Archive For: Wellness

COVID-19 and The Road Ahead

From Boosters & Breakthroughs to Vaccines & Variants: Where Do We Go From Here?

The following reflects an 8/24/2021 discussion; please check the CDC website for real-time updates as the situation continues to evolve.

Their answers may not land lightly, but epidemiologist Jodie Guest, PhD, and drug development expert Michael Kinch, PhD, have been immersed in examining COVID-19 since its first stirrings in early 2020. They share an informed look at the road ahead for us all.

State of Concern

Noting more than 39 million COVID-19 cases nationwide, (as of 9/2/21) Guest projects this will continue to rise rapidly and eclipse one million a week. While “hot spots” for outbreaks clearly correspond to the country’s most lightly vaccinated locales, the impact of the delta variant is being felt in virtually every state. “There’s almost nowhere you can go in the U.S. that you don’t need to be masked indoors, even if vaccinated,” she says. The progressive increase in vaccinated patients with COVID-19 in European hospitals is also troubling, says Kinch, a potential harbinger of what is to come for the U.S.

However, what’s driving the surge is not cases among the vaccinated, known as “breakthroughs.” It’s a term Guest would like to eliminate permanently, given its negative connotation regarding vaccine efficacy. “These type of infections are still rare. More than 90% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.” She points out that while viral loads in patients with COVID-19 are the same for vaccinated and unvaccinated patients in the first few days of illness, they drop much faster and further in the vaccinated.

The vaccine, contends Kinch, was never intended to eliminate all possibility of getting COVID-19. “It’s not a suit of armor,” he says, “because no vaccine ever provides 100% protection. But we know they work incredibly well to prevent you from getting very sick or dying.”

The FDA’s recent approval of the Pfizer mRNA vaccine, with Moderna approval expected to follow soon, is pivotal, says Guest, in helping launch vaccination requirements at businesses, schools and other locations. “Don’t underestimate the importance of this approval in providing support for mandates that will protect all of us,” she says. “Recognize that in the entire history of vaccines, there has never been a set more studied than the ones we have now.”
Adds Kinch, “With the enormous amount of data gathered on the vaccines’ efficacy and safety, those who think of themselves as vaccine hesitant may more accurately be described as vaccine resistant.”

Third Doses and Boosters

The recent approval of a third dose of Pfizer or Moderna for immunosuppressed patients who didn’t build sufficient immunity from the first two doses applies to just 3% of the adult population. For everyone else (with the exception of pregnant women), a booster shot six to eight months after the initial series is being considered for approval.

“Right now, that’s how long we believe we can go without significantly diminished immunity,” says Guest. Antibody tests are not proven to be an accurate measure of protection from COVID-19, says Kinch, because the antibody levels vary by individual.

If you received Pfizer or Moderna initially, choose the same for a booster. Notes Kinch: “There’s no difference between these two vaccines—one is not better than the other.” In fact, some studies show no impact on efficacy from switching brands, he says; Johnson & Johnson data is yet to come.

And where does the flu shot fit in this fall? Absolutely essential, both agree, with the only caution that a two-week separation between the two vaccines may be recommended by some healthcare providers to avoid triggering a hyperactive immune response.

Protecting our Children

The best way to keep youngsters under 12 safe is ensuring that everyone around them is vaccinated, says Guest.
“Teachers, caregivers, babysitters and others should be vaccinated, or fully masked whenever they’re with children,” she advises. A different dose is being tested for 5- to 12-year-olds, with approval possible later this year.

The Next Wave of Variants?

While not identified by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as a “high concern,” Kinch admits that the lambda variant worries him primarily because not enough is known about its ability to resist vaccines. “One view is that the COVID-19 spike protein can only mutate to a certain point, and if that’s true, lambda could be the end of the virus. The other view is that we don’t know if it stopped mutating,” he says.
“We’re not defenseless, though,” counters Guest, “because we can keep it from getting here by having COVID-19 not circulating in communities. Greater numbers of vaccinated people will prevent us from getting whatever variant might follow delta.”

Stay Safe and Well

One of last year’s most popular signoff lines takes on new resonance as our experts advise on what that now means for the vaccinated in fall 2021.

Mask Up, Indoors and Out.

Masks are increasingly needed outside in crowded areas. Indoors, remember that while a soft, comfortable cloth mask protects others from you, if you need extra protection in certain settings, use a KN95 or N95 mask.

Pass on Indoor Dining, Movies, Concerts and Sporting Events.

Also reconsider full-capacity outdoor events with no masking/distancing/vaccine requirements. (As an alternative, order take-out and support virtual events offered by local venues). And avoid getting together in person with those who are not vaccinated.

Reach out to Every Unvaccinated Person you Know.

“The best action we can take is to keep encouraging every unvaccinated person we know to get the shot, now,” advises Guest. “We’re all in the race against variants and need to work together to defeat them as quickly as possible.” Adds Kinch, “It’s unfortunate that the motivations behind much of the messaging has messed up the message itself. Be completely honest about what is known and not known about the vaccine.”

The Swiss Cheese Respiratory Pandemic Defense.

“Layering prevention messages is crucial because the delta variant has made the holes in the Swiss cheese slice of the vaccine just a bit bigger,” says Guest. “Now masks are more crucial than ever before.”

