Geridoc

Geriatrician, Hospitalist, Patient Advocate, Healthcare Educator

Benefits of Lemon Juice

Photo by Tom Paolini

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade…..or lemon water….

Through the years, more and more people have been flavoring their water with fruits such as lemon in order to drink more water and/or drink less sugary drinks like soda and juices. National Lemon Juice Day is observed on August 29th and a good time to review the benefits of lemons. Lemons are for the most part consumed via the lemon juice they produce. Fresh lemon juice is popularly used in a variety of drinks and foods.

What are some of the benefits of lemon juice?

Good source of Vitamin C

  • Heart healthy and reduce risk of heart disease and stroke
  • Helps your immune system and fights off colds
  • Enhances iron absorption
  • Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Improves skin health, reduces skin wrinkling, dry skin, promotes collagen synthesis

Flavonoid

  • Has anti-inflammatory effects
  • Plant compounds found in lemons, hesperidin and diosmin, have been shown to lower cholesterol

Prevents kidney stones

Citrate, a compound of citric acid prevents kidney stones by increasing urine pH making it less acidic which may even break up small stones and increasing urine volume to provide an unfavorable environment for kidney stone formation

Freshens breath

Promotes hydration

  • By adding lemon to your water, you are adding nutrients and vitamins and also allowing yourself to drink more water.

Good for digestion

  • Soluble fiber pectin, main fiber in lemons, can slow the digestion of starches and sugars and may decease blood sugar levels
  • Pectin can cause you to feel fuller for longer so helps promote weight loss

What is the downside of lemon juice?

  • Citric acid can erode tooth enamel, damage teeth, and cause mouth sores
  • Drink lemon water with straw so less contact with oral cavity

How to best utilize lemon juice?

  • Use fresh lemon juice not artificial lemon juice from a bottle
  • Make ice cubes with freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Mix freshly squeezed lemon juice in either warm water with some honey-this will help kill bacteria
  • Mix freshly squeezed lemon juice in cold water with ice cubes and enjoy a refreshing drink
  • Avoid adding sugar in your drinks, instead add other ingredients like honey or mint

More Herbs, Less Salt

Photo by Kevin Doran

It’s summer and it is the best time to enjoy fresh herbs from your garden. Herbs, be it basil, cilantro, oregano, parsley, mint, chives, thyme, or another, not only flavor your culinary dishes but bring with it a ton of health benefits that should compel us to take advantage of.

National More Herbs, Less Salt Day comes on August 29 of every year reminding us that a way to eat less salt is by eating more herbs so the flavor and taste are not compromised but actually better.

Herbs contain protective polyphenols which are plant compounds with antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory effects. Regular use of polyphenols will help in brain health, digestion, arthritis, and protect against chronic diseases such as heart disease. In addition, several herbs such as cilantro, chives, and parsley contain vitamins A, C, and K. This helps in boosting immunity, fighting off colds, preventing osteoporosis, and help in eye health.

Eating too much salt has been associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, heart failure, stroke, fluid retention, kidney disease, and osteoporosis. The American Heart Association recommends less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day and ideally moving towards a lower goal for most adults. One teaspoon of salt contains about 2,325 mg of sodium which means you have to consume less than one teaspoon a day to reach that goal. The average Americans eats about 3,400 mg of sodium per day. This means that there is definitely room for improvement.

So, how do we attempt to cut down on that salt? Flavor your meals with herbs and spices to keep the flavor and taste but without compromising on your health. There are so many enticing recipes to make with herbs and you can get creative. For instance, make pesto, salad dressings, pasta, tabbouleh salad, chimichurri sauce, flavor butter, infuse olive oil, blend into smoothies, and so much more.

If you have a herb garden, that’s great, if not, get some fresh herbs. Yes, restaurant food tastes good, but it also has a high sodium content. Cooking at home ensures we know what we are eating and helps us make that conscious attempt to put less salt in your food and incorporate more healthier ingredients. Your future body will thank you!

Thoughtfulness and Your Health

Photo by Kelly Sikkema

“Be Somebody Who Makes Everybody Feel Like A Somebody” - Brad Montague

August 28th is National Thoughtful Day. This day brings to attention the needs and feelings of our loved ones. Being thoughtful and kind to those around us not only gives them a “pick me up” and happiness but also has health benefits for us.

