Healthy Choices

News and inspiration for healthy living in Northern California

August 29, 2013
Our schools are getting healthier, CDC report says

School districts in California and nationwide are getting better at providing healthy environments for students, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week.

A survey sizing up state and district-level policies revealed, for instance, that the percentage of districts banning all tobacco use during any school-related activity increased from 46.7 percent in 2000 to 67.5 percent in 2012.

Going to the heart of the obesity epidemic, 93.6 percent of districts said elementary schools must teach physical education in 2012. That's up from 82.6 percent in the year 2000.

Fewer school districts allowed soft drink companies to advertise on school grounds -- 33.5 percent in 2012 compared to 46.6 percent in 2006.

And the percentage of districts that required schools to ban junk food from vending machines jumped from 29.8 percent in 2006 to 43.4 percent last year.

The CDC will drill down deeper next year, when surveys will be taken in individual schools and even on the classroom level. The 2014 results will be released in 2015.

August 28, 2013
New York City allows doctors to prescribe fruits, veggies

An apple a day keeps the doctor away -- or, busy perhaps, in the case of a New York City program that allows physicians to prescribe fruits and vegetables to their patients.

Called the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program, or FVRx, the project promises to be useful in the battle against obesity.

A national nonprofit called Wholesome Wave is behind the project. Its aim is to make locally grown produce available to folks of all income levels.

Patients enrolled in the program will receive a monthly script of $1 per day for each member of the family. So, a family of four would get $28 a week to spend at one of New York's 138 farmers markets.

That's one way to get your apple a day.

August 20, 2013
Take this free quiz on living a long, healthy life

From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services comes this quiz you can take to gauge your familiarity with how to live a long, healthy life.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study indicates that your health in your senior years depends on who you are, what your habits are and where you live.

The CDC's Man-Huei Chang looked at national health data on the number of years after age 65 that people had good health:

"Across all of the states, healthy life expectancy was about 14 years, on the average."

Mississippians averaged the fewest healthy years after they turned 65, and Hawaiians averaged the most. State by state, men consistently averaged fewer years than women. Blacks fairly consistently had fewer healthy years than whites.

Healthy living habits, such as not smoking, reduce the odds that people die early.

August 2, 2013
Breastfeeding rates rise to include 91 percent of CA moms

Breastfeeding is what nature intended. It's also the healthiest way to start off a baby's life.

The health benefits of breastfeeding are many and well-established. An added bonus: Bonding between mother and baby.

In California, we get it.

A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "breastfeeding report card" says 91.6 percent of new moms in California breastfed their infants.That compares to 77 percent for the national average.

Only Idaho, with a reported 91.8 percent, beat California in the rankings. The worst ranking in the nation goes to Mississippi, with only 50.5 percent of new mothers breastfeeding their infants.

So much for the "Mississippi-fication" of California.

August 1, 2013
Health, wellness non-profits: Sutter Health offers sponsorships

Here's potentially good news for non-profits focusing on health and wellness in the greater Sacramento region:

Sutter Health Sacramento Sierra Region is inviting the non-profit organizations to apply for sponsorships -- otherwise defined as community relations investments.

The organizations must be located in Amador, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Sacramento, Solano, Sutter, Yolo or Yuba counties.

Applications must be submitted by Sept. 30. The application period provides funds for January through May 2014, or for year-long periods.

Those who are interested in applying for sponsorships should go here to watch an informational webinar.

July 31, 2013
Boomers: Why you need the life-saving hepatitis C virus test

Baby boomers -- those born from 1945 to 1965 -- listen up.

You may be surprised to hear that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend you be tested for the hepatitis C virus at least once.

The CDC's math says that boomers make up 75 percent of all those infected with the virus.

People with hepatitis C may have no symptoms, but is a so-called "silent disease."
It's a virus that inflames and scars the liver. If undiagnosed and untreated, these infections may lead to chronic liver disease, cirrhosis -- even death.

Read more about it in The Bee's 2012 article by Anita Creamer.

Photo: Former Sacramento gallery owner Spencer Baker, of Sacramento, was diagnosed with hepatitis C. Photo by Renee C. Byer.

July 26, 2013
Homemade blowguns are causing injury to teens

teens1.jpgIt seems that the latest trend for teens involves building homemade blowguns from instructions found on the Internet.

This is not all harmless fun.

Surgeons at Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, report the blowguns may backfire. Darts can get lodged in teens' throats or airways.

The surgeons worked on three cases involving 15-year-olds in four months. Colleagues elsewhere in the United States said they've witnessed the same trend.

In the first case, a boy with a persistent cough was found to have a four-inch long metal needle stuck in his lower airway, Reuters Health reported. Two similar cases turned up -- and all required surgery under general anesthesia.

"Most of the time we're able to remove these in children without long term (complications). But there are other times when surgeons have to perform open surgery through the neck," Dr. Kris Jatana said.

The darts are apparently inhaled when teens suck in air before exhaling to launch a dart. Sucking in air opens the airways and vocal chords, exposing the lower airway.

Jatana said parents should keep a close eye on what their children are doing on the Internet. Researchers reporting the trend said they found about 20 websites that display instructions on how to build blowguns from household items.

Photo: National Library of Medicine

July 16, 2013
Know the five risk factors bullies look for
July 16, 2013
Workplace stress may be tough on your family, too

Therapy.jpgWhen stress from the workplace spills over into your home life, your family's well-being may suffer, too, new evidence from a recent Los Angeles conference indicates.

"Survey results vary, but you can find that large numbers of individuals report that work is the biggest stress in their life," Michael Ford, an assistant professor of psychology at the University at Albany-State University of New York told HealthDay, a publication of the National Institutes of Health.

