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.

Lightning

Lightning: Deadly But Avoidable

Labor Day is coming up, signaling the unofficial end of summer. Kids will be heading back to school and families will be trying to get as much outdoor fun into the waning days of the season as possible.

But as you go about your last-minute recreation, there’s a rare but deadly danger that our concierge primary care doctors in Jupiter want to warn you about: lightning.

Our state is known as the “Lightning Capital of the U.S.” More people die from lightning strikes in Florida every year than in any other state, and the southeastern coast of the state is second only to the Tampa area in reported fatalities.

That’s why we want to remind you that these tragic deaths can be prevented, as long as you know how to avoid them.

Recent deaths

Lightning kills an average of 23 people every year. So far this year, 12 people have been killed by lightning, including a 27-year-old man doing lawn maintenance in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and a soldier on a training exercise at Fort Gordon, Georgia, both in July.

The most recent deaths occurred this month in Washington, D.C., in Lafayette Park just north of the the White House, as the victims huddled under a tree for protection from a sudden severe thunderstorm.

One was a 29-year-old bank vice president in town on business. The others were a Wisconsin couple celebrating their 56th wedding anniversary. All three were killed, while another woman who was also struck remains in critical condition.

They were struck by an unusual six-prong bolt that hit the same place within half a second, creating a ground current.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), “When lightning strikes a tree or other object, much of the energy travels outward from the strike in and along the ground surface.”

“This is known as ground current. Anyone outside near a lightning strike is potentially a victim of ground current,” the agency adds.

Five potential paths 

A ground current discharge is one of five ways people can by struck by lightning.

The five are:

Direct strike – These most often occur to victims who are in open areas. While the most deadly type, it’s not as common as the other four.

Side flash – Also called a “side splash,” these occur when lightning strikes a taller object near the victim and a portion of the current jumps from the taller object to the victim.

Ground current – This type, mentioned above, causes the most lightning deaths and injuries, including to farm animals. 

Conduction – Lightning can travel long distances in wires or other metal surfaces, because the metal provides a path for the lightning to follow. This type is the way most people are killed indoors during a lightning storm, including when they’re taking showers, washing dishes, or talking on corded phones. 

Streamers – While uncommon, streamers can injure or kill when a side bolt separates or rebounds from the main or leader bolt and discharges.

Lightning safety rules

To stay safe from lightning, the NWS offers these guidelines to avoid being struck by lightning.

  • Appoint someone to watch the skies during your outdoor work or recreation. Check the latest thunderstorm forecast and monitor the NOAA Weather Radio.
  • When lightning is in your vicinity, go quickly inside a completely closed building. Do not consider carports, open garages, covered patios, or pavilions adequate shelter.
  • If no closed building is convenient, get inside a hard-topped, all-metal vehicle and be sure the windows are completely closed.
  • Do not take shelter under a tree, especially if it is tall and isolated.
  • Get out of the water. This includes pools, lakes, rivers, oceans, water rides, and even puddles. And leave the beach immediately if you see or hear a thunderstorm approaching.
  • Put down metal objects such as fishing poles, golf clubs, tennis rackets, tools, etc.
  • Dismount from tractors and heavy construction equipment. Do not seek shelter under the equipment.
  • Move away from metal objects such as metal fences, metal sheds, telephone and power lines, pipelines, etc.

Indoor safety

  • Avoid contact with corded phones.
  • Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords. If you plan to unplug any electrical equipment, do so before the storm arrives.
  • Avoid contact with plumbing. When thunderstorms are occurring, do not take a shower or bath, wash dishes, or do the laundry.
  • Move away from windows and doors. Do not stay on the porch.

If someone is struck

Call 911 immediately.

  • Determine whether the victim is unconscious. Check to see if they are breathing, and gently roll the victim onto their back.
  • If the victim is not breathing, perform CPR until the paramedics arrive. (A reminder: Mouth-to-mouth breathing is no longer recommended to revive someone; regular chest compressions—between 100 and 120 a minute—are more effective.)
  • Always keep in mind the NWS directive: When thunder roars, go indoors.

The Risk of Salmonella in Backyard Chickens

If you’ve been buying cage-free eggs, or eggs from your local farmer, or even raising your own chickens to lower your risk of salmonella, our concierge doctors in Jupiter have some unhappy news for you: Most chickens, ducks, and turkeys carry some form of the more than 2,000 types of salmonella, according to Craig Coufal, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service poultry specialist.

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Fourth of July Safety Tips

Fourth of July Safety Tips

What would the Fourth of July be without a picnic, possibly with a big family-and-friends cookout, topped off at dusk with celebratory fireworks? Your concierge family practice doctors at MD 2.0 in Jupiter, Florida, want you to have a happy holiday. We also want you to be safe, which is why we decided this would be a good time to review firework safety basics.

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Tips for Healthy Summer Snacking

Creating healthy, creative snacks in the summertime is practical and easy, especially since there’s so much healthy delicious produce in season! Summers are busy, so quick, on-the-go foods are often your best option. On top of that, summertime allows you to have variety in your healthy eating, since almost every fruit and vegetable is available at your supermarket. All of these things make summertime the best time for optimal healthy snacking. Here is a list of some of the best and healthiest summer snacks!

