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Activity trackers…what’s next

Activity trackers…what’s next

Since Linda started using her Fitbit, she can often be seen pacing the floor while talking on the telephone or watching TV. She is happy with her activity tracker and feels that it is helping her meet her health and fitness goals.

If you haven’t heard of Fitbit, Jawbone, Garmin or any of the other activity trackers, you are probably in the minority. It’s now estimated that one of five Americans wears a fitness tracker. And a good number of these persons have rather optimistic views of what these gadgets can do for them.

These electronic trackers are basically upgraded versions of pedometers, and early versions such as the original Fitbit introduced in 2009 were clipped to the waist. Compared to pedometers which cost $15 to $20, these devices are expensive, running from $60 to $250 or more. They do, however, have greater tracking ability and include software that enables you to connect with your computer or smart phone.

As activity trackers become more popular, the basic appeal apparently is the ability to visualize your activity on charts and graphs and monitor your progress from day to day and week to week. If you wish, you can use social media to compete with friends.

Two popular and highly rated devices are the Fitbit Charge HR and the Garmin Vivosmart HR. The features are roughly the same: measurement of daily steps, miles traveled, calories consumed, floors climbed, sleep quality and a continuous reading of heart rate. Unlike sports watches with heart rate monitors, such as the Polar FT1 and 4, these trackers don’t require a chest strap.

At this price level (about $150), you can expect to get a watch and activity readout on the wrist band as well as on your smart phone or computer.

In addition, the software tracks active minutes and gives a summary of each workout, charting time, calories consumed and average beats per minute.

At a lower price point (about $100), trackers such as the Jawbone UP2 and the Fitbit Flex have most of the above tracking features except heart rate. The information can be accessed through your computer or smart phone but not on your wrist.

At a higher price point (about $250), devices such as the Fitbit Surge and the Garmin Vivoactive offer a full-size watch plus GPS tracking to go with all of the other features.

The GPS gives an accurate tracking of distance. Without it, you should realize that an activity tracker gives you an approximation of distance based on steps taken and heart rate.

For step tracking, nearly all wrist devices base their calculations primarily on arm movement. If you wave your arms without walking, you get credited with steps. If you push a grocery cart, moving your legs but not your arms, you get very little credit. By comparison, the less expensive Omron pedometer, which attaches to your belt, is more likely to give you an accurate tracking of steps.

Jack was particularly pleased with the sleep information he received from his device. If he woke at 3 a.m. for a bathroom trip, a red line indicated the interruption. White lines indicated when his sleep was restless. And he was happy to discover that these white lines occurred more frequently in the morning as he was preparing to wake up rather than in the middle of deep sleep.

Such information is no substitute for a sleep study to diagnose sleep disorders, but it might indicate the need for such a study if the restless lines were too prevalent.

Heart rate is clearly an important indicator of health and fitness. But, again, it’s important to remember that the activity tracker is not a medical instrument.

A resting heart rate that gets lower over time is a sign that the heart is getting stronger and more efficient. And the software for most wrist monitors will allow you to see this kind of progress.

The major health benefit of an activity tracker is the increased motivation to be active and to maintain healthy habits, including good sleep.

The possibilities are virtually endless, and new wrinkles are being added all the time. Are activity trackers merely expensive toys, or do they provide real health benefits? There is no question that Americans need to be more active, and if these devices motivate people to take more steps and climb more stairs, they may be worth the expense.

How long will the motivation last? And will the couch sitters who stand to benefit the most ever succumb to the temptation? It’s too soon to tell.

Talk to your primary care physician about how you are using your activity tracker. Don’t have a doctor? Find one at Ministry Health Care or Affinity Health System today.



