Examples of small changes to lose weight or just get healthier
- Pack a healthy lunch and snacks for work at least three days a week.
- Go for a 20-minute walk at the end of the lunch hour on Mondays and Fridays.
- Keep a pair of sneakers and socks in your car. You can walk without excuse, like during your kid's sports practice.
- Try a new cardio or yoga class on YouTube.
- Start your day on your mat with five minutes of stretching and meditation.
- Walk to get the mail instead of driving.
- Walk with a friend at least once a week.
- Eat at least two colorful vegetables every day. Consider choices like spinach, squash, dark green lettuce, broccoli, chard, green beans, peas, sweet potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes.
- Have a salad or soup meal once a week, a great way to pack in the veggies. Need a yummy soup recipe filled with veggies? Try this super simple and delicious Chicken Salsa Verde Chili.
- Stock up on plain seltzer water or club soda to drink instead of regular sodas.
- Find some herbal tea flavors to enjoy for a healthy treat without the calories.
- Keep lemon, lime, or other citrus wedges handy in the refrigerator to add a splash of flavor and vitamin C to your water.
- Stock up on fresh fruit you enjoy and have a piece at least once a day, perhaps in the evening as dessert.
- Have a legume-based dish at least once a week. Legumes work well in soups, casseroles, chilis, burritos, and salads. Need recipe inspiration? Try this vegan Spinach Lentil Soup.
- Make a small plate of mini snacks by portioning out healthy foods like nuts, cheese, olives, tomatoes, carrots, and hummus. Remember to sit down and mindfully savor your snack.
- Include a probiotic food several times a week, such as yogurt, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, or fermented sauerkraut.
- Eat a high-protein breakfast with foods like eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, or nut butter to keep you satisfied all morning. For high-protein breakfast ideas, click here.
- Try a new whole grain like farro, barley, red rice, quinoa, and millet.
- Find a good olive oil you like and use it for dressing your salads -- just a bit of oil, plus vinegar, salt, pepper, and perhaps some dried herbs.
- Try dry rubs or healthier marinades for grilling.
- Please remember not to shame yourself when you don't meet a goal you've set. Maybe you let a week pass without packing a healthy lunch. No problem, just make it happen next week. You can put your goal into the notes section of MyNetDiary to make it "official" so you take it seriously. Over time, the more you incorporate small changes, the easier they are accomplished, helping you lose weight without extraordinary effort. They become more of a habit and you feel empowered and motivated when you experience positive health results.
- The amazing thing is that as you build these habits into your daily and weekly routine, there is less room for unhealthy food or unhealthy habits. For example, if you're filling up on vegetables at dinner, you'll have less appetite for sugary desserts. If you have nuts or cheese readily available for a snack, you won't eat the chips and candy bars. If you go for a walk after dinner, there is less time to sit on the couch and watch TV.
- Take the time to create your own personal list of simple, positive health goals. Think of foods, small meal changes, or ways to increase physical activity that can make a valuable difference to your health and efforts to lose weight. Before you know it, others will notice and may ask you for advice about how to change their lifestyle to be healthier.
What is shingles?Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful skin rash. Symptoms can vary from mild itching to intense pain. In some cases, there can be long-lasting complications. Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. This is the same virus that causes chickenpox, and it belongs to the family of viruses that cause cold sores and genital herpes. Anyone who has had chicken pox could potentially develop shingles later in life. After you have recovered from chicken pox, the virus can enter your nervous system where it may lie dormant for years. Shingles is caused when the virus reactivates. It travels along nerve pathways to the skin, where it causes painful symptoms in the skin and nervous system. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that almost 1 in 3 people in the USA will develop shingles at some point in their lives. (1) People with symptoms can pass the virus on to others who are not immune, either because they haven’t had chicken pox or the chicken pox vaccine. However, the infected person will develop chicken pox, not shingles. Shingles has been linked to mental health problems such as chronic stress and depression – which we will discuss below. If you are curious about your mental well-being and cognitive health, take this Online Cognitive Test to understand your cognitive state, strengths and weaknesses.
