefit he’s seen from laughter is its ability to dull pain. Numerous studies of people in pain or discomfort have found that when they laugh they report that their pain doesn’t bother them as much.

A good sense of humor can’t cure all ailments, though we wish they could. Hospitals would be much happier places!

Data is mounting though that laughter can bring positive outcomes. You can see some of those effects immediately. When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughing brings in oxygen rich air that stimulates your organs and increases endorphins. Plus, it cools down your stress hormones. That’s why you always feel so relaxed after a good laugh.

In the long term, laughter is important too. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your immune system. We know stress is bad for our immune system and makes us gain the most unhealthy types of weight. Conversely, positive thoughts actually release something called neuropeptides (small molecules that help different parts of our brain communicate) that help fight stress and potentially more serious illnesses.

The effects of laughter and exercise are similar. Laughter even burns calories! Nowhere near as much as exercises, but a good laugh with friends for one hour could burn about 50 calories. Not too bad, right?

So how can you incorporate more laughter into your life? Are you afraid you have an underdeveloped – or nonexistent – funny bone? Don’t worry. Humor can be learned. In fact, developing or refining your sense of humor may be easier than you think. Here’s a few tips to get you chuckling and working towards a healthier you:

  • Watch a funny movie
  • Read the comics in the paper and when you find one that makes you laugh, hang it in your home or office.
  • Find a way to laugh about your own situations and watch your stress fade. Even if it’s forced at first, practice laughing. It does your body good.
  • Make it a habit to spend time with your friends who make you laugh
  • Hang out with kids. They’re always good for a laugh

With all of this being said, laughter is not the end all to great health, no matter how much we wish it was. Laughter is important though. A “healthy” sense of humor can contribute to physically healthy bodies. Science is proving that our moods have physical outcomes in our health. Hearty laughter is the crucial component in the humor-health connection; humor and amusement without laughter would not be expected to provide any benefits. Even forced laughter may be expected to have beneficial effects.

So go laugh. Get engaged in the moment and laugh it up. Laughter really is some of the best medicine!

Exercise is Medicine for Anxiety and Depression

By Kevin Vondergeest ACSM Exercise Physiologist and Employee Wellness Supervisor at Adventist Health Lodi Memorial

Hi health enthusiasts! Earlier in the year we discovered that 150 minutes of exercise a week or 30 minutes a day can act as your one cure all for managing or preventing all chronic illness such as heart disease, and some cancers. Being the closest thing to a magic pill, physical activity can also help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Both anxiety and depression are not just debilitating for those suffering, but can also be debilitating for their families as well, which ultimately affects everyone’s quality of life. It raises their risk of dying, lowers self-esteem/motivation, and can even interfere in relationships and drive us to isolation. In other words, depression makes everyday life harder. The medical cost of depression is the highest out of all chronic medical healthcare costs since many other illnesses and addictions are associated with depression. This also affects the companies we work for in terms of lost dollars at work from absenteeism (being absent), and presenteeism (being present at work but not productive); however, there is good news.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) through the Exercise Is Medicine ® (EIM) campaign even just one exercise session can lower anxiety and make you feel calmer in minutes. The effect is similar to meditation or taking medication. For depression, research shows that regular moderate and particularly vigorous physical activity improves mental well-being and other symptoms of depression. For example, active people are 45% less likely to develop symptoms of depression. The effects are similar to those seen after drug therapy. Research shows that exercise intensity of all sorts will reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, but as we know with medications there is a dose response and exercise works the same way. As you move to a more vigorous form of exercise this will give you maximal benefits. For those who are interested in learning the science behind exercise and depression, here is a short video by Dr. Rhonda Patrick who lays out the latest scientific evidence for depression and exercise

So does the type of exercise make a difference? Whether it’s aerobic or strength they have benefits for both anxiety and depression. The best choice for you, is doing whichever physical activity you enjoy most. When you first start, you may only be able to endure short bouts of exercise, so all you need to do is walk at a pace that feels like a moderate effort for you. 10 minutes of exercise 3 times is an easy way to make that 30 min a day more manageable. I would recommend doing your 10+ min of exercise after your meals to make it a part of an already established routine. The benefit of post meal activity is to reduce the blood sugar response to the meal to help further protect from the development of diabetes or pre-diabetes. As you get stronger and your endurance improves, you would want to increase the length of your sessions until you are doing 30-60 minutes of moderate activity continuously. To do this, you could add up to 5 minutes of additional moderate physical activity to your weekly routine.

