Important Flu Season Update from Your Concierge Doctors in Jupiter

As your trusted Concierge Doctors in Jupiter, we are committed to keeping you informed about health concerns that might affect our community. This year, we face a challenging flu season that has seen a significant rise in influenza cases and other respiratory illnesses across 38 states, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This update is particularly relevant as we navigate the period between Christmas and New Year’s, which has shown a dramatic increase in flu activity.

The CDC’s latest report is alarming yet crucial for our awareness: since October, there have been at least 10 million flu-related illnesses, leading to 110,000 hospitalizations and 6,500 deaths. These figures emphasize the severity of the current flu season, which generally peaks between December and February.

On a more reassuring note, the CDC director has confirmed that this year’s flu shots are well-matched to combat the prevalent strain. This is a significant factor in controlling the spread and severity of the flu, and we strongly encourage you to get vaccinated if you haven’t already.

In our local area, including our practice in Jupiter, pediatricians have noted an increase in respiratory illnesses among children and young adults up to age 21. Reflecting on the situation at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, Dr. Megan Martin mentions, “We’re still seeing RSV and COVID as well. It’s keeping our emergency department pretty busy with all of these respiratory illnesses.”

In December, the hospital reported a rise in flu A and B cases, with 431 instances, and more than 185 cases of RSV. Additionally, 61 patients tested positive for COVID-19. Dr. Martin compares this to pre-pandemic years, noting that while it’s not the worst flu season, it is notably rigorous compared to the pandemic years when mask-wearing reduced transmission significantly.

At our Concierge Doctors office in Jupiter, we are closely monitoring these developments and are here to support your health needs during this flu season. We advise our patients to take preventive measures such as getting vaccinated, practicing good hygiene, and being mindful of symptoms. If you or your family members are experiencing flu-like symptoms, please reach out to us for guidance and treatment options.

Our priority is your health and well-being. By staying informed and proactive, we can collectively navigate through this flu season safely. Remember, we are here to assist you with any health concerns you may have.

A Teaspoon of Prevention: The Remarkable Impact of Reducing Salt on Blood Pressure

Understanding the Scale of Hypertension

In the United States alone, an astonishing 61.9 million adults are prescribed medication to manage their blood pressure, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Hypertension, or high blood pressure, remains a leading health concern globally. But what if a simple dietary change could offer similar benefits to medication? Our primary care doctors in Jupiter want you to know about what an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests.

The Study: Salt Reduction Equals Medication?

Conducted by a team from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Northwestern Medicine, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the study observed 213 individuals aged 50 to 75. The participants’ diets were closely monitored, including a week on a low-sodium diet and another on a high-sodium regimen. Surprisingly, reducing salt intake by about one teaspoon a day (equivalent to 2,300 mg of sodium) showed a significant decrease in blood pressure, comparable to the effects of standard blood pressure medication.

Key Findings and Implications

  1. Broad Effectiveness: Dr. Deepak Gupta of VUMC noted that the blood pressure reduction was consistent across various groups – those with normal, controlled, untreated, and uncontrolled hypertension.
  2. Rapid Results: The participants experienced a notable drop in blood pressure within just a week of following the low-sodium diet.
  3. Public Health Impact: Dr. Cora Lewis emphasized the potential widespread benefits, considering the global prevalence of hypertension.
  4. No Side Effects: Dr. Bradley Serwer, reviewing the study, highlighted the advantage of dietary changes over medication, notably the lack of side effects.

The Role of Sodium in Hypertension

Sodium plays a crucial role in maintaining blood pressure levels. It attracts water, leading to increased fluid volume in the bloodstream and, consequently, higher blood pressure. This increased pressure adds strain to the heart, underscoring the importance of managing sodium intake.

Recommendations and Conclusion

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends adults consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. This study’s findings reinforce the significance of dietary control in managing blood pressure, even for those already on medication. As hypertension contributes to a range of severe health issues and remains a leading risk factor for death worldwide, reducing salt intake could be a key strategy in improving global health outcomes. As Dr. Gupta puts it, preventing hypertension is crucial for longer, healthier lives. This study demonstrates that sometimes, less is more – especially when it comes to salt.

