ACOG Joins National Obesity Care Week 2016: Take 5 to Change the Way We Care

Today, more than a third of the adult population, 36.5 percent, is affected by obesity. The number of adults who are affected by severe obesity continues to rise. It’s time for a change in obesity care. With senocw-supporter-web-visual-copyvere obesity on the rise, our nation, led by the health care community, must attack this disease from multiple angles and unite to overhaul the treatment of obesity. ACOG recognizes the important role that obstetrician-gynecologists play. Ob-gyns often meet their patients at a young age, when obesity is less likely to be an issue. Therefore, we are in an ideal position to help educate women and provide counsel on the importance of a healthy lifestyle and fighting obesity.

The 2nd Annual National Obesity Care Week (NOCW), October 30 through November 5, seeks to ignite a national movement to ensure anyone affected by obesity receives respectful and comprehensive care. ACOG is proud to join the Campaign, which was founded by The Obesity Society, the Obesity Action Coalition, Strategies to Overcome and Prevent Obesity Alliance and the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

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Yes, “The Times, They Are A-changin”… but so are we!!

“The Times They Are A-changin”…  That’s how I began my presidential inaugural address last year, and guess what? They are still changing!  This theme underscored virtually everything we did this past year. Let me very briefly review where we are…

We began the year with a major legislative victory in that the SGR was repealed, and in its place is a more complicated program affecting physician payment, MACRA.  I am finishing my year by appointing a work group of experts to better understand the new law and help translate it for our members. Stay tuned on that front.

Numerous issues arose during the year, ranging from over-the-counter contraception, home births, Planned Parenthood, TRAP laws, midwifery, Zika and many more. We have such an amazing staff in Practice and Communications…we were able to issue timely and meaningful statements about all of these issues and keep informed debate going on the national level about these and other important topics.

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Aiming for A BPA-Free Pregnancy

This week, the Breast Cancer Fund released a new and important report drawing attention to prenatal exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is a synthetic estrogen and known endocrine disruptor. It is a relative of diethylstilbestrol (DES), a drug that caused genetic mutations and increased reproductive health problems and certain cancers among women whose mothers had taken the drug during pregnancy in the 1940s–1970s. Used widely as a can lining in canned foods and for plastic production, BPA has become ubiquitous in the US food supply. According to the new report, more than 92% of Americans have BPA in their bodies. Unfortunately, most research on BPA is based on animal models, which leaves us to infer risks to humans rather than to study them in a controlled fashion.

Based on animal models, support is building that BPA exposure in utero and shortly after birth is linked to future health problems including breast cancer, prostate cancer, metabolic changes, decreased fertility, early puberty, neurological problems, and immunological changes. To reduce BPA exposure among infants, the substance was banned from use in baby bottles in 2012. However, by the time a child is delivered, some level of exposure has already happened. Pregnant women who consume BPA expose their developing fetus to the compound, often during the first weeks of pregnancy, a crucial time for fetal development.

At this point, potential toxins are released freely into the environment and used broadly without any research assuring their safety before their use. ACOG’s most important role will be in supporting legislation that prevents exposure to chemical sources until those chemicals are studied and deemed safe for us. In the meantime, this new report encourages reproductive health providers to make women aware of the potential risks of BPA. It provides guidance on simple ways to reduce BPA-exposure, such as using glass, ceramic, or stainless steel for food storage, avoiding cooking or reheating in plastic containers, and choosing fresh or frozen foods instead of canned. Anything we can do to increase BPA awareness among physicians and patients will help us to collectively move in the right direction so we can all be BPA-free.

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Reach Your Fitness Goals with Health Apps

Nearly half of people in the US make a New Year’s resolution each year. We often vow to lose weight and be more healthy—both noble and important aims to strive for. But if you’ve ever made a resolution, you probably won’t be surprised to find that by the end of January, many people have abandoned their newly set goals.

If you think that expensive trainers or diet plans are the only thing that will help you stick to your resolution, you may want to explore your smartphone first. There are apps aimed at keeping you honest and focused—or at least get you moving in the right direction. Many fitness apps are available to help you track your calories, log daily activity levels, and tailor your routine to get results.

Food tracking apps allow you to keep a detailed log of what you’re eating, often helping you spot patterns in your eating that are sabotaging weight loss (eg, that daily mid-morning doughnut or the twice-weekly buffalo wings at happy hour that regularly push you over your recommended calorie goals). Calorie trackers give you a recommendation for the number of daily calories you need in order to reach your weight goals alongside the actual number of calories you take in on a given day. Some food tracker apps have extensive databases of foods, which make logging calories easier and faster than ever.

To help you maintain your exercise goals, give fitness trackers a try. With these apps, you can log your routes, pace, miles, and different types of workouts. Many allow you to share your activities and progress on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, allowing you to engage your support network (friends and family) for encouragement and accountability.

Not sure which app to try? Check out the Huffington Post’s list of the best fitness apps. You can also see what ACOG Fellows have recommended on our Facebook page. Or if you have a food or fitness tracking app that you love, please share it with us in the comments section. We’d love to hear what you’re using and what’s working for you.

Here’s to a healthy and active 2013!

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Don’t Invite Stress Home for the Holidays

The holidays are upon us. Are you joyous and bright? Or would “a heaping pile of stress” be a more accurate description? If you answered the latter, you’re not alone. The frenzy of the holiday season can amplify the everyday stressors we face, such as work, traffic, family obligations, being a caregiver, and the economy.

Stress is your body’s natural response to demand or pressure. While periodic stress is normal and can be good for you—helping you to act quickly, overcome challenges, and boost your immunity—ongoing stress can lead to a number of health problems.