For those who are more advanced and have worked through the steps above, you should consider doing 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week which can include strength training, running, intense cycling, or interval training for your maximal dosage/effect of exercise on anxiety and depression and many other medical conditions. Always seek the advice of your physician before starting a new exercise routine and I strongly advise seeking the advice of a certified exercise professional before starting at a higher level. This will help prevent injuries and guide you through any medical challenges you may have.

Exercise is medicine and the more consistently you take your daily dose, the less pharmaceutical medicine you may need. It will increase your likeliness to experience an uplifted quality of life with greater mental focus, energy, strength, balance, and so much more. We were made to move, be social, lean on one another, and be a community as we do life together. Grab a family member, a friend, or a neighbor to go get some vitamin D outside or go to a safe indoor environment at your local community gym such as Adventist Health Fitness and start today!

Information credited to EIM and ACSM

Understanding diet’s role in disease is key to good health

How often do you read the labels of the tomato sauce or bag of tortillas you are about to put into your shopping cart? If you drink soda, do you think or care about how much sugar is added to the drink you are about to consume? When eating out, how often have you known how much added sugar or salt is in that taco you just enjoyed? If you are reading this article, you already know about our nation’s health challenge. You might even know this challenge is largely the result of what we eat and drink daily.

Have you ever wondered why you like one brand of spaghetti sauce better than the other? It has less to do with the advertisement. It has more to do with added sugar and salt. Check it out for yourself. The next time you are in the grocery store, spend a few minutes comparing two things on the labels of your favorite sauce or cereal — sugar and sodium(salt). Even brands advertised as healthy and organic can have unhealthy amounts of added sugar and sodium.

Our ancestors’ role in today’s health epidemic

Through a plethora of research and a good look at profit margins, the food and beverage industry determined that adding more sugar and salt to products increased market share simply because our brains are wired to prefer added sugar and sodium. Centuries ago, when our ancestors were hunters and gatherers, finding extra sugar and sodium could mean a difference of life and death. Today, our brains are still wired to see these empty calories as a survival mechanism. This biological fact, combined with the fact that we are a country of consumers, means what used to be small amounts of extra sugar, salt and fat as life saving, has become a gluttony of life restricting. Our bodies as it turns out, are also unable to process all of this excess.

The result of this is a national epidemic of obesity and the health consequences associated with it. Obesity doesn’t just lead to a larger waistline. It leads to heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders and even some cancers. Very similarly to the way we continue to fight the tobacco industry over its cancer-causing products, we find ourselves now fighting the food industry over some of its obesity-causing products. There is a shift happening — so much so that the three largest beverage producers have a new campaign with a stated goal of reducing their beverage calories by 20 percent by 2025. If you think about it, if there’s already eight to ten sugar packs in each can of that full-calorie beverage (, will the industry goal really be enough to make a relevant difference?

There’s a pill for that

We are living in a time and now support a medical community that offers a prescription for almost everything that limits your longevity. The thought mentality oftentimes is taking a prescription drug to cure a chronic health condition is preferred because it is an easier regimen to follow as opposed to changing your lifestyle to fight chronic disease. Your doctor might even support this strategy. This is an age of “ask your doctor” for a pill to make you not have to change your diet or lifestyle. It turns out it is not working for the majority of your neighbors.

Proof of this can be found in your living room, on your television. You might not have noticed that the majority of commercials on television these days focus on health conditions, and the solution is brought to you by the pharmaceutical industry. Drug companies and your local pharmacy are all benefiting from the reality that one out of two (50 percent) people you know will be diagnosed with at least one health challenge — diabetes and/or hypertension. Both of these conditions are considered chronic, which, in layman’s terms, means they don’t go away.

