Friday, August 26, 2016

Get Up and Get Moving - Your Life Depends on It

As you read this, you’re probably doing something very dangerous—sitting. Not what you expected? Prolonged periods of sitting can be dangerous to your health, and are associated with higher risk of death from all causes, including heart problems and cancer.

“For people who sit most of the day, their risk of heart attack is about the same as smoking,” says Martha Grogan, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic.

Our sedentary culture is literally killing us, with an associated 50 percent increased risk of death from any cause and 125 percent increased risk of death associated with cardiovascular disease, especially when comparing those with greater sitting for screen time to lesser.

This is concerning, as most Americans spend the majority of their work and leisure hours sitting. A full 86 percent of workers sit all day, every day, on average spending nine to 10 hours sitting down. How can we counteract such a widespread problem?

Americans tend to believe that our sedentary lifestyles can be combated by occasional visits to the gym. However, this is ineffective. Even spending large amounts of time exercising intensely at the gym won’t offset the cost of sitting for extended periods. A good workout at the PWA Fitness Center still has health benefits – muscle strengthening, body tone, flexibility, and core strengthening, among others, which help reduce falls, improve energy levels, and increase strength capacity. In terms of wellness, you also need to move throughout the day.

“Actively sedentary is a new category of people who are fit for one hour but sit around the rest of the day,” says Katy Bowman, author of Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement. “You can’t offset 10 hours of stillness with one hour of exercise.”

 And that’s for people who go to the gym at all—more than half of Americans don’t, following up their inactive work lives with inactive leisure. If after-hours exercise won’t help, how can you avoid turning a desk job into a literal death sentence?

stand, Stand, STAND!

Standing uses extra calories, activates muscle groups, improves posture and blood flow, and heightens your metabolism. The only way to combat the “sitting disease” is to not do it, and to substitute in standing whenever you can.

Incorporating more standing into your day isn’t as hard as you may think. Put your computer or workstation up high and stand when working instead of sitting. If that’s too hard or not a possibility, set a timer that goes off every half hour and stand up then. You could also park further away from your building; take the stairs instead of the elevator; or go to your colleagues’ offices in person instead of calling or sending an email.

When you do talk on the phone, stand up. Watch TV while standing or walking around. If that seems like too much, stand up during the commercial breaks. See if your colleagues will agree to a “walking meeting” where you all walk laps around the building instead of sitting around a conference table. We have sidewalks throughout our campus at GRMC and we are encouraged to use that resource, along with other available resources, to inject some activity into our otherwise static work lives. While standing all day may be impractical for you or your job, stand as much as you can. Even just a little extra activity can make a difference.


Written by Anya Silva, GRMC summer intern

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Oh Dear, We Need Volunteers!

Sheila Latcham (L) and Gretchen Isenberg (R).
Do you have a little extra time? Are you looking for a fun and engaging way to stay involved with your community? Consider volunteering your time and talents with the Grinnell Regional Medical Center Auxiliary. The auxiliary is comprised of over 400 volunteers who fulfill various roles throughout the hospital.

Volunteering provides an excellent opportunity to maintain an active, healthy, and social lifestyle. Auxiliary roles are as unique as the individuals filling them; we can match you with a position that suits your individual needs. One volunteer noted, “Delivering mail around GRMC is a great way for me to stay active.”

Gene Elliott (L) and Jerry Henschen (R).
We interviewed over a dozen volunteers, asking why they chose to join the GRMC Auxiliary. There were a few overwhelmingly common responses, including:
  • “I love getting to meet new people every day.”
  • “Knowing that I am able to help others is a great feeling."
  • “Volunteering is a great way to keep me busy.”
After spending a little time at GRMC and getting to know staff, patients, and visitors, volunteers won’t know a stranger!

In addition to helping the hospital and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, we will get you hooked up with your very own volunteer badge. Oh, and every shift you volunteer, you get a free meal at the Neon Café or GRMC cafeteria!

Currently, the auxiliary is in need of breakfast cashiers, gift shop attendees, and clinic couriers. If none of these positions sound like the right fit for you, there are a variety of other volunteer opportunities available as well.

If you are interested in learning more about volunteering opportunities, please contact Cara Kenkel at (641)-236-2043 or email her at

Robert and Kim Wemer.
Additional volunteer information can be found on the GRMC Volunteer Opportunities page.

Written by Nick Moorehead, GRMC summer intern

Friday, August 12, 2016

Healthy Fair Foods? What are Those?

