Blog Posts

Nutrition’s Role In Fighting COVID-19

May 21st, 2020

Eating right can help you build a healthy immune system.

The coronavirus had only taken the lives of some 3,000 people worldwide when a claim suggesting that eating a Nigerian dish called Yoruba stew or simply consuming a diet rich in pepper could cure someone of the virus within 24 hours.

Within a matter of days, the “pepper soup theory” was determined to be a hoax.

Since then, a number of similar theories claiming that everything from garlic to warm lemon water can prevent or cure the coronavirus have emerged. Unfortunately, there is no evidence to suggest that any of these “miracle foods” work either.

Not even a boost in vitamin C, which may help shorten the duration and severity of common cold symptoms, has proven to be an effective remedy against the coronavirus. That’s not to say, though, that diet cannot be an ally in fighting off COVID-19.

While doctors and scientists have so far discovered that proper hygiene and physical or “social” distancing are the best way to avoid contracting the virus, they do not discount the role that eating a proper diet can play in that battle.

It has long been known that adequate amounts of iron, zinc and vitamins A, C, E, B6 and B12 can optimize a person’s immune system. It’s quite possible then that by eating a well-balanced diet, a person’s immunity to COVID-19 can be enhanced as well.

The reason is simple. As the World Health Organization points out, “people who eat a well-balanced diet tend to be healthier, have stronger immune systems and are at lower risk for developing chronic illnesses and infectious diseases.”

That goes for the coronavirus, too. After all, it is now known that older people and those with pre-existing health conditions or a compromised immune system are among those affected most severely by the coronavirus.

So now more than ever, it’s important to limit your intake of processed foods heavy in sugar, salty snacks and fat and increase your consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fish, nuts and whole grains.

It is in the latter category of foods where the vitamins, minerals, dietary fibers, proteins and antioxidants that the body needs to function best exist, and it is through that proper function that a person can increase their chances of combating disease.

On the other hand, people who suffer from deficiencies of proteins and micronutrients tend to have less energy as well as depressed immune systems and are therefore more susceptible to infection than those who eat a healthy diet.

And let’s not forget the critical role that water plays in this equation. Water is essential because it transports nutrients and compounds in blood, regulates body temperature, promotes waste removal and lubricates joints.

That’s why doctors recommend drinking between eight and 10 cups of water per day to remain properly hydrated. That may seem like a lot to some, but those eight to 10 cups of water can include a cup of tea or coffee as well as fruits that contain a lot of water.

Examples of such fruits include melons of most any kind, especially watermelon, grapefruit, oranges, raspberries strawberries and cranberries. Adding a little lemon juice to water can help you reach your daily water goals as well.

The overall goal, of course, is to avoid developing deficiencies of the vitamins and nutrients that allow us to maintain a healthy immune system, and that includes vitamin D, so simply eating right may not be enough to keep that immune system humming.

Because exposure to sunlight provides us with our best source of vitamin D, it’s important during this time to get outside as much as possible if that is not a normal part of your regular routine.

Granted, that could prove difficult for some. But that’s why the British Dietetic Association (BDA) recommends that people who are quarantined or are otherwise unable to get outside regularly add a daily supplement of 10 grams of vitamin D to their diet.

The addition of that supplement can further boost a person’s immune system, though the best way to those immune systems running strong is to eat properly. And sure, that can include a bowl of pepper soup or Yoruba stew if you’d like.

Just keep in mind that according to the latest scientific research, those and other so-called “super foods” alone will not help you ward off or recover from the coronavirus.

The Health Care Appointment in the Age of COVID-19

May 21st, 2020

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared COVID-19* a global pandemic. In response, health care providers across the US closed their office doors to all but the most emergent patients as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19.

Today, these providers are reopening to non-emergent patients, but practices must follow strict protocols to prevent transmission of the coronavirus.

With all the safety precautions in place, seeing your provider in the age of COVID-19 is an entirely new experience. But before you schedule an appointment with your provider, there are a few questions you should be prepared to ask about their process for seeing patients in this new era.

First, ask your provider if they are following the guidelines recommended by the CDC, state medical board, professional societies, and state, federal and local authorities for the screening and management of suspected COVID-19 patients in their practice. New regulations and guidance are issued regularly, so ask if your provider is staying on top of the changes.

