Geriatrician, Hospitalist, Patient Advocate, Healthcare Educator

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

The Great Clinician Resignation

Photo by Markus Frieauff

The great resignation has taken a grip of the nation with the pandemic having changed our priorities in life. About 5 million US workers have quit their jobs. In healthcare, it is estimated that about 20% left.

There was a recent study related to COVID-related stress and work intentions in a sample of US healthcare workers which surveyed clinical and nonclinical workers in about 30 states in both rural and urban settings starting April 2020 and found that 1/3 of workers planned to reduce work hours in the next 12 monthsa and about 1 of 5 physicians and 2 of 5 nurses were likley to leave their current practice within the next 2 years.

So, why are healthcare providers quitting such a noble profession? There are alot of factors that are fueling this “Great Clinician Resgination”. Overall, there is a decrease in reimbursement, rent is up, gas prices are up, staff wages are up(that is if you are lucky enough to find someone with the staff shortage and lucritive nursing traveling jobs out there) and physicians are burned out! Physicican satisfaction and burn out were already issues before the start of the pandemic but the pandemic pushed things to the brink.

Unfortunately, there is no easy fix to the situation. A supportive environment, improved work load, along with some recognition and respect for the work healthcare workers do on a daily basis would be nice but likely not enough. On an individual level, working on preventing burnout and stress by other outlets besides work such as music, exercise, cooking, and actually getting some time off would go a long way….

Headphones That Tackle Air Pollution Too!

This is a really innovative product Dyson has come up to tackle what many cities are facing-pollution! It is estimated that 9 out of 10 people live in urban areas worldwide and are affected by air pollution. Air pollution causes oxidative stress and inflammation in human cells which may lead to chronic diseases and cancer. In fact, air pollution has been classified as a human carcinogen by the World Health Organization. It is said to increase the risk for emphysema more than smoking one pack of cigarettes a day. It can affect every organ of the body and exacerbate existing health conditions. Reducing air pollution involves everbody doing their part. Some things that can be done include:

  • Buy a lower-polluting (zero emission) car if making a new purchase
  • Drive less
  • Energy conservation-turn off lights when not using them, replace light bulbs with energy friendly ones, use the fan instead of the air conditioning when feasible
  • Recylcle
  • Avoid outdoor walks and exercise during high pollution days, instead opt for indoor activity

COVID Nasal Spray in the Works

This study was published in Nature.

Researchers found that in mice, a molecule called N-0385 was effective in preventing and treating COVID infection when introduced 12 hours after exposure. A California company, EBVIA Therapeutics Inc. is now in the processing of raising funds to start human trials.

This study showed promising results, so we may just have a nasal spray in the mix for prevention and treatment in the future.

Female Physicians Earn Less Than Male Physicians

Per study published in Health Affairs December 2021:

“data from 80,342 full-time US physicians to estimate career differences in income between men and women….. Over the course of a simulated forty-year career, male physicians earned an average adjusted gross income of $8,307,327 compared with an average of $6,263,446 for female physicians—an absolute adjusted difference of $2,043,881 and relative difference of 24.6 percent. Gender differences in career earnings were largest for surgical specialists ($2.5 million difference), followed by nonsurgical specialists ($1.6 million difference) and primary care physicians ($0.9 million difference). These findings imply that over the course of a career, female US physicians were estimated to earn, on average, more than $2 million less than male US physicians after adjustment for factors that may otherwise explain observed differences in income, such as hours worked, clinical revenue, practice type, and specialty”

The researchers looked at self-reported salary data and found that from the first day of the job to the end of a 40 year career, female physicians made less money for the same job. This is a group of highly educated women who are as capable as their male counterparts. They have spent the same amount of money to get through medical school and also put in the same amount of time in vigourous medical training before practicing medicine. The gender pay gap across most industries is narrowing, unfortunately the same can not be said about the health care industry.

Frozen Foods Do Have Benefits

Photo by Devin Rajaram

March is frozen food month and a good time to highlight the many benefits of frozen foods.

  • Frozen foods do not require preservatives because microorganisms don’t grow below 15 degrees F or -9.5 degrees C
  • Frozen foods contain the same amount of nutrition as fresh foods(sometimes even more as fresh food put away in the refrigerator will lose nutrients with time). A 2 year study looked at the nutritional value of fresh versus frozen foods and found in some situations that frozen produce was more nutritious than its 5-day fresh-stored counterpart.
  • Cost is usually cheaper than fresh food
  • More convenient

Some things to pay attention to:

  • If you are freezing food, make sure to use freezer bags, using packaging not meant for freezing will invite bacteria inside
  • Read ingredients of what you get especially for ready made frozen meals. For example, you don’t want to stalk up on high sodium meals.