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless” - Mother Teresa

Benefits of being thoughtful:

We feel better about ourselves and happier because of the release of “feel good chemicals”

  • Release oxytocin which in turn is a hormone which releases nitric oxide, a chemical which dilates blood vessels and helps in lowering blood pressure
  • Releases dopamine which helps in positive thinking
  • Boosts your serotonin, a neurotransmitter, which causes you a feeling of well-being and satisfaction

Bringing a smile to someone’s face will bring a smile to yours because laughter is contagious

Eases anxiety and reduces stress

Helps you connect better with people

  • Creates better relationships at work and home and reduce stress
  • Helps to deal with difficult people (you being kind makes it hard for others to be anything but kind back)

Improve our views about life in general, the community, and the world

Improves our emotional well-being and longevity

Kindness tends to come back around

  • Your act of thoughtfulness is remembered and also out there for everybody and the universe, it will find a way to come back in some way

Some ways to be thoughtful:

  • Reach out to a loved one you have not spoken to for a while
  • Help a neighbor, friend, or parent out with cleaning, baby-sitting, lawn mowing, snow shoveling
  • Drop off lunch or get flowers for someone
  • Thank people
  • Wish someone a good morning or ask how there day is going
  • Donate to library or good will
  • Volunteer
  • Pass on a book for another to read
  • Pay it forward-pay small acts of kindness forward

“Do things for people not because of who they are or what they do in return, but because of who you are” - Harold S. Kushner

COVID Variants

Photo by Fusion Medical Animation

With COVID cases increasing in the United States and elsewhere, schools opening, debate of masking or not masking, a multitude of hospitals reporting beds at full capacity, it is evident that the pandemic is far from over. We have a multitude of new variants of coronavirus now and what appears to be a long fall and winter ahead of us.

What are variants?

  • Variants occur due to one or more mutations of the original virus and are better at escaping the immune response lodged by our bodies.
  • Some variants of concern:
    • Alpha -B.1.1.7-first identified in United Kingdom
    • Beta -B.1.351-first identified in South Africa
    • Gamma -P.1-first identified in Japan/Brazil
    • Delta -B.1.617.2-first identified in India
    • Lambda -C.37-first identified in Peru, has not been labeled as a variant of concern by CDC but has been by WHO, it is being watched now as it is spreading rapidly in South America

Why are we concerned about the delta variant?

  • The delta variant accounts for over 93% of all new COVID cases and has caused a rapid spread in multiple states.
  • It is highly contagious and therefore spreads quickly-it is as contagious as chicken pox and twice as contagious as the original COVID-19 virus
  • It affects unvaccinated people more
  • Younger people seem to be getting affected more with more hospitalization rates but it is unclear if this is related to less vaccination rates
  • In vaccinated people, it has been shown to cause breakthrough cases

What are the symptoms of Delta variant?

  • cough, runny nose, sore throat, headache, loss of smell
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are less common with the delta variant
  • For those vaccinated, they could be mild symptoms and you are less likely to require hospitalization but recent studies show you may have a high viral load so could pass it on to others

What can we do?

  • We can do the stuff that we know works
  • Take the vaccine if you have not
  • Mask up
  • Social distancing when appropriate
  • Keep up with the hand hygiene

Prioritize Your Wellness and Self-care

Photo by Marco Tjokro

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” – Oscar Wilde

August is National Wellness Month reminding us to prioritize our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual wellness. Self-care and wellness go hand in hand as achieving that equilibrium of wellness requires taking care of yourself. Self-care is a general term and means different things to different people but overall is a way to feel good about yourself, find inner peace, and at the same time, reduce stress. The list of things that you can do for self-care is vast, but here are some things that can be done to achieve that wellness goal.

Activity

  • Walk, hike, jog, yoga, aerobics class
  • Get some fresh air, you can even get in a nice sunrise or sunset
  • Consider getting a fitness tracker to motivate you

Eat healthy

  • Incorporate those colorful fruit and vegetables in your diet
  • Cut down on sugar intake

Drink plenty of water

Relaxation

  • Treat yourself to the spa
  • Spend time with family and friends either in person, call, or video chat
  • Meditate, practice deep breathing
  • Slow down and literally smell the roses
  • Candles, soothing music
  • Read
  • Watch a nice movie

Sleep

  • Don’t skimp on the sleep, your body needs the rest to recharge

At the end of the day, self-care translates to self-love. And we could all use more of that.

What to Do With Mosquito Bites?

Photo by Syed Ali

Mosquito bites can be the most annoying thing that we bring home after a nice outdoor outing. There are over 30,000 species of mosquitoes in the world and around 200 species found in the United States. Every year on August 20th, World Mosquito Day is observed. It marks the day that Sir Ronald Ross, a British doctor, discovered the link between mosquitoes, humans, and malaria in 1897. Because mosquitoes are vectors of severe disease (such as West Nile, dengue, malaria, and yellow fever), it is important that we take appropriate measures.

How do we get a mosquito bite?

Only female mosquitoes bite! The female mosquito sucks your blood into her abdomen and at the same time injects her saliva into the wound. The proteins from her saliva produce an immune response which causes the release of histamine to attack the foreign invasion leaving localized swelling or bump as well as an itch. The external sign of a mosquito bite is usually a small bump but can also result in a more severe reaction such as hives, fever, or profound swelling.

