Health & Fitness
Tis the Season… To Be Stressed | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 11 December 2014 15:03

121114hWhile the holiday season usually means many joys and delights, for some people it can also mean more stress.

Added expectations, additional pressures at home, demands on time and economic concerns can take a toll on a person’s psyche. It’s not uncommon over the holidays to hear or read stories about “holiday depression.”

Symptoms of holiday depression can include insomnia, sadness or nervousness. Physical symptoms can develop as well, such as weakness, lack of energy, fatigue, headache or digestive troubles.

The good news is: Believe it or not, most of us cope quite well with these stresses.

While there is probably no way to eliminate stress completely (particularly during the holidays) it is possible to achieve a good balance by planning ahead, staying healthy and sharing the holiday burden.

Maintaining stability with work, family and other pressures is difficult enough on a normal day, but the stress of juggling holiday responsibilities can push anyone. There are ways to help friends, family and ourselves maintain a balance during the holiday season:

• Eat a balanced and healthy diet: Choose to eat healthy foods most of the time, especially for breakfast and lunch. This will provide the energy your body needs to keep up with what could be a busier holiday schedule. Use moderation in your intake of food, alcohol and parties.

• Exercise: It’s not only a great way to keep holiday bulge at bay, exercise also increases feelings of contentment and happiness.

• Get Rest: Our bodies need more rest during stressful times. Keeping a reasonable bedtime during the holidays will give you more energy and make things more enjoyable.

• Delegate tasks: Don’t feel you have to do it all during the holidays. It’s an unrealistic expectation. Ask for help when you need it.

• Set priorities: Your schedule is likely to be busier than usual during the holidays, but you don’t have to attend every party or cook a six-course meal for all 35 of your relatives. Remind yourself about what is important to you and your family. Do those things and decline the rest. Create a holiday budget and prioritize your spending, as well.

• Set boundaries: Sometimes a variety of pressures from relatives cause the largest amount of stress during the holidays. If a certain relative is the cause behind your anxiety, for your own health, you may want to try to avoid them as much as possible during the holiday season.

• In general: Be aware that there is a difference between “the blues” and a real clinical depression which can happen for some during the holidays.

If you feel your holiday depression is affecting your health and quality of life, talk to your doctor.

Eden Medical Center

Is a Weight-Free Holiday Possible? | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 11 December 2014 15:01

On average, Americans gain weight during the holiday season. While it may not be dramatic, research shows the extra pounds accumulate over the years.

“There are strategic steps to avoid holiday weight gain while still enjoying holiday feasts,” says Sonya Angelone, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

In preparation for a big holiday dinner, avoid skipping meals throughout the day, which usually results in overeating later.

“It is especially important to eat breakfast,” says Angelone. “High-fiber and high-protein foods like oatmeal and milk with fruit, an egg and spinach on whole wheat toast, Greek yogurt with nuts, or a whole-wheat English muffin will satisfy hunger without a lot of calories.”

Holiday meals tend to be large or buffet-style and include second and third helpings. A common mistake is eating large portions of foods that are considered healthful. To avoid overeating, start by filling your plate with vegetables and salad before going to the entrees and desserts. Eating a salad before your meal can help you eat fewer calories overall.

Including nutrient-rich foods in your diet is great, just remember that these foods have calories too, which should be taken into consideration with your whole eating plan.

“And be mindful of alcohol consumption. Drink more water throughout a party to quench your thirst and help keep the cocktails to one or two,” says Angelone.

For more healthy holiday tips and info, visit


GERD: A Growing Epidemic | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 26 November 2014 12:42

112714hBy Wilson Tsai, M.D. • Special to the Times

As families gather for Thanksgiving dinner this week, about one in five of us will approach the meal with some trepidation because of the potential for heartburn.

It is estimated that one in five Americans suffers from heartburn, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Symptoms of GERD include discomfort, regurgitation, sore throat, persistent cough and even chest pain, and can interfere with sleep or everyday activities.