Weight Loss Drugs: What You Need to Know About New Findings on Severe Stomach Problems

Many patients turn to medication as a potential solution in the quest for weight loss solutions. Among the popular choices are drugs like Wegovy, Ozempic, and Rybelsus. While their effectiveness in weight loss and diabetes management is well-known, a recent study from the University of British Columbia has shed light on potential severe gastrointestinal side effects.

Here’s what you should know.

1. A Brief Overview of GLP-1 Agonist Weightloss Drugs:

These drugs mimic the action of a gut hormone activated after eating, enhancing insulin release, suppressing sugar production in the liver, and reducing appetite. They have been widely prescribed for diabetes management, but their use for weight loss in non-diabetic patients has grown significantly.

2. Previous Concerns with Digestive Issues:

Past research indicated some risk of digestive problems for diabetes patients using these medications. However, this new study provides the first large-scale insight into these effects on non-diabetic patients using them solely for weight loss.

3. The New Findings:

  • 9.09 times increased risk of pancreatitis.
  • 4.22 times increased risk of bowel obstruction.
  • 3.67 times higher risk of gastroparesis.

While an increase in biliary disease was observed, it wasn’t statistically significant.

4. The Implications:

The sheer number of individuals using these drugs worldwide means that, even if these side effects are rare, hundreds of thousands might still experience these conditions. Understanding the risks becomes vital, especially for those who might be using the medications for general weight loss rather than for diabetes or obesity.

5. The Call to Action:

Researchers hope that pharmaceutical companies and regulatory bodies, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, will include the risk of gastroparesis on warning labels.

Conclusion:

Drugs can be a powerful tool in the journey towards better health and weight loss. However, as with all medical interventions, being informed is crucial. The potential side effects, while rare, can be severe. Patients must weigh the benefits against the risks and make an informed decision.

“Knowing the potential side effects is critical. It empowers patients to seek medical attention promptly and prevent further complications,” says Sodhi, emphasizing the importance of this new research. As always, consulting with your healthcare provider is recommended before starting or stopping any medication.

Flu Season Preparation: Creating a Personalized Flu Prevention Plan

Flu season can bring about a flurry of sniffles, coughs, and body aches which are often accompanied by a flurry of doctor’s appointments and sick days. It tends to peak between December and February but can last from October to as late as May. Preparing for this time of year is essential in not only protecting your own health but also the health of those around you. The key to this preparation is crafting a personalized flu prevention plan. Our primary care doctors in Jupiter have some tips on how you can create yours:

Step 1: Know Your Risk

Some individuals are at a higher risk for severe flu and complications. This includes young children, pregnant women, individuals with chronic health conditions, and people aged 65 and older. Understanding your risk will help you take the necessary precautions.

Step 2: Get Vaccinated

The annual flu vaccine is the most effective way to prevent flu. It is advisable for everyone six months and older to get a flu vaccine every year. Make sure to consult with your healthcare provider to find the right flu vaccine for you.

Step 3: Practice Good Hygiene

Good hygiene is a powerful tool in preventing the flu. Make sure to:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.


Step 4: Boost Your Immune System

Maintaining a strong immune system can help ward off the flu. Ensure you are:

  • Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
  • Getting regular exercise.
  • Sleeping for 7-9 hours each night.
  • Managing stress through mindfulness practices like meditation or yoga.


Step 5: Avoid Close Contact

Avoid close contact with individuals who are sick, and if you are feeling unwell, stay home to prevent spreading the flu to others.

Step 6: Seek Medical Advice

If you’re at high risk for flu complications or have severe flu symptoms, contact your healthcare provider. Antiviral drugs can be a treatment option.

Step 7: Create a Sick-Day Plan

Have a plan in place for managing sick days whether it’s for you or your family. Know your employer’s policies on sick leave and have a plan for childcare if necessary.

Conclusion:

Facing the flu season unprepared can be daunting. However, by understanding your risk and having a personalized flu prevention plan in place, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of falling ill. Remember, a little preparation now can save a lot of trouble later. Your health and the health of those around you is worth the effort.

Understanding Different Heat Illnesses

As the temperatures rise during the warmer months, many of us enjoy spending more time outdoors. However, with the increase in temperatures comes the potential risk of heat-related illnesses. Our primary care doctors in Jupiter want you to be informed about the different types of heat illnesses to prevent them and to provide proper care if someone is affected.

1. Heat Stroke

What it is: Heat stroke is the most severe form of heat illness and is a medical emergency. It happens when the body’s temperature rises rapidly, and it can’t cool down.

