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Lahey Health Seasonal Health Tips for You and Your Family



Fair weather seems to inspire activity, and with that activity come improved health and uplifted spirits. A warm summer’s evening or a crisp autumn morning can beckon you and your family outdoors. Seize the moment to launch healthy lifestyles—being physically fit, mentally active and well rested is sure to generate an uptick in your family’s general wellness.

And Lahey Health is here to help you and your family achieve your health and wellness goals. Our experts have assembled some terrific advice for you throughout the seasons. Activities such as weight lifting to build muscle or cardio to boost energy will keep you fit and ready to take on foliage hikes or lake paddles. And exercise can bolster your body’s immune system—a bonus in fall’s crowded classrooms or during the coming flu season. 

The change in season can also spur fresh interests; try reading a book on a new topic, expanding your vocabulary and growing your brain power. Summer’s sun and fall’s breezes can take a toll on your skin, so be sure to include the right foods in your diet for perennially youthful skin. And don’t forget the benefits of simple good cheer: Add a good laugh to a good night’s sleep and you’ll feel rejuvenated and ready to take on whatever the day holds.

Now is the time to learn more from Lahey Health experts about these seasonal topics that matter to you and your family:

  • Laughter delivers lightness and optimism
  • Weight training builds muscle
  • Antioxidant-rich foods keep skin youthful
  • Exercise strengthens your immune system
  • Reading grows vocabularies and brain power
  • Cardio boosts your energy

Now may also be the time to line up your family’s primary care so that you know just how wellness feels for all the seasons to come.

Looking for the right primary care close to home?  Look no further than Lahey Health.
To find a Lahey Health Primary Care physician, call (978) 756-3049.

Laughter Delivers Lightness and Optimism

“Think back to when you were a kid…Remember how laughter, giggling and smiling happened so easily,” says certified hypnotherapist Cally Stewart of Winchester Hospital’s Center for Healthy Living. “That laughter and joy reflected your open, curious attitude about life. You are still capable of that same optimism.” Sometimes as adults, we become focused on responsibilities and lose touch with the emotions of lightness and optimism. But it doesn’t have to be that way—and it shouldn’t.

Summer’s fair weather and long, light-filled days (with extra vitamin D) are the perfect time to recharge optimism and reintroduce laughter in our lives. Here are some ways you can take advantage of soaring summer spirits:

  • Make time to reconnect with friends, sharing lemonade and smiles on the patio.
  • Go to a family reunion and chuckle over childhood reminiscences.
  • Don’t be afraid to be “silly”—blow bubbles with your grandchildren, do sidewalk chalk with the neighborhood kids, fly a kite with an old friend.

“Getting in touch with the carefree, childlike side of life can help you bring back the giggles and balance the serious side of life,” says Cally.

Not all of us are gigglers, though. Just relaxing and doing activities that bring you joy is important. Head for the beach or back deck with a good book; stroll through an arts and crafts fair; or take a calming walk in the garden or along the shore. “It’s important to find a way to turn off your to-do list,” Cally advises. “Let yourself be open to new experiences, such as a dance lesson, yoga class or paint night. Maybe escape with a comedy show that makes you laugh until your cheeks hurt. Find what brings you joy.”

In addition to creativity and an optimistic attitude, laughter provides other important benefits. Some of Cally’s favorites include:

  • Stress relief, allowing you to feel more centered
  • Relaxation, allowing you to breathe more deeply and sleep more easily
  • Diffusing tense situations, allowing you to advance personal and professional relationships
  • Clearing the slate, allowing you to declutter your mind and find your inner joy

For all these reasons, remember to prioritize laughter and fun in your life. Why not start this summer? Popsicles and Parcheesi on the porch, anyone?

Exercise Helps Your Immune System

With all the benefits of exercise—such as fitness, wellness, toning and more—it is no surprise that so many of us incorporate it into our schedules. And summer offers an especially wide array of exercise opportunities. Hiking, canoeing, softball games and Frisbee competitions are all highlights of the season. What many of us don’t realize is that the exercise can also help build our immune systems.