Avocado Toast
Perhaps one of the easiest summer snacks is some avocado on a piece of toast, with salt and pepper. It’s best to use a very ripe avocado, mash it with a fork and then spread on your favorite toast. A drizzle of olive oil gives it a nice flavor and an extra boost of healthy fat!

Mini Caprese Skewers
Assemble toothpick skewers of cherry tomatoes, small pieces or rolled balls of fresh mozzarella cheese, and basil leaves. Drizzle with a balsamic glaze or just a dash of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Add some sea salt for a little crunch!

Frozen Fruit and Yogurt Bites
You can do this with just about any fruit. Some that we have found to taste great are blueberries, raspberries and strawberries – all summer favorites. Simply mix the fruit with greek yogurt, spread out onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper, and freeze. When you take it out of the freezer it will break apart like bark. These are great on an especially warm day and pack a little protein from the yogurt.

Oven-Dried Strawberries
Bake fresh strawberries in the oven for 3 hours at 210 degrees. They will dehydrate and taste like candy, but are completely healthy and all-natural. The nice thing about this snack is that they can be taken on-the-go for a quick snack when you need it. These are much better than hitting the vending machine when you just need a snack!

Frozen Grapes
Wash your fresh grapes and put them right in the freezer. Although this is such a simple maneuver, the results are delicious and super refreshing during the hottest season of the year! Frozen grapes are like nature’s candy and so easy to make!

Healthy “Banana Split”
Cut a banana down the middle and fill it with greek yogurt, fruit of your choice, and an optional sprinkle of mini dark chocolate chips. This snack is full of protein and healthy goodness, while still satisfying your sweet tooth. This is also a great snack for the kids!

Crunchy Roasted Chickpeas
Love potato chips but looking for a healthier option without losing the crunch? Place chickpeas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. After they are done baking, mix them with olive oil and seasoning of your choice. Yum!

Summer is one of the best times for snacking. Whether you are going to soccer games, on family vacations, or keeping busy at home, snacks come in handy for everyone! Snacks don’t have to be full of fat, fried, or packed full of preservatives. Take advantage of the vast array of fruits and veggies available in the summertime, and make them into healthy snacks that are delicious for the whole family!

summer-hazards-image

Avoid These Summer Hazards!

It’s definitely a HOT summer here in South Florida! While you might only be thinking of enjoying grilled food, swimming in the pool, or playing fun summer sports like volleyball or baseball, it’s important to be aware of some common summer hazards during this sunny season. Here are the most common health effects during summer months, and what you can do to prevent them.

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superfoods-for-summer-image

Top Summer Superfoods

Due to the high levels of nutrients found in  superfoods, they are able to stand alone as one of the healthiest snacks a person could ever munch on – especially in this South Florida heat! Paired with something else, though, and these foods are virtually unstoppable. Of course, people enjoy seasonal foods that work well for the months they are eaten in. Summer, for example, is a time when people’s appetites are suppressed, thus altering what they will eat. Well, fear not: Summer has seasonal superfoods, too!

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Tips for a Safe South Florida Summer

It’s already beginning to feel like summer here in South Florida! With even hotter summer weather in Florida right around the corner, it is essential for you to protect your health with several habits that can prevent medical problems. Have a safe & healthy summer with these tips!

1. Drink Enough Water throughout the Day

Dehydration is a serious problem that can occur at anytime of the year but is more common in the summer because you perspire more. If you are accustomed to drinking caffeinated beverages such as coffee, soft drinks or tea, then you will urinate more often, leading to additional loss of body fluids. While you do not need to give up your favorite flavored beverages during the summer, you should make sure to drink at least eight glasses of pure water each day. You can supplement your hydration by eating fruits that are high in water content.

2. Protect Your Skin with Sunscreen 

Florida has year-round sunny weather, but in the summer, the sun’s ultraviolet rays are more intense. If you are outside more often because there is no rain, then applying protective sunscreen products is essential to prevent skin damage. Sunburned skin is uncomfortable, and it can lead to medical problems immediately or in the future. Not only does skin damage from the sun lead to wrinkles, but also, it can lead to some forms of skin cancer.

3. Use Safety Precautions while Swimming

Swimming is a favorite activity in Florida in either a pool or the ocean, and to avoid injuries, you must use safety precautions. Make sure to have a written list of rules for anyone using a swimming pool at your home, and also, provide life jackets or floatable devices. Install a fence around a swimming pool at your home, and make sure that everyone knows that they should only swim at the ocean or in a pool when another person is nearby.

4. Use Protective Gear while Riding a Bicycle

If you enjoy riding a bicycle in the summer, then invest in protective gear, including a helmet that fits properly. It is also a good idea to wear specialized pads on your elbows and knees in case your bicycle tips over. To ensure drivers in vehicles can see you, place reflectors on various parts of your bicycle and wear a light-colored shirt, jacket or shorts. Learn how to maneuver a bicycle correctly on streets or sidewalks to avoid an accident that can lead to a serious injury.

5. Use Insect Repellents to Avoid Bite and Stings

When you are outside more often in the summer, there is a greater chance of receiving a sting or bite from an insect – especially those pesky mosquitos! Several types of insects can transmit diseases that lead to itchy or painful bumps, and some species of spiders are venomous. Protect your health by applying insect repellents to your skin to avoid contamination from mosquitoes, ticks or wasps.

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