processed meat

The Problem With Processed Meat

Our concierge family practice doctors in Jupiter, Florida, certainly understand the allure of crisp bacon, the snap of fried sausage, or the attraction of a hoagie piled high with a variety of processed meat.

We understand it, but we’d prefer you didn’t indulge. Or at least, do so very, very rarely. Another new study adds to the increasingly damning evidence piling up about the health hazards of processed meat.

Latest study

A new global study looked at the diets and health outcomes of 134,297 individuals from 21 countries across five continents. It found those who ate just 150 grams or more of processed meat each week had a 46 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). And they had a 51 percent higher risk of death than those who never ate it.

Consuming just two sausages or six slices of bacon a week substantially increases your risk of:

  • high blood pressure
  • heart attacks
  • stroke
  • other adverse health outcomes included in CVD.

The study, published last month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, spanned a 10-year period. It also screened participants for physical activity and smoking to account for those activities on CVD events and deaths.

It was part of a long-term study known as the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiological (PURE) study. This is the first multinational attempt to compare diets across cultures and countries comprising low-, medium-, and high-income countries. The researchers believe this helps provide more accurate results. 

The researchers’ findings track with another study in 2010 by the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), which found that eating processed meat was associated with a 42 percent higher risk of heart disease and a 19 percent higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

The category of processed meat includes:

  • bacon, sausage, and deli meats
  • pâté
  • hot dogs
  • corned or smoked meats
  • any other type of meat containing a high amount of salt, nitrates, nitrites, or other preservatives

Previous findings

The current study is just one more supportive finding about the negative health impacts of processed meat.

For example, one study, published in Oxford’s International Journal of Epidemiology in 2019, comprised a systematic analysis of over half-a-million men and women from the United Kingdom over five years. Researchers found eating processed meat increased the risk of colorectal cancer by 20 percent for every 25 grams consumed a day. A.K.A. the equivalent of one slice of bacon or about a single slice of ham.

In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified processed meat as a carcinogen; that is, something that causes cancer. Their data showed a correlation between processed meat and stomach cancer, as well as a connection between red meat and cancers of the pancreas and prostate.

Research has not pinpointed the reason why processed meat should pose such a danger to consumers. But preliminary findings point to the nitrites used to prevent processed meats from developing bacterial growth. During cooking, nitrites are converted to cancer-causing compounds known as nitrosamines.

Other meats safer?

Surprisingly, the new study didn’t find an association between a small amount of unprocessed meat—especially poultry—and increased CVD risk. The authors found their analysis “did not find significant associations between unprocessed red meat and poultry intake with mortality or major cardiovascular disease.”

Up to 250 grams (about nine ounces) of red meat per week seemed to show no effect on CVD… Although it has been implicated in increased cancer risk. This is good, because red meat is high in iron, protein, and especially vitamin B12, which is difficult to obtain from other food sources.

“The totality of the available data indicates that consuming a modest amount of unprocessed meat as part of a healthy dietary pattern is unlikely to be harmful,” study co-author Dr. Mahshid Dehghan at McMaster University in Canada, told the Daily Mail.

The best way to eat

As we’ve said many times, the ideal diet for optimal health is one that emphasizes a variety of foods that are processed as little as possible. This means eating more fruits and vegetables, beans and nuts, fish, poultry, whole grains, and low-fat or nonfat dairy. It also means less full-fat dairy products, fatty meats, sugar-sweetened drinks, and sweets.

We don’t expect you to ban all processed meat from your diet for the rest of your life. Just be aware of the downside of consuming too much of it. Processed meat—like sugary foods and drinks—should be an occasional indulgence rather than a significant part of your diet.

We believe the best diets are those you can easily follow throughout your life, without designating certain foods as forbidden or “bad,” and that will enhance your overall health.

poison prevention

Poison Prevention Saves Lives

We tend to think of our homes as our safe place. But according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), accidental poisoning is the leading cause of injury-type deaths in the U.S., and 92 percent of those occur in the home.

