Health and Fitness

Aging Well

Did you know that September is “Healthy Aging Awareness Month”? It’s a great idea and I never knew that it existed. I do think, that all 12 months of the year should be healthy aging awareness months.

Healthy aging practices will improve your life expectancy as well as the quality of your life. This is more important than ever. The growth in the number of older adults continues to accelerate. In 2014, 14.5% of the US population was age 65 or older. This will rise to 23.5% of the United States population or 98 million people over the next 40 years.

There are a few basic Healthstyle tips that are easy to follow which will provide great dividends over time. With regards to diet, listen to your mom and eat your vegetables. Particularly raw vegetables. They provide a myriad of health benefits including improving your gut flora and they act as an antioxidant which may counter the aging process at the cellular level.

Eat foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such as fatty fish. Eat beans and nuts. Substitute olive oil whenever possible. Avoid all processed food and processed carbohydrates and processed meats as well as sugar. Obviously avoid tobacco and if you drink alcohol, try to average less than one drink per day for women and less than two drinks per day for men.

When we are young, we so often I think of aging as only a few years down the road. To truly have a long healthy lifestyle, you need to have a long-term mindset of more than 30 years. This maintain means maintaining your posture, strength and flexibility throughout your life by doing strengthening and flexibility exercises as well as protecting your back joints, skin and organs.

Live a healthy and active life today for a healthy and active life tomorrow.

Stay well!

Health and Fitness

Yoga and Low Back Pain

During this pandemic, many people are discovering new and creative ways to exercise and stay in shape. With the gyms closed, we are forced to exercise at home and in our neighborhoods, using the equipment we have and our body weight for resistance.

Like so many adults, I have suffered from intermittent back pain and sciatica. Mine begin with a lifting injury. I lifted an extremely heavy bag of leaves with an awkward posture and immediately felt back pain running down my left leg.

Over the past couple years I have continued to exercise at the gym doing weight lifting and aerobics. Although it greatly improved my strength and aerobic capacity, my flexibility suffered and I continued to have pain.

This past month, I began a 30 minute daily yoga routine. I have tried yoga intermittently over the years and if I am a big proponent of the concept of balance, core strengthening, body weight and flexibility exercises. They are great way to improve strength flexibility and decrease pain. I found a great online program that I’ve been able to do pretty much every day. I always feel better after I’m done.

Dr. Lauren Elson, instructor in Medicine at Harvard medical school has a great quote. It really sums up the benefits of yoga. She says “Remember that the stretching and lengthening yoga movements are often what your low back needs to feel better, so don’t be afraid to give it a try. By mindfully practicing yoga, people can safely improve their mobility and strength while stretching tight and aching back muscles.“

Yoga can provide lifelong benefits with regards to posture, strength, balance, mobility, and posture. I encourage you to add it to your exercise routine. You won’t regret it.

Stay well!

Health and Fitness

The COVID-19 Pandemic and Nursing Homes

As a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Physician, I work in skilled nursing facilities. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 virus has victimized many nursing home residents.

Nursing facilities really are not well equipped to handle a pandemic such as the COVID-19. By design, people are close together and most of them are over 65 years old. Approximate 85% of deaths have occurred in nursing homes in people over 65 years old. Many of them are frail and are not able to fight off the infection.

The New York Times has found the number of people living in or connected to nursing homes who have died of the coronavirus to be at least 7000. Approximate 1/5 of all deaths from the COVID-19 virus in United States has been related to nursing homes or other long-term care facilities. When people are in confined settings, it is far too easy for the infection to be spread from room to room. This reinforces the importance of wearing masks and using screening and cleaning activities to prevent further spread

The other tragedy that has occurred is the necessary social isolation. Personal interaction with family and loved ones is precious to nursing home residents. Phone calls, conversations through the windows, and FaceTime visits are not an equal substitute for personal contact, but go along way to ease loneliness. Caring is the most important part of healthcare.

Stay well!

Health and Fitness

The Six Dimensions of Wellness

The six dimensions of wellness are: physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, environmental and social. Health and wellness or more then how you feel physically, or simply the absence of disease.

During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been ending all of my correspondences with “Stay well!“ To stay truly well, we need to consider all six dimensions above.

To remain physically well, remember that you should achieve at least 150 minutes of moderately intense aerobic activity per week and two sessions of strength training per week. This will help maintain your strength and readiness to work. It will burn stress and reduce anxiety. It well even improve your immune system and help prevent disease.

Emotional wellness relies on being able to compassionately and empathetically listen to others as well as being present and in touch with your own thoughts and feelings.

Spiritual wellness comes with a realization there is a force in the universe much bigger than us. That there is something more than the ego and the self and that we should all be willing to pray to our respective Gods to ask for strength and guidance.

I know that we have all been guilty of binge watching to some degree during this pandemic. Don’t forget however to mix in some mental exercises. Embrace life long learning, intellectual wellness and problem-solving.

I could write a book about the environmental determinants of health and wellness. In short, a healthy work and living environment translates to a healthy life. It is clear to see now that an infectious virus in our environment is a detriment to all of the determinants of our health.

Social wellness is about communicating and interacting with others in a healthy manner. Over the past several weeks, we have had to be creative to keep those people that we love involved socially in our lives. Although it is not a perfect substitute to physical closeness with friends and family, videoconferencing has proved to bring many people together virtually that otherwise have not been included in their lives.

Stay well!

Health and Fitness

Where to go to receive care

A potential positive consequence of this COVID-19 pandemic is that health behaviors of patients and healthcare providers may change for the better. In particular, it is hoped that consumers will take a more educated and cautious approach to where they seek care.

Ironically, in the midst of this healthcare crisis, emergency departments are seeing fewer patients. Emergency departments ideally exist to care for emergencies. These include conditions such assuch as seizures, broken bones, head injuries, chest pain, weakness or numbness on one side of your body, or other serious medical conditions that are likely to require hospital admission.

Historically, emergency medical personnel will tell you stories however, of patients presenting to emergency departments for minor ailments such as sore throat, cough, simple rashes or long-standing social issues.

Because of concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been staying away from emergency departments. I’ve heard more than one emergency department Physician comment that “now we are truly treating emergency patients.”

Ideally, your health healthcare is directed by your primary care physician. Staying healthy is best done with the expert help of a primary care physician that knows you and your medical history.

They are able to treat you more holistically. They are able to consider psychosocial, physical, and medical conditions that would affect your health much more than an emergency department physician seeing you for one brief visit.

If our system shifts even subtly from one of brief episodic sick care to lifelong “health“ care, we will come out of this COVID-19 pandemic stronger than ever.

Stay well!