10 Heart-Healthy Foods

February is American Heart Month, a time to raise awareness to the leading cause of death in American adults. Maintaining a healthy diet can help reduce your risk of heart disease and there are certain foods that can actually help your blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol. Here are 10 foods to incorporate into your diet to help keep your heart healthy:

  1. Dark leafy greens like spinach and kale. They are a great source of vitamin K and high in dietary nitrates, which may reduce blood pressure.
  2. Whole grains. Try adding one serving of brown rice, whole grain pasta, oats, or quinoa to your meals. They are high in fiber so you’ll be fuller longer and may reduce cholesterol levels.
  3. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are rich in antioxidants, which helps control the inflammation that contributes to heart disease.
  4. Healthy fats like avocados and olive oil. Both may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure when consumed in small portions.
  5. Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, and trout are all high in omega-3 fatty acids which can help improve heart health.
  6. Nuts are a perfect snack to keep you full and help keep your heart healthy – have a handful of almonds and walnuts in between meals.
  7. Legumes, which are beans and lentils, are high in fiber, B-vitamins, and minerals, making them an excellent addition to any meal to help keep blood pressure down.
  8. Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants like flavonoids, which can help boost your heart health. Be sure to choose a high-quality dark chocolate that is at least 70% cocoa and moderate your intake to get the full benefits.
  9. Colorful veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and squash are full of carotenoids, fiber, and vitamins that help keep your heart healthy.
  10. Citrus fruits. Oranges and grapefruits have high amount flavonoids and vitamin C, helping lower risk of heart disease. Keep in mind though to only have them in their whole food form or fresh squeezed 100% citrus juice to get the health benefits.

What is Thyroid Disease?

The thyroid gland is a small butterfly- shaped gland located in your neck that is part of your endocrine or hormonal system. It is in charge of producing several thyroid hormones that are very important to your metabolism, protein production, and used throughout the whole body.

Thyroid diseases are fairly common and impact hundreds of millions of people worldwide. The diseases occur when the thyroid produces too little or too many hormones. Symptoms can be mild and go unnoticed, making it difficult to diagnose. The two most common thyroid diseases are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Below are some of the common symptoms found in both.

  • Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid isn’t producing enough hormone. Common symptoms may include:
  • Fatigue, cold intolerance, unexplained weight gain, depression, constipation, thinning eyebrows, hair loss, weakness, and slow heart rate
  • Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid is overactive and producing too much thyroid hormone. Common symptoms may include:
  • Anxiety, nervousness, restlessness, mood swings, racing heart, excessive sweating, insomnia, thin skin, weight loss, and muscle weakness

Thyroid disorders can be caused by an autoimmune disorder, nutrient deficiencies, or other causes. It is important to talk to your provider if you feel you have any of the symptoms to get started on a treatment plan.

Have any Thyroid concerns? Call your provider or download Spruce to schedule an appointment to talk about thyroid health.

The Different COVID-19 Vaccines

As of today, January 12, 2021, there are currently two vaccines that have received FDA approval. These are both mRNA vaccines including: 

According to the CDC, mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein – or even just a piece of a protein – that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies. 

There are also three additional vaccines in Phase 3 of clinical development in the US, including: 

  • AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine 
  • Janssen’s COVID-19 vaccine 
  • Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine​ 

COVID-19 VACCINE FACTS & MYTHS

Will I test positive for the COVID-19 virus if I have had the vaccine? 

  • No, you will test positive for the antibodies, but not for the virus.

Will the vaccine make me sick with COVID-19? 

  • No, none of the approved vaccines contain the live virus, which means that getting vaccinated will not cause you to get sick with COVID-19. 

Can I expect any side effects after I get the shot? 

  • Yes, you may experience some minor symptoms. Most likely your arm will be sore for about a day. There may be other flu-like symptoms that will respond to Tylenol or Advil. These manageable symptoms are very limited in duration, a day or so at most. 

Is there a chance there may be side effects and adverse effects that we don’t know about for the future?  

  • None of the current science to date points to any actual long term adverse effect that support various hypothetical theories. 

If I have a lot of allergic reactions should I get the vaccine?  

  • Yes, but possibly with a little more observation. Discuss with your doctor. 

Can I stop worrying about COVID-19 precautions if I get both doses of the vaccine? 

  • Not yet. While you will most likely have protection from becoming ill, you may still be able to transmit the virus to other people who are not protected. 

How long do the COVID-19 vaccines last? Do I need one every year like the flu shot? 

  • Unfortunately, we do not know yet. It is anticipated that the immunity will last longer than immunity developed from the infection itself. We have reason to suspect one to two years of protection and reinfection even after antibodies from the vaccine wane will most likely not be as potentially dangerous even after that. 

How will I know when it is my turn to get a COVID-19 vaccine? 

