ARE YOU GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP? TEST YOURSELF AND TRY THESE TIPS

by Adrienne Stokes, M. Ed. | UAB Community Health & Human Services Alumni

Photo by William Fortunato on Pexels.com

A good night’s sleep should not be taken for granted. Not getting enough sleep is linked to increased risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, obesity, and depression. Exhaustion can also lead to vehicular accidents and mistakes at work.

Sufficient sleep is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. It is recommended that most adults sleep 7-9 hours each night for optimal health. It is also important that your regular sleep is of good quality, so you feel rested when you wake.

Getting enough sleeps means less sickness, a healthy weight, lower health risks for serious health conditions, reduced stress, improved mood, clearer thinking, and better decision making.

Talk to your doctor if you often have trouble sleeping or still feel tired after sleeping as these are symptoms of a possible sleep disorder.


Good Sleep Habits

  • Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time, even on the weekends
  • Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature
  • Remove electronic devices from the bedroom (i.e. TVs, computers, cell-phones)
  • Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime
  • Enjoy some physical activity before bedtime

Are you getting enough sleep?

Take the Sleep Hygiene Index below to see if you are getting enough sleep. Answer the following thirteen (13) questions. If after adding your total below, your score is 7 and above, consider trying the good sleep habits above.

  1. I take daytime naps lasting 2 or more hours (Yes or No)
  2. I go to bed at different times from day to day (Yes or No)
  3. I get out of be at different times from day to day (Yes or No)
  4. I exercise to the point of sweating within 1 hour of going to bed (Yes or No)
  5. I stay in bed longer than I should 2 or 3 times a week (Yes or No)
  6. I use alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine within 4 hours of going to bed (Yes or No)
  7. I do something that may wake me up before bedtime (play video games, browse internet, clean) (Yes or No)
  8. I go to bed feeling stressed, angry, upset, or nervous (Yes or No)
  9. I use my bed for things other than sleep or sex (watching TV, reading, eating, studying) (Yes or No)
  10. I sleep on an uncomfortable bed (poor mattress or pillow, too much or not enough blankets) (Yes or No)
  11. I sleep in an uncomfortable bedroom (too bright, too stuffy, too hot, too cold, too noisy) (Yes or No)
  12. I do important work before bedtime (pay bills, study) (Yes or No)
  13. I think, plan, or worry when I am in bed (Yes or No)

Score

For every Yes add 1 point, for every No add 0 points. Add up your totals.

0-3 Very Good

4-6 Good

7-9 Poor

10-13 Very Poor

(Sleep Hygiene Index Adapted from Mastin, Bryson & Corwyn, 2006)


Please check out the sources below to learn more about the practicing good sleep habits. Please also share your thoughts about sleep and sleep hygiene in the comments section of this post or via our page on Facebook @WilkinsonWellnessLab.

Resources and Further Reading

https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/topics/everyday-healthy-living/mental-health-and-relationships/get-enough-sleep#panel-4

https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/index.html


Railroad Park, Birmingham’s Green Oasis

By Jerrica Lake, Intern & UAB Community Health & Human Services Student

Looking for a safe place to get a dose of sunshine this summer? Try Railroad Park, located in the heart of Birmingham and situated along 1st Avenue South between 14th and 18th Streets. The park is open 7 a.m.-11 p.m. daily with around-the-clock rangers on patrol and 24-hour security system surveillance. Free parking is available along the outer perimeters of the park along 1st Avenue South.

Get Active in the Park!

Featuring 19 acres of green space, including 9 acres of open lawn, Railroad Park is the ideal place to have a picnic, go for a jog, or play frisbee with peers or pets. There are onsite restrooms, water fountains, and a café with a delicious menu, so feel free to make a day of it!

Railroad Park is abundant with greenery and water features, with ponds, streams, an eye-catching lake, and a stunning rain curtain feature. More than 600 trees have been planted for shade and the abundance of flowers make the park a luxurious landscape for the senses.

