Motivation Monday!

Friday Funny!

Join the Richmond Heart Walk on our own Monroe Park Campus!

VCU is excited to join the 2019 American Heart Association’s Heart Walk on October 5th at Monroe Park led by our very own Dr. Peter Buckley, the Dean of VCU School of Medicine. Let’s support him in building a healthier Richmond! To join the effort, please click HERE. We are looking forward to seeing a sea of black and gold this October!

The American Heart Association’s Heart Walk is a wonderful opportunity for our company to pull together and have a meaningful impact by raising money for an organization that supports such a worthy cause. As the Chair of this year’s Heart Walk, VCU Health has pledged to raise $55,000.  To achieve our Fundraising goals, we need our employees to actively participate so let’s get started!

We are seeking 100 volunteers who are passionate about heart disease and stroke or are looking for leadership opportunities to step up as a coach. As Coach, your role is to recruit co-workers, friends and family members to collectively raise $1,500 for the American Heart Association and rally together at the Heart Walk. Can we count you in?

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Get Started
    • Register as a Coach for your team here- VCU Health Heart Walk Team
    • Visit and bookmark the Heart Walk Headquarters.
    • Invite your first co-worker, friend or family member to join your team.
  2. Get Personal
    • Kick-off your team’s fundraising by making your personal donation.
    • Submit your matching gift form.
  3. Get Digital
    • Connect your fundraiser to Facebook in your Heart Walk Headquarters.
    • Download the Heart Walk mobile app.

Financial Conversations for Couples!

Discussing budgets and savings goals may not seem romantic, however, they are important conversations couples should be having on a regular basis.  Achieving your financial goals means having shared objectives and being transparent with each other. Just like a successful marriage, it takes communication, compromise, and commitment to attain that perfect financial union. Learn tips on how to achieve it by joining VCU HR and Virginia Credit Union (VACU) on Thursday July 18th at 12 noon for a work/life session. This informative session will take place in Cabell Library, 901 Park Avenue, Room 250 on the VCU Monroe Park campus. You can learn more about this session and sign up here!

DON’T FORGET ABOUT OUR JULY SPECIAL! If you get a co-worker or colleague to sign up for a session and come with you – you will both get a delicious reward!



People Matter More than Things!

Exciting news about Weight Watchers!

The Commonwealth of Virginia and WW (Weight Watchers Reimagined) are proud to partner together to help you improve you well-being! The WW discounted pricing for employees enrolled in a state health plan is changing as of July 1, 2019. This special pricing is for VCU employees.

If you are a VCU Health System employee you can find out more about your special pricing below!

VCU employees who participate in the Commonwealth of Virginia’s “Weight Watchers at Work” program meet weekly on each campus. Meetings are held by a WW wellness coach and usually last about 30 to 45 minutes.  Members are encouraged to attend, however, if schedule conflicts occur, members can stop by to weigh in or attend a community meeting.

On-Campus Meetings

Monroe Park Campus
Meetings are held on Tuesdays beginning at 12:15 p.m. in Harris Hall, room 5173.

MCV Campus
Meetings are held on Tuesdays (see schedule below). All meetings are held in Sanger Hall, Room 1-038.

MCV On-Campus Meetings
11 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. confidential weigh-in
11:15 to 11:45 a.m. meeting and discussion

Special Weight Watchers pricing is available to both VCU and VCU Health System employees:

For university employees eligible for health care coverage:
Sign up for the monthly Weight Watchers’ pass by visiting and entering Company ID 63569. New members may join anytime using the monthly pass. To search for a meeting, log on at the link above and enter zip code 23284 (for Monroe Park Campus meetings) or 23298 (for MCV Campus meetings).

Special pricing is available for state employees, spouses and adult dependents. Effective July 1st you will no longer need to submit reimbursement forms. The reimbursement program has been replaced with a new subsidy program. You can see more information on the DHRM Weight Watchers page.

Questions? Contact Cindi Phares at (804) 828-1521 or

For VCU Health System employees:
VCU Health employees can sign up for the monthly Weight Watchers’ pass by visiting and entering Company ID 11341635 and Passcode WW11341635. Since the on-campus meetings are not listed on the portal, just sign up for any meeting location and bring the monthly pass with you to the on-campus meeting.  (Please note that you will be asked to enter your workplace information.  Choose “Employee” as the type and use your hospital windows login ID as the ID requested.) Questions regarding the VCU Health Weight Watchers enrollment should be directed to Sharon Jahn at (804) 827-1689 or

All employees are invited to the below complimentary Weight Watchers webinars.

Please use our Weight Watchers Company IDs to sign up. VCU (63569), VCU Health (11341635).

When: Available On Demand (25 minutes)
Topic: Introducing WW Freestyle™ Webinar to Employees
Register Here:

As a continued wellness service, Weight Watchers is offering live, interactive webinars hosted by WW.

Please feel free to participate in these complimentary webinars (you do not need to be current WW members).

Click here to register for any of these webinars, and to view previously recorded webinars on demand.

If you are unable to attend during the times offered, please register anyway and then you will be sent a recorded link after the event to view at your convenience.