“Regular exercise helps your body to run more efficiently,” explains Mike Muldoon, MS, PT, Rehabilitation Site Manager at Addison Gilbert and Beverly Hospital. “You enhance the capacity for your immune system to flourish.” Once you have been cleared by your health care providers to safely begin an exercise program, you can do so, knowing that you are helping to optimize the functioning of your cardiac and immune systems.

As EXOS wellness consultants report, when a person exercises, cells that are capable of killing viruses and bacteria circulate through the body more rapidly. They also note that exercise forestalls the release of stress-related hormones that increase the likelihood of illness.Mike adds, “Some researchers believe sweating when your body temperature rises during exercise acts to fight off infection and prevent bacteria from growing. And exercise as a stress-reduction technique has been shown to ward off certain injuries and illnesses.”

While it is important to be aware of some of the immune system benefits of exercise, it is equally important to remember not to overdo it. Mike cautions, “Regular, moderate exercise is key. Going overboard can overtax your systems. Remember the old adage: Everything in moderation.”

Here is another tip for you and your family when you are exercising in the summer: don’t forget to stay adequately hydrated. You may need to drink water before, during and after your activities. Mike further notes, “It is important to be able to recognize some of the signs of heat exhaustion in yourself and others. These include: fatigue, headache, dizziness and confusion.” So fill those water bottles to the top before you head out!

Many summertime activities put us in new places, exposed to new germs. Whether you are on a crowded rollercoaster, at a jam-packed outdoor concert or even in your tightly packed office elevator, you’ll want to count on your body’s inner defenses to be in tip-top shape. Remember to include exercise in your summer schedule, and you’ll reap the rewards of a strengthened immune system.

Weight Training Builds Muscle

As Mike Muldoon, MS, PT, Rehabilitation Site Manager at Addison Gilbert and Beverly Hospital explains, “There is a simple science behind weight training: It causes your muscle cells to replicate. And the more muscle cells you develop, the stronger you get.” Being strong has many advantages—including opening a wide range of fun summer activities to you and your family. Paddle boarding, biking, hiking, kayaking and more are more accessible when you are physically prepared. Having good muscle strength means you can approach these activities with confidence.

A weight training program will help you prepare. Mike offers these tips:

  • Always check with your doctor to ensure you are healthy enough to begin any exercise program.
  • Choosing the right weight-training exercise is as important as choosing the right amount of weight. (For example, a bicep curl engages only the bicep muscle, whereas a squat engages quad, gluteal, calf and core muscles.)
  • You should be able to complete 8-12 repetitions comfortably (without dropping the weights) and do 8-10 different exercises.
  • Don’t forget to include stretching routines to make sure the muscle you are building remains mobile.
  • Try beginning with machine weights, which offer more stability, and then advance to free weights to build more stabilization muscles and engage your core.

Mike notes that the American College of Sports Medicine always cites consistency as central to achievement in weight training. He suggests establishing a set time of day for your exercise program as one strategy to set yourself up for success. 

In a recent Harvard Health Publications article, “Strength training builds more than muscles,” researchers note, “Most of us know that strength training (with free weights, weight machines, or resistance bands) can help build and maintain muscle mass and strength. What many of us don’t know is that strong muscles lead to strong bones.” So weight training to build muscle provides the extra benefit of reduced risk of broken bones.

One further benefit of weight training? When you feel stronger, you feel energized to take on more of life’s everyday tasks. So after weight training, you’ll be eager to get out there and mow the lawn every Saturday morning!? But if that is not the motivation for you, envision you (and your biceps) pointing which way to the beach!

 

Reading Grows Vocabularies and Brain Power

No matter what the weather this summer, reading can be the perfect entertainment. On a rainy day, head to a protected porch and be transported with a good read. When the skies are fair, flop in a hammock with your favorite mystery series or lounge on the beach with that long-considered biography, while keeping one eye on the approaching tide!