Get Healthy Lodi

Lodi is at a tipping point, and a growing number of its citizens want healthier lifestyle choices and strategies. How would you like to live longer and have a better quality of life? There is a movement spearheaded by the Lodi Chamber of Commerce that is a community game changer. The Healthy Lodi Initiative is an Alliance of businesses and healthcare providers who are supporting those who have decided to take local healthy lifestyle options into their own hands. If you visited the Street Faire a few Sundays ago and went to purchase a soda from the Chamber of Commerce drink station, you might have experienced one such healthy choice opportunity.

The Healthy Lodi Initiative is aligning and working with community health and lifestyle resources, grocery stores, healthcare providers and soon your local and chain restaurants. The goal is to create easy ways help you identify options and strategies that will support you and your neighbors who have decided to make the changes that will help achieve personal health and lifestyle goals. Join us!

J. Mark Hamilton is a lifelong healthcare technology sales leader. He has worked around the country leveraging technology initiatives that support community health and lifestyle improvements. He joined the Lodi Chamber of Commerce Vision 2020 Health-VAT leadership team as a volunteer in 2012. Mark is a member of the Lodi Tokay Rotary Club, and served on the City of Lodi Arts and Parks and Recreation Commissions. He is an active member of the Lodi Chamber’s Partners in Education task force.

LUSD is Cooking up Something Special for Lunch this Summer

By Susan Henderson, Food Services, Lodi Unified School District

Everyone has at least one profound memory associated with growing up and eating lunch at school.  Favorite items or recipes, a memorable lunch staff member or going thru the lunch line are all memories that come to mind when you ask someone to reflect on their school lunch experience.

So, what happens when school is out during the summer months?  The simple answer is that we keep serving lunch!

Summer meals have been provided to students in our district for many years under the Federal Summer Meals program.  This program follows federal and state guidelines for nutritional content and the meals are provided, free of charge, to all children 18 years old and younger.  Last summer, Nutrition Services launched our grant-funded School Meals on Wheels Food Truck to meet the increasing need of providing food access to the children in our surrounding community.  This helped to increase our summer meals outreach last year and we served more than 40,000 meals under the Seamless Summer (SSO) program in 2018.

This summer, there will be 16 open lunch sites within our school district for children 2-18 years of age to receive free meals.  We are planning and looking for community partners to offer nutrition education and simple enrichment activities at these sites so children are able to learn and have fun during lunch.

The district will be kicking off the Summer Meals Program with a fun, family-friendly event on Mon, June 3, from 10am to 1pm at Heritage Elementary School. Held in partnership with the Healthy San Joaquin Collaborative, the “Activate Your Summer: Move More, Sit Less” community event will bring education and activities to help our students and the community learn fun ways to exercise and stay healthy over the summer. Fun events provided by San Joaquin Public Health, UC-CalFresh, UC Cooperative Extension; health screenings with Community Medical Services; gardening activities; a nutrition relay with Dairy Council of California; bike safety with Bike Lodi; and much more are scheduled. The community is invited to attend.

The Seamless Summer Meals Program is operated by LUSD Nutrition Services and is a US Dept of Agriculture (USDA) program. This program ensures that children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. Information on dates, times and locations of meals can be found on our website at . You can also text the word “FOOD” to 877-777 to find the closest meal location to you.

Trying to get healthy? Get support from your community

get help with weight loss

By Jonell Steckman, Certified Health Coach

With nearly half of Americans looking into ways to lose weight each year, an often under-utilized, yet very effective tool in the weight-loss journey is all around us: Community.

Losing weight is challenging because it requires changing both your habits and mindset. Often, when we make the decision to lose weight, we decide to do it alone. We are reluctant to share our decision with others or have others be a part of our weight loss journey. Maybe we are worried about being judged, maybe this isn’t our first try at weight loss and we don’t want others to know we are losing weight “again,” or maybe it just feels taboo to talk about weight loss with our friends and family.