From prescription medications to cleaning supplies, hidden dangers lurk in every corner of our homes.

Which is why our concierge doctors at MD 2.0 in Jupiter, Florida, want to take advantage of National Poison Prevention Week, March 21-27, to highlight ways you can keep yourself and your family safe.

Read more
best diet

The Best Diet for You

The start of a new year is traditionally the time to turn the page on the bad habits and disappointments of the previous year.

Usually near the top of the list of New Year’s resolutions that people make is the decision to lose weight. And from a health perspective, our concierge doctors certainly applaud that one.

Overweight or obesity is responsible for a host of chronic diseases, from type 2 diabetes to backaches to joint pain. So you want to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, right? But which diet is best?

The problem with keto

What about the popular keto diet? Studies show that 80 percent of those who try it struggle to stick with it. Why, when it often results in huge and rapid amounts of weight loss?

First, it can it cause numerous side effects—body aches, headaches, light-headedness, nausea, fatigue and lethargy, constipation, and brain fog. Plus, all their friends are eating garlic bread and mashed potatoes (not cauliflower) with gravy and pasta. Or because they lost their job and need a regular intake of brownies to help them feel better. Or because they’re stressed about the pandemic—possible job loss, not being able to see friends and family, worried about catching the coronavirus. And that chocolate cream pie dulls the loneliness and anxiety, at least for a little while.

Because, in short, the keto diet restrictive. It has a long list of quite tasty foods that either aren’t allowed, or allowed only in small portions after a certain time.

“When you are on the keto diet, you drastically cut your carbs to only 20 per day. That’s less than one apple!” nutritionist Lisa Drayer, a CNN contributor, told the network.

The common problem

And this is the problem with all diets. Nearly all of them work as promised, but are difficult to adhere to over time. So you “cheat.” Then you cheat some more. Then you figure, why bother? You then start eating normally again and regain all the weight you lost. And you likely gain back even more.

But here’s the thing: It’s not you, it’s them. In other words, it’s the whole concept of dieting to begin with. Someone once pointed out that diet begins with the word “die,” so even if only subconsciously, the concept has a negative connotation.

In addition, our bodies were built to store calories. That’s because our ancient ancestors never knew when they’d be facing lean times, or even starvation if the mastodons they hunted migrated elsewhere. Even in more recent times, before there was such a thing as a food industry, mankind learned to store food over the winter. But it still wasn’t as abundant as during the summer months.

So we’re biologically built to store up calories to last through the lean times.

And speaking of the food industry, their entire reason for being is to get us to buy more of their product. Stores are laid out with enticing displays of sugary, fat-laden foods. Advertising constantly tempts us with photos and videos of delicious, fattening foods.

We succumb, we gain weight, and then it’s up to us to find a way to lose it. And we try a long list of diets, only to be disappointed with the results. So which one do we recommend?

The only real solution

The best diet is one that works for you, that helps you gradually lose weight, but doesn’t leave you feeling deprived or hungry all the time.

“For any given person, it’s really a matter of what they can stick with,” Michael Jensen of the Mayo Clinic told Psychology Today.

Keto might be the right choice for some people. For others, the Paleo diet, moderation, veganism, intermittent fasting, or simply cutting back on sugar and flour.

Above all, research shows the most successful diet is the one that you yourself designed. This gives you a sense of control, rather than being at the mercy of a set of restrictive rules.

“You have to have joy and pleasure in food,” Stanford University professor of medicine Christopher Gardner told The Washington Post. He has conducted numerous randomized trials to test the success rate of various diets, and found they are essentially the same.

“They agree more than they disagree,” he said. Instead, he counsels, “Limit added sugars and refined grains, and eat more non-starchy vegetables. [I]f you do those two things, you get 90 percent of the benefits.” 

If you enjoy what you eat, you’ll have a much better chance of sticking with it for the rest of your life, he added.