The 2016 Iowa State Fair started yesterday, August 11, and is considered one of the top-ranked state fairs in the United States. The fair draws people near and far with a host of exciting exhibits, enticing entertainment, and crazy (but delicious!) cuisine. But, if you're like us and don't want to blow your diet in the first ten minutes you're at the fair, there is hope!

In recent years, the Iowa State Fair has begun to offer healthier food choices. Even though deep fried Oreos, giant turkey legs, and funnel cakes are fair food staples for many, some of us are drawn to the fair for the agricultural exhibits and the entertainment selection, and would rather opt for some healthier snacking options.

Healthier food selections at the Iowa State Fair comply with the USDA guidelines for healthy meals with school lunches, including:
  • Entrées less than 600 calories;
  • Side dishes less than 300 calories;
  • Less than 35 percent of calories from total fat;
  • Less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat;
  • Less than 35 percent of calories from sugar;
  • And less than 1,000 mg of sodium.

For the full list of healthier foods at the Iowa State Fair, scroll down to the bottom of the page.

“Use the Iowa State Fair Healthy Choices list to help plan what you are going to eat during your visit to the fair,” says Lily Swedenhjelm, RDN, LD, GRMC dietitian. “When we’re hungry, we tend to pick what’s convenient; planning ahead can help you be more aware and mindful of what you are eating throughout the day.”

Having healthier choices and knowing exactly where to find them makes it easier to stay on track with your healthy eating pattern (and think of all the exercise you’ll get by walking between venues and food stops!), but we understand if there are a few ISF favorites that you can't give up.

“One idea for eating healthier at the fair is to choose one or two ‘must-haves,’ and pair them with healthier choices,” Swedenhjelm says. “For example, instead of having a corn dog and grater taters, choose a corn dog and caprese salad on-a-stick or fruit on-a-stick.”

However, we suggest packing your lunch and snacks in a cooler and leaving it in the car. That way you are in control of what you’re consuming and can guarantee that you and your family are getting an adequate amount of fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, grains, and oils, and are limiting the amount of saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and sodium you are taking in. (And it's cheaper!)

Healthy eating options at the Iowa State Fair include:

Baked Potatoes and Corn-on-the-Cob
Find these starchy staples at Westmoreland (south of the Anne and Bill Riley Stage) and Cattlemen’s Beef Quarters (south side of Walnut Square).

Caprese Salad on-a-Stick
Get this fresh and zesty classic of cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, mozzarella cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette at The Salad Bowl (Agriculture Building and Cultural Center Courtyard).

Caramel Apple Slices
Tangy apple slices and sweet caramel dipping sauce – find this classic combo at Applishus (east canopy of the Varied Industries Building; north side of Walnut Square; and Cultural Center Courtyard).

Carrots with Ranch
Vegging out on the couch just got beat out by vegging out at the Iowa State Fair. Get crunchy carrots and cool, creamy ranch from the Iowa Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association (west side of the Agriculture Building).

Dried Fruit Log
Find these lighter-than-air sweet treats at the Iowa Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association (west side of the Agriculture Building).

Fresh Fruit, Melon & Berry Cups, and Shish kabobs
It’s hard to beat sweet, juicy fruit on a hot summer day! Find these fruity options at several locations throughout the fairgrounds, including Beattie’s Melon Patch (west of the Giant Slide); Stockman’s Inn (southwest corner of the Cattle Barn); Benoit Concessions (on Rock Island Avenue); Iowa Orchards (Agriculture Building); and the Iowa Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association (west side of the Agriculture Building).

Fruit on-a-Stick
Get tasty fruit with sweet, creamy yogurt dip at The Salad Bowl (Agriculture Building and Cultural Center Courtyard).

Green Bean or Potato Bowl
Go green (bean) or go home! These yummy – and healthy! – options can be found at Dawghouse Concessions (north side of walk on Triangle).

Grilled Chicken Sandwiches
Grab-and-go: Get your hot-off-the-grill chicken at several locations, including Barksdales Concessions (in front of the Varied Industries Building); Campbell’s Concessions (Elwell Family Food Center); Stockman’s Inn (southwest corner of the Cattle Barn); B&S Concessions (west side of the Anne and Bill Riley Stage); and Dawghouse Concessions (north side of walk on Triangle).

Grilled Turkey Sandwiches
Don’t wait until Thanksgiving to get your turkey on…gobble up some summer-approved turkey (grilled) at Turkey Time Concessions (north side of walk on Triangle).