There is large outdoor gym area inspired by Muscle Beach in California. For kids, the park offers two playgrounds and a climbing dome. For skaters, there is a designated skate zone with three skate bowls available. For an adult looking to get active, it offers a variety of walking trails including

  • The Magic City Loop (3/4 mile)
  • Rail Trail (1/3 mile)
  • Powell Avenue Promenade (1/3 mile)
  • Limestone Trace (1/2 mile)

With sweeping lawns, picturesque streams and the beautiful Birmingham skyline framing it all, Railroad Park a prime spot for relaxing and connecting with nature within our urban jungle.


Use this image to share the message on social media!

Sources:

Birmingham’s Railroad Park – About Us. (n.d.). Retrieved June 16, 2021, from: https://www.railroadpark.org/about.html


LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET AND ITS BENEFITS

By Shayna Bryan, Intern & UAB Community Health & Human Services Student

If you’ve ever spent time looking for healthy diets to follow, but wanted to avoid a highly restrictive diet (like vegan) or a commercial diet plan (like Weight Watchers), you probably have come across the Mediterranean Diet. It has been the subject of research for over 50 years and has been ranked the best overall diet by the U.S. News and World Report for four years running. The American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the World Health Organization have all endorsed the Mediterranean diet as a healthy and sustainable eating style that reduces risk for heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes. The Mediterranean Diet also may assist with weight loss in obese people and is associated with lower rates of depression, cognitive decline, cancer, and all-cause mortality.

This diet has a lot of major endorsements! So then, what’s up with this diet and why is it so special?

The Mediterranean Sea is a meeting point of three continents: Africa, Asia, and Europe. When health experts and researchers recommend the “Mediterranean Diet” they’re not talking about the food of just one people or one culture, but the common shared characteristics of the simple everyday meals made for centuries in this region of the world. Meals are built around plant-based foods, heavily seasoned with herbs and spice (though not tons of salt). These meals are made, shared, and enjoyed amongst a community of families and friends.

Here’s are the common characteristics of the Mediterranean Diet:

  • High consumption of vegetables, often raw or slightly cooked
  • Beans, nuts, legumes, seeds, potatoes, and unprocessed or whole grains
  • Olive oil as the principal source of fat
  • Fruit treated as a dessert
  • Moderate consumptions of fish, poultry, and dairy (mostly in the form of yogurt and cheese)
  • Low consumption of red meat
  • Moderate alcohol consumption, often in the form of red wine

Please check out the source below to learn more about the Mediterranean Diet. Please also share your thoughts about the Mediterranean Diet in the comments section of this post or via our page on Facebook @WilkinsonWellnessLab.

Sources:

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2019, June 21). Mediterranean diet for heart health. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/previous-dietary-guidelines/2015.

U.S. News & World Report. (n.d.). Mediterranean Diet. U.S. News & World Report. https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/mediterranean-diet.

What is the Mediterranean Diet? http://www.heart.org. (n.d.). https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/mediterranean-diet.


DOING SELF-CARE & BEING WELL: JOIN CONVERSATIONS WITH KHALIA EVERY FOUTH MONDAY

By: Flora Johnson, Intern

FLYER FROM EAST LAKE LIBRARY OF THE BIRMINGHAM PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM

“What is missing is fun. We need to unplug and do something fun! It may sound cheesy, but having fun is self-care.” – Khalia Wilkinson

Are you ready to live well, be healthy, and walk into abundant life?  Conversations with Khalia is a platform designed for women to speak freely about matters of life. Conversations with Khalia is a virtual talk on women’s wellness hosted through the East Lake Branch of the Birmingham Library every fourth Monday of the month. Mrs. Khalia Wilkinson is a coach and minister working with women looking to ditch feeling stressed, overwhelmed, drained, and desiring to be accomplished, healthy, and thriving.  On April 26, 2021, she will host an online conversation at 12:15PM CST. You can register here (https://tinyurl.com/Online-Conversations) or call (205) 836-3341 to attend.

Khalia Wilkinson is a counselor and wellness coach with 15 years of experience mentoring and training women. She has written The Women’s COVID-19 Survival Guide to uplift women experiencing wellness withdrawals due to the sudden shifts in their schedules caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The guide discusses in-depth how to navigate the required activities of daily living in this new unforeseen space while managing isolation, mental wellness, schedules, and self-care. She also hosts the Woman31 Podcast, a podcast rooted in biblical principles found in Proverbs, Chapter 31 with an accompanying website: Woman31.