Reading is also the perfect entertainment no matter what your age. Even tiny tots, who rely mostly on pictures, learn the treasured art of storytelling and begin to grow their vocabulary and brain power. As we age, those skills can still be enhanced by reading.

“There are many benefits to reading,” notes Jayashri Srinivasan, MD, PhD, FRCP, Chair of Lahey Hospital & Medical Center’s Neurology Department. “Just like exercising your body, exercising your brain can help you strengthen and preserve its power. There is emerging evidence that engaging in mentally stimulating activities, such as reading, chess, crosswords and puzzles, can improve your brain function.” Reading introduces you to new words, new places, new thoughts and emotions—all good ways to expand your mind. “Just like learning a new hobby or language, reading challenges your mind, keeping it elastic and growing,” concludes Dr. Srinivasan.

Ready to read? Choose what appeals to you—from classic literature to breezy beach reads. You can get recommendations from your local librarian or bookseller or by talking with friends. Another great idea is to read the Pulitzer and Man Booker prize-winners each year, as Dr. Srinivasan, a lifelong avid reader, does. And keep an eye out for new community lending libraries (sometimes located on town commons) where you can “give one, take one.” Winchester Hospital promotes reading by offering donated books in the lobby for patients and visitors to take home. And each baby born at the hospital is sent home with a brand-new book through the Read to Me Program.

If you have young children, remember to establish the habit of reading by making story time a regular part of your day. And if your teenager is struggling with an assigned summer reading list, offer encouragement, be a good role model and help your student avoid the dreaded “summer slide.”  You can also pitch in by helping with new vocabulary or by discussing complex topics. You’ll be surprised at what you learn while exercising your brain this summer!

You can learn more about Lahey’s Neurology services at www.lahey.org/neurology.

 

Antioxidant-rich Foods Keep Skin Youthful

In New England, we spend an awful lot of time bundling up for cold weather. When summer finally comes, our spirits soar as we can head out the door without all the wraps. But as we eagerly transition into Bermuda shorts and bikinis, we need to remember the importance of taking care of our skin.

Caring for our skin from the outside by protecting it from the sun’s damaging rays is critical. But it is also important to care for our skin from the inside. A great way to keep your skin healthy and youthful for years to come is by eating antioxidant-rich foods.

“Antioxidants are believed to prevent cell damage,” explains Olivia Gross, RD, LDN, a Lahey Health Registered Dietician. “That works hand in hand with skin health. Vitamins C, E and A uniquely contribute to this goal.”

Olivia goes on to note that foods rich in vitamin C (think oranges, lemons, limes plus summer squash and blueberries) help collagen production, which keeps skin firm. Vitamin E (found in nuts like almonds and peanuts as well as in spinach and beet greens) mitigates damage to collagen, which prevents wrinkles, fine lines and dry skin. And  finally, vitamin A, which is consumed through beta-carotene (think orange and yellow fruits and vegetables), supports a healthy cycle of cell turnover. Olivia concludes, “We generally advise people to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and to get their nutrients from whole foods rather than from supplements.”

Some antioxidant-rich foods you and your family may want to add to your diet include:

  • Berries, such as blueberries, strawberries and cranberries
  • Stone fruits (peaches, plums, prunes, cherries, etc.)
  • Vegetables, including sweet potatoes, kale, bell peppers, broccoli and tomatoes
  • Nuts and legumes (kidney beans, lentils, edamame, etc.)

“Be creative about introducing these foods into your family’s meals,” suggests Olivia. “Try blending spinach into a banana-strawberry smoothie. Shred carrots into your favorite mac ‘n’ cheese recipe. Or chop some greens into a meatloaf.” And don’t forget antioxidant benefits give you the thumbs-up to indulge in a bit of dark chocolate. Just remember: Everything in moderation. A healthy diet is a well-balanced diet. 

