Geriatrician, Hospitalist, Patient Advocate, Healthcare Educator

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.

An Apple a Day

Photo by Javier Balseiro

We’ve all heard “an apple a day keeps the doctor away". This proverb initially appeared in the 19th century to get people to eat nutritious foods to stay healthy.

National Apple day, October 21st, gives us the opportunity to review the health benefits of apples.

  • Helps to maintain weight or even lose weight-makes you feel full, on average apple is about 95 calories
  • Contains antioxidants
  • Heart healthy-contains flavonoids which reduces inflammation
  • Helps in digestion as it contains fiber
  • Helps prevent Type 2 Diabetes-soluble fiber can help slow the absorption of sugar
  • Helps with memory and may prevent Alzheimer’s disease because it contains plant pigment quercetin, a flavonoid which protects cells including brain cells
  • Promotes bone density and strength
  • Keep the peel on if you can-it contains fiber and antioxidants
  • Helps your immunity-contains about 10–14% of the Vitamin C you need, also has the flavonoid quercetin which reduces inflammation and regulates the immune system, helps with asthma and allergic reactions

Apples are healthiest when you eat them fresh but get creative if you need. Try out all those apple recipes, be it apple pie, apple crisp, apple sauce….or grab another fruit! Remember that the whole point is to get those nutrients, whatever fruit it may be, so you can reap those health benefits.

How Much Protein Should You Be Eating?

Photo by Caroline Attwood

What is protein?

Protein is one of three macronutrients the body needs in large amounts along with fat and carbohydrates.

Proteins are made of smaller components known as amino acids which attach to each other to form chains. The sequence of these amino acid chains determine the specific structure and function of the protein. Proteins are found through out the body and are needed for growth and maintenance of our tissues, serve as enzymes that work on biochemical reactions, regulate body processes including fluid balance, help form antibodies to fight infection, and serve as transport proteins for nutrients and oxygen.

How much protein should you be eating?

The recommended daily allowance for protein is 0.8 to 1 gram/kg of body weight or 0.36 gram/pound of body weight. The protein need depends on activity level, age, muscle mass, and overall health. Those who exercise regularly and the elderly require more protein.

The elderly and protein

After the age of 40, studies show that skeletal muscle mass and strength decline. The involuntary age-related loss of muscle mass and strength is known as sarcopenia.

50% of elderly adults do not get enough protein which is an alarming number as muscle mass is important in maintaining strength, function, and preventing falls.

Most elderly adults require more protein, about 1.0 – 1.2 grams of protein/kg body weight

Sources of protein

The body does not store protein so it’s important to get it from your diet. Protein in diet is broken down into amino acids. There are two sources of protein: animal proteins and plant proteins.

Animal proteins

Plant proteins

  • Incomplete as they lack one or more of the essential amino acids that the body needs
  • Beans, nuts, lentils, tofu, edamame, quinoa, peanut butter, chia seeds, chickpeas, green peas, oats, vegetables(broccoli, spinach, potatoes)
  • Diet high in plant protein is associated with lower risk of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes

Most people don’t keep track of how much protein they are eating a day but it is one of the things that we really should be doing. Although it is always good to try to get protein from your diet, sometimes that is not enough and you may need to supplement it with protein bars, protein shakes, or eating an extra yogurt serving (be sure to read labels because of the hidden sugar content that can be found in yogurt, protein shakes, etc.).