Staying Healthy at Altitude: Nutrients are Part of Good Hydration

Staying Healthy at Altitude: Nutrients are Part of Good Hydration

Alyssa Steeves No Comments

Along with taking breaks and managing the time you spend at the highest altitudes to avoid altitude sickness, the biggest health tip about staying healthy at altitude is to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated. This is a great starting point. The dry air and lack of atmospheric pressure means the body tends to lose water at a faster rate than it otherwise would. But unfortunately simply drinking enough to replenish your hydration level isn’t enough to combat the health effects of the highest elevations.

 

Sweat Is Not Just Water: Replace Lost Nutrients

When you sweat that sweat is not just water. It is a soup of minerals, vitamins and other essential nutrients that the body requires in order to function at optimal levels. Generally speaking, when people lose nutrients through sweating they fail to replenish those nutrients. They don’t know that they are losing key nutrients because they are thinking in terms of sweat and not nutrient depletion. As you continue to repeat this process of sweating and failing to replenish the body you start contracting nutritional deficiency diseases.

 

Nutritional deficiency diseases are basically diseases that you can avoid if you feed the body properly. These afflictions arise when the body gets low or empty of certain key nutrients in relation to a specific body system. Diabetes, arthritis, eye problems and bone issues are all examples of nutritional deficiency diseases. If you’re an athlete, you know that catching a cramp or “charlie horse” can be a nuisance. What’s the first thing that you are instructed to do when you have a case of the cramps? You are told to eat a banana correct? Because the banana contains potassium and other nutrients that regulate nerve and muscle function. You cannot replace the nutrients that you lost by eating candy, condiments, bread, refined foods and pasta because they have no nutrients in them. They have carbohydrates and empty calories but no micronutrients which the body needs. Once you feed these systems the appropriate nutrients, things go back to normal.

 

Useful Metaphors

The body is just like a car. When you buy a BMW or Mercedes Benz these cars come with manuals explaining what kind of gas the car requires to run efficiently. The gas for these cars are usually premium 91′ gasoline. If you go and put regular unleaded 87′ gas in them they will run for a while but they will not run as efficient as they would have had you put the 91′ gas in them. After constant repeated offenses such as this the car eventually breaks down. Or my mother used to tell me that your body will wash itself with whatever fluid you put into it. So your body is like laundry and when you drink soda it’s like washing your body in soda. When you don’t replenish your body with the nutrients it needs, it’s like trying to get everything clean without any cleaning solutions.

 

Due to the fact that sweat is not just water, when you sweat you must put raw, real nutrients back into the body. Packaged juices, soda pop, canned products and junk food will only exacerbate the situation. Water is only one part of the sweating puzzle. If you think that water is all-purpose solution to repairing your body, you may be in for a rude awakening.

Do Coloradans Have Access to Emergency Rooms?

Alyssa Steeves No Comments

To most Coloradans, this question may appear pointless. Of course, you’re probably saying, I visited one a few weeks ago after a minor climbing accident. Colorado has several dozen hospitals, and most have some form of an emergency department. Frequently, however, Coloradans are foregoing emergency room visits in order to mitigate frighteningly high costs and unaccommodating wait times.

 

The Colorado Hospital Association recently released its 2017 data regarding hospital visits throughout the state. This report provides valuable information for tracking the healthcare trends and behaviors of Colorado residents. In presenting the relevant figures regarding licensed beds, total discharges, total patient days, inpatient surgeries, births, inpatient admissions from the emergency department, emergency department visits, and total outpatient visits, we can begin to better understand the ways in which Coloradans use healthcare.

 

What Sort of Numbers are We Talking About?

According to this data, around 1.8 million Colorado residents visited an emergency room in 2017. This number may seem appropriate, but it is strikingly small when compared to the total number of outpatient visits—nearly 10 million. To gain perspective, Colorado had 5.607 million residents in 2017. Additionally, Coloradans are more likely to need emergency rooms than residents of other state, according to a Colorado Health Access survey. With so few ER visits and so many outpatient visits, we are beginning to see a trend: fewer people are visiting emergency rooms.

 

Though proving causality from numbers alone is nearly impossible, we suspect there are several causal factors at play. The first is that residents and families are seeking less expensive and more accessible acute care services. They’re not the answer for true life-threatening emergencies, but urgent care is picking up the slack in a big way. For example, this urgent care clinic in Aurora has become an indispensable community health resource. The second is that disparities in health care access prevent the most vulnerable and marginalized groups from seeing emergency care as a viable option. We want to push for cohesive, qualitative data in order to better understand what these trends and numbers say about our healthcare system.

 

How Does Colorado Healthcare Transparency Compare to the Rest of the U.S.?