We’ve also updated many of our short videos, including WW – Weight Watchers Reimagined which discusses moving beyond weight to wellness.  These videos are great to use in your marketing efforts or to share directly with employees. Click here  to access our video gallery.

All upcoming and on-demand webinars can be found by visiting:


Funny Friday!

What the Science Really Says About Grilled Meat and Cancer Risk

Burgers, Fire, Grill, Grilling, Burgers

As backyard cookout season kicks into high gear, many people may be eyeing their sizzling burgers and dogs with suspicion. And for good reason: a number of studies published in the past two decades have turned up evidence that eating charred, smoked, and well-done meat could raise cancer risk—pancreatic, colorectal, and prostate cancers, in particular.

A 2010 review of the evidence on cancer and “well-done” meat, conducted by researchers at Vanderbilt University, concluded that “the majority of these studies have shown that high intake of well-done meat and high exposure to meat carcinogens, particularly HCAs, may increase the risk of human cancer.” Heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which some experts also refer to as heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAAs), are a class of chemical that forms in cooked red meat and, to a lesser extent, in poultry and fish, according to a 2011 study in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.

Another class of chemicals, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), has also been linked to cancer. “PAHs are formed when fat and juices from meat grilled directly over a heated surface or open fire drip onto the surface or fire, causing flames and smoke,” according to a fact sheet published by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). “The smoke contains PAHs that then adhere to the surface of the meat.” Even if meat isn’t charred or cooked at high temps, smoking meat can increase its levels of PAHs.

But there’s a lot of variance in how a given piece of grilled meat affects any individual person. “The concentrations of HAAs formed in cooked meats can vary by over 100-fold, depending on the type of meat, the method, temperature, and duration of cooking,” says Turesky. “In general, the highest concentrations of HAAs [are found] in well-done cooked meats, and in meats that are charred, such as by barbequing or flame broiling,”

Turesky’s research also indicates that a person’s genetic makeup may influence how they respond to the chemicals, and so “the risk of developing cancer for individuals who eat well-done meat may vary considerably,” he says.

Further, there’s mounting evidence tying the consumption of processed meats—such as hot dogs, bacon, and salami—with some of the same cancers studies have linked to grilled or well-done meat. It may be that individuals who eat a lot of charred steak or well-done burgers are also more likely than the average person to eat a lot of bacon or hot dogs. And so it could be the processed meat—not the blackened steak—that accounts for any increased cancer risks. “Sorting out what’s driving these associations is very hard,” says Dr. Stephen Freedland, director of the Center for Integrated Research in Cancer and Lifestyle at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Another challenge to the “grilled-meat-causes-cancer” narrative is that the real-world evidence linking the consumption of well-done meat to cancer is inconsistent. While that 2010 Vanderbilt study found “a majority” of studies have turned up a cancer connection, that majority was slim. Some studies have found evidence of increased cancer risk among people who eat a lot of grilled meat, but other studies have not found a significant association.

“Population studies have not established a definitive link between HCA and PAH exposure from cooked meats and cancer in humans,” according to the NCI. While studies in rodents indicate that these chemicals can cause cancer, “the doses of HCAs and PAHs used in these studies were very high—equivalent to thousands of times the doses that a person would consume in a normal diet,” the NCI’s fact sheet states.

Freedland’s take on the evidence is that eating a lot of charred meat—say, two to three meals a week for many years—could produce the kind of cellular damage that raises cancer risk. “But I don’t want people to be paranoid,” he says. “I worry a lot more about the desserts and soda people are having with their grilled meat.”

The sugar in these foods and drinks likely contributes to obesity, and obesity is a clear risk factor for cancer. “I think eating charred meat is probably not the best thing for you, but here and there, it’s probably okay,” Freedland says. He notes that grilling meat on tin foil and marinating it in herbs and spices may also reduce the development of potential carcinogens.


Grill, Meat, Barbecue, Grilled, Summer

Two Hours a Week in Nature Can Boost Your Health and Well-Being

New research has given credence to the age-old wisdom that spending time outside is good for you. A study recently published in Nature’s Scientific Reports journal found that people who spend at least 120 minutes in nature per week have higher odds of reporting better health and psychological well-being.

Researchers at the University of Exeter used data from almost 20,000 people in the UK who participated in a two-year survey funded by Natural England, which is the world’s largest effort to collect data on people’s weekly interactions with nature, according to The Guardian.

They found that people who spent two hours in nature were 23 percent more likely to report being satisfied with their life — a common well-being indicator — and were 59 percent more likely to report being in good health than those who had zero exposure to nature, Reuters reported.

Interestingly, the health benefits of getting at least 120 minutes of nature exposure each week persisted whether the threshold was met in one trip or multiple, and benefits increased for up to 300 minutes of exposure before plateauing. Additionally, the benefits seen after reaching 120 minutes applied widely to men and women of all ages, as well as across different ethnicities, socioeconomic status, and even those with long-term illnesses and disabilities.

“What really amazed us was that this was true for all groups of people,” lead author Dr. Mathew White of the University of Exeter Medical School told The New York Times.

