INCREASED ALCOHOL INTAKE DURING THE PANDEMIC IS TAKING A TOLL ON YOUR HEALTH

Alcohol is known to be harmful to our health in general. During this time of heightened stress, loneliness and anxiety, some might have suddenly increased their consumption of alcohol as a way of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, did you know that alcohol use can contribute to mental health issues, health vulnerability, risk-taking behaviors and violence?

Alcohol’s impact on your body starts from the moment you take your first sip. While an occasional glass of wine with dinner isn’t a cause for concern, you should be mindful of your changes in alcohol use and know the health risks.

How much alcohol is too much? That depends on a variety of factors, including your weight and gender. Moderate drinking is up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men, according to the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Consuming more than 4 drinks on any day for men or more than 3 drinks for women is considered heavy alcohol use which can increase an individual’s risk of alcohol use disorder.

While you may have heard of the circulating myth that drinking alcohol can protect you against COVID-19, the truth is that it can increase complications of COVID-19, as well as pose other health risks including:

  • Weakened immune system
  • Increased risk for infection
  • Heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Depression
  • Stomach bleeding
  • Cancers such as breast, liver, esophageal, colorectal, and head and neck

Quitting or cutting back on alcohol can be hard for some but making small changes can make a big difference in reducing your chances of having alcohol-related problems.

  • Keep track of how much you drink.
  • Decide how many days a week you want to drink as well as how many drinks you’ll have on those days. It’s a good idea to have several drink-free days each week.
  • Try filling the time you spend drinking with new activities, hobbies, and strengthening relationships.

By getting your drinking in check you’ll start to notice that your mood is better, you feel more rested, your judgement is enhanced, and you’ll restore your body’s ability to fight infections.

If you think your drinking is a problem, contact your doctor to discuss your concern. Your doctor can help you monitor your drinking and provide strategies to get you back on track.

Screen Time & Sleep: What It Means for Your Health

With daylight saving around the corner, let’s talk about sleep. We have so many demands during the course of the day—jobs, family, errands—not to mention finding some time to relax. For the most part, we find that we have more time to relax right before bed. While this may sound like a great time to catch up on your favorite TV show or spend hours scrolling through your social media timeline, it can actually disrupt your sleep and affect both your mental and physical health.

While everyone knows that sleep is essential for your health, you may not know what quality sleep looks like.

Importance of Sleep

Getting enough sleep isn’t only about the total hours of sleep you get, or the next day mood swings and lack of focus. A good night’s rest allows your body and mind to recharge to remain healthy and fend off diseases. Without enough sleep, the brain cannot function properly causing short-term difficulties such as poor quality of life and ability to stay alert while long-term it can trigger serious health problems including high blood pressure and diabetes.

But how much sleep do you really need? Most adults require between 7-8 hours of sleep a night.

Effects of Screen Time

Sleep can be disrupted by many things. One of the main distractions is too much exposure to light, such as your TV or phone. This type of light exposure is considered detrimental to getting a good night’s sleep and interferes with both the quantity and quality of sleep.
90% of people in the U.S. admit to using a technological device during the hour before turning in to sleep to help them relax at night according to The National Sleep Foundation. If you’re one of these people, you may not realize the extent to which this can make it harder to settle down to sleep.

Screens can emit a blue light that sends a strong signal to your brain that it is daytime or wake time. If you’re looking at a screen at night, it can increase your alertness at a time when you should be sending sleep signals to your brain.

Getting Back on Track

For your overall health, make sure you take the time to wind down before bed—remember we are not a device with a power switch. To get yourself back on track, start small. Try setting a realistic digital curfew where you turn off all electronic devices for the night. Then, replace this time with other alternatives like reading a book, doing mundane chores, talking to your loved ones about their day, or listen to soothing music.

If you often have trouble sleeping, or if you often still feel tired after sleeping, talk with your doctor. Your doctor will be able to assess your symptoms and try to improve your sleep for a better night’s rest.

A GUIDE TO ENJOYING SUMMER ‘SAFELY’

As we begin to slowly open and some restrictions start to lift, it is hard to know what ‘safe’ vs ‘unsafe’ encounters look likeWhile prevalence continues to play an important role in our local communities, it’s hard to quantify what that translates to as most want to do the small things like hug family and friends, get our haircut, have a pool party, visit the nail salonor gather at local bars and restaurants. 

We know the urge to get out and enjoy summer is real. That’s why social distancing is more important than ever to keeping you and the ones around you safe.  

What is considered ‘safe’? 

  • Backyard gatherings. With a small group, getting together outside in a spacious area isn’t too risky depending on who you invite and their status or symptoms. To lower your risk, avoid sharing food, drinks, plates or utensils.
  • Spending the day at the beach or pool. Watch how close you are to others. As long as you can stay 6 feet apart and gather in a small group, this could be a pretty safe activity.
  • Hugging family and friends. You have to use your best judgment—there isn’t a one-size-fits-allBefore you give a hug, know how the other person has been following the social distancing rules. To be extra cautious, avoid the long, lingering hug and the kiss on the cheek or lips.
  • Using a public restroom. This could be a pretty scary thought, but most restrooms were designed to avoid the spread of germs. Be sure to avoid waiting in a line to use the bathroom and wash your hands after. 
  • Going to a vacation house with another family. Again, you will need to use your best judgement here. If both families have been quarantining and limiting their exposure to others, your risk of getting infected is limited. Don’t be afraid to ask. 

