Geriatrician, Hospitalist, Patient Advocate, Healthcare Educator

All the Reasons to Eat Avocados

Photo by Gil Ndjouwou

Over the years avocado consumption has increased in the world. July 31st is National Avocado Day and is a good time to reiterate all the health benefits this fruit offers.

  • Source of vitamins B, C, E, K, folate
  • Has Omega 3 fatty acids so can help fight against Alzheimer’s
  • Targets insulin resistance with heart-healthy fats
  • Has high oleic acid content which is a moisturizing fatty acid-helps keep skin soft and hydrated
  • Has potassium to keep blood pressure low
  • Contain the most protein and fiber of any fruit. Fiber is good for gut health.
  • Although high in calorie(about 300 calories in a 7-ounce avocado), they are packed with nutrients and make you feel full to help maintain healthy body weight

There was a recent study released where researchers followed avocado intake of around 110,000 people over a 20-year period that showed promising health benefits of avocados.

  • Those that ate 2 or more servings(1 serving equaled about 1 cup) of avocado each weak had a 16% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and 21% lower risk of coronary heart disease compared to those who rarely or never ate avocados.

  • Replacing half a serving of daily butter, cheese, eggs, margarine, yogurt, or processed meats with avocado was associated with a 16-22% lower risk of cardiovascular disease

So, lots of reasons to have avocados, put them in burgers, make guac, add them to salads, enjoy avocado toasts, dump them in your tacos and burritos, etc…Get creative, it just may reduce your risk for heart disease.

Enjoy Those Watermelons

Photo by Sahand Babali

It’s summer and July, and it is National Watermelon Month. Watermelons makes us think about summer get-togethers, picnics, and the sweet, cold, refreshment watermelons allow in the heat of the summer. It originated from Southern Africa but has found it’s way throughout the world.

We are all asked to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and watermelon is considered both a fruit and a vegetable that does have health benefits. Watermelon consists of the pulp which is the juicy center and the watermelon rind which is the tough exterior which keeps the juicy interior safe.

  • It is a fruit(created using the pollination method) and is also a vegetable(part of botanical family of gourds)
  • Provides hydration-consists of 92% water and also has the electrolyte potassium and therefore can help get rid of muscle cramps in those who have been working out
  • Contains vitamins Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and B6
  • Contains lycopene(antioxidant)
  • Has no fat or cholesterol(fat-free)
  • It is high in fiber

Enjoy your watermelon slices, smoothies, ice cubes, cocktails. Also, don’t forget to enjoy watermelon rind-there are a lot of recipes for watermelon rind worth trying out, especially in the instant pot. Than you can definitely say you had the watermelon as a fruit and a vegetable….

Healthy Summer Tips

Photo by Jared Rice

It’s summer and we are all getting some sun…that’s great!!! We do all, however, have to be mindful of taking care of ourselves in the heat and protecting ourselves from the sun.

Some Healthy Summer Tips

1) Drink plenty of water

  • An average of Eight 8 oz glasses a days
  • The benefits of water are mulitude

2) ALWAYS put on sunscreen

  • Apply about 30 minutes before sun exposure and re-apply every 2 hours
  • SPF of 15 or higher with broad spectrum coverage

3) Use sunglasses

  • Will protect eyes agains UV damage and also prevent cataracts

4) Wear protective hats/clothing

  • Cotton or linen, long sleeve, loose clothing
  • Wear light colored clothes-dark colors absorb more UV light than lighter colors such as whites and pastels

5) Stay active

  • Take advantage of the weather, go on walks, hikes, watch those sunsets…

6) Take advantage of the fresh fruits and vegetables

7) Get plenty of rest and sleep

  • Longer daylight hours in summer cause less melatonin secretion which may account for early rising and less sleep
  • The heat can be exhausting

Electronic Tatoos and Blood Pressure Monitoring

Per Nat Levy, The University of Texas Cockrell School of Engineering, and Alleynah Veatch Cofas in UT News, “Blood pressure e-tattoo promises continuous, unobtrusive monitoring”

“Blood pressure is one of the most important indicators of heart health, but it’s tough to frequently and reliably measure outside of a clinical setting. For decades, cuff-based devices that constrict around the arm to give a reading have been the gold standard. But now, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University have developed an electronic tattoo that can be worn comfortably on the wrist for hours and deliver continuous blood pressure measurements at an accuracy level exceeding nearly all available options on the market today.”

