Folic acid is a B-vitamin that is necessary for proper cell growth. If taken before and during early pregnancy from a multi-vitamin or fortified foods, folic acid can prevent from 50% up to 70% of some forms of serious birth defects of the brain and spine.

Experts recommend that women who could possibly become pregnant should take 400 micrograms of synthetic folic acid daily, from:

  • Eating fortified foods like grains, pastas, or breakfast cereals,
  • Taking daily multi-vitamin, and
  • Including a variety of foods as part of a healthy diet

The easiest way to be sure to get the recommended daily amount of folic acid is to take a multi-vitamin every day.

More information at: folicacid.org

Cervical Cancer

Many young women are missing the opportunity to be screened for cervical cancer.  As January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, WHA would like to remind you of the importance of cervical cancer prevention and early detection.  Cervical cancer, which forms in the tissues of the cervix (the organ connecting the uterus and vagina), is almost always caused by human papilloma virus (HPV) infection, which is spread through sexual contact.

Pap Test

Women with early cervical cancers and pre-cancers usually have no symptoms.  After the Pap test was introduced in the 1950s, the death rate for cervical cancer patients was greatly reduced because cervical cancer started being detected early, when it is most curable. When cervical cancer is diagnosed early, when it has not spread, the 5-year survival rate is 91%.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that most women ages 21 to 65 get a Pap test once every three years. Women ages 30 to 65 may wait five years between Pap tests if they test for HPV at the same time. The HPV test isn’t advised for women under age 30.

HPV Vaccine

Besides early detection with a Pap smear, there is a proven way to prevent cervical cancer – by getting vaccinated for HPV.  HPV is the cause of most cases of cervical cancer, which is why getting this vaccination is so important for young women. The American Cancer Society recommends that the vaccine be given to girls at age 11 to 12. That’s because a woman should get the HPV vaccine before she has any type of sexual contact with another person.

To protect yourself from HPV and cervical cancer:

  • Have regular Pap tests
  • Get the HPV vaccine
  • Use condoms and limit your number of sexual partners
  • Don’t smoke
  • Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables
  • Maintain your proper body weight

For more information, visit mywha.org/womenswellness.


Holiday letter healthy beverages

Appetizers and Hors d’oeuvres

  • Get involved.  There’s usually a list for coworkers to volunteer to bring dishes for the party, so sign up!  You can make a heart- healthy item, giving yourself at least one good option to enjoy.
  • Come prepared.  If the party is during lunch hour, eat a healthy breakfast followed in midmorning by a high fiber snack, such as an apple or a small handful of almonds.  If the party is after work, enjoy a protein packed lunch like grilled fish or chicken with a salad and then later in the afternoon have another high fiber snack.  If you’re not too hungry when you go to the party, it will be easier to avoid overeating.
  • Map it out.  Avoid loading up on foods that are fried, buttered or have a lot of cheese and cream.  Even though the portions may be small, these fat-laden bites can really pack a punch.  Look for fruit, veggies and dip, whole grain cracker and baked or grilled items.


  • Use the buddy system.  By splitting a dessert with someone, you can cut the calories and fat in half and avoid being wasteful.  It’s a win-win!


  • Mix it up.  If alcohol is being served, alternate each glass with a glass of water.  This will help reduce your thirst while filling your stomach and you’ll consume fewer calories.
  • Watch seasonal drinks.  Many holiday beverages have so much added sugar, they may as well be a dessert.  Keep in mind what else you’ve eaten; it may be best to enjoy these drinks on another day.


Source: American Heart Association

Holiday letter healthy beverages

The winter season is chock full of delicious dishes and treats, but no one likes the extra calories and added pounds that can come from seasonal food.  Use these smart tips on substitutions and choices to enjoy your favorite winter beverages brought to you by the American Heart Association.  You’ll stay heart healthy and look good in those family pictures!


  • Mix it up.  Fill your glass with half to three quarter parts of low-fat skim milk and on part eggnog.  You’ll still get the flavor without all the calories.
  • Act like a kid.  Take out the alcohol.  This simple step will reduce the caloric content
  • Cut the fluff.  Pass on that big dollop of whipped cream to avoid the extra sugar and saturated fat

Hot Chocolate

  • Skip the heavy stuff.  If you order hot chocolate at a restaurant or coffee shop, ask that it be made with low-fat or skim milk, and without the whipped cream
  • Do some research.  To make instant hot chocolate at home, look for product packets marked “low fat/fat-free” or “low sugar/sugar-free.”  Be sure to add the mix to low-fat milk or hot water.
  • Go easy on the toppings.  Use 5-8 mini marshmallows instead of large ones.  If using whipped cream, look for low-fat versions and stick to less than one tablespoon.  If you have hot chocolate regularly, try to limit toppings to “once in awhile treats” since they can pack on a lot of calories and added sugars.

Apple Cider

  • Read the labels.  When buying cider at the store, check its added sugar content.  Many products contain added sugars, which can increase your calorie intake and cause weight gain.  Choose low-sugar and sugar free options.
  • Do it yourself.  When making cider at home, use low-sugar apple juice and a variety of spices (like cinnamon sticks, cloves, nutmeg and whole cranberries).  You’ll keep the flavor while cutting calories.

