Geriatrician, Hospitalist, Patient Advocate, Healthcare Educator

25% of U.S. Adults Not Active Enough

“More than 1 in 5 adults is inactive in all but four states, according to new state maps of adult physical inactivity prevalence released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For these maps, physical inactivity for adults is defined as not participating in any physical activities outside of work over the last month – activities such as running, walking for exercise, or gardening.”

CDC released updated maps of America’s high levels of inactivity on January 20, 2022 and found that 25 % of U.S. adults are not active enough to protect their health.

This CDC study called the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System was conducted from 2017 to 2020 by telephone. Colorado, Washington, Utah, and Vermont were the most active states whereas the Southern states had the most inactivity noted.

What is really interesting about this is that this is prepandemic and we can only wonder how much worse the numbers got during the pandemic. It is also interesting to note that the southern states with the better weather in the winters fared worse than other states.

The take home message is that inactivity can lead to chronic illness such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, elevated cholesterol, etc. This in turn can lead to more serious issues such as strokes and heart disease.

Make your health a priority. Make time for some sort of activity, be it a walk, jog, gardening, at home exercises,or something else. Something is better than nothing. Even 10 minutes a day can make a BIG difference.

Standing Desks Do Have Benefits

Photo by TheStandingDesk

It can be hard to get that well needed activity our bodies require with long working hours. More and more people are getting standing desks, whether it be an add on to the work place or an adjustable sitting to standing desk. Standing desks provide health benefits that not many know about.

How long should you stand at a standing desk?

It is best to alternate between sitting and standing about every 30-60 minutes. Research shows that for every one to two hours sitting, it is ideal to spend about one hour standing.

Some of the benefits of standing desks

  • Improves posture, helps in lower back and neck pain
  • Helps keep your muscles and joints moving
  • Burns calories-men burn about an extra 0.2 calories per minute by standing and women an extra 0.1 calories per minute while standing as compared to sitting
  • Improves mood and energy levels
  • Improves mental focus and therefore work productivity
  • Can improve longevity by preventing sitting disease and all the bad outcomes associated with being sedentary. Standing has been linked to lower rates of heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes

What are the drawbacks of standing desks?

Standing desks can cause some leg and foot pain(because you are standing for longer periods of time), but some comfy shoes and/or a memory foam/antifatigue mat to stand on will help.

It may be nice to start pondering if that standing desk is something that would work for you, but the main take home point is to make it a point to take every opportunity you can to get up and stand or walk around to prevent sedentary behavior.

What Is Flurona?

Photo by Kelly Sikkema

Flurona describes infection with Covid and influenza at the same time. With more stricter masking guidelines last year, we were lucky not to see as many concurrent infections. Both the flu and covid infection spread via aerosol particles and can spread via cough, speaking, sneezing etc.

The symptoms are the same for both and overlap, including cough, runny/stuffy nose, weakness, muscle aches, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, sore throat, loss of taste and smell.

So, why is it important to be careful and prevent catching it?

As we know, both covid and influenza come with varying natures of infection and more serious infections with either can lead to hospitalization and death. Now, imagine, having them both, this could prove to be even more dangerous.

What can we do to prevent infections?

What we know works! Get vaccinated for both, wear well fitting masks, keep your distance from others, avoid crowds, stay in well ventilated places(open windows if need to) and keep up with hand hygiene.

Dry January

Photo by Ruud de Peijper

Dry January actually began as a public health initiative in the UK in 2012. Dry January challenge means no alcohol for the month of January and more people have taken it on over the years. More Americans report drinking more alcoholic drinks since the start of the pandemic for a variety of reasons.

Even abstaining from alcohol for a short duration will have health benefits.

  • Improve sleep
  • Lowers triglycerides
  • Improves metabolism
  • Contributes to weight loss
  • Improves immune function
  • Decreases cancer related growth factors
  • Improves insulin resistance
  • Improve blood pressure
  • Skin will look better
  • Improves mood

Some things you can do to make sure you complete the challenge:

  • Keep alcohol away from your sight
  • Try a substitute drink
  • Have a buddy who is also in for the challenge to keep you on track
  • Remember, if you lapse for a day, start it up again the next day.

