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.

Damar Hamlin Brings CPR Into the Spotlight

It was a terrifying moment on the field at the Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals game earlier this month when Bills safety Damar Hamlin stood up following a hit to the chest and then collapsed on the field.

But the good news is that he seems to be well on his way to a remarkable recovery. So our concierge primary care doctors in Jupiter want to join with so many others who are using the incident to urge everyone to learn the lifesaving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) technique that helped save his life.

What happened to Hamlin?

First, let’s discuss how a routine hit in a football game drove a man to the brink of death.

While full details are not yet available, it appears he was the victim of a rare phenomenon called “commotio cordis,” or ventricular fibrillation. It occurs when an impact directly to the heart occurs at the precise millisecond of the heartbeat when it becomes susceptible to such a blow, interrupting the rhythm.

In such cases, “there is nothing wrong with the heart,” Dr. Hari Tandri, director of the cardiac arrhythmia program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, told NBC News.

Dr. Comilla Sasson, an emergency medicine physician in Denver and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association (AHA), told NBC: “It’s not about how hard a hit it was. It’s actually about the timing of when the blow happens.”

CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Argus told “CBS Mornings” that he believed Hamlin sustained blunt force trauma to his chest “in the exact right spot, at the exact right moment during his heartbeat,” causing his heart to go into arrhythmia, or “not beat effectively to push blood to the brain,” he explained.

“It happens in Little League baseball,” he added. “A ball is thrown by a pitcher and hits the person in the chest. It happens in soccer where there’s something that causes that blunt force trauma. So, remarkably rare.” So rare, in fact, that he estimated that only about 30 of these cases occur in the U.S. every year.

Hamlin was Lucky

As Hamlin continued to rapidly recover in the days following his collapse, observers credited his survival to the immediate response of medical personnel on the field.

“When someone is having a sudden cardiac arrest emergency for any reason . . . time is absolutely critical,” Matthew Levy, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told The Washington Post.

“For every minute that someone is in sudden cardiac arrest—every minute where their heart is not beating normally and their body tissue is not getting the oxygen it needs—their [chances of] survival goes down by like seven to 10 percent,” he said. “So time is absolutely of the essence.”

“The key in any cardiac arrest is how quickly and effectively CPR is done,” Aaron Baggish, a Mass General Brigham sports medicine cardiologist and founder of the Cardiovascular Performance Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, told The Post.

“So it has to start soon, and it has to be done well enough to get blood to the brain and the other vital organs for as long as it takes to start the heart again with defibrillation,” he said.

Rapid Response

Which is what happened with Hamlin.

Within seconds of Hamlin’s collapse, assistant athletic trainer Denny Kellington began administering CPR to Hamlin, according to a tweet from Bills offensive lineman Dion Dawkins. Others followed the CPR with use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) before Hamlin was rushed to the hospital.

Observers credited the immediate CPR and AED with saving his life. But only about half of Americans report having received CPR training.

And unfortunately, many people who witness a cardiac arrest are reluctant to perform CPR, either because they don’t know how or are afraid of causing further harm. But Good Samaritan laws in all 50 states protect bystanders who step in to help during an emergency from legal liability.

Florida’s statute provides that “Any person . . . who . . . in good faith renders emergency care or treatment . . . shall not be held liable” for damages. Read the whole law here.

But too few Americans have CPR training, the AHA reports.

A Simple Technique

Formal training, which typically involves practicing on a dummy, is preferable to reading about the technique, doctors say.

“You can certainly learn a lot by reading it online, and you can certainly watch videos and understand and learn the technique, but, ultimately, the best thing is to actually get into a class so you can actually practice,” Dr. Jayne Morgan, a cardiologist at Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta, told NBC News.

The Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Michael Emery, a sports cardiologist there, told USA Today that CPR is “the most profound, life-changing thing you could potentially learn and do for someone.”

If you’re interested in someday possibly saving a life, you can find CPR classes near you here.

And if you find yourself in a situation where you need to perform CPR, the AHA recommends doing chest compressions at a rate of 100 to 120 per minute, but in the throes of trying to save a life, it can be difficult to count the precise beats needed to keep up the correct rhythm.

