Healthy Choices

News and inspiration for healthy living in Northern California

May 31, 2013
Twenty-somethings facing cancer show surprising strength

Samantha Cosentino, 23, recently walked into a bicycle shop in her hometown of Chico, with her head hairless from chemotherapy treatments. A clerk asked about her shaved head: "What did you do, lose a bet?" in a glass-half-full sort of way.

To the clerk, Cosentino looked healthy and radiant. But this twenty-something is battling stage 4 breast cancer and is preparing for radiation and another round of chemo at Stanford Hospital.

Last year, Cosentino inspired a leadership class at Marsh Junior High in Chico with her battle with breast cancer, She had told a local newspaper that, at first, doctors refused to take her and her tennis-ball-sized tumor seriously. She pressed forward and finally found a doctor who understood that even young adults can be vulnerable to cancer.

A group of girls from the class went on to organize a fundraiser to help Cosentino pay medical bills. Just last Saturday, they raised about $1,600, said their teacher, Lisa Reynolds."The girls are all walking on cloud nine with the great feeling of helping someone in need," Reynolds said.

Cosentino, who had chemo before surgery and is now starting a round of radiation with a year of chemotherapy to follow, "is a little interview shy at this point," Reynolds said.

But for an idea of what she's going through, see this video from The New York Times about the paper's "Life, Interrupted" columnist, another twenty-something bravely facing the disease and writing about it.

VIDEO: This New York Times video shows Life, Interrupted columnist Suleika Jaouad as she reflects on how cancer affects young adults.

May 31, 2013
CDC report say most adults are eating less fast food

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention comes a document with the slightly creepy title of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The MMWRs provide excellent data on the health of the U.S. general population.

One of the latest reports measures how frequently adults ate at fast food restaurants. The report compares figures from the period 2003-2006 with more recent statistics from 2007-2010.

From 2003-2006 to 2007-2010, the percentage of daily calories consumed by adults over 20 from fast foods restaurants declined from 12.8 percent to 11.3 percent. That's good news.

Even better, the numbers show a more significant drop in daily calories consumed by adults aged 40 to 59: from 12.7 percent to 10.5 percent.

However, the youngest and oldest among us are holding steady in their reliance on food sold at eating establishments for quick availability or takeout (CDCs definition of a fast food joint).

During both periods studied, the percentage of daily calories from consumption of fast foods was highest among those aged 20-39 years and those over 60.

If you'd like to know more, go to the source.

May 29, 2013
Sacramento ranks seventh in U.S. cities fitness index

So you are fit and working at getting fitter: That's the good news from the American College of Sports Medicine.

The organization's American Fitness Index rates the nation's top 50 largest metro areas with what it calls "an annual physical." The process involves investigating U.S. Census data as well as U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and land use data.

Sacramento came up seventh with 66.8 points, ahead of Austin, Seattle and San Jose.

But we did drop a ranking from last year, when we were sixth at 68.4.

That means that in planning our communities, we didn't do quite as well at integrating fitness opportunities -- such as enough parks, bike lanes, pedestrian trails.

We're good, but we can do better.

For more information, or to see the rankings for yourself (Minneapolis-St. Paul was No. 1 two years in a row), go to

May 24, 2013
Trim calories by choosing your outdoor grilling menu carefully

Planning to grill outdoors for Memorial Day? Here are some tips for how to cut back on calories as you plan your menu:

• Swap a hamburger for a turkey burger. A typical 4 oz. beef hamburger on a regular bun with one slice of cheese and 1 Tbsp. of mayonnaise adds up to 620 calories. Swap the traditional burger for a 4 oz. turkey burger in a lettuce wrap with 1 Tbsp of ketchup and a low-fat cheese slice and save 410 calories.

• Consider lean cuts of meat for the grill. Lighter fare includes: chicken (without skin), lean ground meat, flank steak, pork tenderloin, or low-fat sausage. Just choosing turkey sausage over Italian sausage saves 100 calories savings per 4 oz. serving (176 calories versus 288 calories).

• Replace meat with veggies. Grilled vegetables or vegetable kabobs with a brushed-on marinade are great addition to your plate, or can replace the meat altogether. They add color, fiber, vitamins and nutrients. The leftovers can be thrown into a whole grain pita for a super fast and healthy lunch, which you can bring to the office.

• Go super-lean for that desired six-pack: A grilled shrimp or scallop kabob, fish fillet, or fish wrapped in a foil pouch fills you with tons of satisfying, metabolism-boosting protein, without any excess fat.

