Fitbit reports that it has almost 10 million paid active users, but there seems to be no evidence these devices raise activity levels enough to improve health.
There have been many marketing promises for wearable activity monitors, telling us how much we are moving and how many calories we have burned during the day, might help some people to drop pounds. Those promises were based on studies that were small scale and short term, so it was still unclear how much activity monitors actually did help with weight loss.
People seemed to abandon the devices because they didn’t glean any new information. If you’re inactive, you know it. And so the last thing you want is to see it announced on a screen.
Although the research studies seem to conclude that devices that monitor and provide feedback on physical activity may not offer an advantage over standard behavioral weight loss approaches, Dr. Saggar doesn’t think that means we should stop using them.
You don’t get more fit by just owning a treadmill or pair of running shoes, or by signing up for gym membership; you have to actually use these things.
It’s Dr. Saggar’s suspicion that the Fitbit is actually a very good idea, because it focuses our minds on the goals we want to achieve, but if we don’t use the device, or if we just quit, then it might actually be worse than not having one at all, and that’s what this research is demonstrating.
Bodyweight exercises are gaining ground in the fitness world due to the practicality and simplicity of getting in shape using your own body weight.
Planks are one form of bodyweight exercises that will probably never go out of fashion.
KPLR’s ‘Doctor Is In’, Dr. Sonny Saggar, is here to talk about this simple exercise that’s quick, free and simple, if not always easy.
2. What’s the main benefit of doing planks?
Your abdominal muscles provide support for your trunk and upper body, just like your back and spinal column do.
I like to think of the abdominal muscles like a ‘front spine’ which, unlike your real spine (made of bone and already strong and tough), needs to be constantly hardened and tempered!
So the stronger your abdominal wall muscles, in your core, the less likely you’ll experience back pain and back injuries, because you’re SHARING THE LOAD between the abdominal muscles and the back.
Doing plank exercises every day is a great way to strengthen your core, and in doing so, help support your spine.
1. Specifically which muscles are helped by doing planks, and what do these muscles do?Planks engage all major core muscle groups including the transverse abdominus, the rectus abdominus, the external oblique muscle, and the glutes.
All of these groups serve their own purpose.
If you strengthen these muscle groups you will notice:
2. Is it safe to do planks?Yes they’re safe. Planks allow you to build muscle while making sure that you are not putting too much pressure on your spine or hips.
According to the American Council on Exercise, doing planks regularly not only significantly reduces and prevents back pain but it also strengthens your muscles and ensures a strong support for your entire back, especially in the areas around your upper back.
3. Doing planks aren’t exactly cardio, are they?Actually, planks will burn more calories than other traditional abdominal exercises, such as crunches or sit-ups!
The muscles you strengthen by doing this exercise on a daily basis will ensure that you burn more energy even when you’re not doing anything!
This is especially important if you are spending the majority of your day sitting in front of a computer.
Also, making it a daily 10- to 1 minute home exercise before or after work will not only provide an enhanced metabolic rate but it will also ensure that that metabolic rate remains high all day long, (yes, even while you’re asleep).
4. Do planks improve your posture?Doing planks greatly improves your ability to stand with straight and stable posture. Through strengthening your core you will be able to maintain proper posture at all times because muscles in the abdomen have a profound effect on the overall condition of your neck, shoulders, chest and back.
5. What about balance?If you can’t stand on one leg for more than a couple of seconds, it’s because your abdominal muscles aren’t strong enough to give you the balance you need.
Side planks and planks with extensions will boost your balancing skill.
6. And flexibility?
Flexibility is a key benefit of doing planks regularly, for this form of exercise expands and stretches all your posterior muscle groups – shoulders, shoulder blades, and collarbone – while also stretching your hamstrings, arches of your feet, and toes.
With a side plank added into the mix, you can also work on your oblique muscles. This will provide you with further benefits when it comes to hyper-extending your toes, a movement that is crucial for supporting your body’s weight.
7. Any other benefits of planking?Plank exercises have a particular effect on our minds, making them an excellent means of improving overall mood.
Well, they stretch out muscle groups that contribute to stress and tension in the body. Just think about it: you are sitting in your chair, at home or at work, all day long; your thigh muscles get tight, your legs get heavy due to being bent for several hours; and tension develops in your shoulders due to being forced to slump forward all day. These are all circumstances that put too stress on the muscles and nerves.
The good news is that planks not only calm your brain, but they can also treat anxiety and symptoms of depression– but only if you make it part of your daily routine.
