6 Tips for Thriving during the Holiday Season

Along with laughter and good cheer, the holidays often bring busier schedules, an abundance of indulgent food and drink and increased financial stress, all of which can have a negative effect on our physical and mental health.

The good news is looking at the holidays through the six pillars of Lifestyle Medicine gives us the opportunity to rethink those holiday traditions that don’t contribute to our whole-health and focus instead on prioritizing self-care so that we can truly thrive this holiday season.

1. Manage Stress Better

Stress can play a part in headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression and anxiety. Chronic stress coupled with acute stressors that we may experience during the holidays leave the body overstimulated with high levels of basal cortisol which in turn increases inflammation and causes or worsens disease.

Lifestyle Tip: Tools like regulated breathing, positive thinking, meditation, gratitude, and exercise can help manage stress and fight inflammation when used every day.

2. Eat Smarter

Food truly is medicine.  Beyond the physical benefits that a healthy diet affords us, food also effects our mood. It can be especially challenging to make healthy food choices during the holidays. 

Lifestyle Tip: Remind yourself to eat slowly and savor each bite, especially when it comes to calorie dense foods. Be truly present when sharing a meal with those you care about by disconnecting from electronics.

3. Sleep More Soundly

Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things we can do for our overall health and well-being.  Sleep deprivation leaves the brain exhausted, and chronic sleep deprivation is strongly correlated with behavioral health issues, such as depression, anxiety and substance use.

Lifestyle Tip: Set yourself up for a restorative night of sleep by preparing the right way. Strive to set and stick to a sleep routine that allows for 7-8 hours of sleep per night in a cool, dark place and try to disconnect from screens two hours before bedtime.

4. Connect with Others

Social connections and relationships affect our physical, mental and emotional health. Research shows that the single most important predictor of human happiness and long life is having strong social connections. There is evidence that health related measures like blood pressure and heart rate improve even with short, positive social interactions. Technology can improve social connectedness in some cases but research also finds that those who use social media the most are at a higher risk for depression.

Lifestyle Tip: Try chatting with the person in line next to you while doing your holiday shopping, or smiling as you pass others in the hallway – these positive micro interactions scattered throughout your day can have a big impact. If you use social media, be mindful of how you use technology to support the social connections in your life.

5. Move More

Consistent regular exercise benefits us both mentally and physically. Moving our bodies, especially in nature, can do wonders for our whole health. In fact, studies show that being active for as little as 10 minutes per day can positively impact our mood.

Lifestyle Tip: Even as the days get shorter and colder, make it a priority to move naturally throughout the day doing things you love; walk with friends, ride a bike, dance, or play with the children and pets in your life.

6. Avoid Risky Substances

We know that reducing the intake of items like alcohol, vaping and smoking improve our physical health, but they can also have an impact on our mental health and happiness.  When we are not using substances, we are more able to be present in the moment and notice the positive things around us.

Lifestyle Tip: Take a moment to be aware of when you might be using these substances to alter your reality and focus instead on working to identify positive strategies to cope with life’s daily stressors.

Ready to take the next step?

Our Lifestyle Medicine team is here to support you on your journey to better health. Connect with one of our Board-Certified Lifestyle Medicine Specialists today.

5 Tips to Keep Kids Safe when Returning to Sports

1. Ease kids back into physical activity gradually before the sport season starts

Kids have been spending a lot more time at home and sitting at computers for school than in regular years. Relative inactivity leads to decreased cardiorespiratory fitness, muscle strength and endurance and loss of sport-specific skills. Parents should know, that increasing the load and demand on their child’s body without adequate time for conditioning and recovery, raises the risk of injury.

Before they start sports, all kids should have a pre-participation physical exam. At this pre-participation physical exam, ask the medical provider to discuss with you and your child a schedule to guide a gradual increase in activity. Children should return to sports at 25 to 50% of the volume and intensity at which they participated previously. Each week, volume should be increased by 10% so that, by 4-6 weeks, the student athlete is back in performance shape.

