What Traffic Does to Your Health

January 02, 2020

It’s no surprise to anyone who lives here: LA is in the top 10 for U.S. cities with the most traffic. Most of us hate it. In fact, one small, local study revealed that hundreds of people have quit jobs because of a lousy, time-consuming commute. Traffic can affect not only your car, but your physical and mental health, too. 

At AltaMed, we may not be able to do much about the traffic, but we have tips to reduce its effects on your body, mind, and life. Read on to learn more – hopefully before your next bumper-to-bumper commute.

 

The Problem: A Sore, Achy Back

Woman with an achy back sit inside her car

Sitting in traffic for long periods can put stress on your spine, or worsen existing back pain. Too much sitting is also bad for your heart. We can help with both!

Solution: Make time in your day to exercise and keep your body loose. Maintaining good posture while you drive may also help. If you sit at a desk for work, make time for these exercises (especially the quad stretch) to keep your back feeling strong and stretchy.

 

The Problem: Your Stress Is Through the Roof

Stressed woman sit inside her car

An employment firm ran a study of daily commuters and found that LA traffic is the most stressful in the nation. A clenched jaw, tension headaches, and short temper, are all symptoms of stress. 

Solutions: Coping with stress is one of the most important skills you can ever develop. Try a few of these tips – you can do the focused breathing anywhere, at any time, just so long as you keep your eyes open and focused on the road. 

 

The Problem: Social Isolation and Loneliness

Woman feeling lonely trapped in the traffic

We spend hours of our days in our cars alone. Long, congested commutes can make us feel run-down and use time  we could spend with friends and family. Quite simply, traffic can cause loneliness – and if loneliness isn’t dealt with, it can cause other problems such as depression, difficulty sleeping, and heart disease.

Solutions: Social connections and interactions with friends and loved ones are an important part of your life. Even if you do battle traffic regularly, make time to see the people who matter to you. 

You might also consider joining a carpool or other form of public transit. It’s a great way to socialize with new people and break up your routine. Studies have shown that those who walk or bike for their commute are happier, less stressed, and do better at their jobs, so that’s another option that can help you shake off loneliness and depression.

 

The Problem: Loss of Focus That Could Lead to Accidents

Man ussing his cellphone in the traffic

When you’re stuck in traffic, it’s a natural reaction to zone out and put yourself on auto pilot. You may even want to pick up your phone to entertain yourself. However, anything that distracts you or takes the focus of the road is dangerous. Almost as many people die from traffic accidents as breast cancer every year. Distracted driving is never safe. 

Solutions: Keep your phone out of reach and minimize other distractions while you’re driving. Switch up a boring commute by trying different routes. If you use an app like Waze, take a route that helps you avoid the freeway. You can also try carpooling, walking, or biking.

 

You Won’t Have to Fight Traffic to Visit Us

Altamed clinic front

Whether you’re experiencing physical or mental health problems related to your commute, we can help. AltaMed sites are conveniently located in communities all over Southern California. We also have a large network of doctors, so friendly, quality care is never far from where you are. Call us today at (877) 499-9303 to make an appointment.

 

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6 Exercises and Stretches That Can Help Prevent Back Pain

December 04, 2019

Back pain is so common it affects almost everyone at some point in their lives. Men and women both get it; it can happen when you’re young or old; and couch potatoes as well as athletes suffer from it occasionally. In most cases, back pain goes away on its own in a few days. 

For many who have back pain, the last thing they want to do is exercise. However, lying in bed for long periods of time can leave you weaker which can make your back hurt worse.

The best way to avoid back pain is by keeping your back, and all the muscles that support it, strong and flexible.  

These gentle but effective exercises can do just that. Those who are overweight are much more likely to have back pain. If you are overweight, you may benefit from a program of vigorous exercise. Talk to your doctor about what kind of exercise is right for you!

 

1. Pelvic Tilt

pelvic tilt gif

This goal of this warmup exercise is to put your back and pelvis in the ideal neutral position, which can relieve pain and help you move the rest of your body better. 

Lay on the ground with your knees bent and your hands on your lower abdomen. Your back probably has a slight arch to it: notice how this feels. 

  1. Pull your abdominal muscles in. Imagine you are trying to suck your navel towards the back of your spine. 
  2. Move your hips up as if you are trying to “tuck” your pelvis underneath you.
  3. Relax your lower back. Your back is now supported by your abdominal muscles, with only a slight curve. This is neutral spine. 
  4. Hold for up to 10 seconds, then return to the original position.