Margherita Pizza
Get this delicious Italian classic at Parlo Pizza’s (on the hill by Grandfather’s Farm).

Not Your Mamma’s Taco
Turkey trumps traditional ground beef in this scrumptious twist on a beloved classic: enjoy shredded turkey, homemade veggie slaw, and sweet mango salsa atop a deep fried tortilla at the Iowa Turkey Federation Stand (west of the Anne and Bill Riley Stage).

Peanut Butter and Jelly on-a-Stick
Grapes and peanut butter sandwich pieces wedged onto a skewer: the closest you can get to putting in an order for your childhood…on-a-stick. Get yours at The Salad Bowl (Agriculture Building and Cultural Center Courtyard).

Pork Chops on-a-Stick
An Iowa State Fair must-have; you can find pork chops on-a-stick at the Iowa Pork Producers Association (east end of Grand Avenue; east of the main stand on Grand Avenue; and Rock Island Avenue west of the Livestock Pavilion).

Rib Shack Cowboy
Traditional ice cream in a waffle cone can get boring, so try the Rib Shack Cowboy at the Rib Shack (south of the Anne and Bill Riley Stage) for an extreme break from the ordinary. A savory mix of cowboy beans, brisket or pork, coleslaw, and a signature chip all smothered in BBQ sauce fills a spice-flavored waffle cone to create a food experience that is anything but ordinary.

If you like iceberg lettuce, carrots, and tomatoes served kabob-style (and with dressing), salad on-a-stick is the snack for you! Find it at The Salad Bowl (Agriculture Building and Cultural Center Courtyard).

Get a variety of salads from a variety of stands, including Cattlemen’s Beef Quarters (south side of Walnut Square), Campbell’s Concessions (Elwell Family Food Center), Diamond Jack’s (west of the Livestock Pavilion), Doc’s Bud Tent/Pizza Parlor (north side of Grand Avenue), The Salad Bowl (Agriculture Building and Cultural Center Courtyard), The Greek Garden (north of the Varied Induestries Building and southeast of the Administration Building), K’s Concession (on Triangle east of the Administration Building), and Steer and Stein (east of the Grandstand).

Sandwich Wraps
Take a break from the fried food bonanza all around the fairgrounds and opt for a refreshing sandwich wrap from The Salad Bowl (Agriculture Building and Cultural Center Courtyard).

Shrimp Corndog
This seafood specialty comes dipped in corndog batter, fried till golden and crispy, and is topped with a sweet jalapeño glaze. Get yours at the Po Boy Stand (on Rock Island Avenue).

Find luscious, garden-fresh tomatoes at Hardenbrook Concessions (southwest of the Agriculture Building).

Turkey Tenderloins
The turkey breast sandwich has less than five grams of fat and is low in calories. Several delicious and healthy options can be found at the Iowa Turkey Federation Stand (west of the Anne and Bill Riley Stage).

Veggie Corn Dogs
Longing for the experience of a corn dog while at the Iowa State Fair, but can’t or don’t eat meat? Get the best of both worlds with a yummy veggie corn dog from Veggie Table (north of the Varied Industries Building)!

Check out the Iowa State Fair map to locate these food venues throughout the fairgrounds that offer healthy options.


Friday, August 5, 2016

Back to School, Back to School

While schools won’t start until after the 2016 Iowa State Fair wraps up on August 21, it's a good idea to take a couple of steps to set students up for a safe, healthy year. Here are five back-to-school health tips to consider.

