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July 2018

How to Put a Healthier Spin on Summertime Sweets

Summer is filled with sugary goodies that can tempt kids — and kids at heart. As temperatures spike over 100 degrees, grab-and-go popsicles and endless varieties of ice cream can sometimes seem like the only option to cool down. However, there are ways to swap in a few healthier items.

To inspire you to think beyond the old favorites, UnitedHealthcare has curated a list of choices that combine taste and nutrition.

Homemade Pops: With two key ingredients and a few essentials such as popsicle sticks, pass out homemade yogurt pops to the neighborhood crew.

Fruity Cone: Skip the scoop of ice cream and fill a cone with cubed melon, grapes, berries and other fruits. They are easy to make and give you another serving of fruit for the day.

Go Bananas: Another ice cream substitute is blended frozen bananas. Peel and chop several bananas, freeze them for a few hours and then pop them in the blender. Add some flavorings, such as cinnamon, a dash of vanilla, peanut butter or chocolate hazelnut spread to liven things up.

Fresh Fruit Snow Cones: Flavored or shaved ice cups are a summertime staple. Cut the sugar and artificial colors with a three-ingredient swap, which calls for your favorite fruit, agave nectar and ice.

Blend Up Smoothies: Whip up a refreshing cool sipper with a small amount of fruit juice, frozen berries and low-fat yogurt. When it comes to blended smoothies, there are tons of customized combinations based on dietary preferences, preferred flavors or what’s already in the fridge.

Layers of Nutrition: In a few steps, create a layered parfait that really packs in healthy ingredients. For example, you can top Greek yogurt with blackberries, lemon juice and honey for a delicious, nutritious treat.

Freeze Juice Cubes: It can be tough to cut back on juice when you need to quench your thirst. Instead, flip the idea by freezing juice cubes and adding them to your water. It’ll help reduce your juice intake and give your water an added kick.

For more healthy summer tips, visit newsroom.uhc.com.

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True or False: What to Know When It Comes to Sun Protection

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We’re in the heat of summer, and many people are rushing off to cool down in pools or nearby lakes. But before you seek relief from the heat, it’s important to first take the time to protect your skin. Below, Dr. Jennifer Malin, UnitedHealthcare’s senior medical director of oncology and genetics, sets the record straight on some common sun protection misunderstandings.

True or False? Your sunscreen should have UVA and UVB protection.
True: When walking down the sunscreen aisle, the choices can be overwhelming. Dr. Malin says, “Start by looking for a sunscreen that provides broad spectrum protection. That means it filters both types of ultraviolet radiation.” The Skin Cancer Foundation says that ultraviolet A rays are present all day and can cause skin-aging and wrinkling while ultraviolet B rays are strongest during peak hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and can cause sunburns. Both types have been linked to skin cancer.

True or False? One application of sunscreen lasts all day.
False: Sunscreen should be reapplied throughout the day and SPF, or sun protection factor, can help you know how often. Dr. Malin explains, “If you typically burn after 10 minutes in the sun, multiply that number by the SPF. For SPF 30, this would translate to 300 minutes, but the sunscreen will start to rub off before then. So, reapply often, at least every two hours.” Sunscreens should also be reapplied immediately after swimming, toweling off or excessive sweating.

True or False? You should use the highest SPF possible.
False: You may be surprised to learn that higher SPF does not always mean better protection. Dr. Malin says you may not need anything higher than SPF 30 if you’re applying generously and often. This is because, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, SPF 30 protects against 97 percent of the sun’s rays, while SPF 50 increases that just a bit – to 98 percent.

True or False? A little dab of sunscreen goes a long way.
False: To get a sunscreen’s full protection, you should consider applying about 2 tablespoonfuls or roughly a palmful. During a full day at the beach, a family of four should easily use an 8-ounce bottle. Sunscreen applied too lightly can reduce the effectiveness. A 30 SPF sunscreen can give as little protection as 5 SPF if applied too lightly.

True or False? You can get sun damage on a cloudy day.
True: One of the most common mistakes people make is forgetting about incidental sun exposure. Your skin is still soaking up UV rays even on cloudy days or while driving with the windows down. To help protect skin in such situations, Dr. Malin suggests making protection part of your normal routine. “Put sunscreen on first thing in the morning, even if you aren’t thinking about going outside – be consistent.”

True or False? Sunscreen is better than covering up.
False: While sunscreen is vital and should be used, Dr. Malin stresses the value of staying covered up. Wear lightweight, tightly-woven hats, shirts and pants. Combine sunscreen and sun-protective clothing for your strongest protection.

Knowing how to protect your skin from the sun may have a lasting impact. More people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer each year than all other cancers combined, and most skin cancer is associated with sun exposure.

Mindfulness May Be the Answer to Help Lower Employee Stress and Improve Productivity

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In the workplace, a modest amount of stress can be normal. But sustained levels of stress can be harmful and may lead to numerous health issues, affect professional and family relationships, and contribute to poor work performance.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “40 percent of workers say that their jobs are very stressful, and more than 26 percent say they are ‘often burned out or stressed’ by their work.”

According to United Health Foundation’s most recent America’s Health Rankings, Texas ranks No. 12 among all 50 states for the number of poor mental health days – days in which an adult reports that their overall mental health was not good in the past 30 days and therefore may not be able to fully participate in work or other activities.

Balancing work, family life, and financial and health concerns may be taxing for many employees; however, according to a recent UnitedHealthcare survey, almost 90 percent of employees said meditation, or mindfulness, has a positive impact on a person’s overall health and well-being, including 41 percent who believe such activities can have a “significant impact.”

Employers that foster a workplace culture that prioritizes well-being, including mindfulness programs, can help their employees cope with challenging times whether at work or at home that may lower stress, reduce health risks, improve health decisions, focus and sense of well-being.  

ABC’s of Mindfulness
“Mindfulness” is the practice of being fully present in each moment with an open and curious attitude. To some, mindfulness is a hard topic to grasp, but the goal of mindfulness can be very simple. Just imagine a workplace filled with positive energy, where working relationships and communications are optimized, and challenging situations and distractions give way to focus and self-awareness. These are some of the goals of mindfulness programs.

With practice, mindfulness may free employees of habitual patterns of thinking, judging, feeling and acting, and may help them perform better, ignore distractions, and make better decisions throughout the day.  

For example, the following “mindful breaths” exercise may be helpful, especially when noticing that twinge of tightness, anxiety or stress many of us experience during the day:

  • Step 1: Bring awareness to your body and the sense of the natural breath in the body.
  • Step 2: Inhale through the nose, and exhale either through the nostrils or through the mouth as if breathing out through a straw.
  • Step 3: Repeat the inhale, and then the exhale. Notice the air entering the body, the pause after the in-breath, and the air leaving the body on the outbreath.
  • Step 4: One more time – slowly inhaling, and then slowly exhaling.

Mindfulness can be practiced while sitting in a quiet place, while walking, or even during normal workplace activities, such as attending a meeting or replying to an e-mail. When distractions come into mind, practicing this technique may help people let those distractions go and come back to the present moment.

Employees are not the only ones who may benefit from a mindfulness program. Employers also may benefit by experiencing more productivity, with an enhanced sense of culture and connectedness that can drive more creativity and innovation while reducing absenteeism, burnout and turnover.

Following a solid body of research by universities and institutions, mindfulness programs are now offered by some health plans, including UnitedHealthcare, and medical centers, hospitals, schools and businesses.  

For more information about employee well-being programs, visit UHC.com.

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