• Swap Cole Slaw and Potato Salad for Veggie Salad. Eat twice the portion and save 200 calories and 23 grams of fat. Regular Cole Slaw (3/4 cup serving) = 150 calories and 11 grams of fat. Potato Salad (1/2 cup serving) = 230 calories and 13 grams of fat. As an alternative, a Mixed Green Salad (1 1/2 cups) = 33 calories and zero fat. Add 1 Tablespoon low fat dressing = additional 18 calories, .5 - 1 gram of fat.

May 24, 2013
CDC facts about skin cancer from sun or tanning bed exposure

Myth: I have to get a tan to look good. Myth: Only old people get cancer. Myth: Tanning beds are a good way to get vitamin D. Get the truth about tanning. Your natural skin color is great the way it is!Just in time for the summer solstice on June 21, here's some information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the dangers of sun damage:

  • Your skin will pay a price for overexposure to UV rays via too much time in the sun or exposure to UV tanning beds: brown spots, wrinkles, sagging skin, cataract risk, skin cancer risk.
  • Indoor tanning before age 35 can increase your risk of melanoma by 75 percent.
  • Having a tan is actually evidence of skin damage.
May 20, 2013
Sacramento child entrepreneur launches healthy-eating app

Nicolas Cone describes himself as a "picky eater." But at his ripe old age of eight years, Nicolas has found a way to share what he does like to eat with other kids and families.

Turns out, he likes his food straight from the garden, and even enjoys cooking fresh foods.

So he's designed a mobile app and website called Nicolas' Garden to encourage other kids to dive into healthy eating by growing their own food, sharing their favorite recipes, supporting farmers' markets and playing games on the app.

He unveiled his creation at Soil Born Farm's annual "Day on the Farm" event in Rancho Cordova last weekend.

Now he's focusing his efforts on scoring a dinner with the Obamas, having been impressed by First Lady Michelle Obama's well-known fondness for gardening.

May 20, 2013
10 warning signs and symptoms of heat-related illness

It's time to take note of the 10 warning signs of heat-related illness, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For a case of heat exhaustion, rest in air conditioning, cool down with wet washclothes or a cool shower. If you notice signs of a heat stroke coming, call 911.

Heat Exhaustion:

  1. heavy sweating

  2. weakness

  3. cold, pale, clammy skin

  4. fast, weak pulse

  5. nausea or vomiting

Heat Stroke:

  1. high body temperature (above 103 F)

  2. hot, red, dry or moist skin

  3. rapid and strong pulse

  4. possible unconsciousness

May 20, 2013
Sacramento Hunger Coalition offers free screening of documentary film

Sometimes being healthy boils down to the very essentials -- like having access to fresh, locally harvested fruits and vegetables and adequate protein.

That much is obvious.

But an estimated 50 million Americans -- including one in four children -- don't have the security of knowing where and when their next meal will come. Many live in the South Sacramento and other fresh-food challenged neighborhoods locally.

To spotlight this problem, the Sacramento Hunger Coalition is offering a free screening for "A Place at the Table," a documentary exploring that food insecurity. A panel discussion will follow the screening, led by moderator Elaine Corn of Capital Public Radio.

Mark your calendar: Tuesday, May 21, at the Crest Theater in downtown Sacramento.

Let us know what you think of the film in the comments below.
May 16, 2013
What you need to know about strokes: the acronym F.A.S.T.

May is American stroke month, a time when the American Heart Association teaches awareness about the signs of a stroke.

Using the acronym F.A.S.T. tells people first and foremost to act quickly when these signs are present:

F = Face drooping, typically one side of the face.
A = Arm weakness, again typically on one side of the body.
S = Speech is slurred or senseless.
T = If any of these signs are present, call 911.

If you've had a stroke, share your symptoms with others in the comment section.

Most stroke patients ask friends or family to drive them to the hospital. Only one in three calls an ambulance.

But calling 911 increases chances that a stroke will be caught early and treated early because ambulances have mini-Intensive care units aboard. And first responders use these mini ICUs to stop the damage to your brain fast.

May 15, 2013
South Oak Park neighborhood celebrates fresh local produce

Say goodbye to one of Sacramento's food deserts and say hello to healthy, locally grown produce, which is coming to South Oak Park on Sunday, May 26.

The USDA has designated South Oak Park as a "food desert," a place where produce is scarce and finding healthy, affordable food is harder than it should be.