Dr. Jodie Guest is professor and vice chair of the Department of Epidemiology, Emory University, Atlanta, and award-winning leader of Emory’s Outbreak Response Team for COVID-19.

Dr. Michael Kinch is associate vice chancellor and founder/director of the Center for Research Innovation in Biotechnology and the Center for Drug Discovery at Washington University, St. Louis.

The post COVID-19 and The Road Ahead appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

For more information on the benefits of Concierge Medicine, please visit Logan Square Medical Group. To enroll as a new patient, please call us directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Current patients with any health concerns, should call Dr. Brown’s office directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Thank you!

Healthier Eating

Fish skewers, baked potatoes, vegetables and yogurt greens sauce on dark background, top view

How to Pare Down Protein & Cut Back Carbs

Inspired by a belief that our diets can be redefined to integrate both healthier eatting and environmental responsibility , Menus of Change encourages a meaningful “flip” in the emphasis on animal proteins and highly processed carbohydrates to an emphasis on highly appealing alternatives.

Menus of Change, a collaboration of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), authors a creative approach to enjoying delicious, nutritional and sustainable foods: “The Protein Flip” and its companion, the
“Carbohydrate Flip.”

The Protein Flip, introduced in 2016, laid the groundwork for the Menus of Change health- oriented methodology, stating, “Higher intake of red meat, irrespective of its total fat content, increases risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes when compared to poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, or legumes.”

The Menus of Change solution was to challenge chefs in every setting to place meat, poultry and seafood in a supporting role or as a side and make vegetables and plant proteins the stars – for example, burger blends composed of primarily mushrooms, other vegetables, grains or legumes; surf and turf reimagined as seafood with bountiful vegetables and only a bite or two of meat; use of tapas, mezze and other plant-forward small plate replacements for entrees. The public response was immensely gratifying, spurring further innovation and the mainstreaming of vegan options, such as lentil, barley and black bean burgers or wild rice polenta burgers made with mushrooms, carrots and leeks.

Building on their successful work with proteins, the collaborative is now developing a complementary program centered on advancing carbohydrate quality on the American plate. “From fluffy pancakes to soft hamburger buns, refined, fast-metabolizing carbohydrates are still found in many a diet and are contributing to the rise in diet-linked chronic conditions such as
diabetes and heart disease,” according to a recent Menus of Change summit panel discussion headed by Sarah Schutzberger, RD, CSO (certified in oncology nutrition). “In large part because of our food choices, scientists project that 75 percent of chronic diseases are attributable to diet and lifestyle.”

A substantial emphasis on whole, minimally processed carbohydrates can help change the trajectory, beginning with these flips described by the panel:

  • Take on the Three Pleasures challenge: Create a delicious dessert using dark chocolate, nuts, and fresh-cut or dried fruit. “Instead of forcing a choice between a whole slice of cheesecake with a single strawberry as garnish or a plain bowl of berries, enjoy a dessert made from a healthy market basket that includes dark chocolate, fruit, whole grains, nuts and yogurt,” advised Greg Drescher, Culinary Institute of America.
  • Look to world food cultures for inspiration:
    • Mediterranean region: “This type of cooking features a healthy fat versus a low fat approach to diet, with olive oil as the foundation of flavor,” said Drescher. Try tabouli, made of cracked bulgur wheat, chopped parsley and olive oil, or a salad made with hydrated, whole-grain barley rusks, topped with chopped tomatoes and fresh feta cheese and tossed with olive oil. Also important: improve the health profile of pasta by using a whole-grain type and cooking al dente to make it a source of slower-releasing carbohydrates.
    • France: The niçoise salad suggests ways to include potatoes in limited amounts by pairing with green beans and other vegetables, hard-boiled egg, and a light vinaigrette for a slow-metabolizing lunch.
    • Asia and India: Try a salad featuring soba noodles made from buckwheat flour; a Buddha bowl with foundational ingredients that include legumes, fresh vegetables and plant proteins, paired with small amounts of salmon or roasted tofu; and whole-grain flatbreads.

The post Healthier Eating appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

For more information on the benefits of Concierge Medicine, please visit Logan Square Medical Group. To enroll as a new patient, please call us directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Current patients with any health concerns, should call Dr. Brown’s office directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Thank you!

New Lung Cancer Screening Recommendations

Illustration of a toxic smoke in Lung

Spotlighting Both Challenges and Progress

This winter the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released its new Lung Cancer screening recommendations, lowering both the starting age and pack-year criteria. Previously, low-dose computed tomography screening was advised for adults age 55 to 80 years with a 30 pack-year history of smoking who are current smokers or have quit within the past 15 years; now the USPSTF recommends extending the screening to adults starting at age 50 who have a 20 pack-year smoking history.

For most, the announcement may have gone under the radar due to the intense focus on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in early 2021. But as the first change in lung cancer screening eligibility criteria since 2013, its significance was quickly recognized and is still being broadly debated across the medical community.

Notably, previous recommendations missed female patients who tended to be lighter smokers than men, and despite Black smokers’ higher risk of developing lung cancer, included only 17% of Black people who smoke compared to 31% of White smokers. The question is, by doubling the number of people eligible for screening, do the guidelines indicate a significant shift that will improve gender and racial disparities in testing and outcomes, or are they simply a small, overdue step in the right direction?

