If you’re an older adult, there’s a good chance that social isolation is getting to you in a big way.
Distancing and quarantine have damaged the mental and physical health of seniors, according to the New York Times. Reduced physical activity and decreased interaction with others that came with social distancing took a significant toll, resulting in decreases in mobility and conditioning.
No large-scale studies have been conducted yet on how public health measures have impacted seniors.
However, some physicians and researchers say the situation is clear. In an interview with Kaiser Health News, Dr. Jonathan Bean, a geriatric rehabilitation expert, attributed the decline in function to decreased activity and remarked that it was an obvious problem to any clinician who cares for older adults. Another geriatrician, Dr. Lauren Jan Gleason, reported seeing weight changes and more depression among her patients.
Another compounding factor: Delayed access to regular preventative care, according to the University of Michigan’s National Poll on Healthy Aging. Around 30 percent of adults age 50 and older had to delay or cancel appointments for checkups, dental appointments, procedures, tests, and operations.
What can older adults do to reclaim lost ground? Get moving again, said University of Michigan researcher Geoffrey Hoffman in an interview with the New York Times. Going for a walk or trying some gentle stretches are great options, or something as simple as getting groceries or doing a few more household chores. Physical therapy may also be appropriate.
How heart disease and mental health are related
February is American Heart Month and is an excellent opportunity to focus on improving your cardiovascular health. After all, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Although many associate heart health with physical health, mental health can also negatively impact your ticker.
Studies show that people who experience depression, anxiety, and isolation often have elevated heart rates, increased blood pressure, and reduced circulation. Individuals with mental health disorders may experience changes to their nervous system and hormonal balance, which can contribute to heart arrhythmia.
Mental health disorders prevent people from maintaining a healthy lifestyle and increase the likelihood of adopting behaviors like smoking, excessive drinking, inactivity, and a poor diet. Consequently, it’s important to address mental health disorders early and provide access to support services to promote mental wellness and reduce the risk of heart disease. Here are a few ways to do so.
• Exercise regularly. Being active can help boost your mental health by releasing chemicals in your brain that ease anxiety and depression. Find an activity you enjoy and can commit to practicing consistently.
• Practice mindfulness. Relaxation techniques like meditation and guided breathing promote mental wellness by reducing stress, improving sleep quality, and helping you feel calmer and more balanced.
• Seek out meaningful social interactions. Taking up a new hobby, learning a new skill, joining a neighborhood group, and volunteering in your community are great ways to combat isolation and reduce chronic stress.
If you find it challenging to manage stress or are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, reach out to a healthcare professional in your area.
True or false: human papillomavirus (HPV)
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection. Some strains can cause genital warts or cancer. These four true or false statements can help you learn more about this disease.
1. HPV is only transmitted through penetrative sex
False. HPV can be spread through skin-to-skin contact, such as intimate touching, oral sex, or sharing sex toys with an infected partner.
2. Treatment can cure HPV
False. There’s no cure for HPV. However, doctors can often treat warts and precancerous lesions caused by the infection.
3. A person can be infected with HPV without knowing it
True. HPV typically doesn’t cause symptoms, making it easy to transmit unknowingly. In most cases, the body’s immune system will get rid of the infection naturally within two years.
4. A diagnosis can be a sign of infidelity
False. Signs of infection, such as warts, can appear weeks, months, or even years after someone has been infected with the virus. It’s difficult to determine when or from whom the virus was transmitted, especially for people with multiple sexual partners.
Several vaccines can protect you against HPV. Talk to your healthcare provider about which ones are available to you.
Flavonols may slow cognitive decline
Higher dietary intake of flavonols — antioxidants found in tea, wine, and certain fruits and vegetables — may help preserve memory and cognitive abilities among older people, according to a new study published in the journal Neurology.
Researchers followed 961 study participants whose ages ranged from 60 to 100 years old for an average of 6.9 years, tracking their intake of flavonols called quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin, and isorhamnetin. None of the participants showed symptoms of dementia at the beginning of the study, and all participants underwent annual cognitive and memory assessments.
The study conclusion: People whose diets were highest in flavonols, particularly kaempferol, displayed measurably slower rates of cognitive decline than those who consumed flavonols in lower quantities. You can find kaempferol in apples, grapes, tomatoes, green tea, and several types of berries, among other foods.
Though the results are promising, researchers aren’t jumping to conclusions or recommending flavonol supplements yet, according to CNN. Flavonol-rich diets typically include larger quantities of fruits and vegetables, which provide an array of health benefits. More research is needed to determine whether the cognitive benefits directly resulted from flavonol consumption or due to healthy diets and other factors.
Still, a few extra daily servings of flavonol-rich foods, like leafy greens or berries, are unlikely to hurt you, and the benefits may be greater than we know.
How to choose the right multivitamin
Multivitamins contain a combination of at least three vitamins. Some also contain minerals like calcium and iron and natural substances like omega-3s. Do you have a health concern or feel the need to supplement your diet with a multivitamin? Here’s how to choose the best one for you.
• Age. Your nutrient needs vary according to several factors, including your age. Consequently, children, adults, and seniors require different multivitamins. For example, formulas for seniors contain higher doses of calcium to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
• Gender. Women should look for a multivitamin high in iron to replenish what the body loses during menstruation. Moreover, women wanting to conceive a child, are pregnant, or are breastfeeding should consider a multivitamin with folic acid.
• Dose. The doses of vitamins and minerals and the number of tablets to take daily can vary considerably from one product to another. Moderation is best. Avoid formulas that contain a higher dose than you need.
