Geriatrician, Hospitalist, Patient Advocate, Healthcare Educator

FDA Urging Less Salt

Finally!!! The salt content in processed food and restaurant food has been incredibly high and contributing to poor overall health for us all. Although the goal to cut average sodium level from 3400 mg to 3000 mg a day over the next 2.5 years is still above the recommended allowance of about 2300 mg a day, this is an important step in the right direction and will make a difference in preventing chronic illnesses.

Hand Washing 101

Photo by Mélissa Jeanty

Throughout the day, we touch surfaces, objects, as well as other people and may accumulate germs which we can then spread to others as well as ourselves by touching our eyes, mouth, or nose. Hand washing keeps us safe and healthy by killing germs. The pandemic has brought the limelight to hand hygiene in the prevention of spread of COVID. Global handwashing day is observed each year on October 15th and is a good time to go over some quick pointers.

When should you wash your hands?

  • When you have been out (touched public doors, elevator buttons, gas pumps, grocery shopping)
  • Preparing food (also before and after eating)
  • After using the restroom
  • After blowing your nose or sneezing
  • Handling garbage
  • Touching your mask
  • Pet care

How to wash your hands?

Use clean, running water for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, forming a good lather and scrubbing the front and back of your hands, between your fingers, and under your finger nails, and wrist. Rinse well afterwards and dry with a clean towel or air-dryer.

Are hand sanitizers okay?

Hand sanitizers are a good alternative when out and about. Use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Hand washing is always better than using a hand sanitizer as hand sanitizers do not get rid of all types of germs.

Should we moisturize our hands?

For those who wash their hands frequently, like healthcare workers, it is important to keep up with moisturizing their hands to prevent dry skin.

Waning Immunity Against COVID-19

Photo by Parang Mehta

On July 30, 2021, Israel became the first nation in the world to initiate a third booster dose of the BNT162b2 vaccine against COVID for those above 60 years of age who had been vaccinated at least 5 months earlier. Now, it has been extended to the whole population. A study published in NEJM found that the confirmed infection rate and severe illness were lower among those who received a booster dose of the BNT162b2 vaccine.

Now another study has looked into waning immunity:

In a retrospective cohort study, electronic health records of about 3.4 million patients 12 years and older from Kaiser Permanente in Southern California from December 14, 2020 to August 8, 2021 were reviewed for SARS-CoV-2 PCR-positive tests and COVID-19-related hospital admissions. This Pfizer funded study published on 10/4/21 in The Lancet showed that vaccine effectiveness dropped from 88% in the first month post full vaccination to about 47% after five months.

Although this shows the reasoning behind the booster dose recommendation for those eligible for it, there are limitations to this study. We don’t know the risk level of those that had breakthrough infections such as occupational risk as seen with healthcare professionals. It also does not take into account adherence to masks or social distancing. It will be interesting to see what conclusions come about from other studies.

What 30 Day Challenge Do You Plan on Taking On?

A good reminder to think of all the things you have always wanted to do but haven’t gotten to yet. Use the next 30 days to do something new. Who knows where this new adventure can take you….

A Healthy Breakfast

Photo by Melissa Belanger

We have all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Although most people agree that breakfast is important, about a quarter of people tend to skip breakfast, be it time constraint, not feeling hungry, or taking part in a diet or fasting routine.

Breakfast is the meal that breaks the fast after a night of sleep. Our bodies have been deprived of calories, bodily functions have slowed, and metabolism has also slowed down. By having breakfast, the body gets fueled with calories to give it energy and it also kickstarts metabolism to start the day.

Here are some benefits of having breakfast:

Boost in brain function

  • Studies show it improves alertness, concentration, problem-solving ability, and memory. It Improves focus in both work and school. Students who have breakfast tend to get better grades.

Manages weight

  • Breakfast kickstarts your metabolism, helping you burn calories throughout the day.
  • Having breakfast also keeps your appetite in check.

Decreases risk of obesity and related chronic illness due to obesity.

