Defusing COVID-19 high anxiety
Since the beginning of April, comedians Rachel Parris and Marcus Brigstocke have been posting videos of themselves performing elaborate lip-syncs complete with over-the-top choreography and costumes at #LockdownLipsync. They’re fighting off the COVID blues — and helping others do it too!
Unfortunately, there are many folks still riding the corona coaster — the up-and-down feeling of uncertainty, anxiety and helplessness that comes from worrying about your health and the health of those around you, employment, social isolation, finances, your children’s education and more. A survey conducted by www.sharecare.com found 91 percent of people have been impacted by feelings of worry, 20 percent reported extreme stress, and there’s been a whopping 230 percent increase in the number of folks who feel anxiety. An American Psychiatric Association survey found that nearly 40 percent of Americans fear getting sick or dying from COVID-19, and 62 percent are anxious about a friend or family member falling ill.
For your immediate and long-term health, it’s essential that you find ways to relieve your stress and anxiety. We suggest you:
■ Start your morning with 10 minutes of meditation. Go to sharecare.com for instructions.
■ Consider psychological telemedicine. Many practices offer virtual talk therapy; there are also online-only therapy apps.
■ Stay connected with friends and family, through the phone or video chats. Sometimes easing anxiety is as simple as seeing a familiar face and having a few laughs.
■ Start a new hobby or project; it will provide distraction, gratification and a sense of expanding horizons, even if they’re just digital.
Ladies, speak up to primary care doctors for your heart health
In a 2018 opinion piece in USA Today, singer Barbra Streisand, founder of the Women’s Heart Alliance and the Cedars-Sinai Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center, wrote, “Today in America, women are being sent to early graves because our country has failed to combat a disease that kills more of us annually than all forms of cancer combined.”
Neglect of women’s heart health happens repeatedly in primary care physicians’ offices. Researchers looked at more than 43 international studies with 2.2 million patients and found that primary care doctors write fewer prescriptions for aspirin, statins and ACE-inhibitors (high blood pressure meds) for women who are at high risk for a heart attack or with established cardiovascular disease than for similarly endangered men. In fact, women receive 19 percent fewer aspirin prescriptions; 10 percent fewer statin prescriptions and 15 percent fewer ACE-inhibitors than men.
That means women need to be vigilant guardians of their heart health by making sure primary care docs regularly check inflammation markers, LDL cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and discuss the potential repercussions of the results. If you have elevated blood pressure, lousy LDL cholesterol or a chronically increased level of inflammation and are not prescribed medication to combat it, ask, “Why are you not recommending a statin?” “Would high blood pressure medicine help protect my heart and brain?” And “What can I do to reduce the inflammation?”
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women. If you’re a woman with preexisting conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity or if you smoke cigarettes or are over age 60, then you have a higher risk for developing heart disease. At annual checkups, your primary care physician should evaluate your heart health. You can empower yourself by tracking your blood pressure, cholesterol level, blood sugar, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference.
Also, be aware that signs of heart attack can be different in women. These include pain in the neck, jaw, shoulders, upper back and abdomen, shortness of breath, sweating, lightheadedness, dizziness and nausea. Finally, if you feel your primary care physician isn’t giving you the care you need, consider making an appointment with a cardiologist, who can conduct a full workup and make decisions on which medications to prescribe.
Fiber helps save your life
When it comes to textile fibers, cotton is king. In the U.S., 17 million bales (each weighing 480 pounds) are produced annually — with Texas, Georgia and Mississippi growing the most. When it comes to fiber foods, all beans (pinto, black, lima, kidney, etc.), raspberries, avocados, oats, apples, carrots, nuts, collard, turnip and beet greens, cauliflower, green beans, potatoes and 100 percent whole grains are king of your plate.
Almost all edible plants contain soluble and insoluble fiber. You want a daily mix of both. Soluble fiber is digested in the colon. It helps feed your gut biome, regulates glucose and cholesterol levels and helps you stay heart-healthy. Insoluble fiber passes through your guts unchanged — and helps prevent constipation.
But that’s not all fiber can do for your health. A metastudy from New Zealand, published in PLOS Medicine, reveals just how powerful the benefits of dietary fiber are, especially if you have prediabetes or diabetes. The researchers looked at a very large pool of studies and found that increasing your intake of dietary fiber by 15 grams a day and/or getting 35 grams total daily significantly reduces your risk of dying prematurely from diabetes and its associated complications, such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, etc.
What that means for you: You can increase your fiber intake by around 15 grams daily if you enjoy a half of a cup of chickpeas or a cup of raspberries (8 grams) and one cup of whole-wheat pasta (6 grams). Easy peasy! (Peas have 7 grams of fiber in a cup.)
These spices are so cool, they take down inflammation
Chili peppers, cinnamon and red pepper are the three best-selling spices in the U.S., and oregano, parsley and basil are the most favored herbs, according to researchers from the University of Illinois. But many other herbs and spices are gaining favor lately. Around 40 percent of folks now say they like ginger and rosemary a lot. And 33 percent are wild for dill and cumin.
That’s a great trend — for the culinary arts and for your health. A study in the Journal of Nutrition by researchers from Penn State found that adding just 6 grams of a blend of basil, bay leaf, black pepper, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, ginger, oregano, parsley, red pepper, rosemary, thyme and turmeric to a high-fat and processed-carbohydrate meal lowers levels of bodywide inflammation hours later.
Now this doesn’t give you permission to eat heart-stopping, cancer-triggering, high saturated fat and processed-carb foods. But it is great news, since chronic inflammation, associated with elevated blood glucose, lousy LDL cholesterol levels and obesity is epidemic in America.
Defeating inflammation, which is implicated in the development of some cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia and a lousy sex life, is essential for restoring your health. So next time you’re in the kitchen, cook up some rice and beans for taco night or grill or poach salmon or sea trout. Season generously with your homemade blend of this spice and herb mixture. You’ll be rewarded with great flavors as you cool down the inflammation that’s threatening your healthy future.
Maintain good dental care — at home and in the dentist’s office
In the movie musical “Little Shop of Horrors” Steve Martin plays a dentist who revels in horrifying his patients. Fortunately, going to the dentist while COVID-19 is still circulating doesn’t have to be that scary. There are guidelines designed to protect you — and the dentist/staff — from exposure.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Dental Association and most state dental associations urge dentists and hygienists to wear N95 masks and suggest head-to-toe covering be replaced after each patient. HEPA air purifiers, what are called far-ultraviolet lamps and well-directed heating and cooling systems also minimize the risk of transmission. So before you go, know that …
■ Excellent at-home dental hygiene is essential. Your best bet: brush and floss twice a day. You can postpone a cleaning if you’re super-conscientious about daily care.
■ The CDC recommends dental practices prioritize critical dental services. If you need emergency dental work for an extraction or root canal, don’t wait! Delay can cause you more pain, require more time spent in the dentist’s chair and add up to larger dental bills.
■ When you call the dentist office, ask for a rundown of their sanitation measures. For example, the CDC says, “To clean and disinfect the dental operatory after a patient without suspected or confirmed COVID-19, wait 15 minutes after completion of clinical care and exit of each patient to begin to clean and disinfect room surfaces.” That lets airborne particles settle, so they can be removed. Make sure they’re doing that!
■ Don’t like what you hear? Call another dentist.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.