Treadmill Desk

We are kicking off our Small Business Wellness series with our most recent wellness option here at Home Health Testing.  After reading a blog post by Gina Trapani at Smarterware about switching to a stand up desk, I became intrigued with offering some desk alternative in our office.  Since we are an online company, we all spend our days in front of a computer at a traditional sit down desk.  We also spend time taking online webinars and classes which is a perfect opportunity for an alternative to sitting down.

Our treadmill workstation was added in an extra office and is available for our entire staff to use.  We purchased a basic treadmill on craigslist and positioned it in the corner of the office with the monitor on a shelf on the wall in front of the treadmill.  Since the treadmill had two large cupholders in front of the display panel, we were able to fit recycled yogurt containers in the cup holders to mount a keyboard and mouse tray over the display panel.  The cost of the project was about $105 which was used to purchase the treadmill and shelf.  We recycled or reused an extra computer and the keyboard tray from an old desk here in the office.

Treadmill desks have been promoted over the last few years by Mayo Clinic researcher, James Levine.  Dr. Levine studies daily activity or inactivity and obesity.  His focus is on how people burn calories when not exercising or basically during their daily activities.  Dr. Levine’s studies have shown that adding extra movement into your office routines by using a treadmill desk can burn 100-130 calories an hour at slow speeds of less than two miles an hour.

Additional research is currently being conducted at Rutgers University by Brandon Alderman to see if using a treadmill desk and exerting low level of activity actually improves productivity.  “We’re learning that people perform better when given the opportunity to stand and move around while they’re at work,” Alderman said. “So from a productivity standpoint, it might be best if they’re also moving while they’re working.”

In a recent NY Times article, Is Sitting a Lethal Activity,  Marc Hamilton, an inactivity researcher at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center said:

This is your body on chairs: Electrical activity in the muscles drops — “the muscles go as silent as those of a dead horse,” Hamilton says — leading to a cascade of harmful metabolic effects. Your calorie-burning rate immediately plunges to about one per minute, a third of what it would be if you got up and walked. Insulin effectiveness drops within a single day, and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes rises. So does the risk of being obese. The enzymes responsible for breaking down lipids and triglycerides — for “vacuuming up fat out of the bloodstream,” as Hamilton puts it — plunge, which in turn causes the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol to fall.

There is plenty of compelling research to support moving during your workday, but really it just makes sense.  You feel better when given the opportunity to move around versus sitting in the same position all day long.  To promote that general feeling of health and well being, a treadmill desk is a great option for any business and a very affordable option for small businesses to encourage healthy lifestyles.

Small Business Wellness Programs

When we hear about corporate or employee wellness programs, we typically think about on site gyms, health fairs, healthy food choices in the cafeteria and health insurance discounts for participation.  But many of these choices are not possible for small businesses.  Establishing an on site gym for five employees is cost prohibitive for most businesses.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation about 59% of small businesses with three to nine employees offer health insurance.  Most likely, thoughts of health and wellness stop once the health insurance premiums are paid.  And for the other 41% of small businesses who do not offer health insurance – wellness may not even be on the radar.

There are many definitions of wellness programs that are rife with corporate jargon, but the core of any wellness program is:

“To Promote Healthy Lifestyles”

When you work in a small business you want to work with healthy co-workers.  Small teams depend on each other so when one out of five people is sick then 20% of the work force is missing.  If twenty percent of Home Depot’s employees didn’t go to work today that would be 64,000 of their 321,000 employees!

Small businesses have every reason to be interested in promoting healthy lifestyles to their employees.  Not only to reduce absenteeism, but to improve morale, comraderie, communication and to show that they cares about their employees.

At Home Health Testing, we believe in healthy lifestyles and are beginning a series on our blog called  “Small Business Wellness Programs”.  We will highlight the initiatives that small businesses have taken to promote healthy lifestyles.  We will share ideas from our own workplace and share stories from other small businesses – we want to hear from you!  If you work in a small business and have programs that you feel “promote healthy lifestyles”, please contact us.  For the first small business chosen in our blog series, we will give you a free cholesterol test for every employee!

Pre-Employment Hair Drug Testing

Trucking company, C.R. England, recently published the results of a year long study of the difference between using a urine drug test versus a hair drug test as part of the pre-employment drug screen.  The DOT requires trucking companies to use a urine drug test and the company will continue to do so, however, the results of additionally using a hair drug test are substantially different.

“With hair testing, we are able to detect months of time rather than the handful of days checked with standard urine tests. We found our hair testing positive rate was over three times higher than the required DOT urine test alone.”  Dustin England, vp-safety and compliance for C.R. England

The pilot study was done with 2,000 job applicants that were given the urine drug test and the hair drug test.  Over 150 applicants buy propecia tested positive to the hair drug test while testing negative on the urine drug test.  Overall, 11% of the applicants tested positive to the hair drug test versus only 2.8% testing positive to the DOT required urine drug test.