Khalia believes that a woman’s health and well-being is foundational to ensuring all other scheduled family activities are successfully completed. The Women’s COVID-19 Survival Guide embraces concepts of self-care in support of one’s overall health and wellness.  The guide offers easy-to-perform tasks that can help individuals better manage their well-being.

Self-care is typically visualized as a spa day. However, Khalia suggests that adequate sleep, eating a healthy and satisfying meal, praying, laughing at a good movie, and/or speaking with a trusted and supportive friend are all excellent modes of self-care. Understanding where you are and what health areas you need to focus on is pivotal to living well.

Khalia says that mental health is vital to overall wellness. She suggested that seeking professional counseling is absolutely a “good thing” to do, especially when one is experiencing serious mental illness. She also mentioned that feeling negative emotions is a signal to our body that something is not “okay.” Thus, it is important to listen to our body and seek help. When asked if there was any wellness advice she could offer, she said, “Do something fun and find ways to get back to the activities we love, because it can be healthy for our bodies.” You can always connect with Mrs. Khalia Wilkinson on Instagram, @khalia.woman31.


LOWER YOUR STRESS, WALK FOR WELLNESS

By Shayna Bryan, Intern & UAB Community Health & Human Services Student

Photo by Uriel Mont on Pexels.com

Managing your stress and anxiety is important for long-term health and wellness. Healthy stress management improves resiliency, especially when times are tough, but it can be tricky to put into practice. There are a lot of pressures in everyday life that demand attention so taking care of your own mental health can feel difficult to prioritize. The very pressure to manage your stress can be stressful itself, but finding healthy ways to cope with stress is good for your mind and body. Reducing your stress also reduces your risk for cardiovascular disease and supports healthy immune system functioning.  

If thinking about stress management is at all overwhelming and you just want somewhere to start, there’s a simple solution: Go for a walk. 

Walking is easy and you already know how to do it. Other common methods of stress-relief like yoga and meditation take skill and practice, but anyone can go for a walk. It gives you time to yourself away from the usual distractions and is a low-impact aerobic exercise. If you’re new to tackling your stress and feeling overwhelmed at all, walking is effective and can quickly become part of your daily routine. It’s low-stress stress relief for beginners! 

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you plan your wellness walk: 

  1. Walk outside. Being outside among nature is good for your, mental-wellbeing, particularly if you live in a city. 
  1. Walk for at least 20-30 minutes. If you’re not sure how to plan a walking route, just pick a direction and walk for 10-15 minutes, then turn around and walk back.  
  1. Take deep calming breaths while you walk. Breathe in for 5 seconds while expanding your whole chest, then exhale slowly. 
  1. It is safe to walk outside without a mask, provided you are more than 6 feet from the nearest person. Take a mask with you anyway, for safety. 
  1. Use this time to take a break from the news and social media. Focus only on enjoying the moment. 

Sources: 

CDC. Mental health and coping during covid-19. (n.d.). Retrieved March 18, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html 

Hunter, M. R., Gillespie, B. W., & Chen, S. Y. (2019). Urban nature experiences reduce stress in the context of daily life based on salivary biomarkers. Frontiers in Psychology, 10. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00722 


CDC’s Commitment to Addressing Racism as an Obstacle to Health Equity

Photo by Kelly Lacy on Pexels.com

Commentary drawn from Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) Media Statement & Website released Thursday, April 8 2021

According to the CDC (2021),…”Racism—both interpersonal and structural —negatively affects the mental and physical health of millions of people, preventing them from attaining their highest level of health, and consequently, affecting the health of our nation. A growing body of research shows that centuries of racism in this country has had a profound and negative impact on communities of color. The impact is pervasive and deeply embedded in our society—affecting where one lives, learns, works, worships and plays and creating inequities in access to a range of social and economic benefits—such as housing, education, wealth, and employment. These conditions—often referred to as social determinants of health—are key drivers of health inequities within communities of color, placing those within these populations at greater risk for poor health outcomes.”