What is considered ‘unsafe’?  

  • Eating indoors at a restaurant. Because people tend to linger more, you’re in the restaurant longer and the risk of being exposed to the virus is greater. Especially since you don’t know who you’re dinning next to you and their symptoms. If you do go to a restaurant, look for outdoor seating. 
  • Attending a place of worship indoors. Worship services tend to bring together those from different households, which could increase the risk of people becoming infected in short amount of time. 
  • Getting a haircut or nails doneThese are some of the highest risk scenarios as there’s no way to keep 6 feet from the person performing the service and breathing on one another is extended for several minutes. 
  • Gathering at a bar or nightclub. When most drink, they become less likely to follow the social distancing rules. While there, you are then exposed to crowds, singing, sweating and the risk of sharing drinkware with others who may be infected. 

The key to enjoying your summer while minimizing your risk of getting sick is remembering to social distance, wear a face covering, and wash your handsWhen possible, always opt for outdoor activities over indoor ones. We hope that knowing what the risks are for specific activities helps you to make the right individual decisions you need to in order to have peace of mind as well as stay safe summer. 

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Overview for Patients

We wanted to provide a new update related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). As you are aware, this is a rapidly evolving situation, so the steps we are outlining below, may continue to change as more information becomes available. We will keep you updated as we have new information. There have now been confirmed cases in each of the states that R-Health operates. Although the risk is still low, R-Health continues to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for evaluation of patients who may be at risk of developing COVID-19.

Members of our clinical leadership team are communicating with the state and local departments of health to monitor and respond to this evolving situation.

Patients who have appointments should be assured that all operations continue as usual, and our practices remain ready to provide care to all our patients. The only change is that when scheduling appointments, you will be asked some additional screening questions to determine if you are at risk for exposure or symptoms of COVID-19.

 

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of infection with COVID-19 may appear two to 14 days after exposure and can include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

The severity of symptoms can range from very mild to severe, even death.  Importantly, most patients with COVID-19 have only mild respiratory symptoms and do not require hospitalization. However, it is important to limit contact with others to prevent further exposure.

 

When to Contact a Healthcare Provider

Call us right away (do not immediately come into the office) if you have symptoms of COVID-19.

Call us first and ask to speak to a healthcare provider to tell us about your symptoms, recent travels, and possible exposure before you make an appointment or before you go to the ER. Coming into the office in person may spread the virus to others who are already sick.

 

Virtual Care

One of the benefits of R-Health is our access to virtual tools for patient communication. This includes the Spruce mobile app and the Elation Patient Passport. We encourage you to use these virtual communications tools, along with the phone, to communicate with the practice or have a virtual appointment, if medically appropriate. Call us if you need information on how to download Spruce or access the Elation Patient Passport.

 

Preventing the Spread

Please note that even if you are not experiencing symptoms, we each have an important role to play in preventing the spread of COVID-19.  Simple hygiene can be very helpful in preventing transmission of many illnesses. This includes

  • Washing hands frequently (with soap for 20 seconds)
  • Utilizing hand sanitizer when soap and water are not readily available
  • Covering a cough/sneeze with shirt sleeve or tissue (not hands)
  • Avoiding touching your face

In addition, social distancing is an important protective measure. This includes avoiding mass gatherings, avoiding crowds, and staying home if you’re not feeling well.

 

Additional Information

Additional up-to-date information is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

 

Updated March 12, 2020

 

ESSENTIAL ITEMS TO HAVE IN YOUR CAR DURING WINTER

When the weather is snowy, icy, and downright unpredictable, it’s crucial to keep a few essential emergency supplies in your car. Being prepared will make things easier if you get into a crash, break down, or get stuck in the snow.

Here are 6 items you should have in your car this winter in case of an emergency.

  1. Bag of Sand or Kitty Litter. Sounds odd but keeping a bag of sand or kitty litter in your car can add weight in the trunk to help rear-wheel vehicles gain traction on slippery roads and can actually be poured around your tires if they get stuck in snow, slush, or ice.
  2. First aid kit. Although it’s essential year-round, this is one of the most important things to keep in your car during winter because an emergency vehicle’s response time may be slow if it’s snowing.
  3. Blanket. You can’t always rely on your car’s heater so keeping a few blankets in your trunk if you get stranded or get into a crash will help keep you warm if you aren’t dressed for the elements.
  4. Jumper cables. Cold weather can affect your car’s battery and can turn a weak battery into a dead battery overnight. By having jumper cables in your trunk, it is easier to find a passing driver that could give your car a jump start.
  5. Flashlight. It gets dark early in the winter. If you stall or get stranded at night, use the flashlight to signal passing vehicles, look around in the trunk after dark, or if you need to walk to get assistance at night.
  6. Portable phone charger/battery. You will need your phone to call for assistance if you are stuck or involved in a car crash. Keep a car charger in your vehicle, but also have a portable charger/battery handy that will charge your phone regardless if your car starts or not.