For all of those that have tackled on “Dry January”, keep on with it, you are also getting in those health benefits. More than anything, this will give you a glimpse into your drinking pattern and how much self control you have.

New Year, New Goals

Photo by Tim Mossholder

The New Year is coming and with it the thoughts of what should be your New Year Resolution. Should it be one thing or a few things to work on? It has been shown that most New Year resolutions are short lived, we do better the first few weeks and then get tired and hit some stumbling blocks. It is good to pick something that you feel motivated to do and try to stick with it….even if you have some lapses.

Some healthy thoughts to consider:

Cut back on that sugar!

  • AHA recommends no more than 100 calories/day(6 teaspoons or 24 grams of sugar) for most women and no more than 150 calories/day (9 teaspoons or 36 grams of sugar) for most men
  • There is so much hidden sugar in foods we eat routinely such as juices, sodas, yogurts, etc
  • Cutting a small thing like soda out of your diet can make a big difference

Be vigilant of your salt intake

You should be eating less than 2300 mg/day, that is less than a teaspoon a day

Eat more fresh vegetables and fruits

Cut your portion size by half

  • Remember, most restaurants give a portion size than can feed 2 people, and a salt content that your body just doesn’t need

Try to make food at home if possible

  • This is the best way to know what is put in your food and you can be confident in what you eat

Exercise regularly

  • Choose something you enjoy and stick to it-take a walk, yoga, aerobics, treadmill
  • If you work at a desk all day, work on getting up frequently and moving around
  • Remember that sitting disease is not good

Schedule those health check-ups that are long overdue

Sleep better

  • Most people don’t get enough quantity or quality of sleep

Work on learning something new and enriching your knowledge

Work on getting that “Me time” in

  • Sometimes, taking some time for yourself to unwind is crucial, even if it is just an hour a week that you can spare, it will make you feel refreshed and more energic to take on your work and home obligations

Make “To Do” lists

  • It has been said that those that make “to do” lists get more accomplished and feel better about their day

Get organized!

  • Organize your desk, drawers, purse, closet, etc. It will make you find things easier and make your surroundings look visually appealing and provide an atmosphere of well-being

The options for making that one change this New Year are endless, but remember one tiny change can make a world of difference. So, what New Year’s resolution are you going to tackle?

Layering of Clothes Will Keep You Warm

Photo by Clark Street Mercantile

It’s winter…and it can get really cold out there. Layering of clothes is important to do in the cold. It is a term used to describe wearing garments on top of each other. When planning an outing in the snow or winter, you have to be prepared and pack accordingly.

So what are the basics of layering of clothes? Three layers is what is felt to be just right.

  • Inner layer-you need a base or inner layer which will keep the sweat off your skin
    • Synthetic material-something like polyester or polyamide, water resistant, dries quickly
    • Merino wool-natural material, good aborbent, prevents odors
  • Middle layer-this provides insulation to protect against the cold and retain body heat
    • Fleece, down, or synthetic jackets, fleece leggings
  • Outer layer-protects from outdoor elements such as rain or snow
    • Waterproof coats

Also, don’t forget the appropriate socks, gloves, hats, and scarves you may need depending on where you are off to. It is better to be prepared then not have the right amount and type of clothes. After all, you can always remove outer layers or decide not to wear them. The important thing is to enjoy those outings while staying warm and preventing yourself from getting sick during the winter.

All the Reasons Why You Should Do Push-ups

Photo by Ayo Ogunseinde

You may often hear of people talking of taking part in numerous activities (swimming, jogging, tennis, aerobics, yoga, etc), but not many people rave about doing push-ups on a regular basis. Push-ups are often an overlooked exercise, but something definitely worth considering.

There was a study published in JAMA in 2019 that should make everybody want to incorporate this into their workout mojo. This decade long study of male firefighters aged 18 and above found that those that could do more than 40 push-ups had a significant decrease in cardiovascular disease compared to those who could do 10 or fewer push-ups.