Ask if your provider is following the CDC’s patient assessment protocol for triage and early disease detection. All visitors to the practice should be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 and contact exposure. If you have symptoms or have had exposure, are their protocols in place for you to be isolated from other patients and staff?

Find out how your provider is screening patients for COVID-19 symptoms before they enter the office. Are staff members taking temperatures and histories at a station outside the building, such as in the parking lot? Or, are they asking you to wait in your car for a staff member to meet you to take your information and temperature before you go inside?

Does your provider offer alternatives to face-to-face visits, such as telephone or telemedicine appointments or online self-assessment tools? Trained staff should be available to determine which patients may be managed safely at home versus at the office or a community health center.

Does your provider routinely test their staff for symptoms of COVID-19? Do they take staff members’ temperatures before each work shift, and are staff members provided with appropriate personal protective equipment (masks, gowns, gloves)? Does your provider require you to wear a mask while you’re in the office? What happens if someone refuses to wear a mask in the office?

Does your provider follow the recommended protocols for disinfecting waiting areas and exam rooms between patients? Do they have a formal infection control policy that includes transmission-based precautions such as contact precautions, droplet precautions and airborne precautions? Is this policy available for you to review?

Are the waiting areas and other common areas in the office set up for social distancing? Are the chairs spaced to keep visitors six feet apart? Or does your provider ask you to wait in your car until it’s time for you to be seen? Does your provider have protocols for patient movement through the office that limits contact with others?

You may have other questions for your provider as well. But remember, this is an unprecedented time in health care and the changes to practice procedures are new to providers and patients alike. Be patient with your provider as they adjust to the new guidelines and regulations and put them into practice in their offices. The rules are for everyone’s safety and health!

Useful Links:

*COVID-19, primarily a respiratory illness, is caused by the severe acute respiratory coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2. As of May 21, 2020, more than five million people worldwide have been infected with COVID-19 and more than 328,000 people have died from the infection.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with COVID-19 have shown a wide array of symptoms that range from mild to severe. The most common symptoms reported are cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell.

Other, less common symptoms have also been reported with COVID-19. These include gastrointestinal ailments such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, inability to wake up or stay awake and bluish lips or face are emergency warning signs that require immediate medical attention.

One Nation’s Gain

May 19th, 2020

America’s Obesity Crisis Intensifies.

The number of people in the United States who are overweight or obese has been climbing for years, and that excess weight has serious and costly health consequences. So, the projections from a highly respected team of scientists about obesity in America’s future are disconcerting at best.

After conducting national surveys and correcting for our tendency to underestimate our weight in surveys, the scientists discovered that in as many as 29 states, the prevalence of obesity will exceed 50 percent by 2030. In addition, they project that no state will have less than 35 percent of its residents who are obese.

The bottom line is that within the next ten years nearly one in two adults in the US will be obese. Further, the team projects that nearly one in four Americans will be severely obese by 2030.

The team’s report, Projected U.S. State-Level Prevalence of Adult Obesity and Severe Obesity, was published in The New England Journal of Medicine in December and suggests that the prevalence of severe obesity is expected to be higher than one in four in 25 states. Further, severe obesity is projected to be the most common weight category among the nation’s women, non-Hispanic, black and low-income adults.

Obesity will exceed 50 percent by 2030. – The New York Times

This study’s results mirror those of a study presented in the September 2012 “F as in Fat” report. That report, released by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, also predicted that half of US adults will be obese by 2030.

Obesity is dangerous. It is linked to a substantial number of negative health effects, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke, sleep apnea and breathing problems, osteoarthritis, gallbladder disease, mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety and certain cancers, including endometrial, breast, colon, kidney, gallbladder and liver cancer.

The “F as in Fat” report projected that there will be as many as 7.9 million new cases of diabetes a year by 2030, compared with 1.9 million new cases a year in 2012. They suggest there could also be 6.8 million new cases of chronic heart disease and stroke each year, compared with 1.3 million cases in 2012.

Obesity is also expensive. A study conducted in 2013 estimated that the medical cost of obesity totaled $342.2 billion per year. The study also determined that the indirect cost of obesity due to lost productivity came to another $8.65 billion per year. And that was in 2013. Those amounts are likely much higher in 2020.