“It’s excellent news because expanded screening eligibility can reduce lung cancer mortality and may reduce all-cause mortality,” acknowledges Ella Kazerooni, MD, professor of radiology and internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, who’s devoted much of her career to creating lung cancer survivors through her work as chair of the National Lung Cancer Roundtable.

The downside: “This may also cause false-positive results, leading to unnecessary tests and invasive procedures, because we’re still not incorporating other known risk factors. These encompass more than just smoking, but include air pollution, exposure to radon and other carcinogens, family history and social determinants of health,” says Dr. Kazerooni.

In March 2021, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) weighed in with support for the measure while also noting the need for additional research to determine potential harms from annual screening.

“More studies are needed to achieve our goal of increasing survivorship and lowering mortality without enhancing risk along the way,” agrees Dr. Kazerooni. “Compared to cardiac disease, research for lung cancer screening and risk assessment is relatively new and evolving. Tools, like an individualized lung cancer risk calculator, will take time to develop because of the complexity of the disease.”

Lung cancer survivor Jill Feldman views the new recommendations with the same unflinching honesty that’s fueled her remarkable 20-year crusade for others with the disease. She is the former president of LUNGevity and a founding member of the EGFR Resisters, both leading nonprofit patient support and advocacy organizations.

“We took too long to get here,” she says, “and it’s still not being viewed with a nearly wide enough lens. By focusing solely on age and smoking habits, we’re not considering the critical intersection of environmental factors and personal and family history that impact an individual’s risk of lung cancer.”
Having lost two grandparents, an aunt and both her parents to lung cancer before being diagnosed in 2009 with non-small cell lung cancer at age 39, Jill is painfully aware of the barriers that still surround screening and treatment.

“Despite its prevalence, lung cancer carries a real stigma,” says Jill. “The unintended consequence of successfully educating the public about the heightened risk of lung cancer among people who smoke, is that it’s considered preventable, making people reluctant to seek screening, and if diagnosed, ashamed to admit they have it.”

“It’s a significant problem that impacts people along the entire cancer care continuum,” says Dr. Kazerooni. “And it affects funding and research dollars as well. Although lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., only 6% of federal dollars dedicated to cancer research are allocated to lung cancer.”

The stigma issue is particularly harmful for the rising numbers of younger women in their 20s to 40s with no smoking history who are diagnosed with lung cancer. “When someone is forced to
emphasize that they never smoked, the message being sent to the 85% of patients with lung cancer who have a smoking history is ‘you are the ones who deserve this.’ No one deserves lung cancer,” says Jill.

Epidemiology studies centered on nonsmokers with lung cancer have begun, but actionable findings may not be reported for at least another decade or two, according to Dr. Kazerooni. The GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer is currently studying genomic, environmental and behavioral risk factors to identify the common link among nonsmokers in order to run trials.

“We know the disease seems to be increasing among nonsmokers, especially younger women, but we don’t know enough to effectively screen for it now,” says Dr. Kazerooni.

While screening challenges remain, advances in treatment show incredible promise, especially targeted biomarker therapy, which is allowing Jill to treat her incurable lung cancer as a chronic condition.

“I never used to use the word ‘hope’ in the same sentence with lung cancer. But there is real hope now,” she says.

The following are traditional signs of non-small cell and small cell lung cancer, which can also be present as a result of many other conditions. Keep in mind, however, that the hope of expanded lung cancer screening is to find the disease before these symptoms appear.

  • A cough that gets worse or does not go away
  • Coughing up blood
  • Breathing trouble, such as shortness of breath
  • New wheezing when you breathe
  • Ache or pain in your chest, upper back or shoulder that doesn’t go away and may get worse with deep breathing
  • Hoarseness
  • Frequent respiratory tract infections, such as pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Feeling unusually tired all the time
  • Weight loss with no known cause
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Swelling in the face and/or veins in the neck

Source: LUNGevity Foundation

The post New Lung Cancer Screening Recommendations appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

For more information on the benefits of Concierge Medicine, please visit Logan Square Medical Group. To enroll as a new patient, please call us directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Current patients with any health concerns, should call Dr. Brown’s office directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Thank you!

A Quick Guide to Seasonal Allergies

Mature Couple Gardening

Pollen, Grass, Ragweed and Mold spores

For more than 24 million Americans, the flowering trees and mild weather of spring and summer, signals another allergy season in full bloom. The cause: substances such as pollen, grass, ragweed and mold spores enter the body and are mistakenly identified as a threat by the immune system, triggering a variety of symptoms. We hope you find some comfort in this quick guide to seasonal allergies.

Reduce the effects of seasonal allergies

  • Pollen and spores can be carried into the home on your clothes or enter through windows during allergy season.
  • Know which pollens you are sensitive to and then check pollen counts. Weather reports often include this information during allergy seasons. In spring and summer, during tree and grass pollen season, levels are highest in the evening. In late summer and early fall, during ragweed pollen season, levels are highest in the morning. For an interactive map to view allergy levels and pollen count forecasts, visit pollen.com.
  • If your allergy symptoms are very bothersome:
    • Take a shower, wash your hair and change your clothes after you’ve been working or playing outdoors, and keep windows and doors shut at home and in your car.
    • Wear sunglasses and a hat outside to keep pollen out of eyes and hair. Your COVID-19 mask could provide a protective barrier against pollen.
    • Indoors, get an air purifier with a HEPA filter, and vacuum regularly.