Now, the last thing left to do is to give you a sample plank exercise you can do to achieve great results in only 5-10 minutes a day.
Here is a great infographic that shows some of the best plank exercises to evenly target all abdominal muscle groups:
Are you ready to devote 5-10 minutes of your day, every day, to stay fit, healthy and, most importantly, strong as a bull? Then jump in and make doing plank exercises a part of your life.
Here’s a 30 day ‘plank challenge’ for my family, friends and patients:
Complete a front & side plank (both sides) every day for the time specified on the calendar.
1. Start in a pushup position and then slowly lower your forearms to the ground
2. Ensure that your elbows are lined up under your shoulders.
3. Keep your abs & glutes tight and lifted.
4. Do NOT let your hips sag. Do NOT arch your back.
5. Keep a neutral neck and spine
“Dr. Saggar is an emergency and urgent care physician, and he’s also an internist.
You can reach him at STLHealthWorks.com or STLPrimaryCare.COM, or
Twitter @DoctorIsInSTL | Facebook: DoctorIsInSTL | Blog: DoctorIsInSTL.com”
Hospital based Urgent Care Facility Fees – How to be an educated healthcare consumer, especially if you have a high deductible.
Urgent Care Facility Fees & Overtesting – how to be an educated healthcare consumerAll urgent cares do not charge the same, especially those that are affiliated with hospitals. While STLHealthworks.com does not charge expensive facility fees, most other centers, especially hospital-owned urgent care centers, do. Hospitals run about 26 percent of urgent care centers nationwide. Patients of some of these hospital-owned centers are often surprised when they get their bill and see that they were billed as an ER visit or charged a facility fee.
Overtesting & Overtreatment
Worse, many urgent cares will try to use the expensive equipment and resources they own. If they own an ER, they'll try to transfer you there "because it's safer". If they own a CT scanner or ultrasound machine, they'll try to use it on you "just to be sure". Your headache, sore throat, bladder infection, laceration and abdominal pain will typically not require such expensive testing, according to evidence based medicine. What's the harm to the patient of overtesting? Three things: 1. Higher Cost 2. Harmful Radiation 3. More worry.
What exactly is a “facility fee”?
A facility fee is a charged to the patient by the hospital in addition to the professional fee. For example, if you see a doctor at a hospital’s urgent care for bronchitis, you expect to pay the 'professional fee' bill, which is for the person who attended your case, such as the Doctor or Nurse Practitioner at a private urgent care center. However, hospitals will also charge another separate fee. This is known as a 'facility fee'. In urgent care medicine, these facility fees typically average -' additional $200. This fee is in addition to the professional fee part of your bill.
Patients are waking up to this, and have begun to fight facility fees, and some state legislators have proposed bans. Unfortunately, none have become law yet because of the powerful 'non-profit' hospital lobby. These fees routinely add hundreds of dollars to a patient’s bill. This adds out-of-pocket costs for those who have an increasingly common, high-deductible insurance plan, which may require a patient to pay $2,500 or more toward her medical bills before the coverage kicks in.
What can you do about it?
Determine if the urgent care center you are considering utilizing is owned by a hospital. Then, call and ask if they charge a facility fee in addition to the professional fee. Also, you should ask if they own a CT scanner onsite. You can check their website, but the information may not be there. If the receptionist is unsure, ask to be connected to their billing office.
What if you have a high deductible?
If you or your family has a high deductible (over $1,000) but are frequent visitors to the urgent care or primary care office, then you've probably noticed that your monthly premium is just the beginning, rather than the end of your medical bills.
That's why we recommend DirectYourCare.com to our high deductible patients. With this program, you proudly keep your highest deductible lowest premium (aka catastrophic) insurance policy, but you put a cap on other out-of-pocket costs, at around $59/month, no matter how complex the visit, but this is only for primary care and urgent care visits.
In summary, be informed about professional fees, facility fees, overtesting (such as with CT scans and ER transfers), and look at other solutions for your high deductible.
Do your Advanced Practice Providers choose the red pill or the blue pill?
In the current competitive business climate, aren't non-competes even more necessary?
That all depends on what kind of employees you want. Non-competes actually suppresses nurse practitioner and physician assistant motivation and creativity.
A non-compete tends to be counterproductive on different levels. Do you want to have APPs that would like to leave... but don't because of a non-compete? Do you want APPs who are immediately demotivated because they feel their human capital is not their own?