Benefits of push-ups

  • Target multiple muscles-arms, shoulders, core, and back
  • Improves strength-particularly upper body, they help strengthen biceps, triceps, and also abdominals
  • Enhances stamina
  • Does not require specific equipment and you can do it any time of the day at your convenience
  • Helps build muscle and tone, also strengthens joints
  • Improves posture and strengthen lower back
  • Improves flexibility
  • Stabilizes and conditions shoulder muscles
  • Gets your heart rate up allowing pumping of oxygen throughout your body
  • Considered weight bearing exercise so helps build bone density

Why You Should Eat Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Photo by Tom Hermans

There have been two recent studies that have come out that have concluded improved longevity for those who have diets with higher amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids.

What are Omega 3 Fatty acids?

  • They are essential fatty acids that you can only get from your diet.
  • The body uses omega-3 fatty acids to maintain cell function as well as an energy source.
  • There are 3 main types
    • ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) plant based source
    • DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) animal source
    • EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) animal source

Health benefits

  • Reduced risk of inflammatory diseases
  • Helps with depression and anxiety symptoms
  • Good for eye health
  • Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Helps with arthritis and reduces joint pain
  • Supports development of fetal brain during pregnancy and reduces incidence of preterm labor
  • Reduces premature aging of skin, reduces risk of acne

Foods that contain Omega 3 fatty acids

Fish oil, fatty fish, flaxseed, flaxseed oil, soybeans, canola oil, walnuts, chia seeds (Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil contrain 45-55% of fatty acids as ALA, walnuts contain about 5-10% of fatty acids as ALA).

Relevant studies

  • A study published in June 2021 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrtion tracked 2240 people over 11 years and omega-3 levels in the blood checked. It was found that nonsmokers with high omega-3 blood levels had highest survival estimate. Researchers concluded that those over the age of 65 years with higher omega-3 blood levels had a lower mortality rate.

  • A meta-analysis of 41 studies published in the British Medical Journal published on October 14, 2021 found that those with diets with higher levels of ALA had associations with overall lower mortality risk.

Indoor Activities for the Fall and Winter

Photo by Kelly Sikkema

As the weather becomes colder, it becomes more difficult to enjoy all those outdoor activities. Many people have a notable decrease in their activity level because of the weather. So what are some things that can be done indoors and still keep you working on your fitness?

  • Walking around the house
  • Hula hooping
  • Push ups
  • Jumping jacks
  • Running on the spot
  • Sit ups
  • Aerobics
  • Resistance bands
  • Weights
  • Lunges
  • Planks
  • Squats
  • Burpees
  • High knees
  • Leg raises
  • Climbing stairs
  • Yoga

Even if you don’t have a home gym or exercise machine, there are many things that can be done at home. There are a ton of videos online with exercise ideas and work outs, all it takes is effort and some determination.

Chocolate Does Come With Some Health Benefits

Photo by Louis Hansel

Who doesn’t love chocolate? We all have our favorites, be it milk, dark, white chocolate, or another. Most of us are also careful about our chocolate intake due to worries of the calories and sugar that come along with the chocolate bliss.

Mild chocolate and white chocolate have more calcium and protein because of more milk powder content but may also have more sugar. Luckily, chocolate, particularly dark, also comes with some health benefits.

  • Contain antioxidants-the darker the chocolate, the higher the concentration of cocoa and higher the level of antioxidants
  • Contain flavonoids which help stimulate blood flow
    • Increased blood circulation to scalp results in thicker hair
  • Natural source of magnesium (mineral essential for brain health)
    • Can help with concentration and alertness
    • Helps with pituitary gland function, lowers cortisol production, relieving stress and also stimulates serotonin production which makes you feel happy
  • Contains phenolics, an antioxidant that boosts the immune system
  • Can reduce bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein or LDL) and improved good cholesterol (HDL)

National Chocolate Day is on October 28th so don’t forget to enjoy a piece and don’t feel too guilty about it! Yes, it does has sugar and calories, but smart choices can be made, for example chocolate with nuts. Like everything else…moderation.