Symptoms:

  • High body temperature (above 103°F)
  • Hot, red, dry, or damp skin
  • Fast, strong pulse
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Losing consciousness (passing out)

What to do: Call 911 immediately. While waiting for medical professionals, move the person to a cooler place and try to reduce their body temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath. Do not give the person anything to drink.

2. Heat Exhaustion

What it is: Heat exhaustion is a warning that your body can no longer keep itself cool. If left untreated, it can escalate to heat stroke.

Symptoms:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Cold, pale, and clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Fainting

What to do: Move to a cool place, loosen your clothes, put cool, wet clothes on your body or take a cool bath. If the person is fully conscious, they can sip water. If the symptoms worsen or last longer than an hour, seek medical attention.

3. Heat Cramps

What it is: Muscle spasms or pains that occur due to intense exercise in hot weather.

Symptoms:

  • Muscle cramps, usually in the legs or abdomen
  • Heavy sweating

What to do: Stop the activity and move to a cool place. Drink water or a sports drink. Wait for the cramps to go away before you do any more physical activity.

4. Heat Rash

What it is: Skin irritation from excessive sweating.

Symptoms:

  • Red clusters of small blisters that look like pimples on the skin
  • Usually appears on the neck, chest, groin, or elbow creases

What to do: Stay in a cool, dry place. Keep the rash dry and avoid using ointments or creams as they can keep the skin warm and moist, worsening the condition.

5. Dehydration

What it is: A lack of enough water in the body, often caused by too much sweating.

Symptoms:

  • Dry mouth and throat
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Not urinating much
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Feeling tired
  • Dry skin

What to do: Drink plenty of fluids, preferably water. If dehydration is severe and accompanied by symptoms like confusion, rapid heartbeat, or rapid breathing, seek medical attention immediately.

Prevention Tips

  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol as they can dehydrate you.
  • Dress Appropriately: Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Use a wide-brimmed hat or an umbrella for shade.
  • Stay Cool: Avoid direct sunlight whenever possible, especially during the hottest parts of the day. Use fans or air conditioning to cool down.
  • Limit Outdoor Activities: Do strenuous activities during the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening.

By understanding the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and taking preventive measures, you can safely enjoy the warm weather without the health risks. Always listen to your body, and if you or someone around you is showing signs of a heat illness, take it seriously and seek medical attention if needed.

Regular Cardiac Health Checks: Even Without Apparent Heart Issues

The heart is the symbolic and biological epicenter of our existence, powering life as we know it. With each beat, this robust muscle keeps blood coursing through our veins, supplying vital oxygen and nutrients to all of our organs.

Whether you’re an exercise enthusiast or a confessed couch potato, whether you’ve been diagnosed with a heart condition or not, it’s crucial to regularly check your cardiac health. But why is it so important, particularly if you’re not exhibiting any obvious signs of heart disease? This blog aims to answer that question, highlighting the reasons why routine cardiac health checks are indispensable, regardless of your heart disease status.

  • Prevention is Better Than Cure

One of the primary reasons to conduct regular cardiac health checks is to spot potential problems before they escalate. Even in the absence of symptoms, certain risk factors—like high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, or being overweight—can silently affect your heart health. These conditions can gradually lead to serious heart problems, often without presenting any noticeable symptoms until the damage is significant.

  • Early Detection Saves Lives

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death globally. What’s particularly troubling is that many who succumb to heart-related conditions showed little to no prior symptoms. Regular cardiac health checks facilitate early detection, increasing the likelihood of successful intervention and treatment. The sooner a potential issue is identified, the more options there are for treatment, and the better the outcomes generally are.

  • Heart Disease can be Stealthy

Symptoms of heart disease aren’t always as dramatic as what we see in movies. In reality, heart disease often sneaks up silently, and its symptoms are sometimes mistaken for less serious conditions like indigestion or stress. Regular check-ups can help uncover these stealthy conditions, ensuring that any issues are treated promptly and effectively.

  • Lifestyle Impact

Modern lifestyles are increasingly sedentary and stressful, which can negatively impact our cardiac health. Regular monitoring provides a reality check and an opportunity to modify these lifestyle factors. Simple adjustments, like regular exercise, a balanced diet, stress management, and quitting smoking, can significantly improve cardiac health.