Young Woman, Woman, Sea, Ocean

That said, people who did not get at least two hours in nature — even if they surpassed an hour per week — were not any more likely to say they were in good health than those who spent no time in natural spaces, White wrote in Quartz.

The researchers said the benefits could be tied to reduced stress from the tranquil setting or physical activities that are done outdoors, though the study wasn’t designed to look for specific reasons why the benefits exist. White also noted in his Quartz article that because the data was self-reported, it was possible that participants might not have accurately remembered their time in nature during the previous week or might have gotten nervous speaking about their health and well-being.

The study is the latest addition to a compelling body of evidence that doctors should consider handing out nature prescriptions to their patients — in fact, many in the U.S. and UK are doing so already. In March, a large Danish study found that living near nature as a child could reduce a person’s risk of mental illness as an adult. Other studies have revealed that the decades-old Japanese technique of “forest-bathing” has a range of health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, reduced disease risk and faster healing times.

The study didn’t count time spent in a person’s own yard or garden as time in nature, but the researchers said you don’t need to completely escape civilization each week to benefit.

“The majority of nature visits in this research took place within just two miles of home so even visiting local urban greenspaces seems to be a good thing,” Dr. White said in a press release. “Two hours a week is hopefully a realistic target for many people, especially given that it can be spread over an entire week to get the benefit.

The Road, Beams, Path, Forest, Nature

Why Spending Time With Friends Is One of the Best Things You Can Do for Your Health

When someone sets out to improve their health, they usually take a familiar path: starting a healthy diet, adopting a new workout regimen, getting better sleep, drinking more water. Each of these behaviors is important, of course, but they all focus on physical health—and a growing body of research suggests that social health is just as, if not more, important to overall well-being.

People, Three, Portrait, Black

One recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE, for example, found that the strength of a person’s social circle—as measured by inbound and outbound cell phone activity—was a better predictor of self-reported stress, happiness and well-being levels than fitness tracker data on physical activity, heart rate and sleep. That finding suggests that the “quantified self” portrayed by endless amounts of health data doesn’t tell the whole story, says study co-author Nitesh Chawla, a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Notre Dame.

“There’s also a qualified self, which is who I am, what are my activities, my social network, and all of these aspects that are not reflected in any of these measurements,” Chawla says. “My lifestyle, my enjoyment, my social network—all of those are strong determinants of my well-being.”

Chawla’s theory is supported by plenty of prior research. Studies have shown that social support—whether it comes from friends, family members or a spouse—is strongly associated with better mental and physical health. A robust social life, these studies suggest, can lower stress levels; improve mood; encourage positive health behaviors and discourage damaging ones; boost cardiovascular health; improve illness recovery rates; and aid virtually everything in between. Research has even shown that a social component can boost the effects of already-healthy behaviors such as exercise.

Social isolation, meanwhile, is linked to higher rates of chronic diseases and mental health conditions, and may even catalyze cellular-level changes that promote chronic inflammation and suppress immunity. The detrimental health effects of loneliness have been likened to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It’s a significant problem, especially since loneliness is emerging as a public health epidemic in the U.S. According to recent surveys, almost half of Americans, including large numbers of the country’s youngest and oldest adults, are lonely.

A recent study conducted by health insurer Cigna and published in the American Journal of Health Promotion set out to determine what’s driving those high rates of loneliness. Unsurprisingly, it found that social media, when used so much that it infringes on face-to-face quality time, was tied to greater loneliness, while having meaningful in-person interactions, reporting high levels of social support and being in a committed relationship were associated with less loneliness. Gender and income didn’t seem to have a strong effect, but loneliness tended to decrease with age, perhaps because of the wisdom and perspective afforded by years of life lived, says Dr. Stuart Lustig, one of the report’s authors and Cigna’s national medical executive for behavioral health.

Lustig says the report underscores the importance of carving out time for family and friends, especially since loneliness was inversely related to self-reported health and well-being. Reviving a dormant social life may be best and most easily done by finding partners for enjoyable activities like exercising,volunteering, or sharing a meal, he says.

“Real, face-to-face time with people [is important], and the activity part of it makes it fun and enjoyable and gives people an excuse to get together,” Lustig says.

Lustig emphasizes that social media should be used judiciously and strategically, and not as a replacement for in-person relationships. Instead, he says, we should use technology “to seek out meaningful connections and people that you are going to be able to keep in your social sphere. It’s easy enough to find groups such as Meetups, or to find places to go where you’ll find folks doing what you want to do.” That advice is particularly important for young people, he says, for whom heavy social media use is common.

Girls, Lying, Classic Car, Young, Female

Finally, Lustig stresses that even small social changes can have a large impact. Striking up post-meeting conversations with co-workers, or even engaging in micro-interactions with strangers, can make your social life feel more rewarding.

“There’s an opportunity to grow those kinds of quick exchanges into conversations and into more meaningful friendships over time,” Lustig says. “People should take those opportunities wherever they possibly can, because all of us, innately, are wired from birth to connect”—and because doing so may pay dividends for your health.




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