Treatment

Seasonal allergies are often treated with over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines (non-drowsy types are available), nasal steroid sprays, decongestants and immunotherapy (allergy shots that expose you over time to gradual increments of the allergen), as well as alternative methods. Please check with your healthcare provider to discuss what’s right for you.

Symptom Checker: Is It Allergies, a Cold or COVID-19?

Allergies Colds Covid-19
Duration of symptoms Allergy season 4-10 days Varies
Mucus Thin, watery and clear Thick and yellow/green
New loss of taste or smell Uncommon Uncommon Often (early)
Itchy or watery eyes Usually Rarely Rarely
Sneezing Usually Sometimes Rarely
Cough Frequent Usually Usually
Shortness of breath Sometimes allergens can exacerbate a respiratory condition Sometimes Usually
Sore throat Frequent Usually Usually
Fever Never Sometimes Usually
Diarrhea Never Uncommon Sometimes
Contagious Never Yes Yes
Body aches Never Sometimes Usually
Fatigue Sometimes Sometimes Usually

Not Your Imagination: Pollen Season May Be Getting Worse

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), climate change has made pollen season longer and more severe throughout North America. A recent study showed that pollen seasons for plants like trees, grasses, and weeds showed a 20-day increase in length and a 21% increase in pollen concentration from 1990 to 2018. Notably the researchers also found that the pollen produced is more allergenic – more likely to trigger an allergic reaction with fewer grains of pollen in the air.
Sources: Mayo Clinic, ACAAI

The post A Quick Guide to Seasonal Allergies appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

For more information on the benefits of Concierge Medicine, please visit Logan Square Medical Group. To enroll as a new patient, please call us directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Current patients with any health concerns, should call Dr. Brown’s office directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Thank you!

Cooking without Sodium or Sugar

Assortments of spices, white pepper, chili flakes, lemongrass, coriander and cumin seeds in jars on grey stone background. Copy space

Executive Chef Stan Hodes Shares Secrets of the Spice Rack

The benefits of reducing sodium and sugar in the diet are compelling, backed by well- documented studies. The flip side is an equally powerful human craving for enhanced flavor, compounded by years of exposure to products boosted with salt and sugar and the ongoing quest for umami (the fifth taste, defined by experts as the essence of deliciousness).

“Salt and sugar were once basic to preserving foods, and we’re predisposed to enjoy the sweet and the salty, the yin and the yang, such as salted caramel,” explains executive chef Stan Hodes, who has spent three decades bringing the “wow” factor to hospital and senior living meals with strict nutritional requirements. In this two-part series, he shares how to coax out natural flavors with no shakers of salt or spoonsful of sugar.

Hodes encourages a holistic approach to meeting recommended limits for calories, sodium, sugar and fat.

“All too frequently, reducing sodium in a particular product or recipe can mean amping up the sugar instead, so it’s best to consider the overall nutritional value rather than a single component,” he explains. “Then, be inspired by natural substitutes from other cultures that don’t use salt to create their remarkable flavor profiles with real punch from the very first bite, such as Cajun spice mixes or Indian garam masala (a coriander, cumin, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg blend).”

Hodes’ spicy recommendations

Bagel seasoning. Low-sodium versions of this blend of poppy seeds, toasted sesame seeds, dried garlic, dehydrated onions and other spices provide a welcome bit of crunch and texture as well as flavor.

Black pepper, cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. Eliminate the need for salt with a light dusting of these pungent peppers.

Cinnamon. A peppery and semi-sweet spice ideal for tomato sauces, curries and marinades. Hodes uses a potent mix of cinnamon and coffee as the closely held keys to flavor in his popular chili.

Citrus juices. Drizzle over cooked vegetables, tenderize meats and fish, and transform vinaigrettes with an acidic zing from the juice of a lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit or yuzu (a small Japanese citrus fruit). Additionally, try grating (zesting) the peel of a lemon and mix it into soups, marinades and beverages to bring out the flavors.

Coffee. A rich source of flavor sometimes found in Mexican moles, brewed coffee can be reduced by half in a saucepan and used in sauces, stews and gravies, or try a sprinkle of instant coffee instead.

Ginger. Chop and mix fresh ginger root into stir-fries, sauces, soups and beverages; this pungent and sweet spice is also known for its possible anti-inflammatory effects.

Infused oils. Place stalks of fresh garlic, rosemary and oregano, each in a separate bottle of olive oil, for freshly flavored dressings.

Mushrooms and beets. These naturally occurring sources of umami can easily be added to recipes for a burst of flavor: Dehydrate mushrooms by roasting until crisp and store them in a jar for future use; oven-roast beets, slice, and add to salads, soups or root vegetable platters.

Nutritional yeast. This deactivated yeast, available as flakes or powder, provides a cheesy, salty flavor without using either. Ideal on roasted vegetables or baked taco chips; when blended with carrots, potatoes, lemon juice, garlic and onion powder, “It tastes exactly like Velveeta cheese,” promises Hodes. Pour it over cooked elbow noodles for a lower-sodium, non-dairy mac ’n’ cheese.