The CDC is committed to ensuring every person has the opportunity to live a healthy life. To that end, CDC—as the nation’s leading public health agency—has established this web portal, “Racism and Health” to serve as a hub for our activities, promote a public discourse on how racism negatively affects health and communicate potential solutions. Working with the broader public health community, the CDC will serve as a catalyst to further investigate the impact of racism on health and efforts to achieve health equity for all.

As the nation’s leading public health agency, other efforts from the CDC in addressing the impact of racism on public health include:

  • Continuing to study the impact of social determinants on health outcomes, expand the body of evidence on how racism affects health, and propose and implement solutions to address this.
  • Making new and expanded investments in racial and ethnic minority communities and other disproportionately affected communities around the country, establishing a durable infrastructure that will provide the foundation and resources to address disparities related to COVID-19 and other health conditions.
  • Expanding internal agency efforts to foster greater diversity and create an inclusive and affirming environment for all.

For more information about the CDC’s efforts in addressing Racism & Health, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/healthequity/racism-disparities/index.html. Also, feel free to share your thoughts and concerns regarding racism here in the comments section, or engage with us at the Wilkinson Wellness Lab on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.


Let’s Be #VACCINEREADY for National Minority Health Month 2021

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Bulletin from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Minority Health

April is National Minority Health Month, and this year, the HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH) is focusing on the impacts COVID-19 is having on racial and ethnic minority and American Indian and Alaska Native communities and underscoring the need for these vulnerable communities to get vaccinated as more vaccines become available. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), certain vulnerable populations, such as non-Hispanic African Americans, individuals living in nonmetropolitan areas, and adults with lower levels of education, income or who do not have health insurance, have a higher likelihood of forgoing getting vaccinated.

The theme for National Minority Health Month is #VaccineReady. The goal of this effort is to help communities at higher risk of COVID-19 to:

Studies show that COVID-19 vaccines are effective at keeping people from getting COVID-19 and the CDC recommends that everyone get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible and vaccines are available.

So let’s work together. Please leave a comment on how you are becoming #VaccineReady. Please continue to check in with the Wilkinson Wellness Laboratory through Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter for updates during National Minority Health Month as we place a focus on our health and our community.


MEATLESS OPTIONS FOR WHEN YOU ARE “ON THE GO!”

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Sometimes it can be difficult to find meatless options when on the go. We get it and totally understand. Although best practices include meal planning in advance, suggestions from patrons of the LAB for meatless options include (but are not limited to):

Burger King Impossible Whopper

Chick-Fil-A Spicy Southwest Salad with No Chicken

Dunkin’ Donuts Veggie Egg White Sandwich

Great Harvest Bread Company Vegetable Bread Options

Jimmy John’s Unwich

Starbucks Impossible Breakfast

Subway Veggie Delight

Taco Bell Veggie Power Bowl

Disclaimer: The Wilkinson Wellness Lab does not assume liability for adverse reactions to foods consumed, or items one may come into contact with while eating at any of the above establishments.

Help: This list is not exhaustive, so help us out. What meatless options have you consumed while “on the go”? Which menu items taste good? Which menu items should we consider for health and taste? Please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts.


WOMEN, BE SMART ABOUT YOUR HEART!

By Shayna Bryan (UAB Community Health & Human Services Intern) and Dr. Larrell L. Wilkinson

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Every February since 1964, Americans have celebrated American Heart Month! Why? According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death among American adults and most ethnic/racial groups. Heart disease the body’s circulatory system, i.e. your veins and arteries. There are several forms of heart disease, but some of the most common include heart attack and coronary artery disease. According to the American Heart Association , a heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is interrupted, thus the oxygen supply to the heart muscle is reduced or completely cut off. This is important because the CDC estimates that 805,000 heart attacks occur annually in the United States.

Among Americans, non-Hispanic Black (African Americans) are at great risk for heart disease. The American Heart Association reports that about half of African-American women over the age of 20 have some form of heart disease, yet only about 1 out of 3 know their heart health risk. Around 50,000 African-American women die from cardiovascular disease annually. But we can prevent the deaths and reduce the number of our families impacted by heart disease. Here is what we can do:

Step 1: Learn your risk for heart disease.