For employers looking for long term employees, the results of this study show that hair drug testing as part of the job hiring process will help reduce the risk of hiring a person with a drug habit.  Urine drug tests only show drug use in the last few days or weeks compared to a hair drug test which has a ninety day or more history of drug use.

C.R. England is a national trucking company that must comply with DOT regulations regarding drug tests, however, small businesses can also use hair drug tests as part of the pre-employment process and it is no longer cost prohibitive to do so.  Our hair drug test kit for business is less than $80 and there is no minimum purchase so you can test just one potential employee before making that final hiring decision.

So You Found Out Your Teen’s Tried Drugs…

…What do you do now?

Most parents of teens have to ask this question at some point.  Drugs are ubiquitous, especially as your teen grows older.  For example, as shown in our teen drug use infographic, 82.1% of high school seniors think marijuana is “easy or fairly easy” to get.  That’s more than 4 out of 5 teenagers, so it’s likely that at least one person in your teen’s social circle feels confident they could obtain marijuana.  About 90% of 12th graders think alcohol is easy or fairly easy to get.  The breakdown for 8th graders is just over 40% think marijuana is easy to get, and just over 60% think alcohol is, while for 10th graders 70% think marijuana is easy to get and 80% think alcohol is (if you’d like to check the statistics drug by drug you can check out the Monitoring the Future study for 2010 here.  Scroll down to Tables 15, 16, and 17 for availability info).  With prom either here or around the corner, these are statistics to keep in mind.

We have an article coming up tomorrow about being aware as a parent about the potential issues surrounding prom and graduation parties, etc. but today we leave you with a video by Licensed Family Psychotherapist Susan Stiffelman, MFT on parentdish.com.  Watch below or check out her extended advice at the article link, “My Son Confessed That He’s Tried Pot!  Should I Punish Him?” And if you are interested in testing your teen, you can also check out our urine drug test kits page for more information and/or to purchase.

What Are Bath Salts? A Guide

Bath salts have been around forever but you probably never gave them much thought until recently.  The Epsom salts used to help sore feet are not really all that interesting.  Or at least, they probably weren’t until someone high on “bath salts” decided to kill his neighbor’s pet goat.  But no worries, these aren’t the same “bath salts” you are used to – these new “bath salts” are a unique and dangerous phenomenon of their own.  The source of emergency room visits and bizarre headlining crimes has been mislabeled, and we are here to clear up what the question “What is a bath salt?”

These bath salts are nothing like the kind making headlines today.  These are still safe to use as advised.

Real bath salts, safe to use as directed, 100% unlikely to make you a homicidal goat killer.

What are Bath Salts?

The “bath salts” discussed in the media are substances of abuse. They are “designer drugs,” meaning that they are not found in nature and instead are cooked up in a lab. The main drugs being sold as “bath salts” are Methylenedioxypyrovalerone and mephedrone. They are both stimulants that can have a wide variety of effects.

What is Methylenedioxypyrovalerone?

Also known as MDPV, Methylenedioxypyrovalerone is a very powerful chemical. It is apparently the main ingredient in the “Ivory Wave” bath salt brand. It has no medical use. The drug is similar to cocaine in effect, although apparently far less of MDPV is needed to achieve a cocaine-like high. It has also been compared to methamphetamine.

MDPV can provide increased feelings of stimulation and energy, along with increased concentration. However, it may also provide many of the negative effects associated with stimulants: rapid heartbeat, insomnia, fatigue, shaking/twitching, dizziness and overstimulation. Anxiety, paranoia, psychosis, and confusion can also accompany administration of the drug. As is the case with many designer drugs, a lot of the danger comes from the lack of research and regulation attached to it. MDPV has only been used recreationally since 2005 and there is a notable lack of information on the effects of the drug by dosage. Worse, its dosage can vary by brand so it’s not clear how much you may be taking at any given time. Simply put it’s a very risky, dangerous drug, not only because of its expected and unexpected effects, but also because of the lack of information available about the drug, period.

Here is one popular bath salt brand.  It is packaged as though it were a soap but you will find it conspicuously says "not for human consumption."

A popular MDPV or mephedrone containing brand of "bath salt." Photo credit Hunterdon Drug Awareness Program.

What is mephedrone?

Like MDPV, Mephedrone is a powerful stimulant and a designer drug. It is occasionally marketed as plant food but is also part of some “bath salts.” It has very similar effects to MDPV, ecstasy, and cocaine. The reported sense of well-being produced by mephedrone is more similar to ecstasy than cocaine. Mephedrone’s effects kick in a little sooner than MDPV’s, at about 15-45 minutes after oral administration, or within minutes when snorted. MDPV’s effects last a bit longer and it also takes longer for the effects of the drug to be felt. Hallucinations and paranoia have also been reported with this drug, but these effects seem somewhat less common in mephedrone than MDPV.