Obesity is a leading cause of preventable illness, disability and life-years lost in the United States. It is responsible for about one in five deaths, nearly as many as smoking. That makes it an official public health crisis in this country. But what makes us obese?

In general, we’re considered overweight or obese when our weight is higher than a normal weight adjusted for height. Body Mass Index, or BMI, is the tool used for measuring this. BMI, which is related to the amount of fat in our bodies, is defined as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. A BMI of 30 to 39 is considered obese. A BMI of 40 or higher is extremely obese. The higher our BMI, the greater our risk for developing the health problems associated with obesity.

There are several factors that contribute to obesity, but the bottom line is that we become obese when we consistently consume more calories than we burn through normal daily activity. What we eat also plays a role. Foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt cause weight gain. And most of us eat portions that are larger than necessary to satisfy our hunger.

Our genes also play a role. Genetics is a factor in how much body fat we store, where it’s distributed and how efficiently our bodies metabolize the food we eat into energy.

Medical disorders such as Prader-Willi syndrome, a genetic condition, Cushing’s syndrome, a hormone disorder, and arthritis can lead to decreased activity and weight gain. In addition, certain medications including some antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs, steroids and beta-blockers can cause an increase in weight.

Lifestyle and behavioral factors such as a lack of physical activity, smoking, lack of sleep and an unhealthy diet also contribute to the development of obesity. Social and economic factors include not having enough money to buy healthy foods or access to stores that sell healthier food options. Another socioeconomic factor is not having access to a safe place to exercise.

Obesity is a major public health crisis in America that impacts more than 100 million adults and children and is projected to increase dramatically by 2030. Fortunately, obesity and the health and financial consequences associated with it are largely preventable, and that should be our goal.

Steps we can take to help prevent obesity include limiting calorie intake from total fats, shifting away from saturated fats to unsaturated fats. In addition, we can increase our intake of fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts and limit our intake of sugar. We also have to boost the number of calories we burn each day by increasing our physical activity. Health officials recommend at least 30 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity activity on most days.

But it will take more than willpower to change the future. There are already federal and state programs in place to educate about making healthy food and exercise choices and to counter fast food and soda marketing. Additional education and more firepower against the big-money fast-food conglomerates is still needed. Our country’s health, now and in the future, depends on it!

Life Expectancy: We’re Losing It

May 11th, 2020

The US was on the upswing for a while. Between 1959 and 2014, life expectancy for Americans, which is the average length of time we are expected to live, increased by nearly ten years, from 69.9 years to 78.9 years. But something started happening in the 1980s, and the increase slowed considerably. By 2010, it plateaued.

By The New York Times | Source: Journal of the American Medical Association

Between 2010 and 2017, death rates for people aged 25 to 64 increased in nearly every state.

Then in 2014, life expectancy in America began reversing, and by 2017, the latest year for statistics, life expectancy in the US had decreased for three straight years to 78.6 years. Our decline persisted despite the fact that the US spends more dollars per capita on health care than any other industrialized nation.

The findings of a comprehensive study that explored the nature of life expectancy in America as well as possible causes for its decline were released at the end of November and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

For the study, the researchers reviewed more than a half-century of data from the US Mortality Database and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s WONDER database. That’s an integrated information and communication system for public health practitioners and researchers.

One key finding of the study was that adults ages 25 to 64, or working-age Americans, saw the largest increase in death rates, a rise of six percent. The increase in death rate in this age group was seen in nearly every state in the US.

According to the study, the death rate in working-age Americans from all causes increased from 328.5 deaths per 100,000 people in 2010 to 348.2 deaths per 100,000 people in 2017. The statistics showed this increase occurred across all racial and ethnic groups.

Dr. Steven Woolf, one of the study’s authors, noted this increase in mortality was driven, in part, by “deaths of despair.” Those include deaths from drug overdoses, which reflect the opioid crisis in this country, as well as those from alcohol abuse and suicide.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images, FILE

Men sit passed out in a park where heroin users gather to shoot up in the Bronx borough of New York, May 4, 2018.

The study found that between 1999 and 2017, fatal drug overdoses by working-age Americans increased by 386.5 percent. Deaths linked to alcohol use, including those from chronic liver disease and cirrhosis of the liver, rose 40.6 percent during those years. And suicide rates by that population rose 38.3 percent.