We have had a ton of advancements in recent years with smartwatch monitoring with light based sensors but accuracy has been hard to acertain as watches slide around the wrist.

This development would be of importance in the monitoring of blood pressure in a patient outside of the office to capture blood pressue doing routine activity including times of high stress and sleeping and help in adjusting medications to get better blood pressure control.

Something to watch for in the future….but if you’ve got elevated blood pressure, remember to do your part…monitor your blood pressure with what we know works and is available, keep a blood pressure log, and take this in for your next doctor’s appointment.

Find a Practice to Practice

A summary of the lessons discussed by Emily Saul:

Lesson #5 - Let obstacles become opportunities, challenges are opportunities to learn

Lesson #4 - Not doing something perfectly successful does not mean you are failing, every little step is part of the bigger goal

Lesson #3 - Motivation is directly related to meaning, frame your challenge around something that has purpose in your life

Lesson #2 - If you want to keep doing something, make it regular and give it structure. And if you want to keep enjoying something, make it unusual and give it variety

Lesson #1 - If there is something that inspires you and has has meaning to you, find the version that works for you and then practice being good at it day after day

Find your practice(noun) and practice(verb) it!

Physical Activity and Stroke Risk

Photo by Arek Adeoye

A new study published in JAMA June 3, 2022, suggests that more time spent being physically active, especially at moderate intensities, and less time spent being sedentary, particularly in longer bouts, may help reduce the risk of stroke.

The study involved 7607 adults who were 45 years and older from May 2009 to January 2013 with black adults and those residents of the southeastern states in the stroke belt oversampled. The study was done with the use of an accelerometer.

Findings include:

  • Those that took part in moderate to vigorous physical activity 25 minutes per day or 175 minutes a week had a 43% lower risk of stroke.
  • Those that had a sedentary time of 13 hours or more had a 44% higher risk of stroke. Larger amount of sedentary time of 17 hours or more was associated with a 54% higher risk of stroke.

In conclusion:

  • Those that were sedentary had the highest risk of stroke.
  • The more physically active, the lower the risk.
  • Replacing sedentary time with 4 to 5 hours of light-intensity physical activity or short bouts of moderate to vigorous activity can reduce stroke risk.

The key point from this study is that moving more and sitting less can reduce stroke risk.

Here are some helpful tips to prevent being sedentary and being labeled as having “sitting disease”

  • Stand or walk every chance you get! If you can talk on the phone standing or walking, do it
  • Look into a standing desk, treadmill desk, or bike desk as an addition to your office space if space permits. If you can work on your kitchen island standing for 30 minutes, take the opportunity
  • Take a break from sitting every 30 minutes or so and stand up and stretch. Set a reminder or alarm if you need to.
  • Listen to an audible book and take a walk instead of sitting down to read a book
  • Get up and walk during TV commercials
  • If you are going to play video games, try to incorporate some active video games

Retirement Healthcare Cost and Inflation

Per Javier Simon in “Today’s High Inflation Will Increase Retirement Health Care Costs…Forever” published in Money on March 17, 2022.

“Record inflation isn’t just hitting Americans at the supermarket and at the pump. It’s also driving up health care costs, and the current spike will have a lasting effect on retirement medical expenses even after inflation returns to normal levels, a new study finds.

The study of HealthView Services projects that health care inflation will remain elevated at an annual 11.9% over the next two years. This means that a healthy 65-year-old couple will have to spend an additional $85,917 on lifetime medical expenses over what they would if inflation had stayed at the historic norm. For a 55-year-old couple, those figures nearly double to $160,712. And for a 45-year-old couple, the extra lifetime costs jump to $259,808, according to HeathView Services, a Danvers, Mass.-based company that provides health care cost data to financial advisors. ”

The study is alarming to everyone! For those that are already retired, they did not have time to plan for this and already healthcare premiums have gone up as will other healthcare costs. The geriatric population is one that as a country we should be taking care of as most other countries do with universal health care and other services.