“[The most successful way of dieting] will be different from one person to the next, and there will never be a randomized trial of it.”

We would add that for the most wholesome way to eat, consider the Mediterranean diet. It rates number one in surveys of diets, not only for long-term weight loss, but also for ease of adherence and the healthiest outcomes.

If you have any questions about weight loss, please talk with us. We can suggest the best approach specifically for you.

running knees

Studies Say Running May Actually Be Good for Your Knees

Of course running is bad for your knees, right? Everybody knows this. After all, it only makes sense. You’re bringing the full weight of your body down on these joints with every step, so you’re wearing out the cartilage from overuse.

But our concierge doctors have often found that what seems like “common sense” is anything but, which is why we look to science for answers.

Studies say otherwise

Rather than the widespread notion that running wears out the cartilage in the knees, it appears the opposite is true. The old adage “use it or lose it” apparently applies here.

Over the last fifty years, researchers have been looking at the question of whether running is bad for the knees.

One of the oldest studies dates to 1971. Here researchers began studying the children and spouses of the Framingham, Massachusetts Heart Study. Called the Framingham Offspring Cohort, 1,279 volunteers participated in a study of exercise and arthritis, which ultimately found no link between jogging and arthritis.

A 2008 study at Stanford University not only confirmed the Framingham findings, but in a 21-year-long follow-up, the runners “experienced significantly less musculoskeletal disability than did their less-active peers,” according to a Harvard University report on the study. They also found that runners experienced less disability and lived 39 percent longer than those who weren’t as physically active.

An Australian study that same year found subjects who engaged in vigorous exercise had knee cartilage that was thicker and healthier than those who didn’t exercise routinely.

In another study, published in the Journal of Orthpaedic and Sports Physical Therapy in 2017, 10 percent of those who weren’t runners developed osteoarthritis in their knees or hips over the course of the study. Only 3.5 percent of runners did so.

Movement is medicine

What about the frequent reports of runners experiencing knee problems? Experts believe that they would have happened whether subjects were runners or not. Researchers attribute the onset of osteoarthritis to obesity or genes, rather than overuse of the joints.

And one recent study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology seems to bear this out.

Researchers asked six recreational runners, ages 18-35, to spend 30 minutes running, and then extracted the cushioning synovial fluid from their knees. They found that two cytokine markers for inflammation were lower in the runners than in a control group of non-runners.

“What we now know is that for young, healthy individuals, exercise creates an anti-inflammatory environment that may be beneficial in terms of long-term joint health,” the study’s lead author, Robert Hyldahl, BYU assistant professor of exercise science, said in a statement. He further wrote that the study results indicate exercise may help delay the onset of such joint degenerative diseases as osteoarthritis.

“In fact, a normally functioning joint can withstand and actually flourish under a lot of wear,” James Fries told Time magazine. Fries was the lead researcher on the Stanford study, and is professor emeritus of medicine at Stanford.

He explained that cartilage—the soft connective tissue that surrounds the bones in joints—doesn’t contain arteries that deliver blood along with its rejuvenating dose of oxygen and nutrients. Therefore, cartilage depends on movement to obtain needed nourishment.

 “When you bear weight,” he said, “[the joint] squishes out fluid, and when you release weight, it sucks in fluid,” thus delivering the necessary nutrients to build new cartilage.

Protect yourself regardless

Running, however, does carry some element of risk, including the possibility of stress fractures and soft-tissue injuries. But with proper precautions, these can generally be prevented.

Here are some tips to prevent running injuries:

1. Wear the right shoes

You need to be fitted with a proper pair of running shoes, matched to your gait and foot size. Don’t try to run in regular footwear.

2. Strengthen supporting muscles

To ensure good support for your knees as you run, be sure to exercise all your leg muscles, especially the quads and glutes. 