  1. Get vaccinated
Grinnell Regional Public Health follows the CDC’s recommendations for childhood vaccinations. The state of Iowa requires certain vaccinations for children entering school and seventh grade. Check with your primary provider and your school to make sure your child is protected. If you need a vaccine, call Grinnell Regional Public Health for an appointment at 641-236-2385. View the Immunization Clinic schedule at
  1. Get rested
Transitioning to regular bedtimes for students the week prior to school’s start date will help make those first mornings of the school year less stressful and help students begin the year well rested. Most children and adolescents need more than eight hours of sleep each night. Teen bodies’ internal clocks often do change and they may want to sleep on a different schedule. Find a compromise that gets them enough sleep and gets them to school on time. To get younger kids ready to wake up for school, adjust their bedtimes a little earlier each night for a week or two before school starts. Sticking to a routine is important too – avoid adjusting bedtimes on weekends.
  1. Get nourished
A healthy diet can have a huge impact on how well your child does during the school day. Start with a breakfast with protein, whole grains, fruits, and dairy. The Institute of Medicine recommends that 10 to 30 percent of the calories a child over age three takes in should come from protein. On average, this equates to 19 grams of protein daily for boys and girls aged 4 to 9, and 34 grams of protein per day for kids aged 9 to 13. As they reach adolescence, boys need more protein than girls. Between the ages 14 to 18, boys should get about 52 grams of protein daily, while girls need approximately 46 grams of protein per day.
  1. Get sparkling
Well, kids don’t and won’t sparkle but you do want to teach them to have good hand washing and hygiene habits. Require that they wash their hands before every meal, after using the toilet, after sneezing, and anytime that their hands are dirty. It’s that simple! Teach your children to cover their cough with a tissue or elbow and to wash their hands afterward. Many school classrooms have hand sanitizer available to students with the admirable goal of minimizing the spread of germs in schools. Everyone can help!
  1. Get comfortable
Starting school may be stressful for your child and you. Watch for stress-related health issues – not sleeping well, stomachaches, headaches, and withdrawn behavior. Help your child manage stress by engaging in conversation, and taking care not to overload schedules—including your own. Schoolwork and after-school activities are important, but taking time to relax, play, and spend time as a family is important in decompressing and fostering relationships. Build quiet time into the day to talk with your child and comfort them about stressors in their school day.

Remember that the healthy habits you create and enforce with your children during their school years will affect their habits as adults in the working world. You play an important role in their success now and in the future.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Pick Your Poisonous Plant

The sun is out, the weather is beautiful, and it’s the perfect time to be outside. Unfortunately, hot weather clothing leaves a lot of skin exposed—skin that can get burned by several kinds of plants; wild parsnip, poison ivy, stinging nettle, and wood nettle, to name a few. While total avoidance of all poisonous plants may not be realistic for your lifestyle, following the upcoming instructions may help reduce long-term effects of contact.

If you come into contact with a poisonous plant, you should wash the affected area immediately, using water and a grease fighting soap, such as dish detergent. Make sure not to rub your eyes until you’re sure that your hands are completely clean—poisonous plant oils are known to cause blindness.

Over-the-counter lotions, wet compresses, oatmeal baths, and antihistamines may help relieve itching. However, prevention is the best medicine. Despite the heat, it’s a good idea to wear long sleeves and pants when walking through ditches or the woods, as it can save you from a lot of pain caused by contact with poisonous plants. If you’re intent on wearing shorts, you should know how to identify each plant so that you can avoid it. Click here to see what poisonous plants in Iowa look like.

Wild parsnip has been in the news a lot lately, as it’s spreading rapidly across the country. The oil from the plant reacts with sunlight to form painful blisters that can cause scarring. If you’re still outside when you notice a reaction beginning, cover the exposed area to keep the reaction from worsening. From May to July, it sports yellow flowers that look a bit like a dill plant, and is one of the most common yellow flowers. Upon discovery, you should alert whoever owns the property, or remove it yourself, as it grows aggressively and could take over large stretches of land. However large the patch is, don’t mow it! Getting tiny bits of wild parsnip to the face is extremely painful and could potentially blind you. Instead, try wearing heavy protective clothing and weeding the plants out by hand.

 Non flowering:                                       
May through July:

Poison ivy also poses a threat to your skin. While it may not cause a reaction the first time, most people react the second; even if it hasn’t bothered you before, use caution. People have allergic reactions to plant oils, which can burn or blister skin. How do you avoid it? Remember, “Leaflets three, let them be!” Poison ivy can be a freestanding small plant, or a vine growing on something else. In the late summer to the winter, it sports small white berries. Again, don’t mow the plant, and especially don’t burn it, as the smoke may burn your lungs and nasal passages. Wear heavy protective gear and get rid of it through good old-fashioned weeding.

The last two poisonous Iowa plants are cousins—stinging nettles and wood nettles. Like a tiny syringe, the plant hairs inject acid into your skin, causing a reaction. Less dangerous than wild parsnip or poison ivy, the reaction should clear up in just a few minutes. The leaves are green, arranged opposite each other, and hairy.

As with most ills, should you experience a severe reaction by showing signs of swelling; if the rash is located on the face or genitals; or if the reaction is affecting your breathing, seek medical attention. Our emergency department is open 24/7.


