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Flu cases are still on the rise: No-cost flu shots available at all Lord Fairfax Health District Clinics



Cases of influenza (“the flu”) are still increasing in Virginia, and the flu season has yet to peak. Flu season usually continues through May, so, if you have not gotten the shot, it is not too late, and you can now get it at no out-of-pocket cost.

The Lord Fairfax Health District advises everyone that getting a flu shot is not only the single best way to protect yourself from getting sick, it is also the best way to prevent the spread of flu to others.

“Flu season is really just getting going this year,” says Lord Fairfax Health District Director Colin Greene, MD, MPH. “Getting vaccinated against the flu greatly reduces your chance of suffering several days of flu-induced misery, in addition to potentially sharing that misery with others you infect. Worse, complications from flu can cause serious illness, hospitalization and even death in vulnerable populations.”

A flu shot cannot cause the flu. Influenza was connected to 70,000 deaths last winter in the United States. Those with the highest risk include:

  • Children younger than five, but especially younger than two years old
  • Adults 65 years of age or older
  • Women who are pregnant or just had a baby
  • People with chronic health conditions

Until supplies at the health district run out, flu shots will be offered at no cost to the patient at all health department clinics in the Lord Fairfax Health District (Shenandoah, Page, Warren, Clarke and Frederick counties and the city of Winchester). If the patient has insurance, the clinic will bill insurance. Walk-in flu shots area available most weekdays, (except holidays) from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. and from 1 to 3 p.m. For locations and phone numbers, visit

Flu shots are also available from your healthcare provider, and at most pharmacies and clinics in drug stores, grocery stores and big box retailers. Use the “Flu Vaccine Finder” at to find providers in your ZIP code.

Additional information on flu is available from VDH at

The Lord Fairfax Health District serves residents in the city of Winchester and Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah and Warren counties. For more information, visit


How drinking alcohol increases your risk of cancer



Did you know that having one or more alcoholic drinks a day increases your chances of getting cancer?

According to the American Cancer Society, regularly having one or two alcoholic drinks a day increases your risk of developing cancer of the mouth, larynx, pharynx, throat and esophagus (widely known as head and neck cancer) as well as breast and colorectal cancer. Plus, long-term alcohol use has been linked to an elevated risk of liver cancer.

Even light drinkers — people who consume no more than one alcoholic drink a day — have an increased risk of developing certain cancers, especially breast cancer.

Furthermore, while both alcohol and tobacco are carcinogens on their own, smoking and drinking together makes your aerodigestive tract much more susceptible to cancer. According to a recent study, people who consume alcohol and tobacco together are up to 35 times more likely to develop some form of head and neck cancer.

Keep in mind that one drink is defined as 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of spirits. It’s recommended that men avoid consuming more than two drinks a day and women more than one.

When it comes to alcohol, the leading cancer experts agree: the more you drink, the greater your risk for developing cancer.

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Prescription opioids: what you need to know



Prescription opioids are medications used for treating acute pain due to surgery, serious injury or illness. When used correctly, opioids can effectively control severe types of pain. However, they’re also powerfully addictive and taking them can lead to fatal overdoses. With the United States in the midst of an opioid crisis, it’s important to understand how these painkillers work and what to do to prevent overdosing and addiction.

About opioids
Opioid drugs are chemically similar to endorphins, which block pain by binding to receptors in your nervous system. Opioids imitate endorphins but cause a much stronger pain-blocking signal. Commonly prescribed opioid drugs include morphine, oxycodone and fentanyl.

When taking these drugs, over time your brain starts to crave the high caused by the release of dopamine following a dose of opioids, which can lead to addiction. What’s more, since opioid receptors regulate your breathing, abusing opioid drugs can cause you to stop breathing altogether, possibly resulting in death.

Precautionary measures
If you’re prescribed an opioid, you should take the following precautions:

• Discuss possible risks and alternate treatments with your doctor

• Take the medication exactly as prescribed, at the lowest dose for the shortest amount of time possible

• Avoid giving your prescription drugs to others and store them away from children, adolescents and individuals with a history of substance abuse

• Never mix opioids with alcohol

• Dispose of leftover pills through a prescription take-back program

If you or someone you know experiences extreme drowsiness, slowed breathing or disorientation while taking opioids, call 911 immediately.

In 2016 and 2017, more than 135,000 people died from an opioid-related drug overdose. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency.

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Community resources for foreign-born seniors combatting social isolation



Between 1990 and 2010, the number of elderly immigrants age 65 and older in America rose from 2.7 to about 5 million. While seniors in general are at risk of experiencing social isolation, this growing segment of the population is particularly vulnerable.

Foreign-born seniors typically face cultural, language and economic barriers as well as discrimination. Fortunately, there are a number of community resources available to older immigrants and refugees that can help them overcome social isolation.

Local libraries
Libraries are typically good places for foreign-born seniors to discover what resources are available to them. Many provide educational materials and training resources on immigration. They can also direct visitors to further resources in the community.