3. Start slowly

Before you begin each run, always warm up with long, slow stretches to get the blood flowing. As with any form of exercise, you need to build up to full speed gradually. Pace yourself as you start out or if you’re returning to running after a long time away from it.

4. Run correctly

If your strides are too long, you’ll land on your heels, a prime cause of shin splints and joint pain. Shorter strides will allow you to land on mid-foot, minimizing the chances of injury. In addition, a 2018 study found that leaning forward slightly while running can help reduce the stress on your knees. Ensuring proper form will optimize your run.

5. Cross-train

Alternate days of running and days of other forms of exercise to allow muscles and tendons time to heal.

If you have any questions about your body’s ability to withstand any type of exercise, be sure and talk with us.

effects of sitting

Sitting Is the New Smoking

If you’ve been one of those fortunate enough to be able to work at home during the pandemic, you’ve probably been glued to your chair for eight or more hours a day. At least at the office you might have been able to walk around from desk to desk, or take the stairs, or take a walk at lunch.

Whereas at home, our concierge doctors are guessing that you get very little chance to move at all. And that could be detrimental to your health.

Scientists have been researching the effects of sitting…

Researchers have known for several years that sitting for long periods is hazardous to your health. But newer studies have revealed that lack of frequent movement is even more dangerous than previously known.

Some of the results that attributed to prolonged periods of sitting include:

  • organ damage, including heart disease
  • an over-productive pancreas
  • a greater risk for colon, breast, and endometrial cancers
  • muscle degeneration
  • leg disorders, including osteoporosis
  • slower brain function

One 2011 study examined more than 800,000 people’s sitting habits. Those who sat the most during the day found they had:

  • a 112 percent increased risk of diabetes
  • a 147 percent increased risk of heart attacks and strokes
  • a 90 percent increased risk of death from CVD
  • a 49 percent risk of death from any cause

… And they continue to see similar results

Newer studies have confirmed those who spend more time sitting than moving have higher rates of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and certain cancers than people who don’t sit as long. They are also more likely to die early than their less sedentary counterparts.

One study, for example, found that adults who sat for 11 hours or more a day had a 40 percent higher risk of dying in the next three years than those who sat for less than four hours daily.

Another study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, tracked the daily movements of 7,985 adults. Participants used hip-mounted accelerometers to actually record their activity, rather than rely on self-reported data. As the total time spent sitting increased, so did the risk of death from any cause, regardless of age, sex, race, body-mass index (BMI), or exercise habits.

Those who sat for less than 30 minutes at a time had a 55 percent lower risk of death compared with those who sat longer than that.

So, yes, sitting really is as bad for your health as smoking.

Some good news

But it is possible to counteract the effects of sitting just by getting out of your chair from time to time.

The World Health Organization (WHO) released new guidelines last month to help counteract the effects of prolonged sitting, based on a new study published in a special issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM).

The WHO now says that all physical activity counts toward better long-term health. This could include anything from climbing stairs instead of taking the elevator, gardening or doing housework, taking a walk around the block, participating in a team sport, going for a run or a bike ride, or participating in a high-intensity interval training workout.

The BJSM researchers followed more than 44,000 people from four countries. They fitted each participant with activity trackers. They found that moderate to vigorous physical activity for 30-40 minutes daily brought the risk from prolonged periods of sitting down to levels associated with very low amounts of sedentary time.

What to do for your health

So, while the higher intensity workouts were better, it appears that any movement is better than nothing.

“These guidelines are very timely, given that we are in the middle of a global pandemic, which has confined people indoors for long periods and encouraged an increase in sedentary behavior,” Emmanuel Stamatakis, BJSM co-editor and professor at the University of Sydney, wrote in the journal.

“But people can still protect their health and offset the harmful effects of physical inactivity,” he said. “As these guidelines emphasize, all physical activity counts and any amount of it is better than none. There are plenty of indoor options that don’t need a lot of space or equipment, such as climbing the stairs, active play with children or pets, dancing, or online yoga or Pilates classes.”