Pauline Anderson, “Wearable seizure detection devices promising,” Medscape, December 8, 2015.
Marlene Busko, “Walking with pedometer, wireless BP monitor tied to BP lowering,” Medscape, June 18, 2016.
Kathryne Doyle, “Fitbit use tied to increase in activity,” Reuters Health, June 19, 2015 (American Journal of Preventive Medicine, June 10, 2015).
Jill Duffy, “The best fitness trackers for 2016,” PC Magazine, January 19, 2016.
Matt Giles, “Which health tracker is right for you?” Popular Science, December 17, 2015.
Robert A. Harrington, M.D., Robert F. Califf, M.D. and Clyde W. Yancy, M.D., M.Sc., “Fitness trackers: prescription to move?” Medscape, August 28, 2014.
Madeline Kennedy, “Activity trackers vary in accuracy,” Reuters Health, September 2, 2016.
Jim Martin, “Best activity trackers 2016: what’s the best activity tracker? The 20 best fitness trackers you can buy in the UK today–best activity tracker reviews,” PC Advisor, January 19, 2016.
Amy Roberts, “The best fitness trackers,” The Wirecutter, last updated January 19, 2016.
David Lee Scher, M.D., “Should you recommend health app?” Medscape Business of Medicine, May 7, 2013.
Eric J. Topol, M.D.; Cheryl Pegus, M.D., MPH; Maurie Markman, M.D., M.S.; Gregory R. Weidner, M.D., Michael W. Smith, M.D., MBA, CPT, “Ushering in the era of the empowered patient,” Medscape, November 24, 2015.
“26 fitness trackers ranked from worst to first,” Time, January 9, 2014.

Lung cancer; what you should know

Lung cancer; what you should know

According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer accounts for more deaths than any other cancer in both men and women in the United States. An estimated 158,040 deaths were expected to have occurred in 2015 from lung cancer. Wisconsin had an estimated 3,050 deaths from lung cancer.

Prevention: There is no definite way to prevent lung cancer. Not smoking or quitting now and avoiding secondhand smoke can decrease risk. Avoid other risk factors and employ healthy behaviors such as a balanced diet, exercise, stress management and adequate sleep.

Risk factors: Smoking is the top risk factor for lung cancer. Exposure to radon gas is estimated to be the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the US. Other risk factors include exposure to secondhand smoke, asbestos (particularly among smokers), certain metals (arsenic, cadmium, chromium), radiation, air pollution, and diesel exhaust. Occupational exposures that increase risk include rubber manufacturing, paving, roofing, painting, and chimney sweeping. Some, who develop the disease at a young age, may have a genetic susceptibility.

Signs and symptoms: Symptoms do not usually occur until the cancer is advanced, and may include voice changes persistent cough, coughing up blood, chest pain, worsening short­ness of breath, and recurrent pneumonia or bronchitis.

Early detection: In 2013, the American Cancer Society and the US Preventive Services Task Force issued guidelines for the early detection of lung cancer based on a systematic review of research. Those current or for­mer smokers who are 55 to 74 years of age, in good health, and with at least a 30 pack-year history of smoking should consult their health care provider to discuss whether a low dose spiral CT should be completed for screening.

Treatment: Depending on type and stage of cancer, surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy are indicated.

Survival: Despite these treatment options, the American Cancer Society estimates the 5 year relative survival rate to be 17%.  The American Lung Association estimates that more than half of people with lung cancer die within one year of being diagnosed.

Lung cancer is killing more people than any other cancer in the United States.  It is time to change this statistic by not smoking or quitting and reducing other risk factors, reporting signs and symptoms to a clinician. Early detection may lead to better outcomes. Research is ongoing for successful treatments.

For more information on lung screenings, risk factors or cancer treatment options, please visit ministryhealth.org or call the James Beck Cancer Center in Rhinelander at 715.361.2140.

Early detection is one of the most important factors to surviving cancer. Find out which screenings are right for you.

Author: Tammery Perry is a Ministry Medical Group Nurse Practitioner at the James Beck Cancer Center in Rhinelander.

Recipe: Quinoa corn soup

Recipe: Quinoa corn soup

When I find a recipe to share, I often have to make adjustments to make it healthier. Sometimes I find substitutions to reduce the salt in a recipe or ways to cut down on fat. This recipe, however, is good just as it is. It’s from The Spoonriver Cookbook by Brenda Langton. (Photo courtesy of Mette Nielsen.)