The study also pointed to health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease as other causes for the death rate increase. It noted that these conditions are exacerbated by unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, being overweight or obese, eating a high-fat diet and living a sedentary lifestyle, problems that are rampant in our society.

And these problems impacted the death rates for working-age Americans. For example, deaths in this age group linked to obesity increased 114 percent between 1999 and 2017. The majority of American adults, about 71 percent, are overweight or obese. And obesity increases the risk for cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions.

Deaths related to high blood pressure increased by 78.9 percent in the 25 to 64 age group during the same time period. And about 80 percent of American adults don’t meet the physical activity guidelines. If we don’t manage chronic conditions better and change our unhealthy behaviors, our life expectancy will continue to decline.

And according to the new study’s findings, the increase in working-age death rates coincided with major shifts in the US economy dating back to the 1970s and 1980s. It was during those years that the US started to lose manufacturing jobs, and the middle class began to shrink, Dr. Woolf noted.

These loses hit certain areas of the country harder than others, and that is reflected in the statistics. The Ohio Valley, which includes Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana and Kentucky, is part of the  nation’s “Rust Belt.” This area was highly stressed economically with the closing of steel mills and auto plants.

The Ohio Valley, as well as northern New England, which includes New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont, experienced the largest relative increases in working-age mortality rates in the US. Both of these areas were hit hard by the opioid crisis and by declines in their economies

Dr. Woolf said it’s noteworthy that the largest increases were seen in these areas. The people living there have gone through long periods of economic stress, which can lead to a set of consequences that can affect health in many ways.

People struggling financially are more likely to turn to drugs, alcohol or suicide, he said. In addition, they may not be able to afford routine or emergency medical care, prescription medications or healthy food. And they are less likely to effectively manage chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. These factors can lead to increases in mortality rates.

It’s pretty clear that reversing the downward trend in life expectancy will take a combined effort on the individual, community and national levels. As individuals, we must commit to changing unhealthy behaviors and eat healthier, exercise more and pay closer attention to our overall health. And we need to put our pride aside and seek help for substance abuse disorders.

Communities must work harder to increase local access to health education and services. And as a nation, we must continue to focus on battling the opioid crisis, tackling the obesity epidemic and increasing economic opportunities, especially in distressed areas. There’s a lot more to be done, but these steps are a good starting point. After all, our lives depend on our action.

Exercise For Mind and Body

May 6th, 2020

The benefits of exercise on physical health are pretty well established. It’s been shown in study after study that regular physical activity helps prevent heart disease and stroke, reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol, control glucose levels associated with diabetes, manage weight and prevent obesity, avoid osteoporosis, and relieve many types of pain, including back pain.

Regular exercise also helps us manage the stress in our lives.

But have you given as much thought to the benefits of routine physical activity on your mental health? It actually has a huge impact. For one thing, exercise releases “feel-good” chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin. These chemicals work to improve mood and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. Exercise helps relieve symptoms of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety and helps with recovery from mental health issues.

In some studies, regular exercise appears to be as effective as existing medication therapy in treating a wide range of mental health conditions, including mild to moderate depression, dementia and anxiety. It has also been shown to help reduce the cognitive issues related to schizophrenia.

Exercise is effective because it works directly on the brain. It increases the volume of certain regions of the brain by pumping extra blood to them. That improves the health of the brain’s nerve cells, or neurons, because more blood means more that oxygen and nutrients are supplied to the neurons. Improved blood flow also increases certain factors that support neuronal functioning.

For some adults, poor mental health may be linked to their lack of exercise as kids. A new study, released February 12 in Lancet Psychiatry, shows that young people who were sedentary between the ages of 12 to 16 had a higher chance of developing depressive symptoms at age 18 and beyond.

During this study, researchers followed 4,257 adolescents for six years starting at age 12. Participants wore accelerometers for seven days at a time that tracked the amount and intensity of their physical activity, and the information was gathered every two years from age 12 to age 18. Participants were screened for depressive symptoms every two years during that time.

Study results showed that higher amounts of time spent doing sedentary activities, such as watching TV, playing video games and surfing the net, were associated with higher depression scores by age 18. The study found that one additional hour of sedentary behavior per day increased depression scores by ten percent.