There’s one more benefit from any type of exercise that we’d like to point out: stress relief. The pandemic has put us all on edge, and a brisk walk outdoors or a brief period of play with the kids or the dog can go a long way to helping alleviate tension.

So, for better health all around, set a kitchen timer, your watch, or your phone to remind you to get up and move every few minutes throughout the day.

chocolate good for you

Check Out Chocolate for Your Health

Let’s face it—this has been a lousy year. We’ve either lost or postponed so many of our normal pleasures, it’s no wonder that we’re feeling deprived. But our concierge doctors have a prescription that can help cheer you up: chocolate.

And ‘tis the season for it, after all. Not to mention that, as we’ll explain below, it can be healthier than eggnog, frosted cookies and cakes, and all the other sugarplums we’re inclined to consume this time of year.

The good news

Many recent studies have found the right kind of chocolate consumed in moderation might benefit everything from the cardiovascular system to cognitive improvement. Some have even attributed consumption to a reduced risk of cancer and a lower risk of diabetes.

One study at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, for example, found that blood platelets clotted more slowly in subjects who had consumed chocolate. This can help prevent clots—and thus, heart attacks and strokes—from occurring.

Another study published in the journal BMJ suggested that consumption could lower the risk of developing heart disease by as much as a third.

“Based on observational evidence, levels of chocolate consumption seem to be associated with a substantial reduction in the risk of cardiometabolic disorders,” the authors wrote in a paper presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Paris.

Several studies have looked at this claim

In a 2017 study, researchers found that consuming raw almonds, dark chocolate, and cocoa helped lower “bad” cholesterol in overweight or obese subjects.

A 2008 study found those who ate a small amount of dark chocolate each day had lower blood levels of a protein associated with inflammation.

A Canadian study of 44,489 subjects found those who regularly consumed chocolate were 22% less likely to suffer a stroke than those who abstained. That those who suffered a stroke saw a 46% decline in likelihood of death.

Other benefits attributed to this sweet include improved cognitive function, enhanced athletic performance, benefits to fetal growth and development, and lower cholesterol. (These tend to come from small studies that have not been confirmed.)

“(Chocolate) is a good antioxidant,” Dr. Owais Khawaja, a cardiology fellow at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo, Ohio, told CNN. “We think most of the beneficial effects are because of this.” Antioxidants are known to reduce the amount of free radicals in the body, those compounds known to cause cellular damage.

“More and more research is showing that [eating chocolate] is really more beneficial than we ever imagined,” said Katherine Tallmadge, a registered dietician and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association told Live Science.

The bad news

But it’s not permission to gorge on the stuff. As with other indulgences, moderation is key, and the right kind of chocolate makes all the difference. Experts recommend limiting intake to no more than one ounce a day.

Compounds called flavonoids exist in chocolate as well as wine, beer, tea, berries, fruits, and vegetables. They may be responsible for chocolate’s healthful benefits. Flavonoids are antioxidants believed to reduce inflammation throughout the body.

One reason chocolate has received its bad reputation is because of all the sugar it typically contains. This leads to heart disease, obesity, tooth decay, and myriad health problems.

The more nonfat cocoa solids chocolate consists of, the more antioxidants it contains. Steer clear of chocolate products with added fats such as “milk fats,” or “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.” These will tend to cancel out the beneficial effects of chocolate, in addition to causing weight gain.

The closer you can get to the original cocoa, the better. So natural cocoa powder is best (though it tends to be bitter); dark chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate chips are better. Milk chocolate is the least desirable. Milk proteins may bind to the flavonoids and make them unavailable to the body. White “chocolate” contains no cocoa solids at all.

The American Heart Association (AHA) says that chocolate can be part of an overall healthy diet, but the key phrase is “part of.”