I would recommend using fresh corn when it is season, but this soup can be enjoyed in the winter by using frozen corn as well.

Please remember to rinse the quinoa well before use to remove any saponin, which is a natural bitter tasting coating of quinoa which dissolves when rinsed.


  • 8 cups water or vegetable stock
  • ½ cup quinoa, rinsed well
  • 2 ears fresh sweet corn or 1 (10-ounce) bag frozen sweet corn
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano or marjoram or ½ teaspoon dried
  • Cilantro or ancho chili powder, for garnish


  1. Combine the water, quinoa and corn in a soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. If using fresh corn, cut the kernels off the cobs.
  2. Add the onions, carrots, celery, salt, parsley and oregano and continue cooking for another 8-10 minutes. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro or, for a smoky hot touch, add a pinch of ancho chili powder.

Nutrition facts per serving: Calories: 150 , Total Fat: 2 g, (Saturated Fat: 0 g), Sodium: 940 mg, Carbohydrate: 30 g, Fiber: 4 g, Protein: 5 g.


Submitted by Julia Salomon, nutrition educator and corporate dietitian.

Pregnant this summer? Here are 17 ways to beat the heat.

Pregnant this summer? Here are 17 ways to beat the heat.

Did you know that from 2009 through 2014, July, August and September were the top months for babies to be born? It also means that many expectant moms are 7-, 8- or 9 months pregnant during the summer.

With the exception of conception in September or October, most moms-to-be will experience the heat of summer during their pregnancy. Whether you’re in the midst of first-trimester morning sickness or you’re counting the days until your due date, here are 17 ways to stay cool during the dog days of summer.


  1. Wear comfortable, light-colored clothing. Light-colored material that reflects the sun and wicks moisture away from your skin will keep you cooler. Dark colors absorb the sun’s rays and retain the heat.
  2. Take off your rings. Summer heat can cause your fingers to swell. Even though it may be hard to take off your wedding ring, storing it during the hottest months of pregnancy may keep your ring in one piece and the circulation in your fingers healthy.


  1. Drink up. You can’t sweat if you’re dehydrated. Drinking water lets your body’s natural cooling system work for you. Staying hydrated also prevents achy joints. Adding ice to your drink can cool your inside body temperature. Avoid coffee, soda and fizzy drinks. They may taste good, but they can dehydrate you.
  2. Snack on frozen fruit. Frozen grapes, frozen bananas, frozen fruit juice or smoothie popsicles are nutritious ways to beat the heat without adding extra empty calories.
  3. Plan some cool meals. Smoothies, salads, sandwiches or slow-cooker meals can keep things from heating up at suppertime.
  4. Keep your house cool. With a bit of strategic planning, you can cool your house naturally. Open your screened windows in the evening and let fans pull in the cool night air. Pull your shades and close the windows when the sun shines during the day to keep warm air outside.


  1. Stay inside. When the sun is shining between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., seek refuge inside. If you don’t have an air conditioner, visit the library or take in a movie. You could also run errands get your shopping done during the hottest part of the day.
  2. Be wise when you are outside. If you have outside chores to do, try to schedule them early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when it’s not as hot. Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your head and provide a bit of shade.
  3. Go swimming. It’s a great way to exercise and beat the heat. You don’t have to swim. Wading in the water or dipping your legs over the edge of the pool also can help you cool off.
  4. Avoid sunburn. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Check the ingredient list to avoid oxybenzone, which has been shown to interfere with hormones. A topical product containing zinc may be the best choice for you and your baby.
  5. Exercise early in the morning. Make sure you stay hydrated, so you don’t overheat.
  6. Seek shade when you can.
  7. Enjoy a skin spritzer. The fine spray from a misting bottle or a hand-held misting fan can keep you cool as the water evaporates on a hot summer day.