So the AHA created a playlist of over 50 familiar songs on Spotify to help bystanders maintain the beat. Click here to listen!

There’s a Reason Why You’re Feeling SAD

If you’ve been feeling down, sleepy, or hopeless, even with all the holiday merriment going on around you, our primary care concierge doctors in Jupiter want you to know you’re not alone. Health experts estimate that seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or the “winter blues,” affects about five percent of the U.S. population.

SAD is more than just the “winter blues,” according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA). The symptoms can be distressing and overwhelming, and can interfere with daily functioning, the APA reports. 

Affecting more than 10 million Americans, symptoms of the condition usually begin in October or November and begin to subside in March or April. However, some patients don’t feel fully back to normal until early May.

SAD may begin at any age, but it typically starts when a person is between the ages of 18 and 30 and seems to affect women more than men.

Symptoms

The APA lists the following symptoms associated with SAD:

  • fatigue, even with excessive amounts of sleep
  • weight gain associated with overeating and carbohydrate cravings
  • feelings of sadness or depressed mood
  • marked loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • loss of energy
  • an increase in restless activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing)
  • slowed movements and speech
  • feeling worthless or guilty
  • trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • thoughts of death or suicide or attempts at suicide.

The severity of such symptoms can vary from person to person, and not everyone will experience all these symptoms.

Likely Causes

While no one is certain what causes SAD, the lower amounts of sunlight in fall and winter are believed to lead to a biochemical imbalance in the brain, impacting the body’s circadian clock, which triggers sleep and wake cycles.

This process affects the output of serotonin, the so-called “mood” hormone. Studies have shown that the circadian-related output of serotonin drops markedly with the decrease in light during the winter. It also increases the level of melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland that regulates the sleep cycle.

The cause of SAD may have an ancient survival connection, as humans learned to restrict activity when food sources were scarce. The tendency may still be hardwired into our biology, and people can experience symptoms on a sliding scale from barely noticeable to full-blown clinical depression.

Risk factors include a family history of SAD or another form of depression, having major depression or bipolar disorder, and having lower levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D is believed to promote serotonin production.

Treatment

SAD can be effectively treated in a number of ways, including through the use of light-box therapy, which employs specially built full-spectrum lamps to alleviate symptoms. The NIMH reports that this type of therapy has been a mainstay for treating SAD since the 1980s.

In this treatment, a person sits in front of a very bright lightbox (10,000 lux) every day for about 30 to 45 minutes, usually first thing in the morning, from fall to spring. The light boxes, which are about 20 times brighter than ordinary indoor light, filter out the potentially damaging UV light, making this treatment safe for most people.

However, those with certain eye diseases or people taking certain medications that increase their sensitivity to sunlight might need other treatment types.

Other approaches include the use of antidepressants such as Paxil and Prozac, or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of talk therapy aimed at helping individuals learn how to cope with difficult situations. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also approved another type of antidepressant specifically for SAD: bupropion. In extended-release form, it is taken daily from fall to spring to prevent major depressive episodes.

Self-care

Meanwhile, there are steps you can take to help mitigate milder cases.

1. Stay active outdoors

Exposure to early morning light has been shown to be the most effective at reducing symptoms, as has regular exercise. An early morning walk or run might be all you need to help alleviate your symptoms.

2. Let in the light

If you can’t get outside, at least let the sunshine in as much as possible. Open blinds and drapes first thing in the morning, and keep them open all day. If you can, arrange your home or office so you’re exposed to as much sunlight as possible during the day (but remember that the sun’s harmful UV rays can penetrate glass, so use sunscreen if you’re actually sitting in the sun all day).

3. Eat right

Simple carbs and sugars wreak havoc with your blood sugar, thereby affecting your mood. Lean meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and complex carbohydrates will help to keep your brain functioning properly.

4. Take it easy

Don’t try to do too much, which can add to feelings of being overwhelmed. Do what you can, and postpone the rest, or ask friends and family for help with your to-do list.

5. Stay connected

Studies have shown that connecting with others helps improve mood: volunteering, getting together with friends and family, and participating in group activities, are some possibilities.

If your symptoms are interfering with your daily life, let us know. We can help evaluate your symptoms and recommend the right therapy.

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