Alice H. Lichtenstein, the Gershoff professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University in Boston, says, “If you enjoy chocolate, the important thing to do is choose the type you enjoy the most and eat it in moderation because you like it, not because you think it’s good for you.”

wearing a mask

CDC: Masks Protect Wearer, Too

As Florida closes in on the unenviable milestone of nearly a million confirmed cases of COVID-19, our concierge doctors wanted to share a bit of good news. We’ve mentioned before how critical it is to wear face masks in public to help keep others from becoming infected. People can be contagious for up to two weeks before they begin to show symptoms, which accounts for the rapid spread of the disease.

Now a new scientific briefing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms what researchers had long suspected: Masks protect the wearer as much as those around them. The revised guidance, released late last month, cites several studies. These show masks reduce the risk of contracting the virus by up to 79 percent.

In one case, for example, a study examined 124 households in Beijing with a single case each of COVID-19. It found mask wearing by the infected individual as well as others in the household reduced secondary transmission by 79 percent. Another case followed two hair stylists who were infected and showing symptoms. They wore masks while interacting with 139 clients over eight days. The clients also wore masks. Subsequent testing showed that not a single client contracted the disease as a result.

An added bonus

In addition to protecting both the wearer and the public, universal mask-wearing can also help the economy, the CDC notes.

“Adopting universal masking policies can help avert future lockdowns, especially if combined with other non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing, hand hygiene, and adequate ventilation,” the CDC said.

Besides pandemic fatigue, another reason people have begun to rebel against stay-at-home guidance is because of the dire effect the early lockdowns had on the economy. Most people need to work, and economic stress is as unhealthy as any other kind of stress.

But the agency cites one recent economic analysis from Goldman Sachs. It found a 15 percent increase in universal masking could prevent losses of up to $1 trillion. This equals about five percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

So it turns out that wearing a mask is a win-win-win proposition.

But which mask is best?

The type of mask worn by health-care workers is the N95 respirator. This is the best at filtering out infected particles, which is precisely why you shouldn’t wear them.

“The CDC does not recommend that the general public wear N95 respirators to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including coronavirus (COVID-19),” according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for health care workers and other medical first responders.”

There is a still a severe shortage of such masks, even after all this time. The CDC recommends the public wear others types of face coverings, many of which have been shown to be quite effective.

“Multiple layers of cloth with higher thread counts have demonstrated superior performance compared to single layers of cloth with lower thread counts, in some cases filtering [out] nearly 50 percent of fine particles,” the CDC said.

“Try to get at least a two-ply cloth mask and make sure it’s tightly woven,” Dr. John O’Horo, an infectious disease specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, told NBC News.

One test of effectiveness is to hold the mask up to the light. If you can see the outline of individual fibers in the cloth, it’s too thin to offer enough protection.

Dr. Scott Segal, chair of anesthesiology at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, recently partnered with the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine to test a variety of cloth materials. They looked not only for breathability and comfort, but also for the ability to filter small particles. They concluded the best masks were constructed of two layers of heavyweight “quilter’s cotton,” with a thread count of at least 180.

What doesn’t work

Now we consider what doesn’t work.

The most ineffective mask is one that doesn’t cover the nose. In fact, there’s little point in wearing one at all if the nose isn’t covered. The resulting nasal exhalations will spread the virus, and also allow the wearer to inhale infected particles. So will face masks with valves. They make for easier breathing, but they also allow the breath to leave the mask without any filtering.

Plastic face shields fall into this category as well. One recent study confirmed that plastic face visors allow nearly 100 percent of tiny airborne droplets such as those emitted by talking or breathing to escape into the surrounding air. Yes, doctors wear them . . . along with N95 masks.

Remember, it’s safest to always assume that everyone you meet outside your immediate household is infected. We now have the promise of two new effective vaccines on the horizon. But until they can be widely distributed, we’ll need to hang on just a little longer. And wearing a mask can help us control the spread of the virus sooner.

smoking and covid-19

Smoking and COVID-19: What You Need to Know

The annual Great American Smokeout is set for this week, November 19. So our concierge doctors thought this would be a good time to look into what we know about the combined effects of smoking and COVID-19.

