Geriatrician, Hospitalist, Patient Advocate, Healthcare Educator

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?

What Does Healthy Aging Look Like?

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion released this video for the 2015 Healthy Aging Summit. This captures the essence of what healthy aging is. It may mean different things to different people but we all strive for a long, healthy, happy, and productive life. For us to reach that goal, we have to work on it. Preventive health screening and treatment, healthy eating, exercise, stimulating your brain, and socialization have been shown to promote healthy aging.

September marks Healthy Aging Month which is a good time to look at what we can do to get there. Think of what you can change today to be healthier tomorrow.

Why Should I Take the Stairs?

Photo by Bruno Nascimento

Everybody knows how hard it is to take the stairs, especially when there is an elevator you can ride up to the floor you want to reach. A lot of fitness trackers track flights of stairs climbed in an attempt to motivate us to do better. Many work places have put up signs asking their employees to take the stairs as part of a workplace wellness program. So, what is it that “taking the stairs” can do?

Strengthens muscles

  • Stair-climbing exercises engage more muscles than walking, jogging or running on flat surface
  • Engages gluteal muscles, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, hip flexors, all the abdominal muscles, and lower back
  • Tones and sculpts your body such as butt, thighs, and calves
  • By strengthening leg muscles and joints, improves overall function with daily activities
  • Activates the spine and reduces the risk of knee, leg and ankle injuries.

Burns calories

You can lose about 0.17 calories while climbing up and 0.05 calories while climbing down a single step which translates to about 1 calorie for every 10 steps climbed up and 1 calorie for every 20 steps you go down.

Makes you feel good

Any exercise in general causes your body to release more endorphins, which helps you feel good. Climbing stairs does the same. In addition, it helps to build strength and endurance, regulate sleep, promotes healthy weight loss. With all this, there can be an improvement of self-esteem and confidence.

Heart health

Helps balance, reduces fall risk

Improves longevity

In a study published in 2019 by the Harvard Health Alumni Study, researchers noted an association between climbing a higher number of floors and lower mortality from all causes. The study found that even climbing 10 to 19 flights a week can reduce mortality risk.

Stair-climbing is safe exercise for most healthy people that is actually free and requires no specific equipment or training, just a pair of great shoes!

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


  • 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.


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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.