  • Genetic Predisposition

Even if you’re currently heart-healthy, you may be genetically predisposed to heart disease. If a close family member has experienced heart disease, particularly at a young age, your risk is higher. Regular cardiac health checks help track any changes over time and help you manage your risk effectively.

  • Aging and Heart Health

As we age, the risk of heart disease increases due to the natural wear and tear of the heart and blood vessels. Regular check-ups can help monitor the aging heart and implement necessary precautions and treatments to keep it healthy.

In conclusion, maintaining regular cardiac health checks, even if you have no existing heart issues, plays an essential role in overall health maintenance. Your heart may be silently shouldering the burden of lifestyle, genetic factors, or hidden conditions. Our concierge doctors in Jupiter often encourage our patients to check with various specialists even if they have no symptoms for these exact reasons. Uncovering these potential issues before they become problematic can add healthy, quality years to your life.

It’s time we started prioritizing our heart health the same way we do our professional growth or personal development. Remember, it’s never too early or too late to start taking care of your heart. After all, a healthy heart is a happy heart.

Why is Elderly Nutrition So Important?

If our primary care concierge doctors in Jupiter could choose the most important thing for elderly care, it would be nutrition. Elderly nutrition is crucial because as we age, our bodies undergo changes that make it more challenging to obtain the nutrients we need to stay healthy.  

Older Age Means More Changes

As we age, our metabolism slows down, our digestive system becomes less efficient, and our senses of taste and smell may diminish, which leads to a reduced appetite and a decreased interest in eating.

Additionally, older adults are more likely to have chronic health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis, which can all be affected by diet. Proper nutrition can help manage these conditions, prevent complications, and improve overall quality of life.

Get the Good Stuff

Good nutrition is essential for maintaining muscle mass and bone density, which can help prevent falls and fractures. A balanced diet that includes adequate protein, calcium, and vitamin D is crucial for older adults to maintain strong bones and muscles.

Elderly nutrition is essential for several reasons:

  1. Health: Proper nutrition is essential for maintaining good health, especially as we age. A balanced diet that includes a variety of foods from all food groups helps to provide the necessary nutrients for good health, such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
  2. Chronic Diseases: Good nutrition can help prevent or manage chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis, which are more common in older adults.
  3. Immune System: Adequate nutrition is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system, which can help protect against infectious diseases and illnesses.
  4. Mental health: Good nutrition impacts mental health, such as reducing the risk of depression and cognitive decline.
  5. Quality of Life: Proper nutrition can improve the quality of life for older adults by increasing energy levels, maintaining a healthy weight, and improving overall physical and mental well-being.

Overall, elderly nutrition is essential for maintaining good health, preventing chronic diseases, and improving the quality of life in older adults. 

Learn About this Devastating Mental Disease and How to Stay Ahead

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects the brain, causing progressive cognitive decline, memory loss, and behavioral changes. It is the most common cause of dementia and is characterized by the accumulation of abnormal proteins in the brain.


June is recognized as Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about this devastating disease and to support those who are affected by it. Our concierge primary care doctors in Jupiter want to discuss some important facts about Alzheimer’s disease, as well as tips for maintaining brain health and reducing your risk of developing the disease.

Facts about Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 6 million people in the United States, and that number is expected to triple by 2060.
  • There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but early detection and intervention can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.
  • Alzheimer’s disease is more common in older adults, but it can also affect younger people.
  • Genetics, lifestyle factors, and environmental factors may all play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • There are several different types of dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease is just one of them.

Tips for maintaining brain health:

  • Stay physically active: Regular exercise can help improve blood flow to the brain and promote the growth of new brain cells.
  • Eat a healthy diet: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can help support brain health.
  • Stay mentally active: Engage in activities that challenge your brain, such as puzzles, reading, or learning a new skill.
  • Stay socially connected: Social interaction can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
  • Manage chronic health conditions: Conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, so it’s important to manage these conditions through lifestyle changes and/or medication.

In conclusion, Alzheimer’s disease is a complex and devastating condition that affects millions of people worldwide. By raising awareness and taking steps to maintain brain health, we can work to reduce the impact of this disease and improve the quality of life for those affected by it.

Celebrate Earth Day With a Climate-Friendly Diet

As we prepare to celebrate the 51st Earth Day this week, our primary care concierge doctors in Jupiter know that many people are looking for ways to be kinder to the Earth without radically altering their entire lifestyle.