What are the symptoms of shingles?Firstly, shingles can cause tingling, numbness and a burning, intense pain in an area of skin. This may be accompanied by a headache and a general feeling of being unwell. A few days later, a red, blotchy rash will appear across one side of the body, often on the torso, or sometimes on one side of the neck or face. If the shingles rash appears around the eye, it’s vital to see a doctor as soon as possible. If left untreated, shingles close to the eye can cause an infection which can lead to permanent damage to vision. Over the course of a few days, the rash turns into itchy blisters that leak fluid. The blisters later dry out and scab over. Some people also experience fever, headache, sensitivity and fatigue. If you suspect you may have shingles, keep the rash clean and dry. Take paracetamol and use a cold compress to ease the pain. See your doctor as soon as possible. It can take around 4 weeks for the rash to heal. However, some people continue to suffer from persistent pain that lasts months or years. This is called postherpetic neuralgia.
What is postherpetic neuralgia?Around 1 to 4% of shingles sufferers require hospitalisation, and 10 to 18% of shingles patients will go on to develop a serious complication called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). (2) Postherpetic neuralgia affects nerve fibers and skin, and causes a burning or stabbing pain that persists even after the rash and blisters associated with shingles have healed. Shingles can lead to nerve damage which causes nerves to send inaccurate signals, such as pain signals, to the brain. The result is chronic neuropathic pain. (3) PHN can be treated using medications such as painkillers, anticonvulsants which calm nerve impulses and stabilise electrical activity in the nervous system, or steroids which may be injected around the spinal cord. Alternatively, doctors may prescribe antidepressants, which affect serotonin levels and can influence the perception of pain.
Can stress cause shingles?Your state of mind can have a major impact on your physical health. Stress and depression can put you at a higher risk of developing physical illnesses, prolong recovery time, and worsen existing problems. But is there a connection between stress and shingles? Stress alone does not cause shingles. However, it does have an important role to play in the reactivation of the virus. In fact, studies show that a recent trauma or significant life distress can increase the chance of developing shingles. (4) Chronic or extreme stress weakens the immune system. A weakened immune system provides an opportunity for the shingles virus to reawaken. A sudden shock like the death of a loved one or traumatic event can trigger extreme stress, which in turn weakens the immune system. This may be compounded for people who are already at high risk because of other factors. Other risk factors that can trigger an outbreak of shingles include:
- Being over 50. The risk of developing shingles increases with age.
- Having a diseases that affects the immune system, such as HIV, AIDs or cancer
- Undergoing cancer treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy
Shingles and depressionDepression is a serious and mental disorder that has various causes and symptoms. Depression can be inherited, but it can also be caused by environmental factors such as high levels of stress. The DSM-5 lists the following as symptoms of depression:
- Feelings of sadness or emptiness
- Loss of interest in fun activities
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Weight loss, weight gain or change in appetite
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Difficulty concentrating
- Suicidal thoughts
Treating postherpetic neuralgia and depressionA 2016 study by the CDC found that around 20.4% of U.S. adults suffered from chronic pain, like that caused by PHN. (8) People with chronic shingles pain, depression, stress and/or anxiety may benefit from receiving holistic treatment to address both psychological and physical symptoms. It is vital to break the cycle of pain, depression and hopelessness. Seeking early treatment is also essential to minimizing the impact that PHN can have on a patient’s life. Specialists in treating chronic pain often use medication and therapy alongside meditation and relaxation to help people overcome chronic pain. Some treatment options include:
MedicationDoctors may prescribe steroids, nerve blockers and opioids to help manage this kind of pain. Antidepressants and anticonvulsants may be used to relieve constant pain.
TherapySome patients may benefit from therapy with a psychologist, psychiatrist or counselor. Cognitive behavioural therapy can help people deal with the pain, reduce pain triggers, and learn how to be more optimistic and hopeful.
Physical ActivityExercise helps your body to produce endorphins, chemicals in the brain that boost your mood and can also help to block pain signals.
