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Heart Health & Depression

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February is Heart Health Month, and that’s a great time to talk about the link between heart disease and depression. According to the American Heart Association, one in 10 adult Americans have depression, and symptoms of depression are three times more common in people who have had a heart attack than those who have not. Interestingly, there’s a reciprocal relationship where having heart disease increases the risk of depression, and depression may increase the chance of developing heart disease. In fact, emotional distress and depression are risk factors for coronary artery disease.

So, what can you do to keep your heart and mind healthy?

• Eat healthy foods (The Mediterranean Diet is recommended for improving heart health and reducing inflammation. New research suggests it may also improve mood.)

• Exercise regularly (Just 30 minutes a day can improve both physical and mental health)

• Reduce alcohol intake (Alcohol increases blood pressure and depresses mood)

• Quit smoking (Smoking is top preventable risk factor for heart disease)

• Do deep breathing exercises

• Use medication and/or visualization to improve mood and relax

• Share your feelings with others or journal to express difficult emotions

As always, seek professional guidance if you are concerned about your heart or your mood. Counseling can be a great way to develop healthy habits to improve both heart and mind health.


February is Heart Health Month!

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February is a time for love- but how can you love without a healthy heart? It is heart health month and here are some things you should know about how to keep the old ticker ticking.

Anyone can have a heart attack at any age, but here are some risk factors for having a heart attack:

Smoking- More than 37 million adults smoke. Smoking damages blood vessels and can cause heart disease. Not only that, but also loss of limbs and lung cancer. Quitting is not easy but there are many ways to try. If you work closely with your doctor, you can become cigarette free!

Obesity- According to the CDC, more than 1 in 3 Americans—and nearly 1 in 6 children ages 2 to 19—is obese. Carrying extra weight not only increases risk of heart disease but leads to chronic inflammation in the body making an inflammatory condition worse, like autoimmune disease and arthritis. You can look into some healthy weight loss tips on my previous blog post here.

High Blood Pressure- This affects millions of Americans, and the majority have it uncontrolled. Normal BP is 120/80 and if it goes above 140/90, that’s a red flag. Chronic high blood pressure puts stress on the heart leading it to increase in size (congestive heart failure), which increases your risk of having a heart attack. In addition to the heart damage it causes, high BP can damage the vessels in the brain leading to stroke.

High Cholesterol- Smoking, diabetes, low physical activity and unhealthy eating can all contribute to high cholesterol. Cholesterol sticks to artery walls and narrows the space for blood to flow. When this happens in the heart arteries, the result is a heart attack.

Diabetes- 1 in 10 people have this “sweet” disease. I consider it a silent killer, since symptoms of late complications are not evident until it is further in the disease. Sugar damages the blood vessels of the heart, eyes, kidneys and brain.

Family History of Heart Disease- If you have anyone in the family that has had a heart attack, it is important to let your doctor know. Heart genetics get passed down and the younger your family member is with the problem, the more likely that you will also be at high risk.

Age- Even though young people are at risk for heart issues as well, the older you get the more likely it is for your heart to stop functioning, especially if combined with the other risk factors mentioned above.

It’s never too late to take control of your heart health! Eat foods low in trans-fat, saturated fat, less added sugars and low sodium. Make move not excuses; Stay Active- get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. And as always, get regular check-ups with your doctor and stay up to date on your health!


The Flu Is Here!

The flu virus has arrived! This week we have had several patients calling and texting us with clear flu symptoms. We have even had patients come in and test positive with our nasal swab. Anyone that has had the flu knows that it can be very miserable.

So what do you do when you have the flu? I will breakdown the things that I recommend to my patients that have the flu. Really, the short answer is that there isn’t much we can do except for contain the spread of the vaccine and symptomatic treatment. Please, use these as a guideline. Please consult your doctor!

  1. Sharing is not caring - Please, please, please….do not share your illness! The flu virus specifically is spread through droplets. Meaning, that when someone sneezes, coughs or even talks that has been infected with the flu virus….you are susceptible to contract the virus. Someone that has been in contact with the flu can be contagious up to SEVEN DAYS!

    • Please stay home if you are sick. You don’t have to go to school. You don’t have to go to work. You don’t have to go to the store (Instacart, Prime Now, Etc.).