Whatever the reason is, attempting to lose weight quietly and on your own may not be the best approach. Study after study shows that your weight loss journey will be most successful and long term if you have support from other people. What does that mean, and what should that support look like? Here are three ways community support can help you along your weight loss journey:

Find A Mentor

Finding a mentor can be the easiest and best first step you can take. Why reinvent the wheel for your weight loss journey? Your mentor should be someone you look up to for their own commitment to being healthy. A good mentor can coach and guide you as well as help surround you with like-minded people who are on the same journey you are.

Find A Group

A good mentor and coach can also help you find the tools to support your success. Examples of support might be an online group (such as a Facebook Group or a Meetup Group) or group meeting. These groups are a great support system, full of people who share their weight loss successes, questions, recipes and more with each other, as well as provide support for any setbacks along the way.

A community that gives support and guidance will increase your chance for success in achieving your weight loss goals. It can help keep you accountable and celebrate with you as you strive to reach your optimal weight and, sometimes even more importantly, stay at that optimal weight long term. Community is an important asset to weight loss success.

Find an Accountability Partner

Being accountable to someone can be very powerful in creating new habits and achieving goals. Your accountability partner can be a mentor, coach, friend or colleague who is also on their own weight-loss journey. Accountability partners share goals, deadlines, weight loss wins and losses. They will also hold you responsible to your commitment to your health as you make the changes necessary to overcome the obstacles and push past the challenges that make weight loss difficult.

While making the decision to get healthy is easy, putting the decision into daily practice is not so simple. Afterall, if getting healthy were as easy as a choice, most people would be healthy all of the time. It’s the daily struggle, challenges and obstacles that can stand in our way of achieving good health. Having the accountability of your peers is an excellent tool in achieving your weight loss goals.

Choose your health. Then let your community help.

How to Be A Better Caregiver to A Loved One


By Terri Whitmire, Director of Adult Day Services Center, Adventist Health, Lodi Memorial

The number of adults taking care of aging parents has tripled in the past 15 years. According to a MetLife Mature Market Institute study, 25 percent of grown children are helping to care for their parents. Nearly half of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older they are caring for and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child (18 years or older) at the same time.

Do you fit in this category? Are you considered a care provider? You are a care provider if you are responsible for helping someone with their finances or with their activities of daily living such as paying bills, transporting, cooking, shopping, dressing, monitoring health, etc.

The No 1 reason someone is placed into a long-term care facility is their care provider can no longer care for them. Caregiving, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, is physically, emotionally and mentally exhausting. It is something few can sustain for any length of time without it affecting their physical and mental health and overall well-being. Fortunately, you can do something about this. By developing a plan, seeking help, and taking care of yourself, you are a better, more effective care provider.

Start with a plan

You must determine exactly what care your loved one is going to need and for how long. Ask their physician. The most important thing to do next, is also sometimes the hardest. You must honestly determine how much you can physically, mentally and financially do to safely care for your loved one. Do you work or have other obligations that demand your time? You are not super human.  Know your limitations.

Armed with this information, it’s time to develop an action plan. What will you do when your loved one has a fall or if their illness progresses? Can your house accommodate a wheelchair? Can you physically care for them yourself? Can you safely keep them home? Make this plan before a crisis happens.

Ask for help

Asking for help can be one of the hardest things for a care provider. Again, you are not super human and cannot safely do this without help. Take advantage of programs and services our community has to offer to help you with this journey. Join a support a group or talk to someone. Asking for and accepting offered help will help with your stress levels and keep you healthy.

Take care of yourself

The most important thing you can do for the person you are caring for is to take care of yourself. You cannot be an effective care provider if you are not healthy.  If your health fails, you will not be able to care for the one you love.

Join a gym, take walks, eat healthy, and see your doctor when you feel ill or stressed. Rest, do something fun, take an overnight vacation, read a book, go to a movie and do not feel guilty about doing it. When you are healthy, your time with the person you are caring for can be enjoyable.