Olives. Known for their salty taste and high sodium content, olives can be used more healthily if you soak the sodium out. Cut them in half, immerse overnight in a bowl of tap water and drain the next day.

Paprika. Warm up any recipe with fresh or smoked varieties of this vibrant red spice made from a variety of red peppers.

Sage. Strongly aromatic, with an earthy taste of citrus and pine, this herb can be used fresh or dried to flavor sauces, roasted vegetables and bean dishes.
Salsa. Store-bought salsas can bring too much sodium into the mix, so make your own fruit salsa with finely diced melons and a dash of orange juice as a colorful, phytonutrient-rich topping for grilled fish, chicken or salads.

Vinegars. Another way to use the power of acidity is with rice wine vinegars for seasoning; the sweetly sharp tang of balsamic vinegar to wake up dressings, stews and marinades; and the strong kick of apple cider vinegar.

Wines. Cook red or white wine until reduced by half, let it thicken and cool, and store in a squeeze bottle to use as a glaze for proteins.

Stan Hodes served as Executive Chef and Manager of Dining Services Operations at Baptist Hospital of Miami for 27 years, and worked as chef for the Marriott Hotels, Cancun’s Casa Magna Resort, and Royal Caribbean and Norwegian cruise lines. He was recognized by HealthLeaders magazine as one of the top 20 Most Innovative Foodservice Executives in America.

The post Cooking without Sodium or Sugar appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

For more information on the benefits of Concierge Medicine, please visit Logan Square Medical Group. To enroll as a new patient, please call us directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Current patients with any health concerns, should call Dr. Brown’s office directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Thank you!

New Year’s Resolutions Are So 2020!

What are your 2021 Anti-Resolutions?

Year after year, the pattern rarely varies. Resolutions made, promptly followed by resolutions broken. The odds of sticking to New Year’s resolutions are, in fact, completely stacked against us, as research shows a paltry success rate of between 10 and 20%. But since the challenges of 2020 have reconfigured every aspect of daily living, 2021 may be the ideal time to reset this ritual as well. Perhaps it’s time we consider this upcoming new year, the year of the anti-resolution for dieting, exercising, eating healthier and managing stress.

We’ve asked therapists steeped in mindful eating, body positivity and resilient thinking to help reframe this perennial wish list. There are no checklists to mark off or milestones to meet, just inspiration to view yourself and the world around you through a new lens.

Instead of Dieting in 2021… Consider being more mindful about what you eat.

Replace the resolve to lose weight on a diet with a shift to mindful eating. “Keep in mind that while all diets work in the short run, there’s not a single plan that has long-term results for the majority of participants, and that’s why people make the same resolution every year,” says Judith Matz, nationally recognized speaker, therapist and co-author of The Diet Survivor’s Handbook and Beyond a Shadow of a Diet. “The deprivation that comes from dieting often leads to overeating or bingeing, setting into motion an endless cycle of frustration.”

Instead, learn to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full, and choose from a wide variety of foods, including healthful ones.

Matz describes the essence of the process. “First, learn to recognize when you are just beginning to feel hungry. If you have a headache, are crabby, irritable, fatigued and low on energy, you’ve waited too long and are much more likely to overeat as a result.”

Next, think about what food would make you feel satisfied. “Sometimes a fresh apple or a raw carrot is exactly what you want, and at other times you might want ice cream or a bowl of pasta. Depriving yourself of foods you love can be counterproductive – there’s room for all types of food,” she says.
For patients with specific medical issues, such as high cholesterol, Matz notes that adjustments can easily be made while still respecting the process: a craving for ice cream can be met with a sorbet instead.

Finally, trust your body to let you know when to stop eating. While that may sound simple, Matz counsels patience, especially for chronic dieters. “It can take time to tune in to your natural cues for both hunger and satiety.”

The key is to stop having rules around food and to really listen to your body. “Ultimately it’s about having a healthy relationship with food rather than focusing solely on eating so-called healthful foods,” she says.

Moving from body image to body appreciation.

An equally important shift is changing the desire for a new body size to a genuine appreciation of the body you have. Matz defines this as “body positivity, relating to your body with acceptance and respect rather than self-criticism and shame.” It means rejecting ingrained cultural messages related to body embarrassment and weight stigma and replacing them with ones that reflect inclusiveness and self-compassion. It encourages taking pleasure in natural body changes throughout your life cycle and not putting off anything you might enjoy doing because you’re not the “perfect” size or shape.

Body positivity also empowers you to view exercise positively rather than as punishment for having the wrong body. “Unhook exercise from weight, and focus on choosing exercise for endurance, strength, flexibility, stress reduction, health, social connection or just the simple pleasure of moving your body,” advises Matz.

Finally, refrain from focusing on weight loss praise, which reinforces the mistaken belief that you can’t be happy, healthy and successful unless you’re a certain body size, says Matz.
“Consider that body positivity is a gift we can give to support family, friends and, most notably, the next generation.”

Find joy in what you do and who you surround yourself with to reduce stress.

Resolving to manage stress effectively is an oft-expressed but infrequently realized New Year’s wish. But it can be triggered by one pivotal question, says influential family therapist Debbie Gross, who asks it at every session with a new client: “What brings you joy?”