Are mosquitos attracted to certain people?

  • Some people may be more prone to bites.
  • Wearing darker colors such as black makes you easier to spot as mosquitoes are highly visual
  • Female mosquitoes are equipped with odor receptors that can detect carbon dioxide and the scents of humans. They are drawn to higher carbon dioxide emitters (such as in pregnancy), those with higher body temperature, those who sweat too much, and those who drink beer.
  • Research has shown that your blood type also matters. Type O blood has been found to be almost twice as attractive to mosquitoes than those with Type A blood.

How to prevent a mosquito bite?

  • Wear lighter color clothing such as white
  • Regular use of insect repellent
  • Protect your arms and legs with longer sleeves, especially during dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are more active
  • Use window screens and door screens to keep mosquitos out
  • Avoid areas with standing water
  • As of now, studies have shown that ultrasonic devices do not work

How to treat a mosquito bite?

  • Resist the urge to scratch! Scratching can lead to an infection
  • Wash the area with soap and water
  • Apply lotion or ice to the bite size
  • You can use calamine lotion or anti-itch cream
  • If there is bothersome itching, you can take an over-the-counter antihistamine

Take Care of Your Eyes

Photo by Amariei Mihai

Our eyes are how we see and experience the world. With age, we can expect vision changes to occur so we have to do our parts to keep our eyes healthy. August is National Eye Exam Month and therefore a good time to review some things to keep in mind for healthy eyes.

Get your regular eye exam

it is important to get checked for corrective glasses/contact lenses, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and other eye diseases that may be associated with medical conditions such as diabetes

Care for contact lenses properly

  • Wash your hands with soap before handling contact lenses and clean and disinfect the lenses before you put them back in your eyes
  • Clean your case regularly
  • Use fresh contact lens solution each time, don’t top off the old solution with new because it can brew bacteria
  • Don’t shower, swim, or use the hot tub with contact lenses
  • Be extra careful with eye makeup and make sure you get rid of makeup residue fully

Wear sunglasses

  • Wear sunglasses that block about 99% to 100% of UV-A and UV-B radiation
  • UV light can have harmful effects on the eyelid, cornea, lens and retina

Limit your screen time

  • Take a screen break every 20 minutes for 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away(20-20-20 rule) to prevent eye strain
  • Look into blue light filters or blue light glasses
  • By wearing blue light glasses, you can avoid eye strain, reduce eye diseases such as macular damage from damage to retina, prevent headaches, and even get better sleep.
  • Researchers found that artificial light from digital devices decreases the body’s production of sleep-inducing melatonin as it causes one to feel alert just like sunlight does.

Eat Eye healthy

  • Omega-3 fatty acids (fish, nuts, chia seeds, flax seeds)
  • Vitamin C (citrus fruits, red peppers)
  • Blueberries
  • Eggs (contains lutein, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and zinc)
  • Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, collard greens)
  • Carrots (rich in Vitamin A and beta carotene)
  • Sweet potatoes (contain beta carotene and Vitamin E)

Don’t rub your eyes

  • Rubbing eyes can cause damage to surrounding muscles and may even damage the tiny blood vessels below the surface of the skin causing vessel breakage and may lead to dark circles around your eye, darken existing circles, or blood shot eyes
  • Rubbing eyes can also cause scratching and/or thinning of cornea
  • Germs can get transferred from your hands to eyes leading to infection
  • Can increase intraocular pressure or pressure within your eye that can lead to eye disease

Wear protective goggles

  • Protect your eyes during high-risk activity such as construction work or sports

Drink plenty of water

Helps in production of tears and keeps eyes moist, prevents dry eye

Exercise to prevent eye disease

What Can Walking 30 Minutes a Day Do?

Photo by CHUTTERSNAP

It often feels that there are a million things to do and not enough time to get them done. We often don’t have the time that we need for our well-being. Yes, hitting the gym is great, but who would think a simple walk can do wonders? Some of the benefits of a 30 minute walk daily for 5 days out of the week are astonishing.

  • Strengthens and tones your body

  • Improves your balance and coordination thereby prevents falls

  • Allows you to burn about 150 calories, you can maintain your weight and lose body fat

  • Improves your digestion

  • Lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease (New England Journal of Medicine)

  • Strengthens your bones and muscles, as it builds bone mass, it reduces the risk of osteoporosis

  • Reduces stress, improves your mood, and combats fatigue as it boosts endorphins

  • Improves your immunity

  • Reduces risk for chronic illness such as diabetes

  • Helps alleviate joint pain as walking increases blood flow to tense areas, lubricates joints, and strengthens joint muscles

  • Improves blood pressure by reducing blood vessel stiffness so blood can flow more easily (Medical News Today)

  • Improves memory and cognition, in studies, has been shown to decrease Alzheimer’s disease risk over 5 years

  • Improves longevity (British Journal of Sports Medicine)

Count that 30 minute walk 5 days out of the week as an investment into your health and make the time for it. It will make you feel better overall and all it takes is some motivation and a good pair of sneakers! Also, remember to brisk that walk to get your heart pumping and get more cardiovascular benefits.