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Due to lifestyle trends and impact, Coloradans are a relatively healthy bunch. But just how healthy are we, comparatively speaking? While growth in health care spending in Colorado has continued to outpace growth in the rest of the economy, recent data provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services highlights the state’s progress in controlling the cost curve. Colorado currently ranks 5th lowest among all states in per capita health spending—around $6,800. Colorado also has the 4th lowest average annual health spending growth rate across an 11-year period, at 3.7 percent. Year-over-year hospital spending grew just 0.8 percent between June 2016 and June 2017, the lowest annual growth rate since January of 1989.

 

So, what does this mean? Hospitals and health systems are working to meet consumer demand by improving hospital price transparency and affordability. Though Colorado continues to encounter challenges to healthcare, Coloradans are satisfied with their health; almost 75% of Coloradans report that the current health care system meets the needs of their families.

 

Not Resting on Our Laurels

Colorado has also historically ranked well for both transparency and affordability in national studies and indexes. This comes as the result of Colorado’s APCD, which includes a rich data source with meaningful and accessible price information for consumers. In fact, the preeminent annual survey of statewide health care transparency efforts—the Report Card on State Transparency Laws, which is published by the Catalyst for Payment Reform and the Health Care Incentives Institute—gives Colorado a grade of “A.” By contrast, 43 states received an “F.”

 

Though Colorado has made significant improvements and important progress toward helping consumers better understand their healthcare options, state research shows that, even when information is available, consumers may not always use it. According to a state study, more than 1.5 million Coloradans do not look into what their health plan covers before getting services, and 1.2 million people say they don’t check if a doctor is in their network before receiving care. If Colorado’s healthcare is to be truly accessible, hospitals and medical professionals must continue to improve price transparency and encourage consumers to understand the financial consequences of health care decisions.

 

Is Colorado Facing a Healthcare Access Bubble?

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Colorado has long been one of the healthiest states in the country, which has helped us manage our healthcare costs. Even with healthcare costs that have quadrupled over the last 20 years, we still enjoy modest healthcare spending compared to the rest of the country. Yet, there are reasons to believe that more and more state residents will continue to lose access to healthcare due to rising costs and rising demand for health services overall.

 

A Variety of Challenges for Colorado Healthcare Affordability

Investing in and efficiently delivering modern medical technologies is complicated by the geography of the Rocky Mountains, as well as the rural plains in the eastern part of the state. This is especially a problem in Summit County and many of the other ski resort towns in the Rocky Mountains, where Colorado residents are faced with some of the highest health insurance premiums in the country—despite being healthy overall—due to the cost of delivering these services in a remote area that nevertheless has a consistent demand for services.

 

Population growth and demographical change is a challenge in a lot of places, but Colorado, and Denver in particular, is facing quite the 1-2 punch in terms of fast population growth and an aging population that’s beginning to demand more health services, especially in home healthcare. The supply of health providers and health professionals is beginning to run dangerously low. In a period of protracted employee recruitment efforts, health providers must make a big effort just to maintain minimal staffing levels. It’s not unusual for there to be thousands of job openings just for nurses, just in the Denver area. And that makes the whole system less efficient.

 

How Long can Hospital Care Savings Offset Other Increases?

As with other states, one of the big ways that Colorado has been managing the increasing demand for healthcare services overall is to rely less and less on hospital care, where a disproportionate amount of health resources is spent. From unnecessary ER care to the long-term benefits of preventative care, it’s avoiding the high costs of hospital-based care that is responsible for much of these cost savings. Which begs the question: How much better can we get at minimizing the need for hospitalizations? How much further can medical technologies go in delivering healthcare outside of the hospital? How much more efficient can hospitals themselves get?

 

There are no easy answers to these questions, and it’s not as though the cost offsets ever enough. (Again, healthcare costs have quadrupled over the last two decades and continue climbing.) What’s worrisome is the idea of what will happen to our overall healthcare costs if we max out our efficiency improvements in hospital care? Is Colorado facing a healthcare access bubble in which our healthcare cost inflation eventually puts basic healthcare out of reach for a huge swath of our residents? If so, our health outcomes are sure to decline as a result.

What Colorado’s Climate Means for the State’s Health

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Much like the difference between climate change and weather, there are both immediate health hazards and long-term threats linked to negative changes in the local environment and ecosystem. We can confidently say that climate change is harming and will continue to harm Colorado’s public health, while demonstrating a direct cause in any particular case is often impractical.

 

At the same time, there are several specific climate-linked health hazards in Colorado that are worth knowing about. More severe heat waves mean more heat strokes. Already one of the most volatile climates in the country, even more extreme swings between heat and cold and drought and blizzards also create harm in everything from more traffic deaths to stunted crop growth.

