While we’re well into 2020 already, it’s not difficult not to notice the news surrounding us. It’s even more difficult to ignore. Most of us are living in a time without social interaction, fresh air, and more. However, this may be easier said than done. With the start of the year, I already see people with higher stress levels, those who find themselves with more responsibilities at work and in the family. With having to be productive all the time, health is usually an afterthought rather than a priority. This results in low energy, irregular sleep, irregular diets, and lacking vitamins as well. With that, you just feel run down, and it becomes a vicious cycle of bad diet, stress, and low energy. Many turn to things like caffeine and energy drinks to keep themselves going. But these hardly fill that need for nutrition or hydration that you actually need. We spoke to Dr. Ajala Ngarndi, ER physician with The I.V., who gave us 9 tips for maintaining your health while social distancing.
9 Tips For Maintaining Your Health While Social Distancing
1) Keeping your hydration level up
Two-thirds of our body is composed of water. Every cell in our body needs high amounts of water to function properly. So when you fully hydrate, every cell in your body is affected by that. With a lack of water, your body isn’t going to work at its optimal potential. Water is essential to every organ system in our bodies. You might experience dehydration in the form of fatigue, lightheadedness, body aches, and dry skin. Keeping track of how often you urinate and the color of your urine (pale yellow color) can tell you if your hydration is good enough. We should drink eight glasses of water per day, where each glass should be about eight ounces, making it about 64 ounces of water per day. Of course, that number will go up depending on how active you are and how hot the climate is. Overall, 64 ounces is a good rule of thumb to keep track in the back of your mind.
2) Eating foods rich in antioxidants
Due to the environment that we live in, environmental toxins interact with our bodies. This creates something called ‘free radicals’. Free radicals are unstable atoms that can damage cells, causing illness and aging. Foods high in antioxidants carry the antidote to neutralize these free radicals so they don’t go around continuing to damage our cells and your cells are able to rejuvenate. Most fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants. For example, blueberries, citrus fruits, and kale contain high amounts of antioxidants. Dark chocolate, green tea, garlic, and turmeric are also foods that are excellent sources of antioxidants. And of course, you want to make sure they’re organic and non-genetically modified your ensure you are consuming whole foods with optimum nutrition and limited pesticides and preservatives.
3) Exercising at least three times a week
We generally have sedentary lifestyles. Many of us sit during our work commutes and while at our jobs for 8 or more hours a day. Combine this with consuming processed food, and it can easily lead to weight gain. Aside from aesthetics, weight gain also puts you at higher risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. With exercising, you’re able to keep a healthy balanced weight, decreasing your risk for hypertension and diabetes, which are the leading causes of heart disease – the number one cause of death in America. Even just a ten-pound weight loss can significantly improve your health for the better. Exercise also helps release stress. When engaging in physical activity, your body actually releases endorphins, which are hormones that help fight stress and pain. So, you get that natural boost from exercising regularly, which will help with your mental health as well. Aerobic exercises, like running, walking, and swimming is great ways to keep yourself in shape. Anyone regardless of their fitness level should engage in some kind of physical activity that will increase their heart rate for at least 30 minutes three times a week.
4) Aiming for 8 hours of sleep each night
Sleep is rest for your body and mind. It’s important to give your body rest and your brain time to just rejuvenate and recuperate. Getting eight hours of continuous, uninterrupted sleep is highly recommended. Our body goes through various sleep cycles each night, and in order to feel fully rested, we should aim to go through all. For example, REM (rapid eye movements) sleep is important to your sleep cycle, because it stimulates the areas of your brain that are essential for learning and retaining memories. The first REM sleep cycle typically comes 90 minutes into sleep and experiencing it smoothly ensures that you function better the next day, with decreased fatigue and increased mental sharpness and awareness.
5) Sanitizing and handwashing frequently
With the gamut of viruses spreading around, it is a good habit to wash your hands each time you come back from a public place. Viruses can live on surfaces for hours, so touching any doorknobs, handles, or shared appliances can expose you to them. You don’t know when that surface was last cleaned. But also be mindful of when you cough or sneeze. To prevent the spread of anything that could harm your health, wash your hands frequently and arm yourself with a sanitizer.
6) Identifying processed foods and eliminating them from your diet
Processed food has had a series of mechanical or chemical operations performed on it to change or preserve it. Many contain high levels of salt, sugar, and fat. Also, while processing, oftentimes a lot of the nutrition is stripped from that food during the packaging, targeting a long shelf life. So, it’s a good idea to avoid them in your diet. To identify them, you can start with any packaged or ready-to-eat preparations. Foods like frozen dinners, deli meat and cake mixes are a few examples. Anything that is packaged should make you suspicious about how it’s processed. Reading the ingredients also gives you a good idea. If you see a bunch of words that you can’t understand, it’s likely chemicals and preservatives. Eating them means you are essentially putting chemicals into your body, which can invite free radicals in. Of course, one can never go wrong by betting on fresh fruits and vegetables (but these should always be well washed!).
7) Getting an annual medical check-up
Being unaware of any potential health problems can later lead to more severe problems.According to the CDC, approximately 88 million American adults have prediabetes. That means more than 1 in 3 American adults. Of those with prediabetes, more than 80% don’t know they have it. Prediabetes puts you at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Health problems like diabetes and high blood pressure are diseases that you don’t feel until they are really uncontrolled and difficult to manage. So early detection is extremely important. Moreover, prevention is always key. With an annual checkup, your doctor can do an assessment, send some bloodwork, and try to spot potential problems before they even arise. For example, getting an A1C hemoglobin test can identify early signs of prediabetes. Doctors can also look for any nutritional gaps as well, which could be affecting your energy levels and how your body is performing. No matter what age you are, getting a health checkup once a year can only benefit you. It’s always good to know what’s going on inside of your body and to cultivate the habit to take a proactive approach to your wellbeing.
Moderate drinking, although is good for the heart, as many people already know, can also increase the risk of cancer. The Siteman Cancer Center says, “If you don’t drink, don’t feel that you need to start. If you already drink moderately (less than one drink a day for women, less than two drinks a day for men), there’s probably no reason to stop. People who drink more, though, should cut back.
9) Get Some Light In Your Life
The health benefits of natural light do so, so much for your health. When we’re exposed to sunlight, the skin absorbs vitamin D, a critical nutrient that prevents bone loss and reduces the risk of heart disease, weight gain, and various cancers. For many people, winter wreaks havoc on our moods. Getting as much natural light as possible can help keep these mood changes at bay. For about 6 percent of the population, fall kicks off a time of serious depression known as seasonal affective disorder (aka major depressive disorder with seasonal patterns). Healthline says, “Last but not least, since mental health and sleep often go hand in hand, it’s not surprising that natural light affects both. A small 2014 study of office workers revealed that the more natural light exposure they received, the better sleep they experienced.”