Promotes cardiovascular health

  • Skipping breakfast is associated with atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease

Decreases risk of developing Type 2 diabetes mellitus

Reduces cholesterol

Helps you get those well needed nutrients

  • Those who eat breakfast tend to get more fiber, calcium, vitamins A and C, riboflavin, iron, and, zinc than breakfast-skippers

September is Better Breakfast Month and thus a good time to reflect on ways to do better with breakfast habits, be it getting a grab and go breakfast, incorporating healthier foods, or just making an effort to have breakfast.

“Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper” - Adele Davis

Smart Choices

What you become and where you go in life is not one choice but a series of choices spanning several years.

Honey and Its Health Benefits

Photo by Benyamin Bohlouli

September marks National Honey Month bringing the spotlight to all the hard work bees put in to give us HONEY. There are many different types of honey depending on the variety of bees and the flower nectar used. Here is a video on how honey is made (in case you are interested).

There are two types of honey

  • Raw Honey
    • natural
    • honey is filtered to remove small bits of debris, pollen, beeswax, and parts of dead bees
    • not pasteurized and may contain spores of bacteria and should not be given to children who are less than 12 months of age due to risk of it containing clostridium botulinum and causing a food poisoning known as botulism
  • Processed Honey
    • heated and bottled
    • Pasteurization does reduce the number of nutrients and antioxidants though

Raw honey, has long been linked to health benefits

  • Antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory
  • Rich in antioxidants as it contains organic acids and flavonoids
  • Contains Vitamins C, E, B, riboflavin, thiamin, iron, calcium, and selenium
  • Natural sweetener, although it can increase blood sugar level, not as much as refined sugar so need to be careful if you are diabetic
  • Can improve cholesterol, studies show honey can decrease LDL and triglyceride levels and increase HDL
  • Improves memory
  • Manuka honey helps heal wounds
  • Helps in digestion
  • Acts as a natural cough suppressant
  • Soothes sore throat, add it to hot water or tea with lemon
  • Skin-face masks, skin moisturizer, pore cleaner, heals acne and scars, brightens skin complexion, smooths lips
  • Hair-relieves itching, dandruff
  • Improves and promotes sleep

With all these health benefits, it may be worthwhile to reach for the honey instead of sugar in your next cup of tea. Remember honey at the end of the day is a sweetener so you need to be careful of how much you have. The American Heart Association recommends less than 3 tablespoons of sugar per day for men and less than 2 tablespoons of sugar per day for women.

A Little Bit of Self Improvement Can Go a Long Way

James Clear from Atomic Habits:

“Can one tiny change transform your life? It’s unlikely you would say so. But what if you made another? And another? And another? At some point, you will have to admit that your life was transformed by one small change. The holy grail of habit change is not a single 1 percent improvement, but a thousand of them”

“Time magnifies the margin between success and failure. It will multiply whatever you feed it. Good habits make time your ally. Bad habits make time your enemy.”

September marks Self Improvement Month and therefore is a great time to reflect on what we can do to break some of those not so good habits and create better habits.

What Are the Benefits of Yoga?

Photo by kike vega

Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word “Yog” which means union. Yoga is an Indian spiritual discipline which uses breathing techniques, exercise, and meditation to bring union between your body, mind, and energy to bring a state of harmony. Yoga has got people hooked all around the globe. So, what does yoga offer that people swear by? On top of the multitude of health benefits, it can be done by just about everyone (young, old, big, or small) and anywhere your heart desires (home, lawn, beach, gym)

Yoga has a lot to offer to everyone. Here are some reasons why it is worth a try:

So, let’s take out those yoga mats and if you haven’t already, start trying out those yoga poses!

Masks Prevent COVID Spread

Photo by Jievani Weerasinghe

There continues to be much debate about mask mandates throughout the country. While there are heated school board meetings, social media fights, protests, and politicians and courts having their own take in different states, children are being hospitalized for COVID-19 and beds continue to be tight. The United States has already surpassed the 2020 total of COVID 19 cases and it is only September of 2021. We still have fall and winter to go.

A large randomized study which took place in Bangladesh tested the effectiveness of wearing masks in 340,000 adults in everyday normal life and showed that wearing masks prevented transmission of COVID-19.

All of us continue to hear stories of people contracting COVID when we let their guards down. The fact remains that science does back that masks work and we have seen time and time again that masks can make all the difference and save lives. So, why not save a life if you can?