This is especially important because there has been some confusing information on the effects of cigarette smoking on the disease, with some early reports even suggesting that cigarette smokers who contract COVID-19 actually fare better than non-smokers. Subsequent studies have found the opposite: that smoking increases the risk that the virus causes more damage in smokers.

Tobacco’s extensive effects

One study, reported in The Guardian, analyzed more than 11,000 COVID-19 patients. It found that about 30 percent of those with a history of smoking saw their conditions progress to a more severe or critical state, versus 17.6 percent of non-smokers. Researchers concluded that “smoking is a risk factor for progression of COVID-19,” with smokers nearly twice as likely to develop severe symptoms.

In addition to the well-known damage to the lungs and cardiovascular system—both of which are compromised by COVID-19—smoking has also been shown to suppress the immune system’s ability to fight infection in the body.

“Tobacco products cause inflammation in the airways and affect lung immunity, which makes people more susceptible to infection in general,” Dr. David Christiani, a professor at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, told the paper.

In a scientific brief released this summer, the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) concluded that “the available evidence suggests that smoking is associated with increased severity of disease and death in hospitalized COVID-19 patients.”

The brief also reiterated that, in addition to the findings on the coronavirus, “Tobacco causes eight million deaths every year from cardiovascular diseases, lung disorders, cancers, diabetes, and hypertension.”

We believe it’s safe to add COVID-19 complications to that list.

Benefits of quitting

If you smoke, you’re not alone. More than 32.4 million people in the U.S. still smoke cigarettes, according the American Cancer Society (ACS). Unfortunately, as a result more than 16 million Americans live with a smoking-related disease.

But it’s never to late to quit.

Here’s a timeline from the ACS showing what happens when you stop smoking:

  • Twenty minutes after quitting your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
  • Twelve hours after quitting the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
  • Two weeks to three months after quitting your circulation improves and your lung function increases.
  • One to nine months after quitting, coughing and shortness of breath decrease. Tiny hair-like structures (called cilia) that move mucus out of the lungs start to regain normal function in your lungs. This increases their ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce the risk of infection.
  • One year after quitting the excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of someone who still smokes. Your heart attack risk drops dramatically.
  • Five years after quitting your risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder is cut in half. Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker. Your stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker in two to five years.
  • Ten years after quitting your risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking. Your risk of cancer of the larynx and pancreas decreases.
  • Fifteen years after quitting your risk of coronary heart disease becomes that of a non-smoker’s.

Ready to quit?

There are myriad ways to successfully stop smoking. What works for one person might not work for another. And studies show that the average smoker tries several times before giving up the addiction entirely.

“No matter your age or how long you’ve been smoking, quitting improves health, both immediately and over the long term,” the ACS says. “Giving up smoking is a journey, and it can be hard, but you can increase your chances of success with a good plan and support. Getting help through counseling and medications doubles or even triples your chances of quitting successfully.”

You can also download numerous quit-smoking apps to help, or find tools and tips at Smokefree.gov. The site also offers live chat help for those trying to quit. In addition, each state has a quit line, which you can access by dialing 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

Of course there are various medications also available, so if you’re trying to stop smoking, please talk with us. We can help find the best path for you.

The coronavirus pandemic has had everyone on edge for months, and smoking may be one way you’ve used to cope. But, as with increasing alcohol or drug consumption, it’s unhealthy and ultimately unhelpful.

safely celebrate holidays

How to Celebrate the Holidays Safely

As we head into the holidays, our concierge doctors are concerned that pandemic fatigue might tempt people to throw caution to the winds and just celebrate, starting with Thanksgiving.

The fact is, we’re all fed up with the “new normal.” People want more than anything to return to the way our lives were before this scourge attacked the world early this year. Pandemic fatigue is not only real, it’s totally understandable.