Where did these drugs come from?

It seems that both mephedrone and MDPV can be created at home, if you have the right chemicals.  Unlike other drugs that can be created at home, like methamphetamine, you cannot currently urine drug test for them unless you use a lab (see below for more details). The chemicals used to create the compounds generally come from India or China. In the case of the packages being sold online and in convenience stores, it appears that some are coming from Europe. Bath salts were recently made illegal in the UK and in most of Europe, and presumably the suppliers had excess product they were interested in shipping. These drugs did not really appear on the scene until anywhere from 2005-2007, and demand is slowly being reduced as state and federal agencies fill the legal loopholes that have so far allowed people to purchase these substances freely.

What is the problem?

The inappropriate use of bath salts has led to some very bizarre and dangerous encounters in the United States. Recent stories traced back to bath salts include a man killing his neighbor’s pet goat while wearing woman’s underwear, various assaults on policemen while experiencing hallucinations, suicides, self-mutilation, and more.

Another danger these drugs present is that, due to the lack of scientific research, doctors are unable to calm patients that are having a bad reaction to the chemical compounds they’ve ingested.

How is the problem being solved?

Some states have already banned the sale of bath salts, as the sale of k2 / Spice products were banned state-by-state last year (and are now subject to a federal ban). The DEA has put these salts and mephedrone and MDPV on its “Drugs and Chemicals of Concern” list last year. And because they are similar to other illegal compounds, their use/possession can be prosecuted under the Federal Analog Act. The issue right now is that they can only be prosecuted if they are intended for human consumption…and as sold in stores these substances are clearly marked that they are NOT intended for human consumption (please see the Hunterdon Drug Awareness Program for more details).

Can these drugs be detected via drug testing?

Redwood Toxicology offers lab based urine testing for mephedrone and MDPV. Currently no instant or home drug test offers “bath salt” drug testing.

Resources on Bath Salts

These articles provide more information on bath salts.

Why Snorting Bath Salts Is Popular – And Dangerous. Phoenix New Times.

Comprehensive Drug Information on MDPV, Mephedrone (“Bath Salts”). Hunterdon Drug Awareness Program.

MDPV Report. Psychonaut Web Mapping Research Project.

Designer drug ‘Bath salts” could be taking hold in N.J. The Star-Ledger.

Update:  Glenn Duncan’s presentation at slideshare also has a lot of good information on MDPV and Bath salts, including which states have banned the use and possession of bath salts.  Glenn is the Executive Director of the aforementioned Hunterdon Drug Awareness Program.

– Article by Robyn Schelenz

Experts Answer Your Questions About Heart Health

Heart disease is still the #1 killer of men and women in the United States.  Taking care of your heart should be a lifelong goal, as some heart problems can originate in childhood, and many aspects of heart healthcare involve habits, such as smoking and nutrition, that are easier to shape from youth.  While it’s no longer February, the CDC’s Heart Month resources are always worth a look.

EverydayHealth.com has also produced a list of resources for taking care of your heart that is well worth a look.  Gathering together the perspectives of 8 different experts in the field of heart health, their article “Expert Advice for a Healthy Heart” addresses a wide variety of factors that influence your cardiovascular system, including smoking, diet, stress, exercise, genetics, and gender differences.

The article takes on the question of risks that ought to be considered.  The modifiable ones, according to Dr. Dennis Goodman, are “smoking, hypertension, high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle (lack of exercise), and stress” (our home cholesterol test full lipid panel w/glucose can supply the information you need on high LDL and low LDL cholesterol, along with triglycerides, total cholesterol, and glucose*).

Personally I find stress to be one of the more confusing factors to understand in the context of heart health – what’s the best way to handle stress?  Modifying your smoking habit is pretty simple (although difficult) – either stop or do not.  But stress is pretty unavoidable.  4 different doctors offer their advice in the article, including exercise, meditation, hobbies, and simply “letting it out” or “powering down.”  Any of these sound good when you consider, as Dr. Kirk Laman says, that “something as simple as worrying has been shown to double your chances of having a heart attack.”

The doctors interview also cover the types of foods you can eat to keep your heart happy.  To figure out how to combine some of those foods into meals for the whole family, I personally recommend the NYTimes’ Recipes for Health Section, where Martha Rose Shulman somehow manages to create tons of delicious looking recipes, many containing comprehensive nutritional value information.

Take  a look at the EverydayHealth article for some useful, expert tips on keeping your heart healthy.

*  Although we at Home Health Testing stand by our product, I just wanted to add that this should not be construed as endorsement by EverydayHealth.com.