Cardio Boosts Your Energy

While cardio exercise can, of course, be done year round, summertime somehow brings renewed excitement and resolve to get with the program. Great outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, swimming and more, can help you strengthen your body’s cardiovascular system, which boosts your energy and expands your lung capacity.

When your cardiovascular system is working effectively, it absorbs oxygen from your lungs into your blood more efficiently, giving you a welcome boost in energy. And as your heart becomes stronger through exercise, it has to work even less when you are at rest, again boosting your energy.

“Exercise is free medicine,” states Kathleen Harrington, RN, MSN, CCRP, Coordinator of Winchester Hospital’s Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Department, located at the Family Medical Center in Wilmington. “Just as prescription medications may improve your health, exercise can too. It’s a necessary component for maintaining both physical and mental health”.

Once you have been approved by your physician to engage in cardio exercise, here are some suggestions from Kathleen and her team:

  • Make short-term goals that are achievable, such as walking a half hour every day and then gradually increasing your distance and pace
  • Prioritize exercise by scheduling it into your day—“Choose a time that feels right to you and that you’ll maintain.”
  • Do exercises that you like (at least, kind of!)—“Your heart doesn’t care if you choose the treadmill, the bike or the pool.”
  • Aim for consistent, moderate exercise of ideally 20-30 minutes every day
  • Stick with the program —“Use it or lose it!”

“A cardio exercise routine can offer you and your family overall improved physical and psychological wellbeing,” says Kathleen.

So this summer, whether you dance with your children or grandchildren at a town common concert, try your hand at kayaking with a rental at a local lake or river, explore a new mountain hiking trail or engage in some friendly competition at the high school tennis courts, it’s all good.

When the sun begins to set on summer fun, don’t let your cardio activities flag—lest your energy does too. Welcome the active lifestyle each season offers (or become an all-season gym rat). Your heart and lungs will thank you for it. And you’ll reap the rewards of that energy boost the whole year through!

You can find out more about Lahey’s renowned cardio programs here.

A Good Night’s Sleep Puts You Over the Moon

Ever notice how seeing someone yawn makes you yawn? Getting a truly good night’s sleep may be a bit harder to induce, yet sleep is vital to your ongoing health and wellbeing.

When you wake up well rested, you are better prepared to take on the day—physically, mentally and emotionally. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “The way you feel while you’re awake depends in part on what happens while you’re sleeping.”

David Neumeyer, MD, an expert at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center’s Sleep Center, explains, “Sleep is important for repairing your body. In adults, micro injuries (from stresses to muscles, joints and your brain) are healed during the night. In young children, essential growth hormones are secreted while they sleep.”

It’s no surprise, then, that specialists remind us to prioritize sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends the following sleep guidelines:

  • Infants—12-16 hours a day
  • Children—9-14 hours a day
  • Teens—8-10 hours a day
  • Adults—7-8 hours a day

As NIH points out, “The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant (such as a car crash), or it can harm you over time.”  Dr. Neumeyer notes, “Some of the warning signs of sleep deprivation include: feeling unrefreshed in the morning, an inability to concentrate, drinking too much coffee or falling asleep during a meeting. It can also manifest itself in anxiety, depression, cognitive decline and memory impairment or put you at risk for heart disease and diabetes.” So no matter how busy your schedule gets, it’s not worth skimping on sleep.

Dr. Neumeyer shares some tips for inducing a good night’s sleep:

  • Schedule your day to make time for sleep
  • Make a to-do list before bed, and then put it out of your mind until the next day
  • Think of your bedroom as an inner sanctum; make it quite, comfortable and restful
  • Go old-school with no computers, TVs or cellphones in your bedroom

“Sleep is a low-tech process,” concludes Dr. Neumeyer.

Feel free to add a few yawns to these “sleep hygiene” routines. Then when you crawl under the covers, you’ll be ready to catch the zzzs you need—putting your mood and performance over the moon.

If you or anyone in your family is struggling to get a good night’s sleep, don’t hesitate to turn to the specialists at Lahey Health to put those worries to bed.