 

Secondary Health Effects of Colorado Climate Change

Longer, more severe droughts is one eventuality that grabs a lot of the headlines, but long-term water shortages involve a lot more than showers and lawn irrigation. Healthy foods at the grocery store from local sources will cost a lot more and become less accessible to huge swaths of the state’s populations. Again, it may not make the news is as much, but the eastern Colorado plains are also under strain from climate change.

 

Or take wildfires, for example. Droughts and reduced snowpack also mean drier mountain forests, and that’s a problem when there’s a spark. Yes, wildfires have been part of the local ecosystem for countless centuries, but larger wildfires consuming older and newer forests and more total area than ever before can be a huge problem. The release of ozone, CO2, and other particulates is a new and dangerous source of air pollution.

 

More than just wildfires, dried-out forests are also more susceptible to pests especially invasive beetle species. With fewer trees, erosion and soil loss is increased in alpine regions throughout the state, harming recreational and agricultural opportunities.

 

Protecting Colorado’s Public Health

Colorado is known as one of the healthiest states in the nation based on a range of public health data. Anecdotally, between the sunny climes, clean mountain air, and strong outdoors culture, the state’s public health status is no wonder to us. And yet, we also recognize the fragility of the state’s natural environment. Taxed by rapid population growth and increasing vulnerability to effects of global climate change,

 

Both state and national organizations are coming together to make a difference and take meaningful, concrete steps toward mitigating the damage caused by climate change and protecting our state’s natural resources and public health status. There’s been a new focus on the link between climate change and public health. If you’re looking for more information about what you need to know to do our part and to mitigate the personal health effects that our state’s changing climate may have, we recommend you take a look at these resources:

 

  • The American Public Health Association declared 2017 the Year of Climate Change and Health.
  • Colorado has had a climate plan for more than a decade, but the latest Colorado Climate Plan better addresses the challenges and data coming from the latest climate studies.
  • Meanwhile, the Colorado Health Institute has also recently highlighted the myriad effects climate change is likely to have on the state’s health and why.

Getting High Before You Exercise

Alyssa Steeves No Comments

We get a lot of questions from Colorado residents and other people about the relative healthy vs. unhealthy effects of a cannabis habit. This is a multi-layer question with no simple answer. A more specific question we also get a lot has to do with consuming cannabis as part of an exercise routine. There’s no simple answer here, either, but we can at least give this one a try.

 

What the Science Says

There’s a definite link between cannabis and exercise in that the endocannabinoid system is active as part of your body’s natural response to exercise. It helps you withstand the strain of strenuous physical exercise, but it’s also no coincidence that a runner may describe their exercise routine as giving them a natural high. For this reason, it probably doesn’t hurt to consume a small quantity of marijuana before your workout. In a counterintuitive way, it may serve to prime the body to be ready for exercise.

 

That doesn’t necessarily mean that exercise and marijuana go together like peanut butter and jelly or that it’s somehow extra healthy to exercise when high. On the other hand, motivation and positive reinforcement are powerful tools to maintain a regular exercise routine. Here’s a fair treatment of the pros and cons of mixing cannabis and exercise from U.S. News and World Report.

 

Your Options for Combining Cannabis and Exercise

There are now cannabis gyms emerging on the scene in Colorado. One of the earliest spots, Break the Stigma Fitness in Wheat Ridge, offers a variety of exercise classes (yoga, kickboxing, etc.) with cannabis included as a free gift to anyone who attends the class. More than getting around laws that make it difficult, if not impossible, for a business to be both a fitness gym and a licensed cannabis seller, this gifting policy also serves as a solution for driving to the gym sober. It’s not like you need to get high before you go. Just show up a few extra minutes before class.

 

Outside of the gym, there are also several cannabis use website guides out there, such as 420 Tours. These online resources can give you ideas and strategies for safely consuming cannabis as part of your exercise routine.

Racial Disparities in Health Outcomes

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Because the health effects of poverty are so widespread and because there’s already a correlation between race and poverty, it’s difficult to study how much racism and racial prejudice plays a role outside of the existing socio-economic disparities. Most research and researchers, if they have an opinion at all, believe racism has an independent effect on health outcomes, but that it’s small compared to the role poverty has to play.

At the same time, the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, along with many health researchers in the state, explains that understanding this connection between race, poverty, and health outcomes is far more important than trying to figure out what independent effect racism has—if the question can be answered at all.

Confusing biology with racism is dangerous. Just as focusing on biology rather than poverty just because it seems more closely related to health can be misguided. And how we frame the problem matters: Investing millions of dollars to identify, treat, and cure ethnicity-linked medical conditions is not nearly as effective as using state funds to make sure poor people and people of color can meet their basic living needs.

 

  • Are interested in learning about or providing information for local Colorado communities? Contact Us. We’ll tell you what we know and share honest information from reputable sources. We’re committed to promoting a Healthy Colorado and are always willing and eager to collaborate with and give credit to similar organizations with common goals.