“I’ve been seeing a lot of sports injuries due to the rapid escalation of sports intensity. We can prevent these injuries.” said, Dr. Corey Dean, Pediatrician and Sports Medicine Specialist at St. Joe’s and IHA.

  1. Be COVID-19 safe during practice and games

In March, 2021, the spread of COVID-19 has risen 105% among persons aged 10 to 19 in Michigan. Additionally, there are 135 identified outbreaks among minors participating in school and club sports in Michigan.

To prevent COVID-19 during sports participation, athletes should maintain physical distance as much as possible. Wear cloth face coverings at all times during group training and competition, especially on the sideline, in dugouts, and during team chats. Due to possible safety concerns, masks can be removed while participating in some sports, such as water sports, gymnastics and wrestling. However, a mask should still be worn when the athlete is not actively engaged in competition or is on the sidelines.

All kids with a history of a positive COVID-19 test, regardless of whether they had symptoms, should be screened for chest pain, shortness of breath, syncope (fainting), and palpitations during a physical exam by there primary care physician. Children who have had moderate or severe symptoms of COVID-19, like fever greater than three days, hypoxia needing oxygen in the hospital, etc. should be referred to a cardiologist per the American Academy of pediatricians.

Avoid behaviors like huddles, high-fives, fist bumps, handshakes, sharing food or drink with teammates, cheering, chanting, or spitting. Store personal equipment 6 to 8 feet away from other teammates equipment. Make sure to bring your own water bottle and your own towel to be used only by you. Sanitize hands before and after using shared equipment like balls, bats etc. Do not got to practice or a game if you are not feeling well. Make sure to tell the coach if you’re not feeling well and leave practice or the game as soon as safely possible.

Avoid large group gathering after sporting events or practices. If you do gather after a sporting event or practice, remember to wear your mask, socially distance and don’t share food or drink with others.

3. Clean up after practice and games.

Sanitize with 60% alcohol based hand sanitizer or wash hands for 20 seconds. Be Sure to wash practice clothes and towel thoroughly and replace facemasks. Clean sports equipment and water bottle.

4. Get tested for COVID-19 regularly.

All middle school and high school athletes aged 13 to 19 must be tested for COVID-19 on a weekly basis as required by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Testing is recommended before any inter-team competition, especially before players come in to close contact with players from outside the local community. Regular testing allows for better understanding of the risk to student athletes and supports contact tracing of COVID-19 cases in sports.

5. Where are the facemasks?

Athletes, coaches and other team personnel must wear a face mask at all times unless participating in a sport in which masks may pose a safety concern (wrestling, water sports, gymnastics, etc.). Face masks must be worn by all individuals while not engaged in active participation. Facemasks must cover the nose and the mouth at all times to be fully protective. Any cloth face covering that becomes saturated with sweat or water should be changed immediately. Having a back up cloth mask is helpful. You are your child’s best advocate. If you see other athletes or coaches not wearing masks or wearing masks improperly speak up and kindly remind them to wear a mask or make sure their mask is properly covering their mouth and nose. Parents and spectators should always wear a facemask while at sporting events. Wearing masks minimizes the spread of COVID-19 and is critical for safe participation in sports.

Need a Primary Care Doctor?

Trust your family’s health to a St. Joe’s doctor. Find a doctor near you at St.JoesHealth.org.

Family Blessings? Tips for a Healthy Reunion

By Lila Lazarus

If you’re reading this, it means I survived. For the last two weeks, 17 family members have been staying at my house. Yes, sisters, brothers, spouses, nieces, nephews and a few dogs. It was a family reunion.

Like so many families in the modern world, my siblings are spread out all over the world. I’m the only one who stayed in Michigan. So if we want to see each other, we have to plan an extended visit. No one wants to travel this far for just a weekend. And in theory, we all really wanted to spend time together. But making the plans, dealing with the air travel, the cost of the flights, packing, figuring out sleeping arrangements and two weeks of meals… it’s stressful.

