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 www.vdh.virginia.gov/lord-fairfax/district-offices/.
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 www.vaccinefinder.org to find providers in your ZIP code.
Additional information on flu is available from VDH at www.misstheflu.com.
The Lord Fairfax Health District serves residents in the city of Winchester and Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah and Warren counties. For more information, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/lord-fairfax/.
Is acupuncture an effective way to relieve pain?
Millions of people undergo successful acupuncture treatments every year, but others remain skeptical. Some even view this type of traditional medicine as little more than a placebo. But when it comes to pain relief, evidence shows that acupuncture is as good as or better than pharmaceutical treatments.
In some studies, people with chronic pain caused by arthritis, headaches or back and neck problems saw their pain reduced by up to 50 percent with acupuncture versus 43 percent with their regular medication.
In other studies, patients underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) while exposed to a pain stimulus to measure their brains’ responses. Activity in the areas of the brain that are associated with pain were much lower with acupuncture than without. This indicates that acupuncture makes a difference when it comes to treating pain.
Whether you believe it works or not, there’s evidence that acupuncture is an effective form of pain relief. If you’d like to experience the effects first hand, call your local practitioner today to make an appointment.
Easy on the back and knees — Stay fit this summer with pool exercises
Pool time is a great way to both relax and raise your activity level.
According to Shape magazine, pool exercises are good for everyone — and great for those with back or knee pain.
For cardio and total body exercise, nothing beats laps across the pool. You can use a variety of styles and work on both speed and distance.
Pool weights for resistance
To get the most out of upper body resistance movements, you’ll want to have access to pool weights or at least some pool noodles which can be purchased in a sporting goods store or found at some public pools. As long as you keep the weights underwater, you can do most traditional gym moves: bicep curls, lateral raises, tricep extensions, and even pushing and pulling to work out your back and chest.
With a pool noodle, do press-down work for your chest and triceps as well as underwater planks.
Lower body workouts
Lower body resistance work such as jumping or running is easier on the back and joints when you are in the water. Experiment with jumping out of the water as high as possible in a variety of stances to get a feel for what works. The wider your legs, the more you will engage your glutes and hamstrings, while narrower positions will work your quads. For inner and outer leg work, stand near the wall with your hand out to keep steady and then extend one leg at a time out to the side and back again as quickly as possible to maximize resistance.
5 tips for running your first 5K
Are you looking to get into running? If so, signing up for a 5K race is a great way to motivate yourself. It’s a distance that’s achievable for most people, even those who are completely new to running. Here are five tips that will help you train for your first 5K.
1. Get the right gear. Good shoes are a must for running. Visit a sports store that specifically sells running shoes so a professional can help you select the right pair. Additionally, invest in clothes made from moisture-wicking materials so that you stay dry while you train.
2. Find a training program. There are many online programs, classes and smartphone applications available that can help you reach your running goals. Most 5K training routines for beginners involve a walk-run regimen that will allow you to slowly build up your endurance.
3. Always warm up and cool down. Before you start running, get your muscles primed for action with a five-minute walk or jog. Finish your run with a couple of minutes of walking followed by several minutes of stretching.
4. Maintain proper running form. Keep your upper body upright but relaxed, look towards the horizon and take short strides. If you want to go faster, don’t take longer steps, take more of them.
5. Fuel yourself properly. Drink lots of water before and after every run. Eat healthy meals packed with complex carbohydrates, lean proteins and healthy fats. Stay away from junk food and sugary drinks.
There will be days when training for your goal will be more difficult than others but stay motivated. All your hard work will pay off when you finally cross the finish line.
OK one more. Breathe easy
Breathe deeply from your diaphragm when you run. Short, shallow breaths reduce the amount of oxygen you take in, which will make your workout harder. If you find yourself running out of breath, slow down. Always aim to keep a conversational pace when running.
Protect your heart in the heat
Summertime heat brings with it special considerations for those with heart conditions, and it’s especially important to stay hydrated and as cool as possible during these dog days.
For every degree your body’s temperature rises, your heart beats 10 BPM faster, according to Harvard Health. While a study published in 2014 said most cases of atrial fibrillation tend to occur in the winter, those with irregular heartbeats should take special precautions in the summer as well — higher temperatures can trigger AFib as your heart works harder to regulate itself.
Here are some ways to alleviate that stress:
* Stay hydrated. Dehydration is one trigger for atrial fibrillation, not to mention stroke.
* Avoid going outside between about noon and 3 p.m.
* Get in air conditioning. A fan is of little use if it’s circulating 95-degree air.
* Reduce caffeine and alcohol, as these can cause dehydration.
* Avoid exercising in the heat.
* Take a cool shower and put an ice pack under your arm or near the groin.
* Wear well-ventilated shoes.
* Take breaks. Schedule in more breaks than you normally would in order to conserve energy and prevent overheating.
The mental health benefits of bouldering
Bouldering provides a serious workout for your legs, arms, abdominals, fingers and back muscles. It’s a great way to stay in shape, but its most surprising benefits are actually related to mental health.
What is bouldering?
A specific type of rock climbing, bouldering is practiced on small formations or artificial walls typically less than 16 feet tall. Since it’s performed without ropes or harnesses, mats are usually laid out to prevent injury in case of a fall.
Benefits for mental health
While more research is needed, the activity looks like a promising exercise intervention for the treatment of depression. Researchers believe this is because bouldering requires sustained focus and mindfulness, which breaks patients out of negative thought cycles. In addition, bouldering comes with built-in social support, as participants encourage each other and provide advice. Finally, it offers a sense of accomplishment.
Bouldering is a fun and challenging activity that’ll keep you in shape, both physically and mentally.
Answering common questions about medical alert systems
Using a medical alert system, also known as a personal emergency response system, is a great way to make living alone less stressful. Here’s what you should know.
What are they?
Medical alert systems are subscription-based services that allow you to contact an emergency response center with the press of a button. Basic models connect to your landline and include a portable alert button as well as a base unit that acts as a speakerphone. The alert button is usually worn as a pendant or a bracelet and some types can detect falls.
How do they work?
What are the different types?
There are two types of systems: in-home and mobile. In-home systems are ideal if you tend to stay at home and can either work with your landline or a cellular network. Mobile models are better for those with active lifestyles.
How expensive are they?
Most service providers offer no-contract monthly subscriptions, although you can often get a discount for making a longer commitment. In-home services are the most affordable option and run between $25 and $45 per month, depending on the features selected. Mobile systems range from $65 to $75 per month and sometimes require a one-time activation fee. Some insurance policies cover the costs of medical alert systems, and there are charitable organizations that may help seniors who can’t afford them. You should also consult your tax professional, as these systems are considered medical expenses by the IRS.