Heartburn should not be ignored. Not only can it negatively affect your quality of life, it can lead to more serious conditions, including esophageal cancer, the fastest growing type of cancer in the United States today.

Thanksgiving Week is also GERD Awareness Week. Here are 10 things you need to know about heartburn/GERD:

1. Symptoms of GERD happen when stomach contents such as food, acid and bile back up into the esophagus because of a weak sphincter muscle at the bottom of the esophagus.

2. Some people have “trigger foods” that can bring on symptoms. Most commonly, these include fatty, spicy and acidic foods, such as coffee, chocolate, onions, tomatoes and citrus. Alcohol also can increase reflux.

3. GERD is a growing epidemic. Twenty percent of U.S. adults suffer from GERD.

4. Reflux symptoms can sometimes resemble the symptoms of a heart attack, which can be painful and frightening. Reflux often can be a burning sensation, while a heart attack may be more like pressure or a constriction.

5. Some lifestyle modifications can help reduce the severity and frequency of GERD. Risk factors include smoking, alcohol use, diet and obesity. Eating small, frequent meals and avoiding meals late at night can also help.

6. Up to 40 percent of people who take antacids and medications continue to have symptoms. It’s important at this point to see your doctor. It can be an indication of a more serious condition.

7. Prescription medications, such as Prilosec or Nexium, are meant to be taken for a maximum of 14 days. Medicines do not stop reflux or the progression of the disease. They just change the acidity of the reflux so it burns less.

Alleviating symptoms does not address the cause of GERD, which is a weak sphincter muscle that allows the acid to splash back into the esophagus. So you’re just “masking” the problem, while injury to the lining of the esophagus may continue.

8. Long-term use of the medications have been linked to lower calcium absorption that can lead to bone fractures, as well as decreased magnesium absorption that can lead to heart arrhythmias.

9. GERD can progress to Barrett’s Esophagus in 10 to 15 percent of long-term reflux sufferers. Barrett’s Esophagus is a change in the lining of the esophagus due to chronic irritation from GERD and can be a precancerous condition. Since 1976, the diagnosis of esophageal cancer has increased by 600 percent and is the fastest growing cancer in the U.S. today.

10. There are minimally invasive surgical procedures that address the cause of GERD. Nissen fundoplication is a time-tested surgical procedure where the stomach is wrapped around the esophagus to recreate a sphincter so acid can’t back up into the esophagus.

A newer, lesser-invasive option is the LINX procedure, where a small flexible band of magnets enclosed in titanium beads is placed around the weak esophageal sphincter. When the patient swallows, the beads expand. The magnetic attraction between the beads keeps the sphincter closed to prevent reflux.

GERD affects a lot of people and there are a lot of misconceptions as to how to treat it. The most important thing is that you don’t ignore it.

Dr. Wilson Tsai is a board-certified thoracic surgeon and medical director of Esophageal and Thoracic Surgery at Eden Medical Center. To learn more about the treatment options for GERD, call (510) 727-3375 or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Weigh Medicare Part D, Advantage Plan Carefully | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 26 November 2014 12:39

By Jason Alderman • Special to the Forum

If you’re currently enrolled in Medicare, what you do or don’t do next week could determine whether you can secure the best, most affordable coverage next year. Here’s why:

Medicare Part D prescription plans frequently change premiums, drug formularies, deductibles and copayment amounts for specific drugs from year to year. Medicare Advantage plans often make similar changes; plus doctors, hospitals and pharmacies may drop out of their preferred provider networks.

Thus, by simply choosing the same options for 2015 without investigating alternatives, you could wind up paying hundreds or thousands of dollars more for similar healthcare services.

Medicare’s annual election period (a.k.a. open enrollment) to make coverage changes for 2015 runs to December 7. For most people, this is the best – and sometimes only – opportunity to make coverage changes. (Exceptions are made for people who qualify for a special enrollment period – see “Medicare & You” at for details.)