And when they finally arrived, they were exhausted. Two arrived sick with what we called “The Plague”— a bad virus with fever and cough that quickly spread through the family ranks.  Tempers shortened and our eagerly anticipated joyous family visit morphed into family drama, hurt feelings, lack of communication and a messy house.

In families, it is not unusual to be irked by the same frustrations with your siblings that were there 50 years ago. These unresolved hot buttons get pushed without any warning. And just like when we were young, we were all staying in the same house and I had nowhere to run. So I made a list of   survival tips for getting through an extended family visit:

Remember they’re never going to change. Every time something got under my skin, I reminded myself that there’s no fixing these people. They are who they are— for better or for worse.  Find the better.  They will never change and they don’t have to.

Focus on their talents. If you look at my family tree, there’s a dancer, a gourmet chef, a lawyer, an artist, singers and acrobats. They all have wide ranging talents. They’re smart and funny and always game for adventures.   Rather than think about what they don’t bring to the table, try thinking about the incredible gifts and laughter that they do bring.

Limit the trip. This was my biggest mistake. If you know you have strong personalities and age-old sibling rivalry,  don’t stretch it out for two weeks.  (Just because you love your family doesn’t mean you like them in your home for 14 days.) If a few days is your tipping point,  set your limits. Why didn’t I think of that earlier?

Lay down the ground rules and stick to them. Someone will always try to push your boundaries. Don’t let them. When my brother tried to change the dinner location or my brother-in-law tried to invite more people to the party, I had to stand firm. “I’m so happy the family is here, let’s keep it to the family and the plans we’ve made.” Do whatever you can to minimize the chaos.

Plan your escape. When every sofa, stool and chair in your home is taken and you just can’t seem to get away from family or their barking dogs, it’s time for operation time-out.  Go for a walk. Go do some yoga or meditate. It’s important to regroup. Alone time isn’t selfish. When family’s around, it’s self-preservation. I would disappear sometimes for two hours just to breath.

In short, happiness is a close, tight-knit family in another city. But if they do come to visit for an extended period of time, try to keep in mind that it’s just temporary. I kept asking myself, “What if this is the last time we’re all together? Can’t you just hold it together for a few more days?”

Now that they’re gone, I do realize what a blessing it was to have them all under the same roof. But families are definitely like fudge. Mostly sweet with a lot of nuts.

Dementia: Finding Ways to Connect When the Connecting Gets Tough.

Every time I visit my Mom, it’s a crapshoot. I never know who I will find when I punch in the code and open the door to her memory unit. Will she be wandering the living area talking to herself? Will I find her marching down the hall as though she has something important to accomplish? Or will I find her sitting on the sofa, her chin hanging to her chest, fast asleep? It is hard to know what her mood will be like after days upon days in the same room. And when she finally sees me, I never know how long it will take for her to recognize my face. I try not to have any expectations. It seems each time I come in, it takes a little longer for her to light up.

I know I’m blessed that she still knows me, but it’s so scary when someone you love has an incurable disease that erases bits of them one day at a time. So rather than lament what’s lost, I’m trying to enjoy what’s left. That means shifting the way I connect with her and finding new ways to communicate. She no longer can have a conversation because she can’t reach the words. But she can still laugh and sing and dance.

Lila’s Health Report:
In order to stay healthy, you need to stay active and engaged. In addition to exercise, good nutrition and sleep, you also need a good dose of adventure. So each month I’ll share ways to boost the excitement and passion in your life with adventurous ways to create more wellness in your body, mind and your spirit.

My Mom has always loved the arts. She was the founder of the JET Theatre and she loved opera, symphony and ballet. And although her dementia continues to progress, turn on a tune and you’ll find she hasn’t lost her love for music. Plenty of research shows dance and music can clear the dust that accumulates with dementia and Alzheimer’s and actually create better connection and communication. It seems to open a backdoor to her brain so she can still access good feelings and memories. Just hearing the music seems to wake her up, lift her spirits and bring a big smile to her face.

