More than thirty million people in the United States are living with heart disease and it’s the leading cause of death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one person dies from cardiovascular disease every thirty-six seconds. COVID-19 is catching up now that news outlets report the coronavirus—also known as SARS-CoV-2—kills someone in the United States every forty seconds. People with preexisting heart disease who develop COVID-19 are more likely to have severe symptoms and more likely to die. And because the coronavirus can damage the heart, people with COVID-19 who don’t have preexisting heart disease can develop cardiovascular problems as a result of the infection.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused nearly 1.5 million deaths worldwide as of late November 2020. It’s also been the source of considerable suffering as people struggle with economic devastation, food insecurity, unemployment, workplace safety concerns, the loss of loved ones, and social isolation.
Even after individuals infected with coronavirus recover, the psychological toll can last long-term and symptoms can be similar to those of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People affected by post-COVID stress disorder may experience nightmares, flashbacks, difficulty sleeping, detachment from family and friends, and overwhelming feelings of anger, fear, hopelessness, anxiety, and depression.
Scientists and doctors are still learning about the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-related stress disorders. Researchers in North America have developed COVID Stress Scales to help identify people in need of mental health services as a result of the pandemic. So far, healing has focused on interventions that have proven helpful for individuals affected by PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Here are five ways to address post-COVID stress disorder, improve mental health, and adopt coping strategies amidst the ongoing global pandemic.
Grain-free is the new gluten-free when it comes to diet trends. Gluten, a group of proteins found in wheat and certain other grains like barley and rye, can trigger allergic and autoimmune reactions in some individuals. But gluten may not be the only problem and the avoidance of grains all together may be a better solution for some people.
Grains are staple components of diets around the world, but they aren’t actually required for human health. Grains are composed primarily of carbohydrates with small amounts of fiber, fatty acids, B vitamins, and minerals. We can get these nutrients from other plant foods—like vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and seeds—which are even better sources of fiber, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.
Eliminating grains from the diet can certainly have health benefits. Because gluten is only found in grains, grain-free diets are automatically gluten-free and can improve symptoms of illnesses caused by immune-mediated responses to gluten like celiac disease. Grain-free diets may also improve conditions unrelated to gluten and celiac disease. So far studies have shown potential benefits for maximizing athletic performance and treating patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, endometriosis, obesity, schizophrenia, and atopic illnesses like hayfever, asthma, and eczema.1
Grain-free diets can feel very restrictive and for most people they can be difficult to maintain long term. Eliminating grains from the diet often requires spending more time and money on food preparation and for some people it can limit social activities. A study that followed 260 people eating a grain-free diet found that most participants reported only minimal interference in daily function, relationships, and lifestyle, but eleven percent reported “high levels of interference with social leisure activities.”
Several grain-free diets already exist including paleo, ketogenic, carnivore, and Whole30. These plans eliminate other things as well and vary in the foods they allow. If you’re considering grain-free diet, you can follow a specific plan like one of these or you can simply stop eating grains. Here are four reasons to go grain-free.
Students, teachers, and parents have had an unprecedented start to the new school year as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Everyone is facing new challenges and new sources of stress. Some kids are struggling with distance learning and separation from friends while others are adjusting to social distancing inside schools, wearing masks all day long, and undergoing daily temperature checks by strangers wearing head-to-toe personal protective equipment. Stress affects us emotionally as well as physically and in children it can manifest as stomach pain, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, changes in mood or behavior, and problems with focus and concentration. Stress management is regularly recommended for adults but it’s equally important for kids. Here are six strategies just for them.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to change our lives completely. We’ve been staying home. We’ve been struggling with fear, anxiety, depression, and isolation. We’ve been spending more time in front of screens and less time outside. We’ve been eating more comfort food and exercising less. It’s a perfect recipe for weight gain.
Given the circumstances, the “quarantine fifteen” may be an understandable outcome, but it’s still dangerous from a health perspective. Excess weight increases our risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and chronic diseases including osteoarthritis, liver and kidney disease, sleep apnea, and depression. And a recent study found that, before the age of sixty, obese individuals have twice the risk of COVID-19 hospitalization as non-obese people (measured by a body mass index below 30).
Successful and sustainable weight loss requires addressing all of the underlying factors that caused weight gain in the first place. Diet and exercise are important, but so are stress, sleep, and even the way we use electronics. Medical conditions and medication side effects can also contribute to weight gain, and you’ll need your doctor’s help to know for sure. But there are things we can all do right now. Here are five ways to address the root causes of weight gain and reverse the quarantine fifteen.
Currently there are no medicines that can prevent or treat COVID-19 but there are measures we can take to reduce our risk of infection. Physical distancing and hand-washing are essential, but we can do more. Here are eight other things my family is doing to stay healthy during the COVIS-19 pandemic.