If you already have traditional Medicare Parts A and B, you needn’t make any changes; however, if you also have Part D, you must either reenroll in your current plan or choose another.

During open enrollment you can:

• Switch from Medicare Parts A, B and D to Medicare Advantage or vice versa.

• Switch from one Advantage plan to another.

• Switch from an Advantage plan offering drug coverage to one that doesn’t or vice versa.

• Join a Part D plan, switch from one plan to another or drop coverage altogether.

Current Advantage plan enrollees can also use the Medicare Advantage disenrollment period (Jan. 1 to Feb. 14) to switch back to Medicare Parts A, B and D. However they cannot:

• Switch from original Medicare to Medicare Advantage.

• Switch from one Advantage plan to another.

• Switch from one Part D plan to another.

When choosing next year’s Part D plan:

• Carefully review your plan’s “Annual Notice of Change” for substantive changes to premiums, deductibles, copayments, covered drugs, participating pharmacies, etc.

• Notice whether they’ve changed copayments/coinsurance for your medications or possibly dropped some altogether. Ask your doctor whether comparable, covered drugs will work; otherwise you could pay more next year.

• Even if your plan hasn’t changed substantially, it’s still wise to use the Medicare Plan Finder at to compare all available plans. You’ll be prompted to enter your medications and dosages. The calculator then ranks plans by “star rating” and overall cost.

• Note: The lowest premium may not be your best bet – sometimes plans with higher monthly premiums have a lower overall cost due to their more favorable deductible, copayment and coinsurance amounts.

Medicare Advantage plans are HMO- or PPO-type alternatives to Medicare Parts A and B. Most cover drugs and some include extra benefits like vision and dental coverage at additional cost. They usually have lower deductibles and copayments but require you to use the plan’s provider network. A few tips:

• If your Advantage plan includes drug coverage, you don’t need Part D.

• Carefully review the “Annual Notice of Change” from your plan for any substantive changes.

• Even if your plan hasn’t changed substantially, you can use the same Medicare Plan Finder as above to review available plans. As with Part D plans, an Advantage plan with a lower premium might have a higher overall cost, due to various restrictions.

Jason Alderman directs Visa’s financial education programs.

Don’t Drive When Drowsy | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 26 November 2014 12:36

The holiday season means long nighttime drives for many, and the California Highway Patrol cautions that a tired driver can be just as dangerous and deadly behind the wheel as an intoxicated driver.

“When you decide to get behind the wheel of a car, be aware that being sleepy is dangerous,” said California Highway Patrol Commissioner Joe Farrow. “Although most Californians know how dangerous drinking and driving is, they may not fully realize that drowsy driving can be just as dangerous and potentially fatal as driving drunk.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, cognitive impairment after approximately 18 hours awake is similar to that of someone with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05 percent. After 24 hours impairment is equivalent to a BAC of 0.10 percent, higher than the legal limit in all states.

In addition, lower levels of alcohol (below the legal limit) amplify the effects of inadequate sleep.

In 2012, the most recent year in which finalized figures are available, there were more than 3,900 collisions in California involving drowsy drivers. As a result of those collisions, 36 people died and more than 2,100 others were injured.

Below are some signs that should tell a driver to stop and rest:

• Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids

• Daydreaming; wandering/disconnected thoughts

• Trouble remembering the last few miles driven; missing exits or traffic signs

• Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes

• Trouble keeping your head up

• Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder rumble strip

• Feeling restless and irritable

If you experience any of these warning signs, pull over to rest or change drivers. Simply turning up the radio, drinking coffee or opening the window are not effective ways to stay alert.


How to Stay Flu-Free This Season | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 13 November 2014 15:29

111314h1While flu season in the U.S. historically starts this time of year, most of us don’t think about it until either we get sick or a family member or co-worker does, and by then, it may be too late.

One of the few facts about flu season is that it’s always unpredictable and may peak at any time in the fall, winter or even spring months.

That’s why the CDC recommends that people get the flu shot each year as soon as the vaccine is available.