This means residents had to shop at convenience stores, typically stocked with high-sodium, preservative-heavy foods.

But one local corner market, Sam's Market at 23rd Avenue (and 42nd Street) is turning green (and all the other rainbow colors of fruits and veggies), adding fresh produce to its shelves.

Don't miss out on the celebration as neighbors gather May 26 to celebrate this transition toward a healthier community. Prizes, games, face-painting, free health screenings, cooking and gardening demos will add to the festivities.

A cornerstone of the celebration will be the opening of a summer-long Urban Farm Stand, which will set up every Sunday through September.

May 14, 2013
An apple a day keeps chronic disease away

Gala_Apple.jpgAn El Dorado County reader writes that he's taken to eating four apples a day the past few years. And he hasn't been sick since. Not even a cold.

Research supports the healthy qualities of apples, which originated in the mountains of what is now Kazakhstan.

In the journal Advances in Nutrition, author Dianne Hyson presents: "A Comprehensive Review of Apples and Apple Components and Their Relationship to Human Health."

As Hyson reports, the phytochemical profile of apples -- flavonoids, antioxidants, antiproliferative and cell-signaling -- helps fight against heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's.

Eating apples can also help keep you smart; the fruit halts or slows cognititve decline due to normal aging. Apples also lower your risk of diabetes, strengthen your bones, your lungs and aid in digestion -- not to mention help you maintain a healthy weight.

Four-a-day may be a bit much for some of us, but there's clearly good reasoning behind the saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away."

PHOTO: American Heart Association

May 14, 2013
How mindfulness helps your health: Tips from a congressman

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat from Ohio's rust belt, knows about mindfulness. He's written a book called "A Mindful Nation" in which he talks about how he benefits from mindulness practice every day.

And now he's on the cover of the June issue of Mindful Magazine.

Studies about mindfulness' benefits to our health show the practice has "a 'cooling' effect on the inflammatory processes of the body," Ryan says.

Have you tried mindfulness meditation? Talk about your experience in the comments section below.

Dr. Susan Bauer-Wu, associate professor of nursing at Emory University, says: "Conceivably, if you begin these practices earlier, you may be able to prevent some serious chronic illnesses associated with inflammation."

Inflammation is a factor in dementia, Alzheimer's and cancer, among other diseases.
Mindfulness practice also helps to control stress, another risk factor in chronic disease, such as heart failure.

Something to think about, yes? Here's my story on the growing trend.

May 14, 2013
Work out for an hour each day, add 2 hours to your lifespan

Eat right. Exercise often.

According to Dr. Reetu Sharma, a cardiologogist at Sutter Health & Vascular Institute, one hour a day of exercise -- even walking -- will buy you two extra hours over your lifetime.

How much do you exercise daily? Tell us in the comments below.

Related article: Here's my story on how exercise helps your brain.

May 14, 2013
Heart association 'goes red' for women's heart health

Breast cancer awareness has pink; women's heart health has the color red.

We can thank the American Heart Association's national Go Red for Women movement, which hosted about 450 Sacramentans recently at the Red Lion Woodlake Inn, for their campaign to educate women about risks for developing heart disease:

Turns out, more women than men die from heart attacks. One in three women will die of heart disease. But only one in five women is able to identify heart disease as the No. 1 threat to their health.

For those who think "It can't happen to me," here's a powerful, three-minute video:

May 14, 2013
Welcome to our Healthy Choices blog

What you'll find here: Inspiration through information.

If knowledge is the currency that steers us toward healthy habits, you'll find plenty of potential pay-off by keeping up with this blog.

We hope you'll enjoy sharing our useful tips and info among your family, friends, coworkers, neighbors.

We invite you to notify us about your events, your efforts to build healthier communities, your stories.

Please comment below or email me with your ideas. We'd love to hear from you.

About Healthy Choices

Cynthia CraftCynthia H. Craft began her reporting and editing career in Columbus, Ohio, after graduating from Ohio State University. She worked at a Dallas, Texas, newspaper as an editor, and then at the Los Angeles Times, as an editor and Capitol Bureau correspondent. After working as editor in chief at the California Journal, Craft went to Lima, Peru, for three years as a visiting professor of journalism at Peruana Universidad de Ciencias Aplicadas. She was a fellow in 2012 at the National Library for Medicine in Washington, D.C. at the National Institute for Health. She's currently The Sacramento Bee's senior writer on health, a position made possible by a grant from The California Endowment.

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Phone: (916) 321-1270
On Twitter: @cynthiahcraft.

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