On the other hand, the study shows that time spent engaging in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity protected adolescents against developing depression later in life.

At this point, most of you are probably thinking, All of the physical and mental health benefits of exercise are great, but how much do I really need to work out to reap them? The answer may surprise you.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, issued by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), recommends that for substantial health benefits, adults should perform at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. The exercise can also be an equivalent combination of moderate intensity and vigorous activity spread throughout the week.

But in its second edition of the guidelines, HHS recognized the value of shorter intervals of exercise as well. And studies conducted over the past several years have borne that out. A French study from 2015 looked at exercise’s effect on the elderly. It found that even low levels of exercise have a protective effect. It led researchers to recommend 15 minutes of “light” activity five days per week to help improve health and longevity in seniors.

In another study on the benefits of short intervals of activity on health, researchers at the University of Utah School of Medicine found that individuals who got up and moved around for at least two minutes for every hour of sitting had a 33 percent lower risk of dying.

The researchers in that study defined “light-intensity” exercise as activities such as walking around the office, using the stairs instead of the elevator, or taking a short walk at lunchtime or while on a coffee break.

Finally, a January 2019 study suggested that short but intense bursts of physical activity offers cardiovascular health benefits. In this study, healthy but sedentary young adults were asked to climb three flights of stairs three times per day three days per week for six weeks. After six weeks, the participants’ aerobic fitness improved by five percent, and they had 12 percent more strength on a cycling test.

Don’t dismiss the health benefits of walking. The results of a 13-year study of 139,000 adults showed that people who fit in just two hours of walking per week were 26 percent less likely to die than sedentary people. Walking can be an excellent way to explore and enjoy your neighborhood as well.

So, don’t fret if you’re not a gym rat. You can still reap the physical and mental health benefits of exercise by simply getting up and moving more. Why not give it a try!

Pink Eye? It Could Be the Coronavirus

April 24th, 2020

The most common symptoms of the coronavirus that has stopped the world in its tracks are fever, coughing and breathing difficulties. But doctors are finding that the respiratory disease known as COVID-19 can also cause an eye infection called conjunctivitis.

The discovery of conjunctivitis in COVID-19 patients is rare. As of mid-April, doctors believed that only 1 to 3 percent of all the people who could contract COVID-19 would also suffer from conjunctivitis, most likely during the middle phase of the illness.

According to one report in the Journal of Medical Virology, a study of 30 COVID-19 patients in China showed that only one had ocular secretions or tears containing SARS-CoV-2 RNA, which is the carrier of the coronavirus’s genetic information.

But another study detailed in the New England Journal of Medicine Journal Watch claimed that a third of the COVID-19 patients in that study had confirmed cases of conjunctivitis, a finding that has since been challenged.

Also known as pink eye, conjunctivitis is what develops when the clear tissue that lines the inside of the eyelid becomes inflamed. The result is red, itchy and swollen eyes, and while conjunctivitis is not a serious condition, it is highly contagious.

Children are highly susceptible to conjunctivitis, which is known to spread easily throughout schools and day care centers. However, having conjunctivitis alone does not mean a person also has COVID-19.

Though it can develop as a result of exposure to viruses, conjunctivitis can also be caused by exposure to certain bacteria as well as more common irritants such as shampoo, dirt, smoke, pool chlorine and eye drops.

Though it’s best to be treated for conjunctivitis by an ophthalmologist, home remedies such as warm compresses and over-the-counter medicines can treat its symptoms. No matter the approach, it usually takes about two weeks for conjunctivitis to disappear.

During that healing period, several steps can be taken to expedite the healing process and protect your eyes from further damage. For example, if you wear contact lenses, wear glasses instead until the conjunctivitis is completely healed.

And don’t rub your eyes. Granted, that’s easier said than done, but treating your itchy eyes with moistening drops or dabbing them with a tissue and immediately throwing the tissue away can help you avoid spreading the condition.

Because conjunctivitis is highly contagious, it can be transmitted by the hands just as the coronavirus can, so washing your hands regularly and avoiding handshakes is another way to avoid spreading the infection.

Melbourne Retirement Community Embraces Virtual Normal

April 20th, 2020

With seniors among the most vulnerable to the spread of the coronavirus, retirement communities are having to step up their efforts to keep residents safe. The real trick, though, lies in not just keeping residents safe but in maintaining a sense of normalcy within such communities.