    • Please cover your cough! Droplets are spread through coughing, sneezing and talking. Please wear a mask (I like this one…looks nice and you can cover the cough for patient zero).

    • Wash your hands! - Sing “Happy Birthday” while you wash to make sure you kill off/wash off any virus that may be on your hands.

  2. Medications - There are some prescription medications now that can help to reduce the duration of the flu. These medications are most effective if started within 48 hours of symptom onset and the sooner the better! You can read more about it here. The medications are not for everyone….but it is an option.

    At our practice, here at Elevated Health, we can run these medications through your pharmacy and use your insurance benefits or these medications are rather inexpensive and dispensed from our office! (Tamiflu around $35, 5 day course. Xofluza is around $80-160, depending on weight, 1 day course)

  3. Elderberry - There have been some studies that this natural OTC supplement may be helpful (and unlikely to hurt) in helping relieve symptoms of the flu. It should be started within 48 hours of symptom onset. My wife recently purchased these gummies for herself and for my kids…and they tasted great!

  4. Rest, fluids, OTC meds - This is the best time to get some R&R. Water has been shown to be one fo the best mucolytics (works to break up the mucous). Your body needs lots of rest during this time! Pick up a good book (can I recommend this one…Not too expensive, quick read, and it explains our wonderful model of revolutionary healthcare)

  5. Vitamin C - There have been mixed studies about Vitamin C and the flu….Again, the way I see it, it may help…and it is unlikely to hurt.

If you have any concerns and something seems “out of the ordinary” (more information here) be sure to text or call your doctor (or find a practice like ours near your home here). With the widespread adoption of telemedicine, a lot of straightforward flu cases can be handled remotely.

Be well! The flu can be really nasty, just look at the flowchart doctors use to diagnose the flu. You may want to consider obtaining the flu vaccine for the following flu season. Most places have this available as early as September/October.

New Year, New Resolutions

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It’s 2019, a new year and the time when so many people make new year’s resolutions. But how likely are you to stick to those goals? Research shows that only 20% of people will continue to get to their resolutions. One of the most common resolutions is weight loss. Gym memberships increase and the gyms are sweaty and filled.

But by March, people wave the white flag. Why is that? People expect too much and don’t see quick results. If you gained 10-15 pounds, it doesn’t mean you will lose them in only a week. We make unrealistic goals for ourselves, and to be honest, change of our behavior doesn’t just happen overnight.
Let’s explore a realistic approach to weight loss; one that gives satisfying results and you can stick to it for longer than a few months.

  • Set REAL SHORT TERM goals. Expect 1-2 pounds per week weight loss. This is a healthy way to lose weight. Slow and steady wins the race. The slower you lose, the more likely you are to keep it off longer.

  • Calories in, calories out. Calorie counting is one of the best diets. This way you can focus on eating a variety of foods and not guilt yourself on eating too many carbs one day or too much fat on another. It’s all about finding the right balance with a given amount of calories per day.

  • Money! Think of calories like cash. What’s going to give you the best bang for your buck. A $300 slice of chocolate cake or a $400 salad with grilled chicken and rice on the side? What’s going to keep you fuller longer and add health benefits? You be the judge there.

  • Water weight? Yes this is a real thing. Many people see a quick decrease of weight after stopping carbs. Carbs turn to glycogen which is stored in the liver with water. So when you cut back on your carbs, you also lose some water.

  • It’s been 2 weeks, why haven’t I lost any weight? Most people will start to retain water in the initial phase of cutting back on calories. Some will even see some weight gain. This is because fat cells hold onto water for a while until they shrink. Fat cells never really go away, but after a period of holding on to water, they begin to shrink. It can take days to weeks to experience a good steady weight loss. Don’t rush, be patient, and give your body some time.

  • Exercise! To gain some extra calories, exercise. But don’t spend too much on gym membership. Studies have shown that people with diet alone without exercise were more successful than those who did diet plus exercise. Exercise is still important in maintaining health but not an absolute in weight loss. It does help give you some more calories for the day.

At the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for yourself. Set easy-to-reach short term goals. Don’t be hard on yourself. There is no magic pill or magic diet for weight loss. Keep trying and, in time, the results will be real.