7 Ways To Take Control of Your Health

By Teri Spring, Registered Dietician

You have more control over your health than you may know. Taking charge of your health will result in a better you, both physically and emotionally. Here are a few tips you can use to take control of your health:

Fluids. Are you getting enough?

A general rule of thumb is to drink 50 percent of your body weight in ounces. If you think you’re hungry, try drinking a glass of water first. Flavor it with fruit and/or vegetable pieces in a pitcher if you don’t like plain water. Fruits and vegetables are full of water, so you get fluid credit from these foods. About 3-5 cups of produce daily provides about a quart of water (32 oz).

Sugar. Are you getting too much?

Sugar is very inflammatory to the body, leading to chronic diseases, and increases your daily calorie load, leading to weight gain. We should all make every effort to minimize or avoid sugar in our daily diets. Most of the added sugars are from sugar sweetened beverages, sweets and desserts, but reading the nutrition label is the only way to know where it is and how much you’re getting. The labels will soon all have a select line for “Added Sugar” because it has become such a wide spread threat to our health.

Watch out for sodium.

Sodium remains a contributor to heart disease. The American Heart Association advises 1500-2000 mg for everyone over 50, all African Americans regardless of age, and anyone with high blood pressure. The problem is not so much with using a salt shaker as it is from processed and cured foods. Avoiding processed, salted or cured, pre-made, restaurant foods and trying to eat “clean” makes a big difference. Read food labels to see how quickly this number adds up.

Eat more fiber.

Our fiber goal is 25-35 gms daily. Fiber foods fill us up and keep waste moving out of the body. Think plant foods — fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dried beans and legumes, pulses (such as lentils), nuts and seeds. Getting fiber from food is much better than fiber supplements, because you not only get important nutrients, but you also get a variety of types of fiber. A supplement will only have one kind of fiber, but foods have them all. If you’re not a fan of these foods, unprocessed psyllium husks (products such as Metamucil or generic versions) are your best bet to help keep your colon balanced.

Increase your potassium intake

Potassium is an important part of healthy blood pressure, heart function and fluid balance. Current guidelines call for about 4000-4500 mg daily (unless you have kidney disease. Check with your doctor if you are unsure.). The average American eats only 2000 mg of potassium daily. Good sources are fruits and vegetables.

Reach for healthy fats

Healthy fats from plants such as avocado, nuts, seeds, olives and oils from these foods should be part of every meal. A little goes a long way, so aim for one serving per meal (1-3 tsp of healthy oil; ¼-1/3 avocado; 8-10 olives; 10-20 nuts; or 1 tbs nut butter).

Maintain a healthy weight

Work diligently (yes, it is hard work but has big pay offs) for a healthy body weight. Reduce portion size, choose low sugar foods, lots of plant foods, and exercise daily! Move your body, work your muscles and get your heart pumping. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes a day. Start slow if you’re de-conditioned and build up. It doesn’t have to be at one time, so three, ten-minute sessions count. It can happen if you make it happen. Try not to sit for more than 30 minutes at one time. Even getting up for a few minutes helps.

In general, to help you accomplish this goal of improved health eat a variety of plant-based foods as the cornerstone of each meal and snack. Aim for 3-5 cups of produce every day. Use the USDA’s “Plate Method” of meal planning and make half your plate vegetables, ¼ whole grains and ¼ lean protein. Have a meatless meal at least once a week (the DASH and Mediterranean diet plans are still thought to be healthy plans to follow if you need a guide). Drink up before your body says, “I’m thirsty” because by then you are slightly dehydrated. Get enough sleep and avoid eating close to bed time — it may disrupt your sleep as your body processes the food.

Because I have spent my 35+ year career working mainly with folks who have diseases, I will tell you again and again that food is the most powerful medicine. Taking prescription medication is not the answer to “fixing” our health — it treats the symptoms of disease and may help us live with disease, but who wants that? Save money, improve quality of life and save your future by giving your body what it truly wants — basic foods from “nature’s wrapper,” daily exercise, and adequate sleep. Let’s raise our next generation with these principles to spare them the epidemic of lifestyle diseases that plagues this country. If you want to feel as good as you possibly can, this is a proven way to help you do that.