For those who are not retired yet, this means lots more saving and investing to plan for these increased costs in the future…

Enjoy Those Mangoes

Photo my Desirae Hayes-Vitor

Although native to Southern Asia, especially India, mangoes are the most widely consumed fruit worldwide. They are also commonly grown in Southern USA, Mexico, and the Caribbean. June is Mango month and a good time to enjoy this nutritious fruit and come up with interesting recipe ideas. Mangoes are considered superfruits. One whole mango is about 200 calories, but a serving size is about ¾ cup which is 70 calories. One serving contains 1 gram of protein, 2 grams of fiber, 19 grams of carbohydrates, is fat free, sodium free, and cholesterol free.

Health benefits of Mangoes

  • Rich in antioxidants as it contains beta-carotene causing yellow-orange color of fruit
  • Supports health health-has magnesium and potassium, lowers blood pressure, contains a compound called mangiferin which reduces inflammation of the heart
  • Rich in vitamins
    • Vitamin C -provides about 50% of daily recommended dose, reduces signs of aging skin, provides a glow to skin, helps with immunity and also promotes wound healing
    • Vitamin A-single serving has 8% of daily dose of vitamin A, helps in eye health
    • Vitamin K- helps your blood clot effectively
    • Folate-important for healthy cell division and DNA duplication
    • Vitamin B6-helps with metabolism, brain health, and immune function
  • Contains carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin which protect the eye from sunlight and also blue light from digital devices
  • Helps in digestion as has fiber content
  • Helps with weight loss-makes you feel fuller for longer

Of note, mango skin contains urushiol which is also found in poison ivy. Mango skin contains less urushiol than poison ivy but we do need to be aware of contact dermatitis, or rashes and allergic responses that can occur, especially when peeling the fruit. However, this is rare.

Mango month is a perfect time to incorporate mangoes into our diet. Some ideas are:

  • smoothies
  • shakes
  • jam
  • ice cubes to add to water and cocktails
  • grilled mango
  • salsas
  • salads

What Is the Stroke Belt?

Interesting enough where you live in the United States may put you at a higher risk for strokes. The stroke belt or stroke alley consists of the Southeastern United States and has been associated with higher stroke prevalence. The rate of stroke is about 30% to 40% higher in this region. These include the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Per Twenty years of progress toward understanding the Stroke Belt, some of the contributers to the stroke belt included:

  • Poor dietary intake-fried foods, meats, processed food, added fats, sugar-sweetened beverages, bread
  • Higher risk factor burden
  • Higher levels of inflammation and infection
  • Lower socio-economic status
  • Lifestyle choices

About 80% of strokes are preventable and working on preventing and treating the risk factors such as diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity is important. Also, recognizing the signs of stroke and seeking medical attention quickly can make a difference.

May is stroke awareness month and therefore is a good time to evaluate what can be done to reduce the risk of stroke… be it getting back to losing weight, eating healthier, taking medications consistently, or watching that sugar intake. What we do today can change our tomorrow for the better.

Ease Your Stress

Photo by Joshua Woroniecki

There is always something or another going on, and what is life without stress, right? Stress can motivate us to do better and has been associated with better peformance at times. However, stress can have an impact on our mental and physical health. Stress is caused by stressors that are a part of our lives on a daily basis such as work related stress, financial stress, relationship stress, and the list continues….

How does stress affect your body?

Stress can cause decreased sleep, memory issues, weakened immune system, digestive issues, muscle tension, and low energy. Chronic stress can have long term effects such as elevated blood pressure, increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Everybody reacts to the same stressor differently and deals with stress differently. Stress is unavoidable in life, but it is important to identify the stressors in life and develop a strategy to reduce it’s effects on our physical and mental health.

Some of the things that can help relieve stress:

  • Self care-you know your body best and what you need to do to take care of it, be it listen to music, small weekend get-away, a scenic walk, etc
  • Exercise-body releases endorphins which help with your mood
  • Healthy diet-limit processed food, try to eat a nutrient-dense diet
  • Meditate
  • Do something creative-cook, write, art, music
  • Spend time with loved ones
  • Get plenty of sleep/rest
  • If nothing else, go and enjoy a beautiful sunset