A notable behavioral shift over the past few years has seen many people waiting to get their shots until flu activity becomes widespread — not the wisest choice.

It takes up to two weeks for the body to build full immunity following a flu shot, and you’re significantly increasing your chances of getting sick if you wait until the last minute when the flu is already circulating in your community.

Children younger than age 5 are at high risk for flu-related complications. For school-age children, remind them of the importance of hand washing and using tissues when they sneeze. (Note that the influenza vaccine is not approved for children younger than 6 months of age.)

Pregnant women are more susceptible to getting sick, including catching the flu, because their immune systems are weaker than usual. During pregnancy, the flu can escalate quickly and be complicated by infections such as fetal distress or pneumonia.

While flu shots are particularly important for the very young, the elderly and pregnant women, the flu can be very serious for anyone, including young and healthy adults.

Last season, patients between 18 and 64 years of age accounted for nearly 60 percent of flu-related hospitalizations reported to the CDC.

An annual flu shot is the best preventive measure you can take, but there are small, everyday tips that can also help keep you healthy throughout the always unpredictable flu season:

1. Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, and avoid touching your mouth and eyes. Sanitizers are also effective.

2. Cover your nose and mouth  if you cough or sneeze so that you don’t spread germs to your peers. And, wash your hands afterward.

3. Stay home if you’re sick. It’s one of the easiest ways to prevent others from catching your germs.

4. Make sure you’re eating healthy and getting enough sleep at night.

Getting the flu shot can be very affordable. Flu vaccines are now fully covered as a preventive service under the Affordable Care Act and available at no cost through most insurance plans, including Medicare Part B.

Most pharmacies (including CVS and Walgreens) offer flu shots daily with no appointment needed, and, in most states, offer a wide range of 17 CDC-recommended vaccines, including those to protect against shingles, pneumonia, pertussis (whooping cough), meningitis, hepatitis and others.

For more information on the differences in flu shots, visit For information on obtaining shots, visit, or

CAPTION: The CDC recommends that people get the flu shot each year as soon as the vaccine is available.

Town Hall Meeting on Mental Health | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 13 November 2014 15:27

111314h2Robin Williams’ suicide was a stark reminder that, as a community, we must be vigilant and sensitive to the stigma which may prevent people from seeking treatment for mental illness.

In the face of the sobering statistic that one in four of us will face mental issues some time in our lives, Alameda County will sponsor a Town Hall meeting next Monday, Nov. 17, on how to navigate through the county’s mental health care services to gain access to adequate treatment.

Warning signs for mental illness include loss of appetite and loss of interest in usual activities; difficulty in sleeping, concentrating or communicating; and depression. Isolation can only exacerbate these symptoms, so reaching out and seeking treatment are essential first steps to recovery.

An interactive segment will be included in Monday’s session to answer questions related to accessing mental health care services.

The meeting is open to the public and will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers at Hayward City Hall, 777 B St. It is sponsored by the county’s Board of Supervisors, Mental Health Board and Behavioral Health Care Services.

Rochelle Elias, Chair, County Mental Health Board

Heartburn: What You Should Know | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 23 October 2014 14:34

102314hIf you’ve ever experienced heartburn — also known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD — you know how uncomfortable it can be. Approximately 30 million people in the U.S. experience some symptoms of GERD. Besides heartburn, GERD symptoms can fall into two categories:

(1) Typical symptoms include regurgitation, bloating or an acidic taste in the back of the mouth.

(2) Less common symptoms include asthma, persistent coughing, shortness of breath and even recurrent pneumonia. These less frequent symptoms are often misdiagnosed and the root cause never recognized.

Treatments: Masking symptoms vs. treating the cause:

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), more than 64 million prescriptions were written in the U.S. for GERD medications in 2012, and dozens of over-the-counter heartburn remedies are available at most pharmacies — ranging from antacids and H2 blockers to proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).