“In the spring, it was fear and a sense of, ‘We’re all in it together,’” Vaile Wright, a psychologist at the American Psychological Association (APA) told The New York Times. “Things are different now,” she said. “Fear has really been replaced with fatigue.”

This led to a sense of complacency and carelessness. While understandable, this caused a wave of increased cases and deaths in the U.S. and around the world.

“Citizens have made huge sacrifices,” Dr. Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s (W.H.O.’s) regional director for Europe, told the Times. “It has come at an extraordinary cost, which has exhausted all of us, regardless of where we live, or what we do.”

The high cost of carelessness

A recent report in The Washington Post serves as a cautionary tale for our country. Canada celebrates their own Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October. Despite warnings from public health officials there to limit celebrations to members of the immediate household, apparently that advice went unheeded by many Canadians.

In the weeks after, Canada saw rising case numbers as a result. Ontario, for example, reported a record-high number of daily cases within two weeks of the holiday. A single gathering of 12 extended family members in Toronto resulted in a cluster of coronavirus cases.

“People did not mean to spread COVID-19,” Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, told The Post. “But it is a reminder that social gatherings where social distancing and masking are not used consistently are a significant risk for spread.”

We can understand the longing to get together for the traditional holidays, beginning with with Thanksgiving. But that is, unfortunately, a recipe for disaster.

“We are set up for just a perfect storm—a conflagration,” Megan Ranney, an emergency medicine professor at Brown University, told The Post recently. “Right now, you can talk about there being lots of little burning fires across the country. And then Thanksgiving will be the wind that will whip this fire up into an absolute human disaster for our country.”

This country’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, likewise warned that Thanksgiving celebrations could lead to even more cases.

“That is, unfortunately, a risk, when you have people coming from out of town, gathering together in an indoor setting,” he told CBS News recently. “It is unfortunate, because that’s such a sacred part of American tradition.”

Yes it is. But we’d like to suggest some ways to minimize that risk and safely celebrate the holidays.

A few COVID-19 reminders

First, let’s review a few facts.

The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is one of the most contagious viruses known to man. It spreads readily through the air and by surface contact, from those who have symptoms as well as those who don’t.

Because of this, areas with high air circulation, such as the outdoors on a windy day, tend to be safer than crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation.

Far deadlier than the flu, the coronavirus travels through the bloodstream to every part of the body. This is why it’s so difficult to treat, and why many of its victims appear to suffer months-long aftereffects.

How to safely celebrate the holidays

With that in mind, if you’re preparing to celebrate the holidays, here are a few tips.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends limiting gatherings to those in your immediate household. If you’re going to host a Thanksgiving dinner, the CDC suggests holding it outdoors. It also says to only invite family and friends from your immediate neighborhood.

“Gatherings with more preventive measures, such as mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing . . . pose less risk than gatherings where fewer or no preventive measures are being implemented,” the CDC says.

Other ways to judge risk, according to the CDC:

  • Indoors is riskier than outdoors.
  • Poor ventilation is riskier than good ventilation (e.g., places with open windows and doors).
  • Longer gatherings are riskier than shorter gatherings.
  • More attendees pose a greater risk than fewer attendees.
  • Local attendees pose less of a risk than those traveling from other areas who may have been exposed at home or during their travels but aren’t yet showing symptoms.

If you can’t control the environment, the attendees, or their behavior, you need to ask yourself whether one holiday is worth the risk.

“Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others,” the CDC says.

As we noted above, we’re all tired of the precautions necessary to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. But parents, for instance, remain on high alert to ensure the safety of their children for eighteen-plus years. If you think of it in these terms, a year or two of vigilance might seem more acceptable.

Remember, the fastest way for this thing to be “over” is to deny it new hosts. This includes the bodies of you and your loved ones. Please follow these tips in order to safely celebrate the holidays.

1 2 3 15