  • Unfortunately, the criteria are different at every state and even at the county-level. Check your state’s Department of Health website or with your R-Health physician to keep you updated with this information. 

Do I really need to get both shots? 

  • Yes, you do. The longer lasting immunity is based on the multiple exposures to the vaccine. There are vaccines in very late-stage development which are a single shot, however there is nothing to support single shot vaccination with the two mRNA vaccines that are currently available. 

Can’t I just let the COVID-19 virus run its course and get natural immunity? 

  • No, this is a myth. Strong immunity from a vaccination is better than natural immunity. Even if you have had the virus, you should still get vaccinated to protect yourself and those around you.   

Weren’t these vaccines rushed in their development?  

  • No. The safety and approval process for the COVID-19 vaccines is the same as any other new immunization or medication. Normally it does take years to develop and test a new vaccine, but in this case the pharmaceutical companies had a head start because scientists have been working on coronavirus vaccines for years for other variations fo the coronavirus including SARS and MERS. It is also important to note that no clinical steps were skipped but there were modifications to the process including overlapping phases of the clinical trials and moving into production while the companies were awaiting final approval. 

Is it true that the mRNA vaccines can change my DNA? 

  • No, this is not true. The messenger RNA, or mRNAdoes not affect your DNA. It instructs your body to build the coronavirus’ spike protein, which then teaches your body to produce antibodies to combat the coronavirus when it encounters it later.   

Will it be my choice about which vaccine to take? How is one to know which of the vaccines available that they should take?  

  • At this point in time, there is no way to declare a preference as to which vaccine to get. More importantly, there is no known reason to choose one vaccine over another. 

Is the vaccine safe for everyone? Are there some people who shouldn’t get it?   

  • The vaccine is recommended for the frail elderly, immunocompromised, pregnant and nursing women, and people who are recovered from COVID-19If you have an allergy to current vaccines, the CDC recommends that you stay for 30 minutes of observation after your vaccination. Currently, the only group recommended to not take the vaccine are persons with known allergy to one of the components in the vaccine.  
  • Currently, the vaccine from Pfizer is recommended for children 16 years and older while the Moderna vaccine is recommended for people who are 18 years and olderThis has more to do with how the vaccines were studied rather than any inherent difference in how the vaccines would work. 

Can I get other vaccines at the same time as getting the COVID-19 vaccine?  

  • Just to be cautious, it is recommended that you leave two weeks on either side of the COVID-19 vaccination. But, if you require a tetanus shot or are part of a measles or hepatitis outbreak, co-administering the vaccines is expected and appropriate  

What happens if a lot of people opt out of taking the vaccine?   

  • COVID-19 will continue to overburden our healthcare system and take much longer to end the pandemic. In addition, many needless deaths and illness will occur.  

Why should I wait to schedule a screening mammography after the second dose?   

  • The COVID-19 vaccine may cause normal and temporary lymph node enlargement in the axilla (armpit), causing difficult interpretation in mammogram imaging. If you are due for a screening mammography, the Society of Breast Imaging has issued guidelines recommending scheduling 6 weeks after the second COVID-19 dose.

Do I have to quarantine after traveling if I’ve been fully vaccinated?   

  • In accordance with the CDC guidelines, it is recommended that if a person has waited 2 weeks until after their vaccination has completed AND begun travel after that time, no quarantine is needed. However, please inquire with your employers as they may make other recommendations with regards to travel. Please note that state requirements may vary.

 

Last updated 2/19/21.

VACCINES – WHAT EXACTLY THEY ARE AND WHY WE RECOMMEND YOU GET VACCINATED

Vaccines help to prevent disease, but there are a lot of misconceptions about them that keep people from getting immunized. Get the facts and learn more about vaccines with these common questions.

What is the purpose of a vaccine?

Vaccines reduce the risks of getting a disease by working WITH your body’s natural defenses to build protection.

How do vaccines work?

There are different kinds of vaccines that all work a little differently.  Ultimately vaccines help protect you by imitating the infection in a way that never causes an illness but does cause your immune system to create antibodies.  These antibodies will remember how to fight the disease if your body ever encounters it in the future.  By getting a vaccine you develop immunity to that disease without having to get the disease first.  For more information on the different kinds of vaccines there are you can visit: Understanding How Vaccines Work | CDC

What are the benefits of vaccines?

Ultimately vaccines protect you and your loved ones from getting sick with diseases that have caused serious illness, pain, disability and even death in the past.  Many of us have never experienced cases of vaccine preventable diseases firsthand such as measles, polio and meningitis due to the vaccines that we receive.

Vaccines also help protect those around us who cannot get vaccinated such as newborns, those undergoing cancer treatments or who have a weakened immune system or have had a severe allergic reaction to a previous vaccine dose.

Are there any risks or side effects to getting vaccinated?