Community-based organizations
These institutes can be found across the country. They offer recreational programs and provide space for citizenship and English classes. Such classes help foreign-born seniors to improve their English language skills and provide them with opportunities to have meaningful social interactions and forge new relationships.

Local churches
Churches tend to be social hubs. Parishioners are typically welcoming and lively, and the church community as a whole can provide support, counsel and helpful resources for immigrants and refugees.

Volunteer organizations
Volunteering gives seniors the opportunity to engage with the community and make meaningful social connections. Inquiries about where to volunteer may be made at the local library or church. Alternatively, volunteer opportunities can be found online.

For more information on integration strategies, visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website at

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Leeks: an often-overlooked health food



Leeks are part of the same family as onions and garlic but have a subtler flavor profile. Additionally, they’re a good source of dietary fiber and many essential vitamins and minerals. Here are three health benefits that can come from including leeks in your diet.

1. Improves eyesight. Leeks are an excellent source of vitamin A, which promotes good vision by protecting the surface of your eyes. They’re also rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that reduce your risk of developing macular degeneration and cataracts as you age.

2. Enhances heart health. Leeks have high amounts of kaempferol, a flavonoid that protects blood vessel linings from damage and increases how much nitric oxide (an important molecule for blood vessel health) your body produces. They also have high concentrations of folate, which lowers your risk of heart disease by keeping your levels of homocysteine in check.

3. Prevents cancer. Leeks have high levels of vitamin C, an antioxidant that inhibits the growth of cancer. Consuming vegetables in the Allium family has also been linked to lower risks of prostate, gastric and colorectal cancer.

This week, why not try including leeks in a soup, quiche or side dish? You’ll enjoy finding delicious ways to eat this vegetable and be healthier for it.

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How to communicate with someone who has dementia



Conversations tend to be challenging for people with dementia, especially as the condition progresses. This doesn’t mean, however, that discussions aren’t energizing and enjoyable for them. In fact, people with dementia derive joy, comfort and stimulation from conversations with friends and family members. If someone close to you has dementia, here are some tips for effectively communicating with them.

• Get their attention. Address the person by their first name and maintain eye contact.

• State your message clearly. Speak slowly, use simple words and short sentences and be direct. If initially the person doesn’t understand what you say, repeat the message using the same wording. If he or she is still unable to understand, wait a couple minutes then try again, simplifying your phrasing if possible.

• Show warmth and positivity. Encourage the person, show your affection for them and take care not to reveal frustration or impatience.

• Rely on nonverbal cues. Use facial expressions and touch (when appropriate) to convey your emotions and your message. When speaking, pay extra attention to your tone of voice. Such considerations are especially important when the person is having difficulty or is unable to comprehend what you say. The affection and respect you show will be understood regardless.

• Use names, not pronouns. Avoid pronouns like “he,” “she” and “they,” and instead repeat the names of the people you’re talking about. Doing this helps those with dementia better follow the thread of the conversation.

Finally, know that you’re affection is reciprocated. Although people with dementia sometimes forget names and even faces, they recognize when they’re speaking with someone who cares about them.

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What dieters should know about the ketogenic diet



Have you heard about the ketogenic diet? This increasingly mainstream means of losing weight involves drastically reducing your intake of carbohydrates and replacing them with fats, which puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. While some people swear by the ketogenic diet, medical professionals and dietitians have concerns about whether it’s a healthy and sustainable way to lose weight.

How the ketogenic diet works
A ketogenic diet forces your body to burn fat for fuel instead of glucose. When you stop eating carbohydrates and glucose is no longer available, your energy needs get fulfilled by converting fat into ketone bodies. Ketosis begins when your body must turn the fat stored in your muscles as glycogen into ketones.

To keep your body in ketosis, you have to eat a diet that’s about 70 percent fats, 20 percent proteins and 10 percent carbohydrates. Approved foods include meat, eggs, non-root vegetables, nuts, oils and some dairy products like cheese and butter. Prohibited foods include bread, pasta, fruit, potatoes, beans and sweets.

What are the risks?
The ketogenic diet was developed for a specific medical purpose—to help control seizures in children with epilepsy. However, it’s unclear whether it’s safe to use for weight loss over long periods of time.

There are also numerous side effects that dieters may come up against. Many people experience nausea, cramps, headaches, constipation and light-headedness—symptoms sometimes collectively known as the “keto flu”— after their body goes into ketosis.

What’s more, the diet involves eating large amounts of saturated fats, which increases your risk of heart disease. It may also lead to nutritional deficiencies in vitamins and minerals that you usually get from fruits and legumes.

Extreme diets like the ketogenic diet rarely yield good long-term results. If you fall off the wagon (as is easy to do with extreme diets), you’ll start to gain weight back again. It’s safer and more effective to lose weight gradually with a balanced diet that’s easier to stick to over time.

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Jeff Ryan – Book Signing @ Royal Oak Bookshop
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Jeff Ryan - Book Signing @ Royal Oak Bookshop
Author, speaker, photographer and avid hiker Jeff Ryan was born and raised in Maine. His love of the outdoors was evident early in life. He was skiing at the age of three and spending at least[...]