While she was never a singer before, she is now. And even though we never used to regularly jump up and dance when we were together, we do now. Without words, she seems to do better with experiences that connect us rather than conversations. Music always seems to get a positive response. Recently, I walked in to find her sitting by herself, mumbling words and looking so forlorn. Then the music started and everything changed. (Check out this cellphone video!)

She loves to move, go for a walk, play catch with a balloon. Exercise is both invigorating and calming for her. And it’s a relief for me to have something I can do with my Mom that brightens her day. We can bond without even a word.

If you’re a caregiver to a person with dementia, do what you can to incorporate their senses. Put on music, give them colorful flowers to arrange or something delicious to eat or a fluffy pet to hold. My Mom was never a dog lover but she is now. I think she relishes their unconditional love. So I usually will bring my dogs, Yogi and Lulu, when I visit.

And when the visit is over, make sure to hold their hand or give them a strong hug. I love when my Mom throws her arms open for a hug. It reminds me she’s still in there. A good hug is sometimes all that’s needed— just as much for me as for her.

Looking for a doctor specialized in memory care?
Visit stjoeshealth.org to find a doctor near you, or call 1-800-231-2211, and we can guide you through the process.

Ice vs. Heat: Which Is Better for Pain?

This article was originally published on Sharecare.

Jonathon Faber, DO, is a sports medicine specialist with Saint Joseph Mercy Health System in Livonia, Michigan,

Whether chronic or acute, aches, pains and injuries can put a damper on everyday activities. Along with rest and elevation, we’ve been told that heat and ice can speed recovery, but which is best for your particular ailment? Jonathon Faber, DO, a sports medicine specialist with Saint Joseph Mercy Health System in Livonia, Michigan, explains when you should apply ice or administer heat, and when it’s time to see your doctor.

When to opt for ice
Acute pain is sudden, brought on by a specific incident. Broken bones, sprains, strains, burns, cuts and surgery can all cause acute discomfort. As soon as the cause of pain is remedied, the uncomfortable sensation should subside. But what to do in the meantime?

As a general rule, acute injuries should be treated with an icepack or a bag of your favorite frozen veggies. “Typically, when you have an acute injury, like an ankle sprain, it’s very appropriate to apply ice for the first 48 to 72 hours,” recommends Faber.

When used promptly, ice helps reduce swelling. Swelling is caused by the rush of fluid and white blood cells to an injury, which works to promote healing and help prevent you from using the affected area. “[However,] a lot of times, swelling can be excessive enough, especially in places like the ankle and knee, that it prevents further healing,” says Faber. So, reducing swelling quickly can help speed recovery.

For some injuries, ice isn’t enough. Rest, compression and elevation are also necessary. “The acronym RICE stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation,” says Faber. “These methods reduce swelling and inflammation at the site of an injury.”

When to reach for heat
Not all types of discomfort should be treated with an ice pack. Chronic or long-lasting pain, which can persist for more than 12 weeks, is often better soothed with a heating pad. This type of discomfort may be caused by an injury or illness like arthritis or fibromyalgia, but in some cases, has no known cause. Frequently, the goal in treating chronic pain is minimizing discomfort as much as possible, to enhance your quality of life.

Here’s why heat helps: while ice reduces inflammation in areas with a buildup of fluid, heat is better suited for pain not caused by swelling, like arthritic joint pain. “Heat tends to be more appropriate for joint pain in people who suffer from osteoarthritis, because it increases blood flow to affected areas,” says Faber. There are exceptions: some with arthritic joint pain may benefit from applying ice to numb the sensation of pain, as well.

Heat also helps ease discomfort linked to achy joints and stiff muscles. By improving blood flow and circulation, it relieves pain and stiffness caused by conditions like tendinosis, chronic stiffness of tendons attached to the joints.

Sometimes, pain from injuries older than six weeks can also be alleviated with heat. “After a few weeks, icing sprains and strains doesn’t tend to be as beneficial,” says Faber. “At that point, it’s personal preference, and you should do what feels better.”