One community that has managed to meet those two objectives is Hibiscus Court of Melbourne, where the new normal can best be described as a virtual normal. For example, in place of personal visits from family members, Hibiscus Court is conducting virtual visits using video conferencing software such as Zoom.

“We’ve all seen the viral posts of people meeting at windows, and we started with that, but we’ve actually found that it’s better for our residents and their families to have these meetings through Zoom,’’ says Charisse Durham, director of sales and marketing at Hibiscus Court of Melbourne.

“So what we’re doing is teaching the families how to use the Zoom technology, and once we’ve done that, we set up a Zoom meeting for them. During that visit, we are there with the resident to help them navigate through it or translate if they have any trouble hearing or seeing their family members. It’s working out really well.”

Another example of the new virtual normal at Hibiscus Court of Melbourne took place last week, when the community changed up its regular Rolling With Laughter event. When the Hibiscus comedy troupe, “Off Their Rockers” had to cancel its event, the community held a virtual Rolling with Laughter event.

“We accepted submissions from residents, family members, referral sources and care partners,” Charisse explains. “All of them sent in different jokes and we had several different showings for small groups where our programming director and residents presented the jokes.

“It went over very well, and for some of our residents who could not attend one of the showings, we went to their rooms and shared the jokes with them individually. We also printed some of the jokes that were short and sweet and took photos of our residents with the joke and a smile then posted them on our Facebook page to share them that way.”

One of the biggest challenges retirement communities now face comes at meal time, when residents typically gather en masse to dine and socialize. Social distancing guidelines prohibit such mass gatherings, however, so at Hibiscus Court of Melbourne, residents are now served the same meals they would receive in the dining room in their own suites or in small, adequately spaced common areas.

That said, socializing is not a thing of the past at Hibiscus Court of Melbourne. Just as it did with its comedy show, the community now conducts several exercise and activity periods each day where small groups of six residents gather and participate while maintaining a safe social distance from one another.

“Another thing we did recently was hold a virtual 99th birthday party for one of our residents,’’ Charisse explains. “We also had a no-contact pet parade, where local participants came and walked their dogs around our parking lot and we let our residents know so they could watch from their rooms or at a safe distance.”

It’s not just the residents of Hibiscus Court of Melbourne who are getting special attention during these difficult times. The community’s staff members, who are working extra hard each day to ensure residents are safe and comfortable, have not been forgotten.

“We’ve had families provide lunch for the entire team; other families have sent gourmet caramel apples or bulk boxes of treats,” Charisse reports. “They know our team works tirelessly to provide the best care for their loved ones. Many families’ have taken the opportunity to say thank you. Even though we’re not in a hospital or skilled setting, we are providing health care and life care and many are working additional hours and occasionally double shifts.

“Our leadership team is also committed to thanking our direct caregivers daily with some item of appreciation. Somebody every day is doing something to say thank you to our team, because they know that we’re here trying to protect people and that our care team also has to take additional measures to protect themselves and their families when they leave, because they can’t bring the virus back into our community.

“It’s a difficult time for everyone but everyone is pitching in and doing what they can to help each other out. The dedication to our residents’ care and the creativity in that is truly remarkable. I’m inspired every day.”

Fort Myers Vein Specialist Answers Call For PPE

April 16th, 2020

The “Hats 4 Heros” program was started by Dr. Joseph Magnant of Vein Specialists and his wife Patty.

Patty Magnant was already busy sewing scrub hats for some local hospital nurses when her husband, a Fort Myers vascular surgeon, learned just how critical the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) caused by the coronavirus really is.

“My sister is an emergency room doctor and she shared with me that at hospitals everywhere right now, they’re running low of surgical hats, gowns and masks,” shares Joseph Magnant, MD, FACS, RPVI.

“That’s their equipment and they need it badly, and that got Patty and I thinking that we should start making more of these reusable cloth scrub hats for the nurses and doctors in the ERs and ICUs.”

Dr. Magnant, the founder and CEO of Vein Specialists, which is dedicated to the minimally invasive treatment of leg vein disorders and has offices in Fort Myers and Bonita Springs, began his initiative in early April.