Making change is always a challenge, but taking one day at a time and making any movement toward healthier lifestyle habits is a step in the right direction. Just start somewhere and build on that — a little more each day, week and month. You’ll feel better in a relatively short period of time, and will be taking more control over your own health.

Looking to the Blue Zones to increase health and longevity

blue zones

By Jill Borth, R.N. Adventist Health, Lodi Memorial

Throughout my 32-year nursing career, I’ve heard many comments from people in various stages of health and illness and noticed a common theme: People who are well, often state when it’s their “time to go” they’ll be ready. Yet most seriously-ill people are willing to do just about anything to buy more time. In the end, most of us wish to live long, healthy, happy lives. How is Lodi doing in fulfilling this wish? One litmus test is the lifestyle and wellness evidence found in the book, The Blue Zones.

“The majority of the US is approaching the idea of a long, healthy life the wrong way,” according to National Geographic writer and explorer, Dan Buettner’s latest book, The Blue Zones. The book focuses on five locations around the world – Greece, Loma Linda, Sardinia, Costa Rica and Okinawa, Japan — with either the highest percentage of people living to 100 years or longer, or the locations with the lowest rate of mortality. In the book, researchers debunked the health myth that a person’s genes largely contribute to health, weight and longevity.

“Only 25 percent of how long you live is dictated by your genes,” Buettner said. “The other 75 percent is lifestyle and environment.”  

The Blue Zone team of medical researchers, anthropologists, demographers and epidemiologists found nine lifestyle similarities in the zones that noticeably differ from our local lifestyle tendencies. These “Power 9” lifestyle factors are:

  1. Daily natural physical movement (gardening, house work, yard work, walking);
  2. Having a purpose or reason to wake up in the morning (adding up to 7 years of life);
  3. Stress-shedding routines (Okinawans remember their ancestors daily, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap and Sardinians do happy hour);
  4. The 80 Percent Rule – stop eating when your stomach is 80 percent full. People in Blue Zones eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and don’t eat any more the rest of the day;
  5. Plant-focused diets. Beans, including soy and lentils, are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Meat is eaten on average only five times per month and serving sizes are about the size of a deck of cards;
  6. Wine at 5. Blue Zone populations (except Adventists) drink moderately (one to two glasses per day) with friends and/or with food;
  7. A sense of belonging or community. All but 5 of 263 centenarians interviewed belonged to some faith-based community. Research shows attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4-14 years to your life;
  8. Loved ones come first. Keeping aging parents and grandparents nearby (lowering disease and mortality rates of children in the home, too); committing to a life partner (adding up to 3 years of life); and investing in their children with time and love all contribute to longevity;
  9. Surrounding yourself with the right tribe. The world’s longest-lived people chose or were born into social circles that supported healthy behaviors. Research from the Framingham Studies shows that smoking, obesity, happiness and even loneliness are contagious. The social networks of long-lived people have favorably shaped their health behaviors.

What can you do to add years to your life and start moving Lodi closer to a “Blue Zone?”

How does Lodi compare to the Blue Zones?

Buettner worked for a decade with National Geographic to locate places that not only had high concentrations of individuals over 100 years old, but clusters of people who had grown old without health problems such as heart disease, obesity, cancer or diabetes. The locations identified in his book are:

  1. The Barbagia region of Sardinia, which has the world’s highest concentration of male centenarians;
  2. Ikaria, Greece, with the world’s lowest rates of middle age mortality and the lowest rates of dementia;
  3. Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, home to the world’s lowest rates of middle-age mortality, and second highest concentration of male centenarians;
  4. The Seventh Day Adventists, most highly concentrated in the Loma Linda, CA, area, live 10 years longer than their North American counterparts; and
  5. Okinawa, Japan, whose female population over 70 are the longest-lived population in the world.