Health consequences are wide-ranging -- from mental health problems to depressive symptoms, to cardiovascular disease, obesity and general physical health complaints.

July 15, 2013
The recession's impact on teens? Greater social consciousness

The U.S. recession may have increased teens' social awareness and caring.

That's the conclusion of researchers at San Diego State and UCLA who looked at data collected from high school seniors between 1976 and 2010.

Students who graduated during the recession had more interest in social issues such as energy and the environment -- and had greater concern for other people, the study said.

About 63 percent said they had turned down the heat at home to conserve energy, compared to 55 percent prior to the recession. Thirty percent said they thought often of social problems, compared to 26 percent earlier.

And during the recession, teens said they'd be willing to use a bike or mass transit to get to work, up from 28 percent earlier.

"This is the silver lining of the Great Recession," Patricia Greenfield, a UCLA psychology professor said in a university news release.

Photo courtesy of HealthDay and Medlineplus/gov.

July 8, 2013
Will your baby have flat head syndrome?

In the medical community, babies' flat head syndrome is called plagiocephaly. That sounds serious, but doctors say it's largely a cosmetic issue and your baby's brain is not a risk.

What is plagiocephaly? The flattening of a portion of the baby's head, usually the back of the head -- because that's how parents position their infants to sleep in order to avoid Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Canadian researchers in Calgary found that 47 percent of 440 two-month-old infants studied had flat spots on their heads. The results were published in the August issue of Pediatrics.

"It is still very important to put infants to sleep on their backs to prevent SIDS," said study author Aliyah Mawji, assistant professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary.

For the past 20 years, experts have advised parents to put infants on their backs to sleep, on a flat crib surface. The practice seems to have worked: In the U.S. it's credited by reducing SIDS by 50 percent, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Parents should not be alarmed by plagiocephaly. Babies skulls are very pliable, so fixing flat head syndrome is possible with non-surgical devices such as customized, corrective helmets and molding cups, sleep position changes under a watchful eye and special exercises, experts said.

July 5, 2013
Spray sunscreens can catch fire and cause burns, FDA says


It's grilling season, and that means taking safety precautions near the source of flames.

Of course, out of doors, you'll also need to take precautions to protect your skin from sun damage.

But if you are doing both -- applying sunscreen spray and grilling -- be aware that aerosol sunscreen sprays can catch fire.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, five separate incidents have occurred in which people applied spray sunscreen and caught fire, ending up with serious burns. The products used in these cases have been recalled and removed from store shelves.

So if you have spray sunscreen at home, be safe and don't apply it near a flame source.

July 5, 2013
How driving can cause cancer on the left side of your body


This might seem like an oddity, but it's actually scientific fact.

In the U.S., drivers who spend lots of time behind the wheel have a greater risk of developing skin cancer on the left sides of their bodies.

That's especially true if you drive with your windows down. Either way, no matter how fast you drive, you cannot outrun the ultraviolet rays of the sun. Not even on a cloudy day.

You could probably guess that, in Great Britain, it's the driver's right side that would be at risk.

So don't forget to use and reapply sun screen -- even when getting in the car for a drive.

July 3, 2013
Walking outside is important for physical, mental well-being

More and more, we hear we should move these physical bodies of ours -- to stay in shape, avoid obesity and difficult conditions such as diabetes.

But there's a new push to take that idea a step further -- out of doors, into your communities, where you can walk among others, in nature, parks and around city blocks.

My article on exercise and sharpening your brain touched upon the idea that physical activity can benefit your mental and overall well-being.

But here's a new take on the topic, a video from KCET's series called City Walk. Here, you walk outside and engage in a new model of talk therapy.

As Clay Cockrell, LCSW, founder of Walk and Talk Therapy, says in this recommended video: "Being physically active will release a lot of the tension of anxiety. It helps one see the world as a bigger place, and that life's not all about you and you're not alone in the world."

This video takes place in Cental Park, but it could just as easily take place in Sacramento's Capitol Park.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

July 2, 2013
CDC seeks HIV testing in campaign aimed at Latino gay men

Data show that in Latino communities gay and bisexual men may benefit by HIV testing because the population contracts the infections at a slightly higher rate than other groups.

So the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is launching a campaign aimed at encouraging Latino gay and bisexual men to find a reason to get tested and then follow through.

In this 60-second video, Latino men share their reasons for getting an HIV test.

HIV testing is fast, free, and confidential. Find a testing site near you by texting your zip code to KNOW IT (566948) or visiting the campaign website at

Visit the campaign website at
Join the conversation on Facebook at

June 26, 2013
What do schools have to do with the health of a community?

Today, a group of dedicated and talented local students staged a play called "Willful" smack dab in the middle of the grand, old state Capitol building. The topic was willful defiance, an ill-defined charge that school administrators can levy at trouble-making kids they want to suspend.

At the invitation of Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, the kids, in conjunction with the Cornerstone Theater Company, acted out a scenario in which a school administrator was about to charge a kid with willful defiance.

But rather than go through with it, the administrator had a change of heart and instead started a dialogue with the student about what was going on in his personal life.

Education, and the access to it, is one of the so-called social determinants of healthy communities. What exactly does that mean?

Carl Pinkson, of the Black Parallel School Board, explains how it all boils down to health. Studies show that when a student gets kicked out of school, he may hit the streets, become involved in gangs or other illegal activity, end up in prison or -- worse -- with a shortened life span.

"Our philosophy is there is a direct connection between the health of the community and the access to education," Pinkson said. "There's something in the issue of violence and young people dying a violent death on the streets that connects health to good education."

That's one reason why there's a burgeoning effort to get school boards across California to rethink punishments like suspending students for "willfull defiance" or "zero tolerance" -- ultimately to enhance the health of the community.

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 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 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
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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