Keep Your Mind Sharp

Photo by Júnior Ferreira

How many times have you forgotten your key, wallet, or cell phone? It can be frustrating but is a normal part of life. Our brains are multitasking every second of the day for us to function the way we do. With age though, there are changes that occur. Blood flow to the brain decreases, certain parts of the brain shrink, and there is decreased nerve transmission.

Sometimes, it becomes difficult to find words and recall names or have issues with multitasking. Does that mean someone has dementia? Absolutely NOT! It not necessary that everyone who is not as sharp as they used to be has dementia. Dementia is something that is diagnosed after careful considerations of alternative diagnosis and detailed evaluation.

Much research has been done to find ways to keep our minds “sharp” as we age, here are some habits to foster:

Eat Healthy

  • Antioxidant rich foods (berries, red grapes, carrots, spinach, dark chocolate, green tea, coffee, red wine)
  • Eggs (contain brain nutrients- B6, B12, folate, and choline)
  • Salmon (omega-3 fatty acids)
  • Nuts
  • Mediterranean diet (Annals of Neurology)

Staying Active

  • Games (Sudoku, chess, board games, watching brain stimulating shows/game shows)
  • Read and write
  • Learning something new (cooking, knitting, photography, gardening, other hobbies) (American Academy of Neurology)
  • Meditation
  • Exercise (working out prevents brain inflammation, increases blood supply to the brain, and also increases a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is needed for growing and keeping neurons) (Science Daily)
  • Socialize (socialization engages multiple brain areas) (Journals of Gerontology)

Self Care

  • Sleep adequately (sleep problems lead to issues with memory and concentration)
  • Stress relief (listen/play music)
  • Manage underlying conditions well (keep blood sugars and blood pressure under control, take your medications)

A little can go a long way… try to work on keeping your mind healthy. Remember what we don’t use, we lose. We have to use and challenge our brains everyday!

Is Coffee Good for Me?

Photo by Mike Kenneally

Coffee has become the main part of the morning routine in most American households. When I think of coffee, I think of caffeine. It gives that extra kick for the start of the day. Besides caffeine, coffee has many components including polyphenols, B vitamins, potassium, and riboflavin.

There has been much talk and research on the pros and cons of coffee intake. There was a large prospective study published in New England Journal Of Medicine in 2017 which showed significant inverse associations of coffee consumption with deaths from all causes and specifically with deaths due to heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes, and infections.

Here are some of the benefits of coffee consumption:

  • Reduces reaction time and improves alertness
  • Increases metabolic rate, helps to burn more calories and has been associated with having a lower body weight
  • Decreases breakage in DNA strands
  • Allows the body to process glucose better therefore reducing the risk of developing Type II diabetes
  • Some research indicates that women age 65 and older who drank two to three cups of coffee a day were less likely to develop dementia
  • Decreases risk of colorectal cancer
  • Improvement in memory, mood, and mental function
  • Reduction in risk of developing gall stones and Parkinson’s disease
  • Lower stroke risk
  • Contains polyphenols (inhibit the growth of cancer cells as well as lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes)
  • Contains antioxidants, which have anti-inflammatory effects

Limit your coffee intake in the following conditions:

  • Pregnancy and lactation - caffeine gets metabolized much more slower so it can take longer to eliminate caffeine from the body thereby causing accumulation. Caffeine also crosses the placenta into the fetus. Some studies have shown that it can increase the risk of miscarriage, low birth weight and premature birth therefore it is important to consult with your doctor right away

  • Anxiety (caffeine can worsen symptoms)

  • Elevated heart rate or cardiac arrhythmias

  • Sleep disturbance-drinking coffee later in the day can make it harder to fall asleep and also affects quality of sleep

So now we do not have to feel guilty of getting our morning joe in or that afternoon cup of bliss. Drinking two to five cups of coffee a day reduced mortality in studies, so you may actually doing yourself a favor. Like most things though, everything is good in moderation, including coffee, do not overdo it, but enjoy that cup of coffee!

FAQs

How much caffeine does one cup of coffee contain?

  • One cup of coffee on an average has about 95 mg of caffeine

How much caffeine is too much?

  • Per the FDA, a healthy adult can consume about 400 mg/day. This translates to about 4-5 cups of coffee.

How do I decrease the calories I consume with my cup of coffee?

  • Try to cut down on the add-ons such as half and half, whipped cream, sugar. Try cardamom, cinnamon, mint leaves, or lemongrass in an attempt to limit sugar intake.