One way is to be more mindful of the carbon impact of the foods we eat. As an added bonus, eating more sustainably provides great health benefits, as well.

But you don’t have to make drastic changes to make a difference.

First, Some Facts

The World Economic Forum reports that, in a business-as-usual scenario, emissions from food production alone could use up all of the earth’s 1.5°C to 2°C carbon budget.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that food production accounts for 20-30 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and as much as 66 percent of water usage.

According to Scientific American (SA), the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that red meat such as beef and lamb is responsible for 10 to 40 times as many GHG emissions as grains and vegetables.

Livestock farming from cattle alone is estimated to generate about 20 percent of the GHG methane produced in the U.S.

In addition, a 2009 study found that cattle ranching is responsible for 80 percent of the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.

Finally, SA reports that concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs or “factory farms”) can produce as much sewage waste as a small city.

The Wellness Advantage

In addition to the benefits for the planet, this way of eating provides another bonus: From a health perspective, plant-based diets are unquestionably better for the body than a diet high in meat, especially red meat.

According to Harvard Health, “an accumulated body of evidence shows a clear link between high intake of red and processed meats and a higher risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and premature death.”

“The evidence is consistent across different studies,” says Dr. Frank Hu, chair of Harvard’s Department of Nutrition.

On the flip side, plant-forward diets have been shown to support the immune system, reduce inflammation in the body, reduce the plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and improve the gut microbiome.

And, of course, incorporating more plants into your diet reduces the number of antibiotics you’re exposed to.

As SA reports, the widespread use of antibiotics to keep livestock healthy in the unnatural confines of those overcrowded CAFOs has led to the development of dangerous antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria that can make some common infections impossible to treat.

Different Approaches

As we said, you don’t have to go totally vegan to help the planet or your health. There is an array of climate-friendly (or at least friendlier) diets to choose from.

Vegans, of course, don’t consume any animal products at all.

Vegetarians don’t eat meat but may eat some animal products such as eggs and dairy.

Flexitarians are, as their name suggests, more flexible in what they eat. Closest to vegetarians, they do occasionally consume meat.

Sustainarians eat a mostly plant-based diet but will eat meat if it is locally and humanely raised.

Reducetarians try to eat less meat for a variety of reasons, including their own health, the welfare of animals, and the environmental impact of their food. They’re also concerned with the concepts of biodiversity loss, and their food’s impact on water supplies and food workers.

Climatarians, also known as “climavores,” eat less meat and only a moderate amount of sustainable fish, avoid food waste and “air-flown” food, and choose high-welfare, organic meat.

Regenivores’ diets are similar to those above, especially reducetarians, but focus even more on whether it’s ethically produced. HuffPost reports they take into consideration soil health, workers’ rights, the impact of chemicals on the humans involved in food production, and the treatment of animals throughout the supply chain.

Other Ideas

Kind of confusing, isn’t it? If you don’t want to label your efforts to reduce your carbon footprint but just want to eat more sustainably, Canadian Living offers a simpler approach:

  1. Eat less meat. “A 2016 systematic review shows that following a diet low in animal products has the biggest impact on the environment of any dietary change, reducing GHG emissions and land use up to 70-80 percent, and water uses up to 50 percent,” the magazine reports. Keep in mind that beef has the largest carbon footprint of all animal products.
  2. Eat more plants. For your health and that of the planet, focus on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and unsaturated oils, moderate amounts of seafood and poultry, and little red or processed meat, added sugar, or refined grains.
  3. Reduce food waste. Food waste ends up in landfills, where it generates about 25 percent of Canada’s methane gas. (The U.S. total is approximately 16 percent). Buy only what you need, and make a plan to use up leftovers as much as possible.
  4. Buy local food. This supports local farmers, reduces the need for transporting food long distances, and is more nutritious because fewer nutrients are lost during transit.
  5. Reduce kitchen garbage:
    • Buy/use reusable grocery and produce bags.
    • Carry a reusable water bottle.
    • Use beeswax wraps instead of plastic wrap.
    • Replace washable silicone bags instead of plastic bags.

This Earth Day, you can do your health and the planet a favor just by making a few simple changes to your diet.

For a suggested Earth Day menu, Earthday.org offers a sample here.