By contrast, here are the sobering facts about the state of health in Lodi:

  • San Joaquin County is the third highest county in the state for diabetes. People with diabetes have a two- to four-times greater risk for heart attack and stroke.
  • Depending on which census tract you live in Lodi, your life expectancy ranges from 57.93 years to 80.68 years.
  • The leading causes of death in the county in 2016 were: 1) heart disease; 2) cancer; 3) stroke; 4) Alzheimer’s; 5) lung disease; 6) accidents; 7) diabetes; and 8) liver disease.

Many chronic diseases could be prevented, delayed or alleviated through simple lifestyle changes. The CDC estimates that eliminating just three risk factors — poor diet, inactivity and smoking — would prevent 80 percent of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, and 40 percent of cancer.

The Healthy Lodi Initiative Team will be compiling local resources, and helping to connect employers with tools to work toward improvement.  We hope that you join us for the health of us all! For more information about the Healthy Lodi Initiative, please visit the website: or call the Chamber at 209-367-7840.

Take the Steps to a Healthy Workplace Program

By Mona Shulman, Pacific Coast Producers

Health statistics rank San Joaquin County as the third worst in the state for potential chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. The Healthy Lodi Initiative is specifically asking Lodi’s employers to consider implementing employee healthy-lifestyle programs to help turn this statistic around.

Much has been written about the effectiveness of workplace wellness plans, and some of it conflicting. The Rand Corp in 2014 concluded that targeting only employees at high-risk of chronic disease reduced health care claims. On the other hand, General Motors in 2004 found that moderately active and very active employees had lower annual paid health care costs than inactive employees.

With all the conflicting information, an employer must decide what tools work best for their own workforce and budget.  Employers wanting to implement a successful workplace health initiative should follow these steps:

Wellness programs should be promoted by the company’s leadership

No matter what the result of the study, it seems clear that the decision to implement a wellness program must begin with the leadership, and that commitment must be real in order for any program to be effective. That means the company’s leaders must actively promote and encourage a culture of health at their workplace, including taking advantage of community resources and partnerships to support healthy lifestyles.

Know your employees

To be most effective, an employer must understand their employee population as a whole.  An agricultural employee will have different challenges and risks than an office employee, and the same program will not work for both.   We must understand the jobs our employees perform and how their tasks do or do not contribute to healthy habits. A program should be designed that fits the specific needs of our own workforce.

Assess your workforce

A health assessment survey is a good tool to get started in evaluating your employees’ specific needs. Employers can conduct an assessment of their company to determine where opportunities and barriers exist.  There are several assessment tools, including:

  • The Workplace Health Professionals Alliance – its Health Improvement Care assessment gives individuals an idea of how healthy their habits are.
  • The Center for Disease Control – its Workplace Health Promotion website ( offers a variety of tools to assess your workplace. The CDC also has a Worksite Health Scorecard for employers to assess how they are doing on health promotion. Not only does this assessment seek to determine what employers are doing, it also offers insight into many options for employers to consider.
  • The California Department of Public Health also offers a Fit Business Kit with an assessment, and framework for putting together a program –

There are barriers outside of surveys as well. Does your employee demographic include cultures that are not inclined to regularly visit their physician, if they even have one? Is language an issue? Are there providers that speak the language of the employee? Are there healthy options for cooking the type of ethnic food that the employee eats at home?  All of these are relevant factors to consider in designing your plan to make it most effective.

Decide on a workplace program format

Once an assessment is completed, and you have a better idea of your needs and tools, there are many types of programs to choose from. Here are some ideas:

  • Self-Initiated Educational Programs – The simplest for employees are educational programs that deliver health-related information. These programs rely on employee initiative to seek out or read information and maintain their own interest in the program. This works well for those who are already attuned to healthy behaviors or wanting to become healthier.
  • Community and Social Participation – A program that is designed to foster community participation, and therefore healthier feelings of belonging and connection to community, include sports-related teams, clubs, interest groups and other community activities that can be encouraged by the employer.  This not only improves social connections, but also encourages physical activities.
  • Employer-Supported Programs – Employers can also motivate healthy lifestyle improvements. In this type of program, the employer provides changes in the workplace. Some examples are providing healthy food (and removing unhealthy food); subsidizing gym memberships; creating walking trails; holding walking meetings; or offering yoga classes. More targeted programs can include preventive care, such as screenings and biometric assessments.  These programs have the advantage of detecting risk early, and helping employees manage their conditions, usually with the assistance of the employee’s health care provider. Some employers have become even more active and promote disease management programs.  Where employees have significant health problems, healthcare professionals and counselors actively monitor and manage the employees’ treatment. Often, these programs can be implemented with the employer’s health insurance company.
  • Employee Incentives – The question remains, what is it that will motivate the employee to improve their health and lifestyle?  Financial incentives can lead to improvement based on a specific target. For example, an employee could earn $100 for losing 40 pounds or walking 30 miles in 30 days. Employee incentive offers, however, may not work for a long-term change of lifestyle.  In short, the employee must decide that the change in behavior is beneficial to them.

Above all, in order to be successful, an employer should choose a program that addresses negative behaviors and lifestyle choices they’ve identified through assessments. There should be active encouragement, and no negative consequences to the employee’s participation.  Organizational leadership should express support for employees engaged in wellness activities and recognize participant’s progress toward personal goals.

The Healthy Lodi Initiative Team will be compiling local resources, and helping to connect employers with tools to work toward improvement.  We hope that you join us for the health of us all! For more information about the Healthy Lodi Initiative, please visit the website: or call the Chamber at 209-367-7840.


With the technological advancements of our western modernization, we have moved to a chair-based society that now comes with this warning: Prolonged sitting and physical inactivity cause chronic disease and premature death. With this realization physicians and exercise professionals all over the world are taking steps to providing the right prescription for prevention — exercise.

Exercise is medicine that provides an immediate response, such as reducing blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. It can also provide other benefits, such as reduced stress, improved moods, reduction of body fat, and protection from eight different cancers. So, if exercise is medicine, what is considered the proper dosage?

The most common exercise prescription is 30 minutes of physical activity, five days per week, for a total of 150 minutes a week. We all have different schedules and needs, but the good news is exercise is flexible, and anyone can get the health results they desire without letting their schedule get in the way. By splitting the recommended dose into three, ten-minute segments each day, you can easily take your medicine for lasting results.

One great way to start moving is by maximizing everyday activities, such as work breaks, chores around the house, virtual groups through devices like Fitbit, walking groups, or other activities that get you moving at a moderate intensity. In fact, most of us can agree that vacuuming can take a moderate amount of effort, and if done continuously for 10 minutes, would certainly count as exercise. Getting results requires effort, but effort can be as simple as a brisk walk. These are great ways to incorporate “informal” ways of exercising.

When designing a “formal” exercise program such as a daily walking routine, there are three key factors to consider to get the health results you want: Frequency, time and intensity. Adjusting any or all of these factors will result in improved health. Let’s go through a quick example to show the progression.

Say you started with walking for 30 minutes a day, three days a week, and want to change your routine to get better results. First, you would increase frequency by going from three days a week to five days a week. Once you’ve successfully done that, you would add more time — adding 2 – 5 minutes of exercise to each day you walk is a reasonable increase for success and will help you advance your goal.

Once you’ve increased frequency and time, all that’s left is to increase intensity. For a walking program, you can either increase your speed or, if on a treadmill, your incline. By increasing your speed, you’ll be walking a farther distance in the same amount of time. When you increase your incline on a treadmill, you’re increasing the difficulty of walking the same amount of distance for the same amount of time. Both methods will increase your heart rate and set off a hormonal cascade, which increases your metabolism for additional hours of calorie burn long after you’ve completed your walk.

Bottom line, exercise is more than a tool for weight loss and should be looked upon as the “one pill cure all” for lifelong prevention of chronic disease. The right dose for most people is as little as three, 10-minute segments most days of the week. Adventist Health Fitness and our team of exercise physiologists and trainers are here for you to prescribe a safe and effective exercise prescription. Get moving today!

By Kevin Vondergeest | Wellness Coordinator| ACSM EP -C, Adventist Health Lodi Memorial