“Medications don’t treat reflux, they hide it,” said Wilson Tsai, M.D., Director of Eden Medical Center’s Esophageal and Thoracic Program. “People take medications and feel better, so they think the problem is gone.

“More than 90 percent of my patients with esophageal cancer were told by their doctors to take their PPIs and they’d be fine. Meanwhile, the root cause was getting worse.”

Dr. Tsai said that people who suffer from reflux for more than a month should see their doctor for a complete workup. “PPIs should only be used to treat symptoms for a few weeks,” he explained. “Long-term use of PPIs can lead to osteoporosis and bone fractures, and they have a number of dangerous drug interactions.”

Patients are often told to reduce the symptoms of GERD by losing weight or avoiding foods and beverages that contribute to heartburn, such as tomatoes, coffee and alcohol.

Dr. Tsai agrees that losing weight can decrease the pressure in the abdomen that can cause a hiatal hernia, which is diagnosed through endoscopy or an esophagram. However, he believes that lifestyle changes only go so far in reducing symptoms of reflux.

Stopping reflux at the source:

For many years, the standard surgical treatment for GERD has been fundoplication, a laparoscopic procedure in which the top of the stomach is sewn around the esophagus to reduce reflux.

In 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the LINX™ Reflux Management System. The LINX device consists of a series of titanium beads, each with a magnetic core, connected to create a ring.

The ring is then surgically implanted around the lower esophageal sphincter to prevent stomach contents from backing up into the esophagus. In clinical studies, the LINX system eliminated severe reflux in 100 percent of patients, and 93 percent of patients reported a significant decrease in the need for medications.

“LINX implantation takes about ten minutes and will be performed laparoscopically,” explained Dr. Tsai, who added that highly specialized training is required to perform the procedure.

He was careful to point out, however, that patients with esophageal changes or precancerous conditions are not candidates for the LINX procedure.

“Acid reflux is a mechanical problem, not a chemical one,” Dr. Tsai explained. “We all have stomach acids, but when they flow back up into the esophagus, it’s a clear sign that something is not functioning correctly. The problem needs to be fixed at the source, not masked with medications.”

Dr. Wilson Tsai will present a free talk about the symptoms, causes and treatments of GERD, including LINX on Tuesday, Oct. 28, at 6:30 p.m. at the San Leandro Library, 300 Estudillo Ave. Space is limited. To reserve your seat, call 1-888-445-8433.

Time to Review Your Medicare Coverage | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 23 October 2014 14:33

By David Sayen • Special to the Times

Medicare’s annual open enrollment season is underway, and I want to encourage everyone with Medicare to review their current health and prescription drug coverage.

Open enrollment began Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7. If you want to change your Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D (prescription drug) plan, this is the time of year to do it. Any new coverage you select will take effect on Jan. 1.

If you have Original (traditional) Medicare and you’re satisfied with it, you don’t need to do anything during open enrollment.

My agency, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, announced recently that the average Medicare Advantage premium for 2015 is projected to be $33.90 monthly. CMS also estimated that the average basic Part D premium in 2015 would be $32 per month.

Since passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, enrollment in Medicare Advantage has increased 42 percent to an all-time high of over 16 million people. Medicare Advantage premiums, meanwhile, have decreased 6 percent.

The law is also closing the Part D “donut hole,” with more than 8.3 million people saving more than $12 billion on prescription drugs through last July.

Medicare plans’ coverage options and costs can change each year, and Medicare beneficiaries should evaluate their current coverage and choices and select the plan that best meets their needs. If you think your current coverage will meet your needs for 2015, you don’t need to change anything.

A variety of resources are available to help you compare your current coverage with new plan offerings for 2015. You can:

• Visit to review plans available in your area, as well as their costs, and enroll in a new plan if you decide to. Open enrollment information is available in Spanish.

• Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) for around-the-clock assistance to find out more about your coverage options. TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048. Counseling is available in a wide variety of languages.