Now that you know what neutral spine feels like, try to recreate it through the rest of the exercises. Concentrate on your breathing: besides the back benefits, this exercise is a great way to cope with stress

How many: Start out with 10 tilts.

How often: You can do these every day.

 

2. Quad Stretch

squad strech gif

If you work at a desk job or sit for long periods of time, the muscles at the front of your legs (the quadriceps or quads, for short) may become tight and short. This can create more stress on your lower back. Loosening up these muscles can relieve this tension.

  1. Reach behind you, grab your right shin with your right hand, and bring it toward your buttocks. Hold onto a piece of furniture with your left-hand for support.
  2. Hold your core in tight and don’t let your back arch. 
  3. Hold for 15 – 30 seconds, then stretch the other leg.

If you’re not very flexible, try this stretch on the floor. You should feel a deep stretch in the front of your leg, from your groin to your knee. Stop if you start feeling it in your back.

How many: 2 or 3 on each leg.

How often: You can do this stretch every day.

 

3. Knee to Chest Stretch

knee to chest stretch gif

This stretch can help loosen the muscles in both the front and back of the hips, the groin, and lower back, and it will help your range of motion. The key to getting the most benefit from this stretch is to keep your back in a neutral position. A gentle arch is ok, but you should hold your abdominal muscles tight.

  1. Lay on your back.
  2. Bring your right leg up and bring your knee to your chest. Hold for 15 – 30 seconds.
  3. Return to original position.
  4. Repeat with left leg.

If you can’t get your knee up very high, don’t force it. You can only go as far as you can go! But if you practice this stretch regularly, you’ll be able to get a deeper stretch that can help to loosen up your back and hips.

How many: 3 to 5 on each leg.

How often: You can do the stretch every day.

 

4. Cat-Cow Stretch

cat cow stretch gif

This exercise can help make your entire spine, from your hips and lower back all the way up to your shoulders and neck, more flexible.

  1. Start by getting down on all fours. Your knees should be about hip distance apart and your hands should be as wide as your shoulders. Your stomach should be firm, as if you’re trying to suck your navel to your spine.
  2. Inhale and tilt your pelvis back so it sticks up. Keep your abs tight but drop your belly down.
  3. Move your head up like you are trying to look up at the ceiling, but don’t strain your neck. 
  4. As you exhale, draw your belly to your spine and round your back. You should look like an angry cat with an arched back
  5. Inhale and move back to the ‘cow’ part of the pose.

How many: 10 complete cycles going from cat to cow.

How often: You can do this stretch every day.

 

5. Bridge

bridge gift

This exercise is excellent at strengthening all of the muscles in your abdomen and hips that support your back.

  1. Lay flat on the ground with your knees bent and your toes facing forward. 
  2. Use the big muscles in your buttocks (the glutes) and the backs of your legs (hamstrings) to lift your hips up off of the ground. 
  3. Push your heels to the floor and squeeze your abdominal muscles tight. Hold for two seconds.
  4. Return to the floor. 

Don’t turn your head while in this position and don’t try to make this a backbend, which will put more pressure on your spine. Keep your back as relaxed as possible. Imagine a straight line going from your chest to your knees.

How many: Repeat 8 to 12 times.

How often: Two or three times a week.

 

6. Quadruped/”Bird Dog” Exercise

bird god exercise gift

This exercise will help you improve your balance and posture. It will also help strengthen your abdominal muscles and the muscles in your back that stabilize your spine. It may not seem like much, but this exercise works many of your body’s major muscle groups. 

  1. Start on all fours, with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Distribute your weight evenly, hold in your core, and keep your back flat. 
  2. Gently extend your right arm forward. Imagine you are trying to grow long, starting from your shoulder blade. Stretch through your fingertips.
  3. Extend your left leg out behind you, turning on the muscles in your buttocks and hamstrings to keep the leg up, and point your toes. 
  4. Steady yourself by holding your stomach muscles tight. Hold for two seconds
  5. Return to center. 
  6. Start on the other side, extending your left arm and right leg.

How many: Repeat 8 to 12 times.

How often: Two or three times a week.

 

Get the Most from Your Efforts

The key to getting the most from these exercises is to keep them within your range of motion and ability to control the movements. Move gently and never force your body to go beyond it’s limits. The more you do these exercises, focusing on correct posture, the easier they will be for you.

If any of these back exercises cause pain or make pain worse, stop doing them immediately and call your doctor.

 

Only Attempt These if You’re Not Suffering Pain

If you have back pain that has gotten worse over a few weeks, pain from a trauma or injury, or back pain that has been joined by numbness or tingling in your arms or legs, see a doctor. Call us at (888) 499-9303, we offer primary care and specialty care to support you and your family. 