See your doctor
Some injuries shouldn’t be treated at home. See your doctor if:

  • An injury significantly affects your range of motion, rendering you unable to complete everyday tasks like bathing, cooking or dressing.
  • You injure certain parts of your body. “With any lower extremity injury, the hip, knee or ankle, that leaves you unable to bear weight, you should see your doctor,” says Faber.
  • You have a minor injury, and swelling doesn’t improve after a few days of at-home treatment.

Ignoring an injury or compensating for the pain by putting more pressure on other parts of the body can lead to permanent dysfunction, making treatment difficult. In that case, your injury may be less of a job for heat or ice and more of a job for your healthcare provider.

Looking for a doctor or ready to make a switch?
Visit stjoeshealth.org to find a doctor near you, or call 1-800-231-2211, and we can guide you through the process.

I Found the One!

When it’s the right one — you just know it. We just clicked. I felt so comfortable. It’s like we had known each other for years. I’d been searching for so long. I’ve even written about my struggle to find the one. Truthfully, I had almost given up looking… And then it happened.

I found my new primary care doctor.

It was hard for me as a health reporter to admit I didn’t have a doctor for so long. My last doctor had chosen to go concierge, meaning he was now charging close to $3,000 a year in return for more personalized care. But at this point in life, I’m healthy (knock on wood) and just need a doctor for my yearly physical. But how do you choose the right one? Admittedly, I’m picky.

Dr. Leslie Caren with a pediatric patient and his mother at the new St. Joseph Mercy Waterford Medical Complex. Dr. Caren treats adult and pediatric patients at Waterford Adult and Pediatric Medicine.

And then she just walked in. The moment we started talking I knew. I just knew.

I had gone to see the new St. Joe’s Waterford Medical Complex located at 59 and Pontiac Lake Road. The new medical facility features a lab, imaging services and an Urgent Care (opening July 1, 2019) along with the Waterford Adult and Pediatric Medicine practice. That’s where I met Dr. Leslie Caren, an internal medicine and pediatric specialist. She was so easy to talk to. Her calm demeanor, obvious concern and compassion made her an easy choice. Plus, she’s a St. Joe’s doc which was a high priority for me. She was so approachable and clearly interested in my wellbeing and, lucky for me, she had an appointment available for a physical. I grabbed it and never looked back.

On the day of my appointment, I wasn’t left waiting in a waiting room. She came in and took a thorough and complete history. It’s uncomfortable talking to a stranger about your most personal issues. But in this case, I instantly felt like I was talking to a friend. She just got me. She listened without interrupting and gave me thorough answers to any questions I had. It’s one of the main reasons I wanted a primary care physician — the better a doctor knows you, the more likely you are to get an accurate diagnosis.

But there are three other reasons I really wanted to have a primary care physician (and so should you):

Lila’s Health Report:
In order to stay healthy, you need to stay active and engaged. In addition to exercise, good nutrition and sleep, you also need a good dose of adventure. So each month I’ll share ways to boost the excitement and passion in your life with adventurous ways to create more wellness in your body, mind and your spirit.

A primary care doctor keeps you healthier as you age. Studies show, people who have a good relationship with a doctor don’t just get better care, they’re healthier! It’s like any relationship: The better you communicate and connect, the better the outcome. I have no doubt my new primary care doc will make sure I get all the tests and treatments I need to keep me healthy.

Someone has your back. Gone are any worries of who I would call if suddenly I need a prescription, or a specialist or quick medical advice. We talked so openly about so many topics from weight, to alcohol, to sex, stress and aging. I felt listened to, which is important. And I felt like someone truly had a plan to ensure I stay healthy for as long as possible. My new doctor arranged for all my lab work, followed through on the results and explained any concerns. I have 24-hour access to my health information and any lab results on the St. Joe’s portal. When I sent her an email through the portal, she responded!

Health is a team sport. It’s not just the primary care doctor that impressed me, it’s the whole office. After all, I’ll be dealing with all of them to book appointments, get my labs done or deal with insurance issues. The right primary care doctor needs the right support team.

Looking for a doctor or ready to make a switch?
Visit stjoeshealth.org to find a doctor near you, or call 1-800-231-2211, and we can guide you through the process.

