In The News

November 10th, 2017


Fall in New England conjures abundant outdoor romance: Crisp, clean air, the scent of wood and cider and flashy bursts of color in our trees. It inspires activities, such as hiking, apple-picking, horseback riding, camping, zip lining and canoeing. The turning of seasons also ushers in new opportunities to be mindful of our health. In that spirit, we asked four health care providers for advice on how to take care of ourselves and our children during the fall and early winter.

Andrew Torkelson, MD, cardiology
Favorite Autumn Activities: Cycling to, from and around Pleasant Lake
These Seasons Bring: Issues related to overeating and drinking, holiday stress and lack of exercise

"The holidays have particular implications for heart health," says Dr. Torkelson. "People gain weight between Thanksgiving and Christmas because celebrations center on food, but not the most optimum of foods." As a result, Dr. Torkelson sees more cardiac arrhythmias, atrial fibrillations and slight increases in heart disease around the holidays. These conditions can also be enhanced by stress or overindulgence in alcohol. "It's called Holiday Heart," he says. "People get caught up in all the things they have to get done and neglect to take care of themselves. We also tend to be more sedentary during winter."

Dr. Torkelson's tips
* Be mindful of your diet, getting enough exercise and your stress level. Don't overdo it.
* Consider adopting the Mediterranean Diet. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Take time to eat and socialize with good friends.
* Don't smoke.
* Eat grass-fed beefs and avoid processed foods.
* Memorize this: What's good for your heart is good for your brain. Memory and cognition are influenced by heart health.

Sarah Lester, MD, pediatrics
Favorite Autumn Activities: Apple-picking, cross-country races, half-marathons - anything involving her children and running
These Seasons Bring: Viral illnesses (e.g. common cold), sports-related injuries and lice (especially once the weather cools)

The common cold: Always annoying, yet nearly impossible to avoid. "You can't put your kid in a bubble," says Dr. Lester, laughing. "There's only so much you can do about viral illnesses." Dr. Lester advises parents to make sure their children consistently wash their hands and, if a cold is already in play, to "cough into their elbows" to avoid spreading germs to hands.

"When it comes to lice, there's nothing magical about winter," says Dr. Lester. However, parasites huddle together in chilly weather, making cold weather caps the perfect place to hide. So sharing caps should be avoided, especially this time of year.

Dr. Lester's tips
* Wash hands to avoid contracting or spreading germs.
* Condition muscles and tendons before substantial physical exertion, especially if you've taken time off from exercise over the summer.
* Don't keep injuries or areas of concern from coaches or trainers.
* To avoid the spread of lice, don't share hats and keep hair well-trimmed or tied back.

Lin Brown, MD, rheumatology
Favorite Autumn Activities: Hiking, kayaking, yoga retreats, gardening and enjoying the great outdoors
These Seasons Bring: Issues related to joint pain and disease

"While rheumatologic diseases occur anytime of the year," says Dr. Brown, "periods of increased activity can enhance symptoms related to degenerative arthritis or osteoarthritis, and excess weight can place stress on any joint condition." In fact, Dr. Brown continues, obesity is the biggest risk factor for osteoarthritis, which is all the more reason to be diet- and nutrition-conscious with the onset of the holidays.

Moreover, outdoor enthusiasts are more susceptible to Lyme disease, which is shown to have significant correlative relationships to arthritis. Health-conscious outdoorsmen and women would do well to heed Dr. Brown's advice.

Dr. Brown's tips
* Before hiking, apply a tick deterrent like DEET on your skin, or pyrethrum to your clothes. After hiking, check for ticks on body and in hair.
* Avoid overeating or eating excessively fatty foods.
* Don't smoke.
* Condition muscles for strength and to prevent unnecessary falls.
* Be particularly careful with previously injured joints, as they're more vulnerable to osteoarthritis.
* Use sunscreen, especially if you're taking medication that can increase sensitivity to sun exposure.

Richard "Pete" Peterson, P-AC, orthopaedics
Favorite Autumn Activities: Hiking, horseback riding, kayaking and rugby
These Seasons Bring: Musculoskeletal injuries occurring from sports, yard work, house maintenance and other activities

Ankles, knees, feet. Shoulders, clavicles, hands. Rotator cuffs? Sure. If it's a part of the body and it moves, chances are Pete sees injuries relating to it at Newport Health Center. This is the season for outdoor sports and recreation, raising the likelihood of musculoskeletal strains. Thankfully, Pete has shared tips to protect our bodies from unnecessary discomfort while engaging in these activities.

Pete Peterson's tips
* Increase strength, flexibility and balance with basic muscle conditioning exercises.
* Wear protective, activity-appropriate gear and footwear.
* Hike safely by checking and re-checking weather and by informing friends or family of your specific plans. * Don't overdo it.
* Practice mindfulness and safety when using ladders, tools and other home improvement items. Ask for help when needed.

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