Nature Can Heal in More Ways Than One

Humans evolved in the natural world. We may have retreated to caves or huts to protect ourselves from the elements, but we spent much of our time outdoors, hunting, gathering, cooking, telling stories, and so on. Our lives these days, though, are largely spent cut off from nature.

This way of life has sparked a wealth of studies showing that our loss of contact with nature—dubbed “nature deficit disorder”—has a real impact on our physical and mental health.

So our primary care concierge doctors in Jupiter weren’t too surprised to learn of a new study published this month in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine, which found that enjoying nature up to four times a week reduced the odds of needing mental health medications by 33 percent.

It also reduced the odds of using blood pressure pills by 36 percent and asthma medications by 26 percent.

The Study

Researchers interviewed about 6,000 people who live in large cities in Finland, asking about their access to and use of green and blue spaces, including parks, zoos, rivers, lakes, or the sea. 

They also asked subjects whether they could see views of nature from their homes, how often they spent time outdoors as well as how much they exercised while outdoors.

The study also accounted for other possible factors such as traffic-related outdoor air pollution and noise, which have been proven to have an adverse effect on health.

Respondents were then asked about their use of medications for depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, asthma, or insomnia, and correlated these with time spent in nature.

As noted above, the results were markedly better for those who were regularly exposed to green or blue spaces. Notably, those who lived in areas with a lot of green spaces or who simply looked at nature from their windows showed no improvement in any of these categories.

“Frequent green space visits, but not the amounts of residential green or blue spaces, or green and blue views from home, were associated with less frequent use of psychotropic, antihypertensive, and asthma medication in urban environments,” the study authors wrote.

Confirming Prior Research

Numerous earlier studies have found significant benefits from spending time in nature.

One meta-review of 143 other studies published in the journal Environmental Research, for example, found that people with access to green space generally had a slower heart rate, lower blood pressure, and fewer blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Researchers also found significantly fewer cases of diabetes and lower rates of mortality from heart disease in the group regularly exposed to nature.

An American Institutes for Research (AIR) study in 2005 found that sixth-grade students who attended three outdoor education programs showed marked improvement in conflict resolution skills.

Another study in China in 2013 involved 60,000 children between the ages of two and 17. It showed that regular exposure to nature, or “greenness” around their schools, reduced the incidence of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A more recent study at the University of Illinois produced similar results.

And a 2016 study of nearly 100,000 women conducted over eight years found that having access to the greenest space not only improved the subjects’ mental health but also reduced their death rate by 12 percent.

Nature Deprivation Hurts

Author Richard Louv coined the phrase Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD) in his 2005 book “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder.” In it, he argued that elements of our urbanized lifestyle, including few natural spaces, a car-focused culture, more screen time, changes in the perception of risk (e.g., fear of “stranger danger”), less leisure time, and increased time pressure from work or school, combine to decrease or even eliminate contact with nature for both adults and children, according to the National Institutes for Health (NIH).

“The average young American now spends practically every minute—except for the time in school—using a smartphone, computer, television, or electronic device,” Tamar Lewin reported in a Kaiser Family Foundation study on the subject.

According to the Children and Nature Network (C-NN), which was co-founded by Louv, an expanding body of scientific evidence suggests that nature-deficit disorder contributes to:

  • diminished use of the senses
  • attention difficulties
  • conditions of obesity, and
  • higher rates of emotional and physical illnesses

Make the Connection

Unfortunately, to get back to nature, you may need to make a specific effort, because in our harried lives trapped indoors, focused on our screens, we have very little time for real relaxation.

Therefore, it’s often necessary to add nature breaks to our schedules the same way we schedule everything else.

One way is to undertake the Japanese practice known as “forest bathing,” or shinrin-yoku. As Kaiser Permanente’s’ online Thrive explains, “Heading out to a heavily wooded area isn’t required. You could take a trip to a nearby park, your favorite local trail, the beach, or any natural setting. Just be sure to turn off or silence your phone or other devices.”

Psychology Today explains, “Forest bathing is an antidote to pinging distractions, impending deadlines, and never-ending obligations . . . . The idea is to immerse yourself in a natural environment and soak up the many health benefits of being in the green woods.”

However, you manage it, for the sake of your overall health we recommend you take the time to reconnect with the natural world as often as possible.

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