Visit your doctor and ask for diagnostic tests for coronary heart disease. If you don’t have a personal physician or access to health care, contact Jefferson County Department of Health or your local county health department for assistance.

In general, any individual who has been diagnosed with any of these conditions is at risk for heart disease:

• Overweight or obesity
• High blood pressure
• Diabetes
• Physical inactivity
• Family history (first degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, who has had a heart attack or stroke before age 50)

Step 2: Work to reduce your risk of heart disease.

Photo by Laura James on Pexels.com

Eat healthy
Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Five servings a day is the recommended minimum, so aim even higher by making vegetables half of your meal. Lower your sodium intake by eating more home cooked meals, instead of fast food. Drink water, not soda or juice which is high in added sugars.

Be active
Aim for 150 minutes of physical activity every week. That’s only around 20 minutes a day. You can make walking part of your routine. Try going for a walk and talking to a friend on the phone. Any activity that elevates your heart rate will improve your health and help lower your risk.

Manage stress
Stress management is important for heart health. Eating healthy and staying active can help keep your stress levels down. Learn what triggers your stress and address it by slowing down and engaging in meditation or breathing exercises.

Step 3: Always look for the signs of a heart attack

According to the American Heart Association, women are somewhat less likely than men to experience chest pain. Instead, they are more likely to experience:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Pressure or tightness in the chest
  • Stomach pain

To learn more about heart disease in women, please click on the links above. Additional resources include the following links:

https://www.goredforwomen.org/en/about-heart-disease-in-women/signs-and-symptoms-in-women/symptoms-of-a-heart-attack

https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/consumer-healthcare/what-is-cardiovascular-disease/african-americans-and-heart-disease-stroke

https://www.heart.org/-/media/phd-files-2/science-news/2/2021-heart-and-stroke-stat-update/2021_stat_update_factsheet_black_race_and_cvd.pdf?la=en

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/stress-and-heart-health


SECURE HEALTH INSURANCE FOR YOURSELF OR YOUR LOVE ONES: A SPECIAL ENROLLMENT PERIOD FOR HEALTH CARE COVERAGE DUE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

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According to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, individuals can enroll in Marketplace health coverage February 15 through May 15 due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) emergency. A person may also still be able to enroll for 2021 any time these two ways: with a Special Enrollment Period or through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). For more information about Special Enrollment Periods for Health Insurance Coverage via the Marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act, please visit https://www.healthcare.gov/coverage-outside-open-enrollment/special-enrollment-period/.

According to an Issue Brief (August 19, 2020) from the Commonwealth Fund, during the first half of 2020, 43.4 percent of U.S. adults ages 19 to 64 were inadequately insured. The adult uninsured rate was 12.5 percent. In addition, 9.5 percent of adults were insured but had a gap in coverage in the past year and 21.3 percent were underinsured. According to 2012 data from the Alabama Department of Public Health, an estimated 15.8% of Alabamians are without health insurance coverage. 15.8% of uninsured Alabamians are ages 65 or older, while 15.5% of Alabamians without health coverage were between ages 40 – 64 years of age. Among the uninsured, 19% were African American and 34.6% were persons from Latino/Hispanic ethnicity.

Health Insurance Coverage is a significant resource to have in your life and the lives of your loved ones! Through the Marketplace created through the Affordable Care Act, health plans cover:

  • Ambulatory patient services (outpatient care you get without being admitted to a hospital)
  • Emergency services
  • Hospitalization (like surgery and overnight stays)
  • Pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care (both before and after birth)
  • Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment (this includes counseling and psychotherapy)
  • Prescription drugs
  • Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices (services and devices to help people with injuries, disabilities, or chronic conditions gain or recover mental and physical skills)
  • Laboratory services
  • Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management
  • Pediatric services, including oral and vision care (but adult dental and vision coverage aren’t essential health benefits)

Plans may also cover:

Additionally, plans in various states may include: Dental coverage, Vision coverage, and/or Medical management programs (for specific needs like weight management, back pain, and diabetes). Start your process of gaining health coverage today by visiting Healthcare.gov to learn more about healthcare coverage and encourage your loved ones to the same.