• Review the 2015 Medicare & You handbook. This handbook has been mailed to the homes of people with Medicare and it’s also online at:

• Get free, unbiased, one-on-one counseling from your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). Local SHIP contact information can be found:

— At or;

— On the back of the 2015 Medicare & You handbook or;

— By calling Medicare (at 1-800 number above).

People with Medicare who have limited income and resources may qualify for Extra Help to pay for their Part D drug plans. There’s no cost or obligation to apply for Extra Help. Medicare beneficiaries, family members, or caregivers can apply online at or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY users should call 1-800-325-0778) to find out more.

Better quality in Medicare Advantage and Part D plans isn’t the only good news.

For most seniors who have Original Medicare, the 2015 Part B premium will stay unchanged for a second consecutive year, at $104.90. This means more retirement income and any increase in Social Security benefits will stay in your pocket. The Part B deductible will stay the same as well.

David Sayen is Medicare’s regional administrator for California. You can always get answers to your Medicare questions by calling 1-800-633-4227.

A Bit of Exercise for the Body Benefits the Brain | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 23 October 2014 14:29

102314h2Physical activity may not be the first thing parents or teachers think about when they want to boost a child’s academic performance, but evidence supports the notion that a bit of exercise for the body is beneficial to the brain as well.

In fact, kindergarteners who participated in Build Our Kids’ Success (BOKS), a free before-school program involving physical activity and nutrition education, had significantly improved memory skills as rated by teachers, compared to their peers who did not participate.

A study of the children’s performance also concluded that those who participated in the program exhibited good behavior in the classroom.

“A sedentary life and poor eating habits can lower kids’ performance in the classroom and start a cycle of health problems later in life,” says Kathleen Tullie, Founder and Executive Director of BOKS. “Simply stated, a healthy body and a healthy brain go hand in hand.”

So how can you incorporate more healthy habits into your family’s routine?

• Active weekends: Instead of a lazy Saturday or Sunday, get outside and get moving. Take a soccer ball to the park for a pick-up game or hike a local trail. Make exercise on the weekends a regular habit for your family, and those habits will extend to the rest of the week as well.

• Fuel throughout the day: A hearty breakfast sets kids up for a great day. Follow that up with a healthful, satisfying lunch and snacks such as nuts and fruit, to help kids avoid the pitfalls of the junk food machines.

• Cook together: Take-out is great when you’re crunched for time, but be sure to cook at home at least a few times a week. Not only are homemade meals one of the only ways you can be exactly sure of what you’re feeding your family, but the act of cooking together is a great opportunity to impart some lessons about nutrition and eating right.

• Bed time: Adequate sleep is crucial for a healthy, functional mind and body. Setting a regular bedtime and sticking to it is best to ensure kids get a full night’s rest.

• Volunteer to get your school involved: Children should have one hour or more of physical activity daily, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unfortunately, physical education class may not be sufficient.

Investigate what other opportunities your child’s school has for physical activity, such as after-school sports.

BOKS can be run by anyone — parents, teachers, the school nurse or a community activist. To learn more, visit


CAPTION: BOKS, founded by Kathleen Tullie, empowers parents, teachers, schools and local volunteers to give kids a body and brain boost that will set them up for a day of learning.


Improve Your Child’s Health | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 09 October 2014 14:13

100914h1It’s estimated that about one-third of kids in the United States are overweight or obese. Being overweight as a child can lead to health problems later in life.

Fortunately, as a parent or other caregiver, there are things you can do to help your child consume healthy foods and beverages, be physically active, and get to — and stay at — a healthy weight.

For example, try these tips from “Helping Your Overweight Child” from the Weight-control Information Network (WIN), part of the National Institutes of Health:

Choose Healthy Foods and Beverages

• Buy and serve fruits and vegetables — fresh, frozen, canned or dried. Let your child choose them at the store. Get fruit without added sugar and vegetables without salt or added fats.

• Eat fast food less often. When you do visit a fast-food restaurant, encourage your family to choose healthier options, such as grilled instead of fried chicken.