Managing Your Mental Health During the Holidays

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The holidays often bring the happiness of gathering with close family and friends. We imagine exchanging gifts, delicious meals, and lots of time spent connecting with others. However, for some people this time of year can be challenging, especially if there are difficult relationships to manage, recent losses, and/or financial concerns. Additionally, many people spend the holidays alone and experience isolation and sadness. Therefore, managing mood and anxiety becomes an important endeavor to make sure you survive the holidays and find moments of joy.

If you find yourself struggling with the holidays or know of someone who is, here are some tips to help.  

Go for a walk

o   If large gatherings are overwhelming for you, step outside and go for a walk. The fresh air, open space, and movement all help to improve your mood and/or reduce anxiety.

o   If you are alone for the holiday, getting outside and connecting with nature on a walk can help alleviate loneliness.

o   If you have mobility issues, breathing fresh air and notice your surroundings can be helpful.

Volunteer

o   Helping others in need connects you to the generosity of the holidays. It will also help you feel less alone and isolated.

Practice Gratitude

o   Focus on all the people and things for which you are grateful. Research has shown that practicing gratitude increases happiness and life satisfaction, decreases materialism, and improves physical health.

Increase self-care

o   Self-care might mean saying no to holiday events that you do not want to attend or saying yes to the ones that will bring happiness and connection.

o   Do kind things for yourself like buy a healthy dinner instead of cooking, ask friends or family for help with big tasks, set limits on how you spend your time and money, and take time out of your day for an extra-long hot shower, short walk, or time playing with kids or pets.

o   If you’ve had a loss that makes enjoying the holidays difficult, take time to grieve as a form of self-care. Allowing yourself the time and space to grieve honors the loss and is important in your bereavement process.  The holidays are not always “merry and bright,” and it’s alright that you feel sadness at this time of year.

Set healthy boundaries

o   The holidays sometimes result in us having to connect with people with whom we do not have a positive relationship, or whom drain our energy, lower mood, and increase anxiety. If you can avoid distressful situations, that is best. However, if you find yourself near a person such as this, do your best to set healthy boundaries in a direct, calm, and simple way.

o   Be clear in what your needs are going into each situation, and then work to either meet those needs yourself, or ask for assistance from others.

o   Say No. You do not owe anyone an explanation for your actions. If they push the issue, state “no” again and add, “thank you for understanding.”

o   Create physical space between you and the person. Say no to interactions with him/her by excusing yourself for a trip to the restroom or outside.

In general, take notice of your needs, and do your best to meet them. The more you take care of yourself, the more likely you will find some moments of joy. Wishing you well at the holidays and always!

'Tis the season...for the cold & flu

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BY DR LUCY PUN

Winter is here and so is the cold and flu season. Although many people get sick, there are ways to get better quick and many other ways to stay healthy and to prevent the spread of germs.

Most illness are caused by a virus, so an Antibiotic will not be effective. Antibiotics may even make things worse causing diarrhea, rash and decreasing your overall immunity. Instead, we focus on symptom reduction until your immune system is able to fight off the virus.

Here are some things you can do to help your body stay healthy through the colds:

-       Wash your hands- the number one way that germs are spread is through direct contact. This is the cheapest and easiest way to prevent getting sick. If you cough or sneeze, wash your hands. Before you touch your face or eat, wash your hands. Hand sanitizer is also effective but washing with warm water and soap is always preferred.

-       Eat lots of whole fruits and vegetables. Mandarins, oranges, lemons – all high in vitamin C, which helps support a healthy immune system. And it’s not just vitamin C that keeps you healthy; eating a variety of foods and cutting back on processed foods, keeps your body at optimum levels, ready to fight what gets in its way.

-       Water, Water, Water! Increasing water intake helps your body get rid of the toxins formed during illness. Hydration is important to stay healthy. Some studies compared water to cough medication and showed that people who drank only water had a shorter duration of cough than those who had a cough suppressant medication. Water helps you cough up all the junk in your lungs. So drink up!

-       As sweet as HONEY- honey has shown to be effective at suppressing cough in many studies, as well as helping with sore throat. It is the foundation of many cold remedies in the eastern part of the world. It has antibacterial properties as well. A teaspoon twice a day, and at bedtime can help with those coughing fits.