The Infectious Return of Measles – A Previously ‘Eliminated Disease’ in the U.S.

by Anu Malani, MD, Medical Director, Infection Prevention and Control Services, St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor, Livingston and Chelsea

When I was a third-year medical student, measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000.

There has been a resurgence of measles, and there is significant concern that the disease can become widespread again. As of May 3, 2019, the U.S. has seen 764 cases of measles this year in 23 states, including 43 cases in Michigan. It’s only the beginning of May, and surveillance data shows that cases are well over 50% higher than numbers recorded last year. There will be many more cases of contracted measles in the upcoming months. There are several ongoing outbreaks across the U.S., including Michigan, New York, Washington, New Jersey, and California. The main reasons for the measles reemergence include more international travel – several countries have ongoing measles outbreaks – and low vaccination rates in several communities. Globally, the World Health Organization reports that measles cases in the first quarter of 2019 nearly quadrupled compared with what was reported at this time last year. 

Watch Dr. Malani and St. Joe’s Health Reporter Lila Lazarus discuss the measles outbreak on Facebook Live.

Continue reading “The Infectious Return of Measles – A Previously ‘Eliminated Disease’ in the U.S.”

Trust Your Intuition: Early Signs of Autism

By Dr. Erin Walton-Doyle, an Internal Medicine and Pediatrics physician with St. Joe’s Medical Group and St. Mary Mercy Livonia

Parents often tell me about a feeling or gut instinct they have about their child. Sometimes it’s a sense their child has an ear infection, other times it’s a premonition their child is in danger.

I tell parents to trust that intuition not only when it comes to a common cold but with concerns about developmental delays. Asking questions or sharing a concern about your child’s behavior is important in order to get a diagnosis and start treatment, if necessary, as soon as possible.

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a serious developmental disorder that impairs the ability to communicate and interact with others. More than 200,000 cases of autism are diagnosed in the United States each year. While there is no cure, autism can be treated to help reduce symptoms and provide developmental support. The key is early diagnosis and intervention.

Continue reading “Trust Your Intuition: Early Signs of Autism”

Join us at our 2019 Healthy Kick-Off on May 18

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CANTON – Join us on Saturday, May 18, from 1 to 4 p.m. for our annual Healthy Kick-Off event at St. Joseph Mercy Canton Health Center.

This free, fun-filled afternoon will feature bike helmets and fittings, access to our Health Exploration Station, health screenings, a meet-and-greet with players from AFC Ann Arbor, a rock wall and teddy bear clinic. Enjoy family fun including:
  • Bike Helmets and Fittings – Limited Supply
  • Skin Cancer Screenings
  • Arctic Edge Street Hockey
  • KONA Ice Truck
  • Meet players from AFC Ann Arbor
  • Semi Pro Soccer Team
  • Rock Climbing Wall
  • Teddy Bear Clinic

Health Exploration Station Celebrates 20 Years! Explore Michigan’s first interactive education center with exhibits to engage all your senses – walk through a giant human body, listen to the rhythm of your own heart beat and test your skills as a surgeon in the brain operating game. A must-see for kids and kids at heart.

We look forward to seeing you there! For more information, visit our website.

What You’re NOT Eating Might Be Hurting You

If you’re like most Americans, you’re not getting enough of one vital nutrient.

by Debbie Koenig

This article was originally published in Sharecare.

What if a single nutrient could:

  • lower your risk of death over time by 15 to 30 percent
  • lower cholesterol and blood pressure
  • help you maintain a healthy weight
  • reduce odds of developing diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke and certain cancers

According to a new review, eating enough fiber—the humble roughage that passes through you undigested—may do all that and more.

The research, published in The Lancet, looked at data from 185 prospective studies and 58 clinical trials with over 4,600 participants. A clear link emerged between how much fiber participants ate and their health. Those who took in between 25 and 29 grams a day showed greater benefits, but it is suggested that even higher intakes of fiber could produce healthier outcomes.

Continue reading “What You’re NOT Eating Might Be Hurting You”