Your Health Checkup: Keeping Yourself Healthy in These Trying Times

As we struggle to cope with political, social, and environmental upheavals, it can be a challenge to maintain physical and mental well-being. Dr. Zipes offers advice for how to keep calm and carry on.

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“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. 

Order Dr. Zipes’ new book, Bear’s Promise, and check out his website www.dougzipes.us.

Charles Dickens wrote in A Tale of Two Cities, an 1859 historical novel about the violent turmoil of the French Revolution, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” The words ring true today as we struggle to cope with political, social, and environmental upheavals.

Socialize Safely

The lack of socialization has been difficult, especially for the very young and very old and those without a partner. It is important to remain as connected as possible with family and friends via networking and social media, and gathering at safe distances. Caring for a dog or cat can work wonders to relieve feelings of loneliness and depression, as can keeping a routine of getting dressed each day, performing chores, and remaining busy at work and play, exercising, and being outdoors where possible.

Exercise

My own schedule is to bike each morning, perform at least thirty minutes of fitness exercising at home (check online suggestions and instructions on how to do this), grocery shop remotely, and prepare and cook dinner. I also continue to work on my heart journals, textbooks, novels, and this column. While your own activities will be quite different, regardless of what you do, it is imperative to set goals and have things to accomplish and look forward to doing each day so as to remain physically and mentally healthy.

Get Enough Sleep

A sufficient amount of quality sleep is often overlooked as critical to a healthy lifestyle. Sleep hygiene requires a regular pattern of retiring and waking, avoiding certain foods and caffeinated beverages late in the day, having thirty minutes or so of quiet time — maybe reading a book — before bedtime. Also, some information suggests that the COVID infection may upset the body’s regulation of melatonin, a hormone important for sleep. Taking a melatonin supplement may be helpful for some.

Take Vitamin D

And while I’m talking about dietary supplements — a topic I don’t usually champion — remember that low vitamin D levels have been associated with worse COVID outcomes, including increased mortality. While no data exist to prove that vitamin D supplements will prevent COVID infection, it does seem reasonable to take 1000 or 2000 units of vitamin D3 daily, assuming you have no contraindications. I am taking it until I become vaccinated.

Don’t Fall into Bad Habits

Avoid binging on…you name it: TV, food, booze, inactivity, whatever. Try to keep to a regular schedule as you did pre-COVID days. Fill your hours with reading some wonderful books: Educated, Rules of Civility, Before We Were Yours, Becoming, Beneath A Scarlet Sky, Bear’s Promise, and many others. Revive an old hobby such as photography, music, carpentry, writing, painting, whatever.

In Dickens’s novel, one of the characters says, “I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss…it is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I to go than I have ever known.” The vaccines are here and hopefully will provide that beautiful city and people “rising from this abyss.” Until we have the majority of the population vaccinated — and even after that — remember to wash your hands, keep your distance, wear your mask, stay outdoors, and avoid large groups of people, especially if some are not masked.

Featured image: Introwiz1 / Shutterstock

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