SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The message from health care professionals has been clear for months: The best way to keep from getting COVID-19 is to stay physically distant, wear a mask, and wash your hands.
Doctors will also tell you there are things you can begin doing today that will improve your overall health and potentially reduce your risk of severe illness. Three things to think about are eating healthy foods, getting exercise and managing your stress.
“Take the opportunity right now to make yourself happier, make yourself healthier,” Sansum Family Medicine Doctor Jay Winner said.
With stress levels running high, Winner says it’s the perfect time to explore things like meditation and mindfulness.
“Stress does also reduce our immunity,” Winner said. “So you want to make sure that you learn to effectively deal with stress with techniques such as mindfulness, re-framing, and keeping perspective.”
Winner is the founder and director of the stress management program for Sansum Clinic. He has also written a book called “Relaxation on the Run.” It offers tips on how to reduce stress in seconds.
“You can focus on a nice diaphragmatic breath where your abdomen expands,” Winner said. “We can all feel just one breath, and then you focus on another breath.”
When your focus drifts, he says just gently and patiently redirect it back to the breath.
Having a diet filled with vegetables is another key to good health, and with a deadly virus going around, it can’t hurt to eat more of them.
“We don’t know all the metabolic anomalies associated with COVID,” Nutritionist Sarah Washburn said. “But we do know that you can influence your bodies chemistry and the inflammation in your body by what you eat and eating anti imflammatory foods like cold water fish and nuts and seeds and greens.”
Washburn is a certified specialist in Oncology Nutrition and manages the nutrition program at the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center. www.ridleytreecc.org/cancer-center/care-treatment/medical-services/medical-service/details/oncology-nutrition
“We should be eating two to five cups of vegetables a day, non-starchy vegetables,” Washburn said. “Really wonderful greens and cauliflower and brussel sprouts and broccoli and those kinds of foods. All of those compounds in those foods have an effect on the immune system that may impact how we respond if we get this virus.”
Doctor Winner adds you’ll want to avoid smoking and get regular exercise to keep your heart and lungs in shape, which may not be as taxing as you think.
“You don’t have to run a marathon to get adequate exercise,” Winner said. “Taking a 15-20 minute walk a day is great for you. Again as long as you socially distance, then that’s perfect.”
Of course your own doctor knows what’s best for you. Doctor Winner says listen to their advice, follow the plan, and don’t be afraid to check in with them now.
“We’re all doing tele-medicine visits,” Winner said. “Which you can’t get safer from there. You’re seeing us from the comfort of your own house. So don’t be scared. I think a lot of us have time available. Reach out to us and set up a video visit and try to improve your health as much as you possible can.”
Not everyone has the same access to health care and good nutrition, and people of color are being hit harder by COVID-19. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2021264
Doctor Winner has made a series of free videos that can help. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNFQvgd3RVc&list=PLsLuG3b09LDCnEAMxB28SxF5zGsOlfieU
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