Stress-related spikes in blood pressure may be damaging to blood vessels if they occur too often and can lead to long-term high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. Ongoing stress has also been linked to lowered immunity and physical, mental, or emotional symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, insomnia, stomach problems, anxiety, depression, irritability, crying spells, forgetfulness, poor concentration, and low productivity.

The way you handle the inevitable holiday and everyday stressors can make all the difference in your overall health. These helpful tips from National Foundation for Cancer Research may be a good place to start:

  •  Plan ahead. Stress can build up if you procrastinate your “To Do List.” Try to accomplish small tasks each day leading up to the holiday. Buying gifts, decorating, and cooking can be much more stressful if done last-minute.
  • Know your limits. Being overwhelmed with events during the holiday season can impede your daily responsibilities. Be sure to practice saying “no” and avoid overcommitting. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and be sure to get a healthy amount of rest.
  • Try to eat nutritious foods and limit sweets during the holiday season. As tempting as it may be, consuming large amounts of unhealthy foods can contribute to decreased energy levels, not to mention feelings of guilt. Try to choose alternative options like whole grains, fruits and vegetables filled with cancer-fighting antioxidants, and lean meats. Still enjoy desserts (it is the holidays, after all), but keep it in moderation.
  • Let things go. Nothing’s going to be perfect. Relax and enjoy time with family, even if a pie burns or someone is disappointed with his (or her) gift. Reconcile the situation, move on, and embrace the holiday cheer!
  • Exercise. Exercise is not only a great way to stay fit and reduce your risk of getting cancer, but it increases your endorphin levels and helps keep you stress-free.

Best wishes for a healthy, happy, and easy holiday season!

Strive for a Healthy Body—and Mind—this Thanksgiving

Are you already salivating over the turkey and stuffing? Or maybe you’re a sweet potato casserole person? Or perhaps you’re looking beyond dinner to those pumpkin and pecan pies? Whatever your taste buds crave on Thanksgiving, it’s easy to consume 2,000–4,000 or more calories during our annual feast.

As you gather with family this year, consider ways you can be thankful, healthy, and stress-free during this special time of year. ACOG gathered these six articles to help you aim for a healthier holiday season:

  1. 7 Thanksgiving Diet Disasters to Avoid
  2. 10 Tips for a Thinner Thanksgiving
  3. Simple Food Substitutions to Help Decrease Calories and Fat
  4. Top 5 Ways to Exercise during Thanksgiving
  5. How to Inject More Thanksgiving Gratitude into Our Daily Lives
  6. 6 Breathing Exercises When You Need to De-Stress

A Vitamin for Healthy Moms and Babies

Pop Quiz: What vitamin is associated with a 50–70% reduction in birth defects? Answer: Folic Acid

I recently wrote about the importance of eating your vitamins through food, but getting enough folic acid from natural sources can be tough. Folic acid is an essential B vitamin necessary for proper cell growth. It’s vital to the development of a baby’s brain, spinal cord, and central nervous system and integral in preventing birth defects such as spina bifida, anencephaly, and cleft lip and palate. Here’s the catch: In order for folic acid to provide the best protection against birth defects, levels of the vitamin need to be high in a woman’s body before she becomes pregnant and through the first three months of pregnancy.

Because nearly half of the pregnancies in the US are unintended, it’s important that reproductive-age women build up their folic acid stores, whether planning a pregnancy or not. ACOG recommends that all childbearing-age women take 400 micrograms of folic acid each day. Women who have had a child with a neural tube defect or certain other birth defects, are pregnant with twins, have particular medical conditions (such as sickle cell disease), or take some forms of medication (such as antiseizure medication) may need more.

Our bodies can’t process folate—the naturally occurring form of folic acid found in leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, and beans—as easily as the man-made form. Folic acid-enriched breakfast cereals, breads, flours, pastas, rice, and other grains can help, but even women who eat diets high in these sources may not get enough. To make sure you get the recommended amount, take a daily supplement or multivitamin containing 0.4 milligrams or 400 micrograms of folic acid.

Summertime and the Eatin’ Is Easy

Do you struggle to eat right? Do you count the piece of lettuce and slice of tomato on your burger as two servings of vegetables? Does your usual fish serving come in a deep-fried square slathered in tartar sauce? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may have considered taking a multivitamin to fill in the gaps of a less-than-perfect menu, and you have a lot of company. An estimated 110 million Americans buy vitamin supplements each year.

For those of you hoping for a salad bar in pill form, I’ve got bad news: A growing body of research says that vitamin and nutritional supplements leave a lot to be desired. While these supplements can be helpful in staving off common deficiencies, such as low iron in premenopausal women or inadequate calcium in postmenopausal women, often touted claims of cancer prevention, heart protection, and overall improved health have not been proven.

If you have a health problem related to a deficiency, it’s best to consult with your doctor on the best way to right what’s wrong. But for many women, a colorful and varied diet containing an abundance of whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains, still trumps anything you can buy in a bottle. Whole foods contain not just one or a few isolated vitamins and nutrients, but a number of components—think fiber, minerals, antioxidants, water content, etc—that work together to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

This summer, I challenge you to think about your food choices more holistically. Look for natural sources for the nutrients you need. Aim to get your calcium from low-fat dairy and leafy greens, and your fish oils from actual (not fried) fish. For those of you in climates where gardens will soon overflow with fresh produce, work in more servings of what’s in season near you. No matter where you are, shoot for 7–9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day (it IS possible), make at least half of your grain servings of the whole grain variety, and get plenty of protein from low-fat sources like beans, nuts, and lean meats. By the end of the season, you may find that getting your vitamins the way nature intended isn’t as hard as you thought.