“Your Health Checkup” is our online column by Dr. Douglas Zipes, an internationally acclaimed cardiologist, professor, author, inventor, and authority on pacing and electrophysiology. Dr. Zipes is also a contributor to The Saturday Evening Post print magazine. Subscribe to receive thoughtful articles, new fiction, health and wellness advice, and gems from our archive.
As COVID-19 continues to plague the world, it’s important to keep yourself apprised of new information that could make a difference in your life. Here are a few COVID-19-related items that could affect your health.
Vitamin D supplements can help protect against contracting acute respiratory tract infections. A recent study found that vitamin D deficiency on admission to the hospital was associated with a 3.7-fold increase in the odds of dying from COVID-19. Nearly 60 percent of patients with COVID-19 were vitamin D deficient upon hospitalization, with men in the advanced stages of COVID-19 pneumonia showing the greatest deficit. Whether vitamin D will prevent COVID-19 infections is being tested in multiple prospective studies. However, since it is well tolerated, taking vitamin D3 (1000-2000 units/day) as a prophylactic precaution during this pandemic seems like a reasonable idea. Check with your health care provider for further information.
Sleep is critically important for good health. More than a third of American adults fail to get the necessary amount of sleep on a regular basis — at least seven hours each night — to promote optimal health and well-being, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. A recent study analyzed the sleep patterns of almost 2,000 participants who were followed for almost five years. The researchers found that inconsistent sleep patterns, including sleep duration and timing, were risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), independent of traditional CVD risk factors and sleep quantity and/or quality. Participants with more than a 90-minute difference of sleep time on average across seven nights had more than a two-fold increased risk of CVD compared with people who had the most regular sleep time.
One factor that may affect how well you sleep is what you eat. A large meal high in sugar, saturated fat and processed carbohydrates can disrupt your sleep, while eating more plants, fiber, and foods rich in unsaturated fat — the typical Mediterranean diet containing nuts, olive oil, fish and avocados — may help promote sound sleep. In this study, greater insomnia severity was associated with greater food intake and lower quality diet.
Hand Sanitizer Poisonings
We are all consumed by the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve bought hand sanitizers to the point of decimation. One unintended consequence has been the dramatic increase in episodes of poisoning from ingesting the alcohol-based hand sanitizers. The National Poison Data System presented data showing 32,892 hand sanitizer exposure cases were reported to the 55 U.S. poison control centers from Jan. 1 to Nov. 15, 2020. This represents an increase of 73 percent, compared with the same time period during the previous year. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers come in the form of liquids, gels or foams that contain 60–95 percent ethyl alcohol (ethanol) or 70–95 percent isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol). Used to disinfect hands, they are toxic, even lethal, when ingested. Children, elderly with dementia or confusion, and those with mental health issues are particularly vulnerable to intentional or unintentional ingestion. The hand sanitizers should be treated as other household toxins and not left in places where they can be easily accessed.
One final comment. When offered, as long as you are not allergic, take the vaccine against COVID-19. The FDA has determined that it is safe and effective. The Pfizer vaccine is 95 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 infection. We need to vaccinate 70–80 percent of all Americans to achieve a herd immunity effect and end this pandemic. I anticipate rolling up my sleeve at the first opportunity.
Featured image: Orpheus FX / Shutterstock
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