 

6 Top Healthy Living Apps for Your Physical & Mental Well-Being

March 01, 2019

Looking to improve your health? Join the club! Actually, with today’s health apps, you don’t need to. There are more than 318,000 health apps available to help you manage your health. From making smart food choices to exercising, and getting better sleep, these apps help turn health goals into healthy habits. So, grab your water bottle and your smartphone, and check out these six apps that can help you take control of your health.


Omada Health
Available for iOS and Android; Price: free for AltaMed Patients in Orange County
Offers Spanish language option
AltaMed people doing thai chi

Omada was created to help users lose weight and lower their risks of getting diabetes and heart disease. Omada provides the tools and support you need to succeed by helping you break up your health goals into small, easy steps. The app allows you to track your meals and activity/exercise, offers lessons on nutrition and stress, and connects you with a health coach to support and guide your progress. Plus, Omada gives AltaMed patients a valuable freebie: a smart scale that connects to the app. 


MapMyWalk
Available for iOS, Android & Samsung; Price: $0
Offers Spanish language option
AltaMed two women waling up the stairs

Using your phone’s built-in GPS, MapMyWalk tracks your daily walks and uses Google Maps to show you your route. It also collects and shows you your speed, distance, and calories burned. Receive audio updates on how you are doing while you walk, and use the website to see your history, make friends, join groups, and see how your friends are doing. 


Pillow (Sleep Tracker)
Available for iOS; Price: $0, one-time fee of $4.99 to unlock premium features
Offers Spanish language option
AltaMed older woman and husband sleeping

This easy-to-use app provides detailed information about your sleep cycle to help you get more restful sleep. Simply place your phone on your mattress near your pillow while you sleep and Pillow will track your activity during the night. You can also analyze and record your sleep, heart rate, and audio events such as snoring, sleep talking, or sleep apnea. 

Connect to Apple’s Health app to compare your sleep to other health measurements. Pillow’s intelligent alarm clock helps you wake up rested by waking you at the lightest sleep stage. The app comes with features that let you track your mood during the day, and gives you personalized recommendations. Premium features include unlimited access to your sleep history, nap modes, access to a large library of wake-up and sleep-aid programs and melodies, and the ability to export and download your data to use with other programs.  


Fooducate (Nutrition & Health Tracker)
Available for iOS; Price: $0, various premium levels available starting at $1.99
AltaMed woman shopping for fruit

Not only does Fooducate let you track the foods you eat each day, but it educates you on healthy eating choices. The Fooducate app lets you input the foods you eat to learn about their nutritional value by scanning a barcode or searching the extensive database. The app also offers a daily stream of tips and articles to help motivate you on your food journey. Look through the archive of foods, check for top graded food choices, and set individual goals beyond weight loss. Fooducate can even send you a reminder on your phone to use it while you are shopping at the supermarket.


Instant Heart Rate+ HR Monitor
Available for iOS, Android & Windows Phone; Price: $4.99, various premium levels available starting at $3.99
Offers Spanish language option
AltaMed heart app

Whether you’re just starting an exercise program or you’ve worked out for years, your heart rate is a good indicator of your fitness level. This straightforward heart rate app lets you discover your heart rate in 10 seconds or less. Just place the tip of your index finger on your phone’s camera and the app will detect color changes in your finger each time your heart beats. It then tells you your heart rate and puts the data in an easy-to-understand chart. Additional add-on features allow you to track heart health, access videos and motivational audio, and receive emails with tips on healthy living. Instant Heart Rate Monitor is used for research and trials by leading cardiologists, and is rated as the world’s best mobile heart rate measurement app. 


HabitList
Available for iOS; Price: $0, one-time fee of $4.99 to unlock premium features
AltaMed people high fiving

HabitList is designed to give you everything you need to set and reach your health goals, all wrapped up in a clear, direct format. Enter your goals and the app breaks everything down into clear steps by day and frequency to help you stay focused. The app helps you stay motivated by encouraging you to beat your own personal best at each repeated task, then rewarding you when you do. View trends over a period of time, create a flexible and personalized goal schedule, and easily check off your healthy to-do list. 


New to Physical Fitness? Start Here First.
At AltaMed, we love that there are so many tools to help make it fun and easy for people to work on their health goals. But you may have different health needs, and not every activity will be right for you. If you’ve never exercised before or you have an existing health condition like diabetes or heart disease, talk to your doctor before you start a program. They can help you determine the best options for you. 

We don’t have an app for that, but we do have a handy doctor search tool to help you find a doctor near you.