• Don’t use food as a reward when encouraging kids to eat. For example, promising dessert to a child for eating vegetables sends the message that vegetables are less valuable than dessert.

Get More Physically Activity

• Be active together as a family. Assign active chores, such as making beds, sweeping or vacuuming. Plan active outings, like a walk through a local park.

• Children need about 60 minutes of physical activity each day, but they don’t have to do it all at once. Several 10- or even five-minute bursts of activity throughout the day are just as good.

• Activities that kids choose on their own are often best. Encourage your child to play soccer with friends, catch and throw a ball, dance, or bike (with a helmet).

Additional Information

Check out WIN’s “Helping Your Overweight Child.” This fact sheet features ideas for supporting your child, lists of healthy snacks and activities your child may enjoy, and more tips to help your child choose healthy foods and beverages and be more physically active each day. Contact WIN to get your free copy. Or go to to read and download the fact sheet.

For more information, call WIN at 1-877-946-4627 or visit You can also like WIN on Facebook at

CAPTION: Choose healthier foods for you and your family. Serve more fruits and vegetables, and get your children more involved when selecting groceries at the store.

Buckle Up: Keep Your Child Safe In or Near Cars | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 09 October 2014 14:11

By Chris Graham • Special to the Forum

It’s a fact of life in our society that cars are a convenience we take for granted and an integral part of our lives. But cars can pose many dangers to our children and teenagers.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children and teens in the United States. Thousands more are injured or killed in backover/frontover incidents, child vehicular heatstroke, trunk entrapment and power window strangulation.

Motor vehicle crashes took the lives of 1,100 children under the age of 15 in 2012 and over 176,000 were treated for injuries in local hospitals.

In the U.S. at least 104 children are killed and an additional 2,400 are injured each year by being accidentally backed over by vehicles, according to the Center for Disease Control. The average age of these victims is 12 to 23 months.

These tragedies usually involve a loving parent, grandparent, close relative or care giver who don’t believe they could ever hurt their child. However, our lives today are full of demands and deadlines causing us to be rushed, stressed, distracted or fatigued.

The key to reducing the rate of dangerous occurrences with cars and children is to be aware that they do happen, how they happen and to be proactive in gaining knowledge on how to prevent them.

The good news is that there are steps we can take to provide the safest environment possible for our children when in and around cars.

Be sure all child passengers in a vehicle are buckled in a size and age appropriate car seat, booster seat or seat belt. The safest seat for your child is the one that fits properly for their weight and height. Fitted car seats reduce the risk of death in car crashes by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers.

Children under the age of 12 years should always ride in the back seat properly restrained. Everyone in the car should be properly buckled up every time the vehicle is in motion.

Children should remain rear-facing in their child passenger safety seat until the age of two or until they reach the maximum height and weight limit for their seat when traveling in a vehicle. The middle of the backseat is the safest spot if the seat can be properly installed in this position.  Airbags can kill children riding in the front seat.

Never leave children alone in or around cars. To avoid unintentionally leaving children in an unattended and potentially hot vehicle, leave an essential item in the backseat such as a handbag, phone or briefcase. Make it a habit.

Put a stuffed animal in the car seat when the child is not there and then moving the stuffed animal to the front seat when the child is in their seat. This works as a visual reminder that the child is in the car.

To avoid backover tragedies always walk around the vehicle prior to moving the car in reverse or pulling forward. Teach your children to never play around a vehicle and keep the driveway off limits as a recreational area.

No one wants to harm the children we love and promise to protect. Now is the time to learn all that you can to keep them safe when in and around cars.

Chris Graham is the Trauma Prevention Coordinator at Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley.

Many more essential safety tips can be found on the following sites:

Eden Medical Center will hold a free infant car seat inspection/installation on Thursday, Oct. 16 from 10 a.m. to noon at Eden Medical Center, lower employee parking lot off of Lake Chabot Road. First come, first served. Please allow at least 45 minutes for the inspection. Questions, please call (510) 727-3176.




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