She explains, “It’s transformational in terms of moving out of the survival mode many experienced last year, and into thriving mode. When people are in crisis, they become overwhelmed by the thought that no one will meet their needs. Their only goal is to focus on how to get through this moment; their attitude is ‘If I don’t take care of me, who will?’”

To stop the “anxiety spiral” in the brain, Gross recommends the “5, 4, 3” grounding exercise for staying in the present: “Focus on five things you can see, four things you can hear and three things you can feel, either physically or emotionally.”

And while it’s all too easy to devolve into perpetual doom and gloom against a backdrop of unceasing anxiety, Gross says we have a choice – Eeyore or Tigger?
“We can wake up each day just waiting for the next problem to come our way, or we can look at the world with more of a ‘beginner mind’ that recognizes small, everyday miracles,” she says. “It takes real work for some to switch the channel in their brain to that mindset, but the difference it makes is astounding.”

The post New Year’s Resolutions Are So 2020! appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

For more information on the benefits of Concierge Medicine, please visit Logan Square Medical Group. To enroll as a new patient, please call us directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Current patients with any health concerns, should call Dr. Brown’s office directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Thank you!

Pandemic Stress Likely Compounded by Seasonal Affective Disorder

Experts Expect Record Numbers of Seasonal Affective Disorder Diagnoses in 2021

As we continue to weather the storm of COVID-19, seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is also on our radar. More subtle than an arctic blast, SAD is just as real, with just as much potential to have a chilling effect on our mood, productivity and wellness. Unfortunately, the emotional stress and fear that come with a global pandemic create an ideal climate for SAD this winter. Not surprisingly, mental health experts are expecting to diagnose and treat more cases of SAD in 2021 than ever before.

First discovered in the 1840s, SAD was not officially recognized as a disorder until the early 1980s, when Dr. Norman Rosenthal coined the term and categorized it as a form of clinical depression. We now know that SAD affects at least 5% of Americans; is more likely to affect women than men, those with other forms of depression or family members with the condition; and is far more common in northern regions, due to reduced natural sunlight. New research has advanced several theories as to why some people develop SAD, including: sluggish transmission of serotonin (which helps regulate mood and the body’s circadian rhythms; reduced sensitivity of the eyes to environmental light; a combination of these factors; or other reasons yet to be uncovered).

Increased understanding of what triggers SAD and its impact on mental health has inspired a growing number of clinical treatments that can effectively neutralize its effects.

Chief among them:

Healing light.

Sitting in front of a bright light box for 30 to 45 minutes daily has been a treatment of choice for more than three decades, helping SAD patients with either 10,000 lux of white fluorescent or full spectrum light that shines 20 times brighter than ordinary indoor illumination. Dawn simulation, another form of light therapy, begins in early morning before patients awake by emitting a low level of light that gradually increases over 30 to 90 minutes to recommended room light level (approximately 250 lux). Enhancing indoor lighting with regular lamps and fixtures is also recommended).

Talk therapy.

Newer studies from the University of Vermont suggest that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a psychological treatment aimed at providing patients with tools to change negative thoughts and behaviors, may be as effective as light therapy for treating SAD. According to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), CBT adapted for SAD focuses on behavioral activation, helping SAD sufferers identify and engage in enjoyable seasonal activities to combat the ennui and fatigue they typically experience in winter.

Sleep hygiene.

Creating a consistent light-dark, sleep-wake cycle is important for SAD patients, who often experience hypersomnia (excessive daytime sleepiness) and insomnia (trouble falling or staying asleep).
Antidepressant medications. Because SAD is associated with disturbances in serotonin activity, antidepressant medications have been effectively used to treat symptoms.
Active days. Keep moving with daily walks outside, even on cloudy days, and aerobic exercise. Both can help alleviate symptoms of SAD.

Winterize your mental health

Be proactive in safeguarding your mental wellness over the coming months. Most importantly, know the symptoms of SAD and call our office for help if you’re experiencing:

  • Diminished interest in things that were once enjoyable
  • Low energy or overwhelming fatigue
  • Difficulty with concentration or focus
  • Worthless or helpless feeling
  • Sleep issues: too much sleep, or not enough
  • Changes in appetite or weight; increases in carbohydrate and sugar cravings
  • Agitation

Experts advise those who’ve previously experienced episodes of seasonal depression to try to get in front of it this year. Call our office for guidance regarding medications or CBT sessions. For many, reprogramming their mindset can help restore proper circadian rhythms and eliminate the psychological dread of winter. Try enrolling in an online class, taking up a new hobby or creating a new routine to optimize daylight exposure. Or keep it even simpler. As Dr. Rosenthal recently told the New York Times, “A 20-minute early morning walk in the sun can be as good as commercial light therapy.”

 
 

The post Pandemic Stress Likely Compounded by Seasonal Affective Disorder appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

For more information on the benefits of Concierge Medicine, please visit Logan Square Medical Group. To enroll as a new patient, please call us directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Current patients with any health concerns, should call Dr. Brown’s office directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Thank you!

Start 2021 off Right by Sticking to your Winter Exercise Plan

A Winter Workout Routine Will Prepare You For Life After COVID 

Exercise will reduce pain, improve function and mobility, lower blood pressure and blood sugar,  decrease risk of chronic illness and death from heart disease and many forms of cancer,  enhance mood and focus, and may even help reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19.