-       Salt water gargles for a sore throat- mix one teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and gargle for 30 seconds, 3 times per day.

-       Rest and sleep-the two are important to allow your body to be able to fight off illness and promote healing. Get the rest you need and re-charge!

As with anything, stay up to date on your health by visiting your doctor regularly

New Mental Health Online Courses Now Available

Elevated Health is now offering online courses to improve your overall wellbeing! Our goal is to provide affordable, easy access to helpful information that can improve your life.

We have two courses available now with additional courses coming soon, focused on depression, grief, sleep, addiction, and other helpful topics. The two courses now available are:

1. Anxiety Management:

Our first offering is an Anxiety Management course. We have developed this course to help you gain the information and skills that you need to better manage anxiety.

The course offers:

1.     Basic information about anxiety

2.     Specific coping strategies to help you better manage anxiety

3.     Guided relaxation recordings that reduce anxiety and stress

All of the material can easily be downloaded and used often. You can even download and take the relaxation recordings with you on your phone! You will have unlimited access to the material offered in this course.

This course is $199. Elevated Health Members get a 75% discount on the price, so you’ll only pay $49.75 for this excellent course! Click to enroll in the course, and then add the coupon*.

2. Relax with Dr. Steph:

If you are unsure if you need all the details provided in the Anxiety Management course, but you would benefit from increasing relaxation while better managing stress and anxiety, then this course is for you!

We have taken the guided relaxation recordings from the anxiety course and offered them on their own at a discounted price.

This course is $40. Elevated Health Members get a 75% discount on the price, so you’ll only pay $10 for these great relaxation tools! Click to enroll in the course, and then add the coupon*.

Access all courses at: https://elevatedhealth.teachable.com

Lower Carb Intake Burns More Calories

A new study published in the British Medical Journal found that overweight adults who followed a low carbohydrate, high fat diet burned 250 more calories a day than those on a high carbohydrate diet. This is the largest and longest study that challenges the belief that all calories are the same to the body.


As we lose weight, our body adapts by burning fewer calories. This makes long term, intentional weight loss challenging because our bodies are fighting this process in an attempt to maintain weight. The researchers in this study believe higher carbohydrate diets increase insulin levels which causes our bodies to store excess calories. With fewer calories available to the body, hunger increases and metabolism slows, which ultimately leads to weight gain.

How to Have a Happy and HEALTHY Holiday!

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It’s that time of year again. Turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie! Who could say no to that? You can have all of that and more but still stay healthy…it’s not always about what you eat, but how much and how often.

Here are some helpful tips to stay healthy during the holidays

  • Portions! Big plate, small plate, or medium plate? Choose a small plate to make your portion look large. If you are hosting a party, help out your guests by placing smaller plates rather than large ones.

  • Avoid piling food. Start with some turkey, mashed potatoes, and some salad. Finish that first before adding more to the plate. Plus, you can taste the different foods better that way.

  • Pace yourself! The slower you eat, the faster you feel full. Keep a good conversation going!

  • Drink a full glass of water before starting the meal. This makes your stomach expand, which starts the process of sending signals to your brain that you are full. In return, you will eat less during the meal.

  • Water, water, water! Avoid sugary drinks and alcohol as much as possible since they only add empty calories. Water should always be your best friend.

  • Have some pie! But maybe only a sliver, because like all holiday parties, there are many desserts to try. We all want to try them all, so eating small bits of each one will allow you to try all of them without feeling guilty.

  • Don’t eat until you feel like exploding. You don’t need to unbutton the top button on your pants, or move down a notch your belt. If it gets to that point, you probably have had enough to eat and it’s time to stop.

  • No gym membership? No problem! Take a 30 minute to 1 hour brisk walk around the neighborhood. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of low to moderate intensity exercise per week, spread out through the week. Exercise helps burn calories and helps maintain a healthy metabolism. And this is not just for the holidays; you can keep it up for the entire year

  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you maintain a good diet and exercise well throughout the year, a few holiday meals will only make a dent in your health.

  • Always remember, each human being is different. So whatever might have worked for your friends or family members might not work for you. It’s always best to have any of your health questions answered by your physician.

Eat (healthy), Drink (water) and be Merry! I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season!