It’s best to consult your doctor or pharmacist before buying a multivitamin.
What you need to know about anticoagulants
Anticoagulants are medications that prevent blood clots and reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, pulmonary embolism, and other conditions. Here’s what you need to know if you’ve been prescribed a blood thinner.
• Take blood thinners as instructed. Blood thinners are usually prescribed for at least three to six months. It’s important to follow your treatment plan to ensure its effectiveness. If in doubt, contact your doctor or pharmacist.
• Follow all recommendations. This includes how often you take your blood thinners and visit your doctor for follow-ups. Failing to follow the guidance of your healthcare providers can affect your treatment’s effectiveness.
• Beware of bleeding. Anticoagulants thin the blood, increasing the severity of bleeding, especially if you’re inju¬red. Familiarize yourself with the signs of internal bleeding and inform your healthcare providers of your treatment plan. If you have any issues, call 911 right away.
• Watch what substances you consume. Many over-the-counter medications, natural health products, and foods can counteract the effects of your treatment. Ask your pharmacist for advice before buying a new drug, and keep a list of foods and beverages to avoid.
If you have questions about taking blood thinners, contact a healthcare professional in your area.
New Year, New You: Tips for a healthy start to 2023
The beginning of a new year symbolizes a fresh start and, for many of us, it provides a renewed focus on our overall health and wellbeing. That’s why so many of us set New Year’s resolutions intended to improve our wellness. Turning the page on the calendar gives us a chance to turn the page on old unhealthy habits, commit to being better, healthier versions of ourselves and look to the future with hope for what’s to come. Living a healthier life can reduce your risk of illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and cancer; and it can help to boost your energy, sharpen your memories and stabilize your mood, leading to a noticeable improvement in your overall health.
If you have intentions of leading a healthier life this year, you are not alone. We asked our Primary and Specialty Care professionals what their top three recommendations are to stay healthier, longer.
Kearn Ghuman, DO
Fauquier Health Primary & Specialty Care at Lake Manassas
- Pack a gym bag the night before. Packing a gym bag and taking it to work with you is a simple way to encourage yourself to go to the gym before or right after work. Let’s be real – work and life can get hectic and busy, especially around the holiday season. After a long day, depending on your schedule, you may not have the energy to work out. That’s why early morning workouts can be just what you need. They are a great way to get the blood flowing to your brain and will help you stay focused at work. Remember 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least 5 days a week is the goal!
- Put down your phone. This may sound simple, but it is becoming increasingly difficult. Disconnecting is a great way to mentally refresh. We need to remind ourselves to take a break in a world where we are always connected. That includes turning off the TV. Instead, grab a book, take a bath or shower, and take it easy for an hour before bedtime. Only use your bed for sleeping, that means no watching TV or reading in bed. Optimizing your sleep hygiene will help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep during the night.
- Meal planning. Meal planning for the week during the weekend is a great way to stay on track for a healthy diet. You can find easy recipes online, for example Mayo Clinic Diet online offers some sample menus and meal plans. Don’t forget, balance in your diet is important!
Hasina Hamid, MD
Fauquier Health Primary & Specialty Care at Lake Manassas
Piedmont Internal Medicine, Warrenton
- Drink more water. Drink at least 64 ounces of water each day. If you engage in regular physical exercise, you may need more water to stay hydrated. Sports drinks can be helpful to replace salts and provide some sugar if you are especially active. Sodas, energy drinks, fruit juices and alcoholic beverages are a big source of extra sugar. Cut them out. Find alcohol-free drinks, mocktails, that you can make. By cutting out alcohol, you’ll cut out a lot of empty calories. You can also choose water, tea, coffee, or other unsweetened beverages.
- Prioritize your sleep hygiene. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a third of U.S. adults say they typically get less than the recommended amount of sleep. Poor sleeping habits can raise your risk for high blood pressure, increased stress, weight gain, depression, loss of motor skills and poor heart health. If you are having difficulty maintaining good sleep hygiene or are experiencing any of the symptoms of a sleep disorder, it’s important to contact your healthcare provider to determine the best treatment for you.
- Schedule an annual check-up with your provider. There’s no better time than the start of a new year to schedule your annual check-up or any other health screenings you may need. Annual wellness exams and recommended health screenings give you and your provider the opportunity to catch health issues before they become serious and avoid any potential complications that arise from delaying care. Scheduling your annual check-up or screening is also a great way to stay on top of things like recommended immunizations and any other needed procedures.
Jenna Wong, DO
Fauquier Health Primary & Specialty Care at Lake Manassas
- Be realistic. As we kick off the New Year, you may reflect and decide to make some changes. Make sure you are making realistic lifestyle changes. Keep in mind, crash diets will make you more likely to yo-yo in weight and overall health.
- Be specific. Set specific, concrete goals for yourself. For example, “I will lift weights for X minutes, X times per week and jog for X minutes, X times per week.” Another great example to help mentally prepare you for each day would include, “I will meditate every morning when I wake up for X minutes, X times per week.”
- Food pyramid 101. As children we learned about the food pyramid and how many servings of which food to strive for daily. Then as adults, we tend to lose sight of that. I recommend you strive to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Change your mindset to focus on incorporating nutrients, rather than focusing on the avoidance of unhealthy, “yummy” foods.
If you need a primary care provider, Fauquier Health can help. Call 540.316.DOCS or visit the Find a Provider tab at FauquierHealth.org to get connected with quality care today.