Written by Anya Silva, GRMC summer intern

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Dog Days of Summer

Temperatures this week are predicted to rise, with highs reaching 99 degrees and heat index values predicted to reach between 105 and 115 degrees, at times. The heat index is to summer as the wind chill is to winter; it greatly affects what it feels like outside.

The developing heat wave has caused the National Weather Service to issue heat alerts for over a dozen states throughout the Midwest. Over half the counties in Iowa will be affected by this extreme heat, including Poweshiek County. Click here to see if your county is under an excessive heat watch.

Extreme heat and excessive humidity create a potentially deadly combination. The best way to stay safe during the excessive heat watch is by knowing what symptoms to watch out for and how to respond if those symptoms are expressed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), muscle cramping can be the first sign of heat-related illness, and can lead to more extreme illnesses such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke if left untreated.

Read over the following symptoms to identify heat exhaustion and heat stroke and learn what to do if you or someone around you is showing signs of either illness.

Heat Exhaustion:
  • Heavy sweating
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Cold, pale, and clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting
What You Should Do:
  • Move to a cooler location.
  • Lie down and loosen clothing.
  • Apply cool, wet cloths to as much of your body as possible.
  • Sip water.
  • If you have vomited and it continues, seek medical attention immediately.
Heat Stroke:
  • High body temperature (above 103°F)
  • Hot, red, dry, or moist skin
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache, dizziness, or confusion
  • Possible unconsciousness

What You Should Do:
  • Call 911 immediately.
  • Move the person to a cooler environment.
  • Reduce the person's body temperature with cool cloths or even a bath.
  • Do NOT give fluids.

Remember – heat stroke happens when heat exhaustion is left unattended. If symptoms do not resolve after an hour, or the person has heart or blood pressure issues, please seek immediate medical attention.

To help you beat the heat, there will be a cooling center available at Grinnell Regional Medical Center’s cafeteria, starting on Wednesday, July 20, until Friday, July 22, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. The cooling center provides a refreshing environment to those who might not have air conditioning in their homes. If you do go outdoors, please try to abide by the safety tips outlined below to stay cooler.

  • Stay hydrated – drink plenty of fluids and replace salt and minerals. Drinking something like Gatorade can help you do both at once!
  • Pace yourself – work slowly and take breaks in the shade often.
  • Limit strenuous outdoor activities.
  • Use a buddy system – watch others for signs of heat-induced illness.
  • Check in on elderly, sick, and those without AC.
  • Wear light, loose-fitting clothing and sunscreen.
  • Never leave children or pets unattended in cars!
Written by Miranda Jones, GRMC summer intern

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Wicked Wet Willies

Otitis externa—Mother Nature’s painful wet willy—is commonly referred to as swimmer’s ear. Swimmers typically spend a significant amount of time in the water, allowing ample opportunity for water to become entrapped in the ear canal, hence the common name swimmer’s ear.

No, you don’t have to swim in a pool, or even be near a pool, to get swimmer’s ear. Water can become stuck in the ear canals during a bath, shower, or even bobbing for apples. Heat increases the growing rate for bacteria, causing a spike in ear infections during the summer months. Warm, wet ear canals are prime breeding real estate for bacteria, resulting in a painful infection within the outer ear canal.

Anyone who has suffered from swimmer’s ear is all too familiar with its irritating symptoms including:
• Itchiness
• Swelling
• Sound of liquid in ear
• Pain when ear is touched
• Muffled hearing
 • Pus draining from ear

Fear not, there are numerous ways to avoid falling victim to the villainous swimmer’s ear.  If your ears have been exposed to water, the CDC suggests the following techniques to expel any retained water from the ears.
• Thoroughly dry ears with a towel
• Turn your head so your ear is facing down and tug on your earlobe
• Hold a hair dryer a few inches away on the lowest setting and blow into your ear

Remember to avoid sticking anything into your ears, such as your finger or a q-tip; it can damage the ear canal, or potentially burst an ear drum.

If you are experiencing pain or discomfort in either or both of your ears, please go to the Manatt Family Urgent Care center or your primary care provider.  If ear aches or discomfort continues,   contact GRMC’s visiting Otolaryngologists—ear, nose, and throat specialists—at 1-800-642-6217 to set up an appointment. 

To learn more about swimmer’s ear, check out the CDC’s Swimmer’s Ear Fact Sheet at:

Written by Nick Moorehead, GRMC summer intern