He is one of a host of medical professionals across the state of Florida who are devoting time to helping others during the coronavirus crisis, and within days of he and his wife beginning their initiative, it was already expanding.

“So our initial thought was to make these surgical hats that were more durable, that the doctors and nurses could take home and

Dr. Joseph Magnant is using his surgical skills to produce personal protective equipment for medical professionals fighting on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

wash and wear the next day,” Dr. Magnant explains. “But then we came up with another idea, another way to help out during this crisis.

“When the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) came out the other day and suggested that people start wearing face coverings whenever you’re outside of the home, we came up with a way to make those as well.”

Dr. Magnant’s idea for a face covering was inspired by the buffs he’s seen at area sporting goods stores. He and Patty made their first few “re-buffs’’ out of old t-shirts but soon began making them out of a better grade of material they purchased online.

“They’re tubular knit cloths that you can pull up and cover your mouth and nose with,” Dr. Magnant says. “We gave the first few away to friends and neighbors and my parents, and now we’re making them to sell to benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities.

“I’ve supported the Ronald McDonald House Charities for years, and because volunteers are not allowed to help them cook meals at this time, what they really need right now is money. So, we came up with this idea that we’re calling Hats 4 Heros.”

Every $10 donated to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southwest Florida, Hats 4 Heros will donate one hand-sewn surgical cap to a doctor or nurse fighting on the front lines against the coronavirus.

Through the Hats for Heros program, Vein Specialists will donate one hand-sewn surgical scrub hat to an emergency and acute care medical professional somewhere in Southwest Florida for every $10 donated to the Ronald McDonald House charities.

For every $5 donation to the Ronald McDonald House charities, Vein Specialists will donate a hand-sewn Re-Buff to anyone in need of facial protection. A $5 donation can feed one family in need, while a $10 donation can feed two families.

“My expertise is in cutting the patterns,” Dr. Magnant says of his role in the production of the hats and buffs. “Patty does the sewing, and like anything it takes time, but it’s starting to take off.”

Patty and Dr. Magnant have also started a GoFundMe account in an attempt to bring awareness to their cause. It can be found at gofundme.com.

Lighting the Way to More Comfortable Eyes

April 12th, 2020

We all shed tears. Our eyes produce tears continually, and when we blink, those tears spread across the front surface of our eyes to lubricate them. Tears also clear our eyes of debris and protect them from infection. But in some people, tears don’t work the way they’re supposed to and dry eye disease is the result.

If you’re one of those people, you’re not alone.

In the United States, more than 16 million people suffer from dry eyes.  That’s nearly seven percent of the population. And that figure is likely much higher because not all people with dry eye symptoms see a doctor for treatment. But about 33 percent of patients who visit eye doctors complain of dry eye symptoms.

Symptoms of dry eye can be very uncomfortable and include decreased vision or occasional blurry vision, dryness, redness, itching, burning, eye fatigue and the feeling there’s something in your eye. And believe it or not, some people with dry eye experience excessive tearing.

There are two types of dry eye disease. There’s the aqueous-deficient type, which is when your eyes don’t make enough tears. Then there’s the evaporative type, which is when your tears don’t stay on your eyeball long enough to keep it properly lubricated.  Evaporative dry eye disease is the more common of the two.

Most of the time, evaporative dry eye occurs when the eye’s oil glands, the Meibomian glands, become clogged and can’t release the oils necessary for healthy tears. The oil component of tears helps keep them from evaporating off the surface of your eyes.

When the Meibomian glands are clogged, inflammation and an overgrowth of bacteria on the eyelids can also occur, which makes dry eye symptoms even worse. These conditions make it difficult for the Meibomian glands to work properly, which is referred to as Meibomian gland dysfunction, or MGD.

Treatment for MGD typically begins with artificial tears, warm compresses and eyelid cleansing. When these steps fall to improve MGD, and subsequently your dry eye symptoms, there’s a newer treatment available called intense pulsed light, or IPL.

IPL was originally designed for use in dermatology to treat conditions such as rosacea and acne but was introduced into ophthalmology a few years ago. IPL is the use of short bursts of powerful light in various wavelengths to treat MGD. The wavelengths chosen for your treatment depends on your skin color and tone.