Cocktails and Other Alcoholic Beverages

  • Enjoy cocktails.  Serve non-alcoholic versions of your favorite cocktails to lower calories.  Be sure to check the nutrition label, because sometimes products that are alcohol free have more added sugars.
  • Break it up.  To reduce the amount of calorie laden drinks you consume during a holiday gathering, drink a glass of water or sparkling water between each beverage.  This will help fill your stomach, leaving less room to overindulge.


Source: AHA

On Thanksgiving morning WHA members and their families will be joining WHA staff and employees as we make up a team participating in the largest Thanksgiving Day run in the country. This 1448046081930event typically has about 30,000 participants! Sponsored by WHA, all proceeds from the Western Health Advantage 22nd annual Run to Feed the Hungry benefit Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.

The race/walk starts on J Street just west of the entrance to the Sacramento State campus and runs through the beautiful tree lined streets of East Sacramento. WHA proudly sponsors what has become a family tradition for thousands of area families and their out-of-town guests, as well as a favorite race among elite runners in California.

To find more event information, please visit www.runtofeedthehungry.com.

What: Western Health Advantage Run to Feed the Hungry

When: Thursday, November 26, 2015

Time: 8:15 a.m. – 10K Race; 9:00 a.m. – 5K Race and Walk

Where: California State University, Sacramento main entrance (6000 J Street)

Beneficiary: Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services Much more than just food, Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) offers 14 diverse services, all focusing on education and moving families to self-sufficiency and financial independence. This is made possible through the help of over 6,200 volunteers who contribute more than 65,000 hours every year. SFBFS is unique in that the organization is not based on a traditional food bank model. SFBFS directly serves families in our community and offers a hand up in the form of education, not a hand out, to each individual who seeks assistance. SFBFS is supported through private donors, some grants and special events such as Run to Feed the Hungry. SFBFS provides food, clothing, education and hope to 150,000 men, women and children each month thanks to your support.

Stock Photo by Sean Locke www.digitalplanetdesign.com

Every parent should be informed about this disease and its potentially devastating and long-term effects.

Who is at Risk

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the populations most at risk are:

  • Infants: Infants are most vulnerable and can easily be infected by other family members.
  • Adolescents: Preteens and teens are at greater risk for certain diseases like meningitis.  Getting vaccinated not only helps protect adolescents from getting certain diseases such as meningitis, it helps stop the spread of disease to families, classmates and community members.
  • Young Adults: Those attending college can quickly spread the infection to other students. For example, between 2013 and 2015, four campuses reported meningococcal outbreaks and in 2014, and one student at San Diego State University died from meningitis, a serious form of the disease.

What It Is

Meningococcal disease is a highly infectious disease that can vary in its severity.

  • The infection attacks the protective covering of the brain and spinal cord ─ known as the meninges ─ and causes swelling.
  • If not treated early, the outcome can mean brain damage, hearing loss, loss of limbs or death.
  • There are five known strains worldwide, three of which cause most of the illnesses here in the U.S.


Protecting your loved ones against this disease is as easy as a vaccine. Ask your doctor about the meningococcal vaccination that is right for your child. For more information, visit the CDC or talk to your child’s doctor. For other recommended vaccines, visit mywha.org/shots.

Risks of the Vaccine

Temporary discomfort, such as redness or pain at the injection site, is the most commonly reported risk of the vaccine. A small percentage of those vaccinated may develop a fever. This symptom usually subsides after 1-2 days. The short-term discomfort your child may experience is far outweighed by the long-term and sometimes life-long protection from this life-threatening disease.


Source: CDC, NMA


iStock_000016812493XLargeThe American Diabetes Association sponsors November as American Diabetes Month. To raise awareness about diabetes and healthy living, Western Health Advantage is proudly participating in this observance. Diabetes is one of the leading causes of disability and death in the California. It can cause blindness, nerve damage, kidney disease, and other health problems if it’s not controlled. One in seven adult Californians has diabetes — that’s about four million people. Another 11 million adults in California have pre-diabetes and therefore are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. California has the greatest number of people in the U.S. who are newly diagnosed with diabetes.

Diabetes is a chronic medical condition marked by high levels of blood glucose (a form of sugar) resulting from defects in insulin production. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body does not produce the hormone insulin. There is no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90-95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes, occurs when the cells do not use insulin properly. Lifestyle changes can prevent type 2 diabetes. People who are at high risk for type 2 diabetes can lower their risk by more than half if they make healthy changes. To help prevent type 2 diabetes:

  • Watch your weight
  • Eat healthy
  • Get more physical activity
  • Get regular checkups, including finding out your blood pressure and cholesterol, and ask your doctor about your diabetes risk.
  •  Visit mywha.org/classes for information on smoking cessation classes.
  • WHA members can also get online support and instruction through WHA’s wellness program; for details, visit mywha.org or call WHA Member Services at 888.563.2250. Starting in January 2016, WHA will have an enhanced wellness program, MyWHA Wellness, with more features than before, so check back in after January 1, 2016.


WHA’s Diabetes Program

WHA members have access to a diabetes program provided through Alere™. It is designed to help manage your condition. If you are at low risk for complications, you will be enrolled in the program and receive educational materials. If you are at high risk, you will receive educational materials and regularly scheduled calls with a diabetes nurse care manager. The care manager will help you navigate through the various services provided by the program and act as coach and educator ─ all at no cost to you. You can apply to the program by contacting Alere at 877.793.3655.

For more information, WHA members can visit mywha.org/diabetes


Sources: American Diabetes Association, California Diabetes Program (CDPH), WHA


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