expert health advice

Stefanie M. Park, M.D.
Marlene Nakamoto
January 25, 2023
health

At HMSA, we are so fortunate to work with a variety of clinical sources such as physicians, dentists, and pharmacists. We rely on their expertise to guide our decisions and policies.  

There’s a wealth of knowledge here at HMSA and in our participating provider network. But do they practice what they preach? Absolutely. Here are some of their tips that we’d like to share with you.  

Solomon Brotman, D.D.S.
Chief Clinical Officer, HMSA Dental

My brother-in-law had never had a cavity on the surfaces between his teeth but there were very early cavities on 14 teeth. We recommended a fluoride mouthwash and daily flossing, which he did very well. Forty years later, none of those teeth have had to be filled.

Richelle Cardwell, PharmD
Clinical Pharmacist, HMSA

The nutrition tip I live by and try to empower my kids with is “eat in color.” I like to think of food as my medicine. Everything in moderation and eating a variety of foods (preferably every color of the rainbow) is key. That way, there aren’t too many restrictions that can sometimes lead to overindulgence. It also makes trying new things more fun. 

Rupal Gohil, M.D.
Medical Director, HMSA

You can still get a significant benefit of a plant-based diet without completely cutting out meats and dairy. Instead, proportionately cut back on such foods and increase your intake of fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and legumes. Keep in mind that nutrition isn’t the only factor in preventing illness, but it does play a large role. 

Kristi Lopez, M.D.
Gastroenterologist and Medical Director, HMSA 

I had issues and bad habits that led me to tipping the scales at over 200 pounds. As a gastroenterologist, I knew what I needed to do but never made the effort to do it. After making some lifestyle modifications such as increasing my water intake, eating six small meals a day, eliminating sugar and other high-glycemic carbohydrates, and getting more sleep, I’ve created an environment in which I can thrive and be the best wife, mom, and doctor and care for people with an attitude of excellence.

Mark M. Mugiishi, M.D., F.A.C.S.
President and Chief Executive Officer, HMSA

Make sure you partake in lots of “chicken soup for the soul.” That means finding balance in your life to make time for the things that are meaningful to you, rejuvenate you, and make you happy. For me, it can be as simple as watching a movie in a theater with a bag of popcorn, binge watching the next best miniseries, or going to Dave and Buster’s on Sunday morning to watch every single NFL game. The specifics are unique to every person, but creating the balance in your life to feel healthy and refreshed is universally beneficial.

Michael Nishime, D.D.S.
Dental Director, HMSA 

In addition to brushing and flossing, my advice is to clean your tongue daily. Using a tongue cleaner will remove countless bacteria that live on the rough top surface of your tongue. These bacteria contribute to bad breath and can negatively affect your dental health.

Stefanie M. Park, M.D.
Vice President, Chief Medical Officer, HMSA

I schedule my workouts as if they were important meetings and treat the time as a personal priority. Each healthy day is a blessing. Having an accountability partner is another key to success. Knowing that you have to answer to someone else for not showing up makes it so much more difficult to cancel. My last tip is to change your attitude about exercising. Look at the workout as something you “get” to do (to make your body healthier, to relieve stress, to get stronger, to be the best version of yourself) as opposed to something you “have” to do.  

Cindy Pau, M.D.
Endocrinologist, Consulting Medical Director, HMSA

To control diabetes, remember that food and exercise are medicine – the better you eat and the more active you are, the fewer medications you’ll need. If you have diabetes, you’re running on alternative fuel. You can eat carbohydrates (in moderation), but try to have them shortly before 30 minutes of aerobic exercise so that your muscles can quickly use them up and remove them from your blood. Stress makes it difficult to treat diabetes, so find a way to reduce stress. Finally, you don’t have to be perfect. Just try to have more good eating, exercise, and lower-stress days than bad ones.

Andrew Perry, M.D.
Senior Medical Director, Member Advocacy and Appeals, HMSA

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 42. I switched from long outdoor runs to weightlifting. In addition to helping prevent low blood sugar, building muscle helps insulin work better. Weightlifting can help people cope with traumatic events ranging from motor vehicle crashes to a life-changing diagnosis like type 1 diabetes. Since trauma is associated with fear and powerlessness, physically “pushing back” with weights appears to help many trauma survivors feel stronger emotionally, calmer, safer, and more grounded. 

Jeffrey Tom, M.D.
Clinical Systems Director, Corporate Strategy, HMSA

I started running in 2020 when I was working from home due to COVID-19. To be honest, running was not my preferred exercise. Within a month and running for only 30 minutes a couple times a week, I needed significantly less caffeine to help me concentrate. This was huge for me! Two and half years later, I’m still running and have even started to enjoy it. My blood pressure has come down and my good cholesterol (HDL) has increased. As long as you check with your doctor, you might want to try running. 

James Westphal, M.D.
Vice President, Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

My medical specialty is psychiatry. During my career, I focused on mental illness and diagnosed and treated patients with medications and psychotherapy. Recently, I became aware of a different perspective known as mental well-being. Several months ago, I started a gratitude journal. Every night before I go to bed, I think about what I was grateful for during the day, write it down, and reflect on it. This practice relaxes me before sleep. I also found that I’m experiencing more positive emotions. If you have children or a significant other, share your gratitude with them each evening. 

Brian Wu, M.D.
Medical Director, Medical Management, HMSA

Has someone ever encouraged you to exercise regularly, eat healthy, and reduce your stress? Easy to say, hard to do, right? I’m a pediatric pulmonologist (kid’s lung doctor) and some of my patients can be really sick for much of their life. The families sometimes seem superhuman, caring for these kids on top of the things everyone else has to do. You can’t help but be inspired and work extra hard. I’ll never forget one night, while checking up on one of my medically fragile patients, I must have looked unhealthy. The parent said to me, “If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others.” No excuses, no matter what: Don’t neglect your physical and mental health.

Check out this video for more health advice from experts at HMSA:

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