ConclusionTaking care of your cognitive health can have many benefits to your overall quality of life. Minimizing stress and treating depression is worthwhile in its own right, and it can also help reduce your risk of suffering from an outbreak of shingles. If you have ever had chicken pox, you have a chance of one day developing shingles. If you have an additional risk factor such as a weakened immune system your chances may be increased. Good mental wellbeing can also help you recover faster from illnesses like shingles and reduce your risk of developing painful complications such as postherpetic neuralgia. If you are suffering from post-herpetic neuralgia you may find that your symptoms are easier to manage if you also treat underlying mental health complications. Try these tips to improve your mental health:
- Confide in friends, family or professionals if you are suffering from any of the symptoms of depression or stress
- Make sure you’re getting enough sleep
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Avoid stressful situations whenever possible
- Take regular exercise
- Avoid overuse of substances such as caffeine, alcohol or illegal drugs
- Try mindfulness practices such as meditation or yoga
References(1) https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/index.html (2) https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/surveillance.html (3) https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/160253 (4) Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2014). Herpes zoster and postherpetic neuralgia: an examination of psychological antecedents. Innovations in clinical neuroscience, 11(5-6), 31–34. Retrieved on 23 March 2020 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4140624/ (5) https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322395#symptoms (6) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130214075627.htm (7) Rayner, L., Hotopf, M., Petkova, H., Matcham, F., Simpson, A., & McCracken, L. M. (2016). Depression in patients with chronic pain attending a specialised pain treatment centre: prevalence and impact on health care costs. Pain, 157(7), 1472–1479. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1097/j.pain.0000000000000542 (8) Dahlhamer, J., Lucas, J., Zelaya, C. et al. (2018). Prevalence of Chronic Pain and High-Impact Chronic Pain Among Adults – United States, 2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 67(36), 1001–1006. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6736a2 Article Source: https://blog.cognifit.com/shingles/
Older Adults at Higher Risk
The CDC has identified older adults and people who have severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung, or kidney disease at higher risk for more serious COVID-19. According to the CDC, early data suggest older people are twice as likely to have serious COVID-19.
This is likely because as people age, their immune systems change, making it harder for their body to fight off diseases and infection, and because many older adults are also more likely to have underlying health conditions that make it harder to cope with and recover from. Age increases the risk that the respiratory system or lungs will shut down when an older person has COVID-19 disease.
- Stock up on supplies.
- Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others.
- When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact, and wash your hands often.
- Avoid crowds as much as possible.
- Avoid cruise travel and non-essential air travel.
- During a COVID-19 outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible to further reduce your risk of being exposed.
Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that people with serious chronic conditions, especially the elderly, should think twice about traveling or going to crowded places. He advised that these individuals take the simple steps of “not putting yourself in a situation—whatever that might be—that might increase the risk given your situation.”
The CDC is urging individuals to stay calm and Share Facts, Not Fear. Among the CDC’s advice are these common-sense tips:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces every day.
How to Support Older Adults
People of all ages can support older adults during this time. Many older adults depend on services and supports provided in their homes or in the community to maintain their health and independence. The CDC recommends that family members, neighbors, and caregivers:
- Know what medications your loved one is taking and see if you can help them have extra on hand.
- Monitor food and other medical supplies (oxygen, incontinence, dialysis, wound care) needed and create a back-up plan.
- Stock up on non-perishable food items to have on hand in your home to minimize trips to stores.
- If you care for a loved one living in a care facility, monitor the situation, ask about the health of the other residents frequently, and know the protocol if there is an outbreak.
- Help with disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.
Beware of Scams
Unfortunately, scammers are taking advantage of fears surrounding the coronavirus. The Federal Trade Commission has identified several of them and is offering tips to protect yourself and others. These include watching for emails claiming to be from the CDC saying they have information about the virus and ignoring online offers for vaccinations. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges, or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure COVID-19 online or in stores.
If you receive an email asking you to donate to a nonprofit that is fighting the coronavirus, make sure to research the organization first through an independent charity rating service such as Charity Navigator.
Tips for Community-Based Organizations
Local organizations serving older adults, including senior centers, should contact their local health department, which can provide the latest specific guidance on how to respond in the area. Senior centers and other local organizations also can play an important role in sharing trusted information with older adults. Our National Institute of Senior Centers has gathered information and resources related to how senior centers are responding.
A March 13 memorandum from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services is advising nursing homes to take extensive measures to prevent COVID–19 infection of residents and staff, including:
- Restrict visitation of all visitors and non-essential health care personnel except in end-of-life circumstances.
- Screen residents and staff for signs of infection.
- Cancel group activities such as communal dining.
- Offer alternatives for residents who wish to socialize but still stay isolated.
- Advise anyone who enters the facility to monitor themselves for signs of COVID-19 infection for 14 days after contact.
- Communicate all updates and announcement through multiple channels.
Remember the Seasonal Flu, Too
It’s also important to remember that we are still in the middle of the seasonal flu season, which impacts older adults every year. According to the CDC, it’s estimated that 70-85% of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people aged 65+.
While there is no vaccine for the coronavirus, it’s never too late for individuals to get their annual flu shot. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about how you can protect yourself and those around you. Don’t forget that Medicare covers vaccines for influenza and other diseases.
With COVID-19 and all health issues, when in doubt, the best course forward is always to consult with your doctor. Many physicians and health care providers are asking that people call or send their questions via email first before coming into the office.