  1. RICE yourself. Get plenty of REST, use ICE to create COOL COMPRESSES and ELEVATE your feet.
  2. Find a cool place to sleep. Nap or sleep in an air-conditioned or fan-cooled room. If your basement has healthy air quality, it may be cooler than sleeping upstairs.
  3. Take frequent showers. Be sure to dry the folds in your skin completely to avoid chaffing.
  4. Ask for help. If it is too hot for you to complete your household or outside chores, ask someone to help you.

These are just a few tips that we’ve found to keep you cool in the summer. But, 17 is such an odd number, isn’t it?

Can you help us build our list? We would like to give moms-to-be as many ways as possible to stay cool this summer.

Please share comments that include your favorite ways of staying cool during the hazy, lazy days of summer.

Keep your knees pain-free this summer

Keep your knees pain-free this summer

Whether you are active or a self-proclaimed couch potato, your knees take a lot of wear and tear. According to the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, more than 10 million people made appointments with their healthcare clinicians for knee-related pain and injuries in 2010.

And it’s no wonder the number is so high.

People are more active in the summer. You see more runners, joggers and walkers. People play ball, hike, garden and mow the lawn. The knee is intimately involved in all of these actions. To make the leg move smoothly, the knee joint works:

  • Bones
  • Tendons
  • Ligaments
  • Bursa
  • Fascia
  • Cartilage
  • Menisci

With all of these moving parts, one minor misalignment can cause major pain. Because of its complex structure, your knee is susceptible to arthritis, tears, tendinitis, bursitis, sprains, strains and ligament injuries.

Here are seven tips to help you avoid becoming a knee-injury statistic this year.

  1. Protect your knees from the ground up. Wear proper shoes. Feet that strike the ground incorrectly apply abnormal pressures on your knees. Wearing footwear designed for your activity also can help you avoid injury.
  1. Strengthen your quads and hamstrings. Together, these muscles stabilize your knee. Without strong quadriceps, the knee and knee cap are prone to misalignment. Strong hamstrings protect the back of the knee from hyperextension.
  1. Stretch your calf muscles. While the thigh muscles provide stability, the muscles in the lower leg allow for movement. Tight calf muscles can prevent the knee from moving freely. Make sure your calf muscles are strong and supple to prevent knee injury.
  1. Warm up for summer fun. Family reunions and summer picnics mean everyone can get into the game. When inactive people jump into an active game without warming up first, injuries can happen. It’s always a good idea to warm up and stretch before joining the kickball, softball or volleyball game.
  1. Summer is a great time to get into shape and lose weight. Warm temperatures invite people to get outside to walk, hike, bike and swim. Take advantage of the weather, get active and lose weight. Each pound of weight loss relieves up to three to four pounds of pressure on your knees when you walk or stand.
  1. Increase activity slowly. Whether you’re 15 or 50, if you start a new walking program, take up mountain biking, or train for your first 5K run, it’s important to start your activity slowly. An incremental training program builds strength and endurance and helps you stay active and pain-free.
  1. Wear protective knee gear. If you are prone to knee injuries or if your job requires heavy lifting, take precautions and wear a knee brace. Work with a sports medicine specialist, a physical therapist or your primary care clinician to determine the best protection for you.

If you experience knee pain, don’t ignore it. Pain is an indication that something is wrong. After an injury, you should Rest, Ice, apply a Compression bandage and Elevate (RICE) your knee. If the pain is severe or lasts more than a week, you should seek medical attention.

Ignoring knee pain could lead to long-term damage. Contact your healthcare clinician for an appointment.

Disclaimer: The information found on Affinity's blog is a general educational aid. Do not rely on this information or treat it as a substitute for personal medical or health care advice, or for diagnosis or treatment. Always consult your physician or other qualified health care provider as soon as possible about any medical or health-related question and do not wait for a response from our experts before such consultation. If you have a medical emergency, seek medical attention immediately.

The Affinity Health System blog contains opinions and views created by community members. Affinity does endorse the contributions of community members. You should not assume the information posted by community members is accurate and you should never disregard or delay seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this site.