 

Regional Disparities in Colorado Health Outcomes and Care Costs

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The healthiest residents on average are concentrated in the nine-county corridor from Colorado Springs to Denver and up to Fort Collins. No surprise to most Coloradoans, this is also where the greatest concentration of Colorado jobs and wealth lies. The strongest correlation in regional disparity tends to follow that region’s socio-economic status, but there are others. Geographic access to healthcare in urban vs. rural communities is another big regional disparity in Colorado for health outcomes.

 

Southern Colorado and southeaster Colorado in particular suffer from some of the least accessible healthcare services and among the worst health outcomes. The City and County of Denver, with its large, diverse and mixed income population, tends to hover right around the state average for health outcomes. Yet, the dense urban setting makes it easier for residents of all income backgrounds to access services compared to their rural counterparts. You can see a complete county-by-county breakdown of health rankings from County Health Rankings.

 

Healthy Colorado Comes at a Cost

Summit County and the surrounding mountain resort towns are an unusual case for the healthcare system. Typically, the healthier the population is the lower the average healthcare costs per capita and thus lower health insurance premiums. Not so with this area of the state, as this news article from The Denver Post helps explain.

 

The geographic remoteness of the interior Rocky Mountains, coupled with the mile-high property values of these resort towns, has a lot to do with it. A health-conscious populace that actively seeks out health services is another thing state healthcare experts are pointing to. You can certainly find numerous health clinics and medical practices in Colorado’s mountain towns and ski resort areas in particular, but a lot of doctors and nurses would also prefer to be on the slopes rather than in the office. Likewise, many of the seasonal workers, resort employees, and other local service workers tend to struggle the most with affording to go to the doctor when they need it.

 

  • Are interested in learning about or providing information for local Colorado communities? Contact Us. We’ll tell you what we know and share honest information from reputable sources. We’re committed to promoting a Healthy Colorado and are always willing and eager to collaborate with and give credit to similar organizations with common goals.

 

Socio-Economic Disparities in Colorado Health Outcomes

Alyssa Steeves No Comments

You don’t have to be an expert in the healthcare industry to know that people of higher socio-economic status tend to have better health and better health outcomes than people of higher economic status. Sure, there are plenty of exceptions. No amount of money can fix certain injuries and illnesses. Great genes can overcome a certain amount of environmental deprivation. It’s also true that socio-economic status is a lot more complex than, say, how much money you have in the bank. Your parents’ ability to spend money on your health as a child, for example, has a pretty sizable effect on your health as an adult.

 

Like most states, it’s also true that there are arbitrarily rigid disparities for healthcare access and overall health outcomes. People and households with sufficiently low income are entitled to Colorado’s Medicaid coverage, while the “working poor” often earn just a little too much to qualify for Medicaid but can struggle mightily to afford basic healthcare services.

 

The most impoverished among us may not have access to healthcare services or other basic living necessities. Just because you qualify for Colorado Medicaid doesn’t mean you know where to sign up.

 

  • Are interested in learning about or providing information for local Colorado communities? Contact Us. We’ll tell you what we know and share honest information from reputable sources. We’re committed to promoting a Healthy Colorado and are always willing and eager to collaborate with and give credit to similar organizations with common goals.

 

 

Health Equity and Health Disparities in Colorado

Alyssa Steeves No Comments

Now, compared to the rest of the country, Colorado consistently ranks at or near the top for healthy residents and health outcomes. Nevertheless, in a lot of ways, our health disparities reflect those of the rest of the nation in terms of poverty, race, and geography. The idea that is everybody is created equal in the eyes of the law doesn’t really apply to health and medicine. Individual genetic and environmental differences, along with access to healthcare services, can all have a big influence on average health outcomes.

Recognizing the pattern and causes of these disparities can help make positive changes to the state’s healthcare system and determine how to best allocate the available resources….

 

  • Disparities in Healthcare and Socio-Economic Status
  • Regional Disparities in Health Outcomes
  • Regional Disparities in Healthcare Costs

 

Looking Ahead to the Future

We admit there are no easy solutions to these problems, no magic wand that can be waved to make it all better overnight or even next year. But there are things we can do. We need not fly blind. In 2017, the state legislator enacted SB 14-187 to establish the Colorado Commission on Affordable Health Care.

The Colorado Center on Law and Policy (CCLP) is one the best state resources for “promoting justice, economic security, access to health care and sound fiscal policies.” Lest you think this is just another wasteful government program, you can read a dedicated defense of the Colorado Commission on Affordable Health Care from the CCLP. The gist is that the state wants to look for ways to manage future healthcare spending by identifying areas of inefficiency and ineffectiveness. Kind of like health equity and health disparities in Colorado. It’s a measure of our goals, our reality, and how we can work to bridge the divide in our state.