CARBOHYDRATES: WHAT KIND ARE YOU EATING THIS HOLIDAY?

‘Tis the season for family, festivity, and food—lots of food, and this normally disrupts daily routines. How do you stick to a healthy plan when everyone around you seems to be splurging?

While you may not be able to control what food you’re served, you can start by limiting how many simple carbs you consume such as pies, sugar drinks and white bread. These types of carbs do not satisfy hunger very well and are typically present in foods with low nutritional content.

In order to do this, try to pick good carbs that are rich in nutrients and pay attention to portion sizes.

Complex “Good” Carbs

  • Whole wheat breads, pastas, and flour
  • Brown and wild rices
  • Barley
  • Quinoa
  • Potatoes
  • Corn
  • Legumes, such as black beans, chickpeas, lentils, and others

Simple “Bad” Carbs

  • Soda
  • Candy
  • Cookies
  • Pastries and desserts
  • Sweetened beverages, such as lemonade or iced tea
  • Energy drinks
  • Ice cream

When it comes to the holidays, it’s ok to splurge a little but the best way to make sure you don’t consume too many excess carbs is to load up on the protein of choice like turkey or ham and veggies. This will help you to stay fuller longer while the veggies—packed with fiber—will fill you up and keep you satisfied.

Happy holidays!

 

PATIENT STORY: A TRUE RELATIONSHIP WITH A PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN

Mr. J has worked for the State of New Jersey as a maintenance worker for 14 years. He has struggled with substance abuse for many years. The Human Resources department at work informed him that he could see a primary care physician at R-Health as part of his state benefits coverage for no extra charge and no copay. When he met Dr. Jones at R-Health in Ewing, NJ, he was surprised at how she listened to his story and let him speak. He says, “It felt good to have a primary care doctor take an interest in me and spend quality time.” He confided in her that he needed help. But one matter weighed on his mind. He wanted to see his daughter graduate from high school. Dr. Jones went to work and found a substance abuse program to help Mr. J with recovery and also make it possible for him to attend that graduation.

He’s clean, appreciative and grateful. And he’s getting ready to go back to work. Mr. J says that staying on top his health is a priority. “My body is like a car. I have to do the maintenance and make sure I’m taking care of it,” he adds. Now he has a partner in his health care.

Discover a true relationship with a primary care physician at R-Health.

ARE YOU SUFFERING FROM POLYCYSTIC OVARY SYNDROME?

Have you ever heard of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)? Most haven’t unless you’re a woman who has had trouble getting pregnant. PCOS is a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age. With PCOS, women’s reproductive hormones are out of balance, causing problems with their ovaries. These problems could be infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods or excess male hormone levels. Because hormones are substances that our bodies make to help different processes happen, women with PCOS can also have difficulty getting pregnant.

Early diagnosis and treatment along with weight loss may reduce the risk of long-term complications such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. For more information on causes, diagnoses, and treatments, click here.

If you have any concerns and think you may have PCOS, please contact your doctor to schedule an appointment.

HOW ARE STRESS AND DEPRESSION LINKED?

Most of us have felt stressed at one point of our life but aren’t sure how to answer when asked if we are depressed. I wanted to shed some light on the link between stress and depression.

Stress impacts all ages and can certainly be unbearable at times. Long-term, chronic stress can harm your overall health, enabling your body to start responding negatively. When this starts to happen, the following symptoms could occur:

  • Suppressed immune system
  • Digestive issues
  • Trouble sleeping or staying asleep
  • Reproductive issues

Over time, continued strain on your body from routine stress may contribute to more serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other illnesses, as well as mental disorders like depression. Stress can lead to elevated hormones such as cortisol and will reduce the serotonin in the brain, which has been linked to depression. Having a stress management plan can help you to effectively handle your stress to potentially prevent depression.

Depression is more serious and long-lasting than stress and requires a different kind of help. If you are suffering from stress or depression, please contact your doctor to make an appointment.

SCHEDULING BACK-TO-SCHOOL PHYSICALS

As summer is just beginning, no kid wants to start thinking about the next school year. However, the best time to schedule a back-to-school or sports physicals is early in the summer so you don’t forget and have more time to enjoy your summer vacation.

Don’t need a back-to-school physical? Schedule an annual comprehensive exam. Annual visits are an important time to check in with your doctor to discuss prevention and your overall health. During this time, you can have your blood pressure checked and routine labs done to screen for diabetes and other medical problems. You can also get appropriate cancer screenings completed. When diseases are found early, you have more treatment options and a better chance for a good outcome.