A Healthy New Reality
Take charge of your well-being in the Age of Covid-19
By Elaine Marotta
As we continue to experience the Covid-19 pandemic, protecting the health of family, community and the nation is paramount.
New cases of Covid-19 are spiking, and variants have been detected. Following the latest Covid-19 guidelines as we take the steps necessary to guard our health and well-being matters now more than ever. Here are tips on staying healthy.
Separate the Facts From the Noise
Keeping abreast of the latest information regarding Covid-19 — including outbreaks, restrictions and updates on testing and vaccine rollout timing in your area — is crucial. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO) and Johns Hopkins University & Medicine websites regularly (www.cdc.gov, www.who.int, https://coronavirus.jhu.edu), and read your newspapers.
Remember to: Stay at home whenever you are able. When outside your home (indoors, or outside around people), protect yourself and others from the contagious coronavirus by wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, even if you have been vaccinated. Keep at least six feet from other people. Stay away from those who are sick. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, and use hand sanitizer with at least 60-percent alcohol when proper washing is not possible. Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Cover your nose and mouth with your bent elbow if you cough or sneeze. Stay home when your are sick.
Medical experts advise not traveling if you don’t have to. When people travel, the coronavirus travels with them, endangering vulnerable lives. Though it’s difficult to isolate ourselves, we do need to protect the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. Avoid in-person gatherings with those outside your household who have not been vaccinated. Technology provides many alternatives to in-person visits with faraway family and friends.
Opt for Healthy Nutrition
You and your family may be cooking at home more often these days. Include a variety of healthy choices in your diet, such as fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, lean cuts of meats, skinless poultry, colorful fruits and vegetables, whole-grain breads and pastas, and low-fat or fat-free yogurt, cheese and milk. Avoid processed foods as much as possible, and use healthy fats such as olive and canola oils. Read nutrition information labels to keep your sodium and sugar levels — along with portion sizes — in check. Always cook foods thoroughly.
If you are an older adult or if you have a pre-existing health condition such as diabetes, heart, lung or kidney disease, or a compromised immune system, it’s best to avoid busy, crowded times at grocery stores when shopping for food and household items. Some stores offer special early hours. Alternatively, forgo the market altogether and take advantage of delivery or curtsied pickup services.
Since the arrival of Covid-19, you and your loved ones most likely have spent many sedentary moments in front of your television or computer, or on the phone. Studies show that being physically inactive for long periods can increase the chances of developing cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and type 2 diabetes, among other conditions.
Physical activity improves overall well-being while reducing anxiety and depression, so now is a good time to increase your level of physical activity — safely. Your local gym may not be an option these days, but exercising in your own home or outdoors is. Have fun with at-home virtual workouts. When outside, keep social distancing in mind. Follow the latest health guidelines — and walk, run, cycle, swim, box and even dance your way to better health.
Stress is a natural part of life under normal circumstances. With so many changes, health concerns and unknowns at the current time, it is crucial to find healthy ways to manage stress. Making healthy food choices, working exercise into your day, monitoring chronic conditions, avoiding tobacco, getting good sleep, connecting with your family and friends (virtually) and maintaining a positive attitude may help ease your stress.
Get Your ZZZs
Sleep is essential to your and your family’s health, safety and quality of life. A CDC study showed that more than one third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. According to sleep experts, people who don’t get adequate sleep are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease, regardless of age or lifestyle factors.
What’s keeping you awake? In addition to having a sleep disorder, concerns about the pandemic, worry about work and finances, being less active and trying to adjust to a new schedule may be compromising your sleep.
Developing good sleep habits may help prevent poor sleep: First, try not to worry as much. Go to bed only when you are tired. Keep the bedroom quiet and dark (sans television, phone or computer) and the temperature comfortable. When it’s close to bedtime, avoid eating a large meal, drinking lots of water, having caffeine or exercising. If you wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble going back to sleep, spend some time in another room, then return when you are ready to go back to sleep.
Manage High Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure
Become familiar with your cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and speak to your provider regarding guidance on achieving your ideal numbers if your cholesterol and/or blood pressure are high.
High cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. An adult’s total cholesterol should be less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). You can help lower your cholesterol with lifestyle changes such as losing extra pounds, exercising regularly and modifying your diet. In addition, your provider may prescribe medication.
High blood pressure (hypertension) strains your heart and arteries. A healthy blood pressure range is generally considered to be less than 120/80, but no lower than 90/60. Losing weight, exercising regularly, eating healthily, reducing your salt/sodium intake and limiting the amount of alcohol you drink may help lower your blood pressure. Your provider may prescribe medication as well.
According to the American Lung Association, smoking is the number-one cause of preventable disease and death worldwide. Smoking-related diseases claim in excess of 480,000 lives in America annually. Not only does smoking cause lung cancer and other respiratory diseases, it increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. Smoking ages you (and your appearance), while compromising the health of those around you who breathe in secondhand smoke. If you smoke, please stop. Consult your healthcare provider if you need help.
Monitor Your Drinking, Especially During Holidays and Celebrations
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommend drinking alcohol in moderation, should you choose to drink at all. Women should not exceed one drink per day and men should not have more than two drinks. If you are taking medication, check with your provider before drinking any alcohol.