Despite those compelling benefits, only 5% of us stick to an exercise regimen. With months of  staying close to home base ahead, we asked national exercise expert Dr. Josh D’Angelo, PT, of MovementX to help us beat the odds and emerge from our winter cocoons fitter, stronger and  more limber than before.

“Recent research has shown that even a little bit of exercise and movement is beneficial in  improving your movement, health and life,” says Dr. D’Angelo. “We start with a focus on  functional strength training exercises because it provides the best protection against future  injury and helps with everything from mobility to balance. To maximize your gains, we  encourage supplementing with 15-20 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking briskly,  riding a stationary bike, dancing … or anything that gets you moving and you enjoy! And  remember, every little bit of movement helps.”

Following are some ways to get started, from MovementX’s “AgeProof Your Body” program:

Work toward repeating three complete sets of these fundamental exercises: squats, pushups  and abdominal strengthening for your core. Start with 5-8 repetitions each, and build weekly.  Rest, repeat.

  • Squats. Focusing on lower body and core strength, this is one of the most functional  activities and will also get your heart rate going. Proper mechanics are important.
    • Stand up straight, feet shoulder width apart.
    • Slowly bend knees and drop your hips backward to sit in chair. Rise and repeat.
    • Pro Tip: Push energy down in your heels and into the midfoot – you should be  able to wiggle your toes, and you should not feel discomfort in your knees or  back.
    • Advanced: Add load (dumbbells or household objects) or vary your speed as your  strength and endurance improve. Adding repetitions can also increase the  challenge
  • Pushups. These are challenging, but start with this beginner position and perform 5-8 repetitions until you can advance to a lower position and more reps.
    • Start by standing 18-24 inches away from a wall. Extend your arms and place  your hands on the wall, shoulder width apart. Lean toward the wall, keeping  your arms straight
    • Bend your elbows, allowing your body to come closer to the wall – let your chest  lead, and keep your body straight.
    • Push away. You should feel this in your chest, shoulders and core.
    • Advanced: How low can you go? As you progress with the wall pushup, start  with your feet farther away from the wall. Even lower? Position your hands on a  sturdy chair for a lower incline. Lower? Go to the floor on your mat, starting with  your knees set on the floor. The lowest is going for the full pushup position with  only your hands and toes touching the floor.
  • Abdominals Series. Core strength is key to developing functional fitness that helps  prevent injuries, reduce back pain and make your daily activities easier to accomplish.
    • Setup: Lie on your back with knees bent, feet on floor, and arms by your sides.  Your lower back should not be arched at all during this exercise; push it down  into the floor to tighten abs.
    • Slowly bring knees up toward your chest as you bend your elbows to let your  hands meet your knees (at the edge of the thigh).
    • Push your hands into your thigh just where it meets your knee, pressing your  hands up and toward the ceiling. Continue to do this for 20 seconds. Make sure  to breathe! Work your way up to holding for 30 seconds.

The post Start 2021 off Right by Sticking to your Winter Exercise Plan appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

For more information on the benefits of Concierge Medicine, please visit Logan Square Medical Group. To enroll as a new patient, please call us directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Current patients with any health concerns, should call Dr. Brown’s office directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Thank you!

Let It Go: The Ancient Art of Meditation

Finding Peace Through Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindful, compassionate, serene, happy: emotions that have been in short supply during the pandemic but can be beautifully restored to those who embrace the chance to learn the time- honored practice and art of meditation. For many, it is as easy as downloading the Headspace app on their smartphone, receiving a seamless introduction to a technique the company describes as “rooted both in ancient history and modern science.”

There’s an App For That

Meditation has been practiced for over 3,000 years, and its benefits, improving well-being, helping eliminate insomnia, enhancing focus, decreasing stress, and reducing blood pressure, among many others, have been studied for decades.

But the real democratization of meditation may have been ushered in by the proliferation of apps like Calm, Buddhify, Insight Timer and Simple Habit. Since its 2010 debut, global leader Headspace has been downloaded more than 65 million times, a number that has steadily risen during the coronavirus crisis.

Dr. Megan Jones Bell, the company’s chief science officer, reports a tenfold increase in those starting the “stressed” meditation and a twelvefold increase in “reframing anxiety at home” users from mid-March to mid-May of 2020.

Getting Started

First, choose a time to meditate, and consistently make it part of your daily routine. Find an uncluttered, quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed. Make yourself comfortable in a chair or on the floor with a pillow behind you, close your eyes and allow yourself to let go. It’s natural to wonder, “Am I doing this right?” The experts at Headspace offer some gentle guidance:

  • If your body is fidgeting or your mind keeps constantly chatting, you may want to walk away from the feeling. Instead of giving up, just write off the first few minutes and give your mind time to slow down. It’s not time wasted, but time spent training the mind.
  • Dozing off occasionally during the first few weeks of meditation is normal. If it keeps happening, try a different time of day, sit up a little straighter or splash a little cold water on your face before you meditate.
  • You may feel all sorts of unpleasant emotions, such as impatience, irritation and rage. Don’t suppress them, but give them the space to arise, unravel and ultimately fall away. Do the same if you’re fixated on a particular worrisome thought, or if you’re experiencing sadness. Acknowledge the feeling, even shed a few tears, and keep meditating.
  • If you find yourself planning incessantly in a way that is unproductive and unhealthy, let those thoughts go and come back to your focus – a breath, an image, a way that is unproductive and unhealthy, let those thoughts go and come back to your focus – a breath, an image, a sound.
  • Find the sweet spot between pushing yourself too hard and not applying enough focus. You may have a certain idea of what meditation should be, but it’s important to get out of your own way and give the experience room to breathe.