The IPL light generates heat below the skin of the eyelids, warming and thinning the thickened oil, or meibum, blocking the glands. Once the meibum is thinned, it can more easily be removed through Meibomian gland expression or MGX. During MGX, the doctor uses a cotton-tipped applicator and manual pressure to squeeze out the meibum from the glands.

In addition to thinning the meibum, IPL also closes the small blood vessels on the surface of the skin that contributes to inflammation. The heat IPL generates also kills the problematic bacteria flourishing on the eyelids. All of these functions have beneficial effects on MGD and, as a result, dry eye symptoms.

During an IPL treatment, the doctor will first place shields on your eyes to protect them from the light. The doctor will also place a thin layer of cooling gel on the areas of skin to be treated. The pulses of light are delivered from the outer area of the right eye, across the cheeks and nose to the outer area of the left eye.

You may feel a warm sensation during treatment, but that’s all. IPL treatment is not painful. A typical treatment consists of about 30 pulses and takes 15 to 20 minutes to complete. Afterward, you may be instructed to use low-dose anti-inflammatory eye drops for a few days.

Many people experience improvement in their symptoms after one IPL treatment, but for best results, a series of four treatments over four months is typically recommended. Maintenance treatments are also recommended every six months to a year.

A number of studies confirmed that IPL reduces both signs and symptoms of MGD and dry eye. In one study, more than 90 percent of patients improved in the three areas used to assess MGD. Results are validated subjectively through your report of symptom improvement and objectively when your doctor examines the surface of your eyes under a light.

Florida Clinic Pitches In To Help Volusia Residents Fight Coronavirus

April 3rd, 2020

The staff at Coastal Integrative Healthcare in Edgewater specializes in physical medicine and stem cell therapy, but when the impact of the coronavirus hit their community this week they put their skills to work in another way.

Bea Johnson fills a container with Coastal Integrative Healthcare’s own home-brew of hand sanitizer.

After learning that many of the people in and around Edgewater were running out of hand sanitizer, the Coastal Integrative Healthcare staff created a homemade version of the disinfectant that is offered up for free to area residents.

“We started hearing about a lot of at-risk people who didn’t have hand sanitizer or ran out of it, and because you can’t find it in the stores right now, we decided to make it ourselves to help people out,” says Timothy Steflik, DC, at Coastal Integrative Healthcare.

Using a recipe that one of their staffers knew, the CIH staff created about six gallons of hand sanitizer by mixing four gallons of isopropyl alcohol with two gallons of aloe gel. They then added some scents to it to erase the clinical odor of the alcohol.

“The isopropyl alcohol is what kills the viruses and mixing in the aloe gel gave it some consistency,” Dr. Steflik states. “The different scents make it smell nice, and once we had it made up, we set up a tent in our parking lot and distributed it from there.”

“We set up the tent so that people wouldn’t have to come into our building and touch the doorknobs and stuff, so it was just like some of the restaurants and places like that offering curbside service.”

Coastal Integrative Healthcare began distributing its homemade hand sanitizer this past Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. Shortly before that, a line of people, many of whom had brought their own containers, had assembled to take advantage of the giveaway.

“We also gave out some small containers that we made up ourselves to people who didn’t have one,” Dr. Steflik says. “The people we served were really happy because they literally couldn’t find it any of the stores.”

Coastal Integrative Healthcare’s giveaway also benefitted a nearby medical clinic that had run out of the disinfectant.

Coastal Integrative Healthcare remains open during the coronavirus crisis.

“We had several nurses and nurse practitioners come over from the Florida Health Care facility that’s just two businesses away from us,” Dr. Steflik confirms. “And that was important because they’re one of the eight testing centers for COVID-19 in our county and they had run out of it. So we filled up the bottles they brought and then gave them some more.”

Dr. Steflik says he is hoping to make another batch of hand sanitizer to give away to area residents and businesses next week. He’s worried, though, that a shortage of one of the key ingredients will prevent that from happening.

“We’re having a hard time buying isopropyl alcohol right now,” he says. “We have access to it through a distributor that most people don’t have and that’s how we got enough to make the first batch.

But it’s getting harder and harder to find. You can’t even buy it on Amazon right now, but we’re going to keep looking because we want to continue to do what we can to help the people in our community in some way.”

 

 

 

 

Page 4 of 25