Most vaccines come with very little risks and most have very mild side effects, if any.  Common side effects include low grade fever (a sign of your immune system working to build up antibodies) and soreness at the injection site.

Vaccines have NOT been linked to increases in health problems such as autism, asthma or auto-immune diseases.  We do know that lack of vaccination can threaten a long and healthy life.

Rarely, an individual might have an allergic reaction to a vaccine.  These allergic reactions are treatable and very rare.

What are the risks of not getting vaccinated?

The risks of not getting vaccinated is that you do not have protection against a disease that can cause great harm.  All vaccine preventable diseases still circulate in the United States and in other places around the world and can cause outbreaks in communities, affecting those who do not have immunity to that disease.  If you chose not to vaccinate yourself or your family, it is important to have a conversation with your primary care provider about what steps to take if there is an outbreak and what to watch for.

Are there other ingredients in vaccines and what do they do?

There are in fact other ingredients in vaccines that help provide protection, keep the vaccine safe and long lasting, prevent contamination and are used in the production of the vaccine.  They are all used in safe amounts and at levels that are much lower than what already resides in our body naturally.

If you have more questions about the specific ingredients that make up a vaccine speak with your provider as they can discuss them in more detail with you and address your concerns.

Can a vaccine give someone the disease it’s supposed to prevent?

Vaccines cannot give someone the disease they are used to prevent.  Vaccines contain the same germs that cause the disease, but those germs are inactivated or weakened to the point that they do not make you sick.

 

COVID-19 TESTING—WHAT KIND OF TEST MAY BE RIGHT FOR YOU?

Since March 2020, COVID-19 testing has been evolving. Many people still have questions on tests, including what kind of test may be right for you?

Currently there are two kinds of diagnostic tests for COVID-19: PCR and antigen (rapid). The ideal time for any COVID-19 diagnostic test is 5-7 days after possible exposure, or shortly after symptoms develop. There is also one that looks for a past infection called an antibody test.

PCR test

The PCR test is often considered the “gold standard” test.

  • PCR tests use a nasopharyngeal swab goes deep into your nose or to the back of your throat. Results may take 2 to 3 days or longer to come back.
  • Sometimes it is too sensitive. If you are asymptomatic and you test positive with a PCR test, it may represent an infection that you had even as far back as two months ago. However, we need to act on it as if you were currently infected.
Antigen or rapid test
  • While this test may take only 10 to 20 minutes to analyze, due to backlogs and testing delays, it may take up to a day to come back.
  • This test is less sensitive than a PCR test which means if the probability is high that you have COVID-19 but test negative with an antigen test, you may be recommended to follow up with a PCR test anyway.
  • One benefit of an antigen test is that if you are positive with an antigen test, you are most likely currently infectious.
  • The main drawback of the antigen test is that if you test a little too early or a little too late, you may miss an active infection.
Antibody tests

Antibody tests are blood tests that look for past infection and present antibodies conferring protection against repeated exposure to COVID-19. It is best to wait several weeks after an infection before testing for antibodies. However, antibody tests are not routinely recommended at this time since: 

  • Having antibodies does not necessarily mean that a person is immune. For example, a person may have been exposed to seasonal varieties of coronavirus (which circulate yearly in the United States and cause mild cold symptoms) which could possibly cause a false positive COVID-19 antibody test. 
  • Antibodies are sometimes not at a level high enough to be detected on the blood test, even when you have had COVID-19.  
If you still have questions on COVID-19 testing, do not hesitate to reach out to us.

5 NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION IDEAS FOR A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE

Let’s face it—this year has been tough on all of us but that doesn’t mean your health should take a back seat. Your health, something you can strongly influence, has an impact on all areas of your life.

Plan for a fresh start in 2021 by setting realistic goals for yourself. Try incorporating some of these 5 New Year’s resolution ideas for a healthy lifestyle.

  1. Unplug yourself from technology. Turn your phone off, limit your computer time and don’t watch TV. Instead, do something that requires no technology at all. Taking a break from electronics will give your mind a chance to recharge, leaving you feeling more focused.
  2. Increase your physical strength. Most people say they don’t have time to work out so they skip it all together. Start by adding 5 minutes, then 10 minutes until you’ve reached 30 minutes of physical exercise each day. This will not only improve your physical health, but your mental health as well.
  3. Plan and prep your meals. Instead of worrying about seeing a certain number on the scale, plan your meals ahead of time so you’re less likely to get off track. The number on the scale will soon follow.
  4. Maintain a positive mindset. Your mental health is an important part of your overall health. Challenges and setback are inevitable—as most of us experienced in 2020—but having a positive attitude will keep you motivated to stick with all of your other health goals.
  5. Book your doctor’s visits for the year. Open your calendar and make your appointments for the year. Booking your appointments in advance will help you avoid unwanted stress while ensuring you’re up to date on all your necessary screenings to help keep you healthy. Give us a call to schedule your visit.

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.