More Than One Way to Meditate

More than a dozen different types of meditation are taught, including:

  • Guided: Form mental images of places or situations you find relaxing.
  • Mantra: Silently repeat a calming word, thought or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts.
  • Mindfulness: An increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment; observe thoughts and emotions, but let them pass without judgement.
  • Calming: Cultivate a quieter, more peaceful state of mind and improved concentration.
  • Insight: Set an intention to develop qualities such as wisdom and compassion.
  • Body scan: Sync body and mind by performing a mental scan and paying attention to any discomfort or tensions.
  • Visualization: Focus on a mental image.
  • Loving kindness: Direct positive energy and goodwill to yourself and then to others.
  • Resting awareness: Let thoughts simply drift away.
  • Zen: Focus on following the breath to foster a sense of presence.
  • Chakra: Bring the body’s core centers of energy into balance.

The post Let It Go: The Ancient Art of Meditation appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

For more information on the benefits of Concierge Medicine, please visit Logan Square Medical Group. To enroll as a new patient, please call us directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Current patients with any health concerns, should call Dr. Brown’s office directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Thank you!

Navigating Uncertain Times with Hope and Optimism

navigating uncertain times

How to Adjust, Adapt and Embrace the New Normal

As we emerge cautiously from the safety of home into a world that seems comfortingly familiar yet irrefutably altered, a swirl of conflicting emotions is certain to be triggered. Relief and thankfulness may mingle uneasily with fear, anxiety and uncertainty, making it difficult to cope at times. Concierge psychologist Dr. Rebecca Johnson Osei, MA, PsyD, ABPP, shares her thoughtful perspective on navigating uncertain times with hope and optimism.

Q: What are some of the short- and long-term effects of the COVID-19 crisis on our mental health?

Dr. Johnson Osei: We’re seeing increases in anxiety and depression. Loneliness has also been a concern, due to social distancing, especially for older populations who may be more isolated from family and friends. Some are feeling grief, particularly those who weren’t able to say goodbye to a loved one, and survivor’s guilt, a common reaction to traumatic events. And most of us keenly miss the sense of control over our daily lives.

Q: How can we best manage these feelings?

Dr. Johnson Osei: Most importantly, allow yourself to experience all these emotions without guilt or judgment. They’re simply part of being human. While much of what we’re feeling may be remedied with time, be mindful and address your feelings now so they don’t become long-term issues. Also realize that you can regain control of your narrative by “reframing” your decisions. For example, instead of feeling forced to stay inside, frame it as a decision you made to protect your family. It changes your mindset when you realize that, ultimately, your behavior is your choice.

Q: Are there positive behaviors you’re seeing as a result of people learning to cope with unprecedented circumstances?

Dr. Johnson Osei: A number of really significant ones. People are gaining a renewed appreciation for the people and things they love. One-on-one time and simple human touch are valued so much more now. I imagine when friends and families reunite, there will be some really great long hugs! Being more aware of our mortality is also helping people cherish life, realizing it truly is a gift that can disappear in a second.

Being solitary and alone with our thoughts is a struggle for some, but it’s emotionally healthy to be able to entertain yourself and meet your own needs. For most Americans, coping with the discomfort of not being able to do what they want, when they want to do it, is a tough lesson, but it’s a good one to learn.

The need to connect has driven a much greater acceptance of technology than existed just a few months ago. There’s a growing willingness to think outside the box for new, ingenious ways to stay connected, and I believe this will carry on in our society well beyond the current crisis.

Q: What lessons learned from previous world crises can help guide us?

Dr. Johnson Osei: Think about how 9/11 fundamentally changed the way we travel. At first, it seemed untenable – the security lines were long and slow-moving, no one had the right size toiletries. It all feels completely normal now, and we know how to navigate the lines, pack our toiletries correctly, and wear shoes that slip on and off easily. Humans are incredibly resilient, and it’s why we’ve survived as a species. We don’t know what the new normal will look like, nor can we predict if this will go on for months or maybe years. But we do know we will adapt, and it will get easier.

Q: Any recommended strategies as we move to the next phase?

Dr. Johnson Osei: Go at the pace that’s right for you as an individual, even if it may not align with your city or state’s approach. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Be an outlier if wearing a mask or working from home makes you feel more comfortable.

Finally, it’s so important to remember: Life may be different, but this is not the end of the world we knew – it’s literally a new beginning.

The post Navigating Uncertain Times with Hope and Optimism appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

For more information on the benefits of Concierge Medicine, please visit Logan Square Medical Group. To enroll as a new patient, please call us directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Current patients with any health concerns, should call Dr. Brown’s office directly at (773) 489-7040a>. Thank you!