Garden fresh fruits and vegetables are awesome but not always feasible, especially for those of us who don’t live in tropical weather and have year long gardens. Eating healthy is important and choosing wisely what you eat can go a long way by forming good habits for you and your family.

The Lab Look at Frozen and Fresh Food

Take home message: Keep up with fruits and vegetables and don’t shy away from frozen fruits and vegetables….they are actually really good for you!

What to Do With Dry Skin?

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon

We have all experienced dry skin at some point or another, especially with cold weather. Now with the pandemic, continuous use of hand sanitizers and frequent hand washing have added to the problem. Dry skin can be one of the most annoying things but being proactive can help.

What is dry skin?

The top layer of skin is make of natural oils and fats which help trap the moisture to keep skin hydrated and soft. When the skin barrier is compromised by insults such as cold weather, frequent scrubbing, etc, hydration is lost leading to dry skin. The skin can crack, look rough, scaly, itchy, red, and literally feel dry. The medical term is known as xerosis or xeroderma.

Some of the causes:

  • Weather-cold, windy weather with low humidity
  • Too much bathing-hot showers, scrubbing your skin too much.
  • Frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitizers
  • Aging-as we age, our skin thins and produces less oil needed to retain moisture
  • Medical conditions-diabetes, hypothyroidism, dialysis patients


The crux of treatment of dry skin is prevention. Here are some things you can do

  • Wear protective clothing-hats, scarves, gloves. Avoid skin contact with wool which can be itchy.

  • Limit water exposure-who doesn’t love their hot long shows and baths….well, limiting shower/bath time to 5-10 minutes or less, bathing once a day, using warm water instead of hot water, and patting dry instead of rubbing dry, can prevent excess removal of natural body oils from your skin.

  • Be picky when choosing your soaps and cleansers-pick a moisturizing soap with no alcohol which is hypoallergenic and preferably fragrance free.

  • Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize

    • Throughout the day, all the time, this will hydrate the top most layer of your skin and seal in the moisture. Don’t forget the lips-use those chapsticks!
    • Apply moisturizing cream while your skin is still damp, about one minute after getting out of the shower to seal in the moisturizer
    • Look at the ingredients of your moisturizer, you want to chose something that attracts moisture and also seals in moisture
      • Attracts moisture-Humectants such as ceramides, glycerine, hyalurinc acid, and lecithin
      • Seals in moisture-petroleum jelly, petrolatum, silicone, lanolin, mineral oil ( Slugging is most commonly done with vaseline or aquaphor) Slugging refers to a term of applying a thick layer on the skin.
      • Smooths skin-emmollients such as linoleic, linolenic, and lauric acids
  • Drink lots of fluids-this has always been the key to nice, hydrated skin

  • Shave with lubricating agent in the direction of hair growth, moisturize afterwards generously

  • Be mindful of medications you are using-acne medications and retinol cause increased skin cell turnover causing dryness and flakiness

  • Use a humidifier during winter-it can help restore the moisture in the air in your house

  • Finally, don’t scratch, it will only makes things worse…

Of course dry skin won’t just go away, it will take time, but with some effort on your part, you may feel more comfortable in your skin….

Be Mindful of Your Food Choices

The study talked about is from Nature Food published in August 2021 by environmental health scientists from the University of Michigan. It looked at different food and the minutes of life that are potentially gained or lost when we eat them.

Again, the message remains to be mindful of what we eat and make smart choices! And don’t forget to laugh!!!

Foods That Can Increase Your Lifespan

This study published in PLOS Medicine February 8, 2022 looked at the affect of replacing a diet of processed food and meat with a diet consistent with fruits, nuts, grains, and vegetables. The Norway research team used existing data from more than 200 countries and territories from the Global Burden of Disase Study.

Some take home points:

  • Eat more nuts, lentils, whole grains, and vegetables
  • Eat less processed food and red meat
  • The earlier the diet is started, the more the benefit and will increase your life span the most(sometimes up to 13 years), but even starting at an older age will increase your life span
  • It may be hard to start this diet overnight, but you can start with baby steps. Start by incorporating a handful of nuts a day, picking a blackbean burger over a cheeseburger, or incorporating something like lentil soup to your meal plan for the week…..after all Rome was not built in a day, but it did eventualy get built.