Which urgent care would you rather work for: the one that puts tremendous effort into placing legal and contractual stakes in the ground, or the clinic that puts tremendous effort into trying to be your employer of choice
Isn't it true that the APPs who don't want to sign non-competes tend to be the ones you want most? They're aggressive, motivated, have lots of ideas. The APPs who willingly sign are the people you don't want.
When a clinic or hospital demands non-competes, that employer create self-selection and a market for lemons: the people who unthinkingly sign a non-compete may feel they don't have the skills to get another job or take off on their own. Every employer wants employees who are self motivated, who have confidence, and who have aspirations.
Why put up artificial barriers that make it harder to attract great APPs, or indeed any other employees?
APPswant to develop their careers--maybe work for an urgent care system or hospital for a few years then become entrepreneurs, perhaps starting their own clinics.
Freedom creates more incentive to for APPs to connect, be visible, network, and develop themselves both within and outside the company--all of which benefits their employer.
Perhaps the only thing worse than forcing people to sign non-compete agreements is how hospitals and other big employers attempt to enforce that agreement when they leave.
If employees really want to leave, they'll leave. So then what do you do about it?
Some companies engage in irrational and counterproductive threats and even litigation. Say you can actually get a non-compete enforced; do you really want to develop the reputation as a clinic system that sues ex-employees? That sends the wrong message to current employees and to the talent you want to recruit.
So you just let your nurse practitioners go when some big hospital offers them a job, after all the time and training you gave them?
It's not like you have a choice. So rather than developing the reputation for being upset when employees leave, focus on the positives.
Really great people will leave your clinic all the time. It's fine. They need to find themselves. Instead of seeing this as someone who left to become a competitor, we see them as alumni, now working for a new customer of ours.
This mobility is a way to seed STLHealthWorks.com into other places. Even our competitors can quickly become collaborators and partners.
The Glass is ALWAYS Half Full
At STLHealthWorks.com, we run on multiple slogans:
Always treat every patient like you would your own family.
The patients don't come first - the employees do. Happy employees are the best way to get the best patient outcomes.
It will all turn out ok - just watch.
If you love somebody, set them free. When they return (and they will return), welcome them back with hugs!
Everybody wants to live a life of security, safety and perceived comfort. That's why, when one of our APPs leaves to go work for Mercy, BJC or SSM, we totally get it. They want to have the comfort of working for 'the big employer' which has billions of dollars. If that's what's important to the employee, then that's what they should do. No harm - no foul. If the employee wants the comfort and security of working for the big box, that's totally cool. They were meant to go. If however, the employee wants the excitement and adventure of working as part of the team of a growing company, then they stay. If they want autonomy, they stay. If they don't believe in non-competes or 25 cent annual raises, they stay. If they want the blue bill, and it's totally fine if they do, then they leave. If they want the red pill, with the authenticity of free will and being in control of their own lives, then they stay.
Since I was a teenager in London, encouraged by my father as well as the James Bond 'Scottish Shower' idea, I started taking these ice-cold showers every day. It was a bit like the swallowing raw eggs in a cup thing every morning (like all tough guys did in the 70's and 80's). The latter habit didn't last (too nauseating), but I did continue with the cold shower thing until I got married just over 11 years ago. Taking such a shower proved to be quite invigorating and it 'felt healthy', not just during but especially when I got out! As I recently started this practice once again, I thought I’d share with my readers and my patients, so they too can find a New Year’s resolution that will enhance health, without hormones, drugs or other such nonsense that you can see so many people throwing around these days.
In ancient times, hot water was a luxury. People had to live near a hot springs in order to enjoy the comfort of a hot bath, so for most of human history people bathed in cold water. The Spartans, hard-asses that they were, felt hot water was for the weak and timid. When they did take baths (which was, like, once a year) they used only cold water because they thought it tempered the body and made it vigorous for ass kicking I guess.
Many cultures incorporated a cold water dousing into their religious ceremonies. Some Native American tribes would alternate between sitting in a sweat lodge and jumping into an icy river or snow bank. Ancient Russians also took frequent plunges into ice cold rivers for health and spiritual cleansing. Japanese practitioners of Shinto, both in ancient and modern times, would stand under an icy waterfall as part of a ritual known as Misogi, which was believed to cleanse the spirit.
While most other doctors (unlike me of course) may no longer instruct their patients to take a cold shower or bath, and call them in the morning, a shot of cold water can still impart real health benefits:
1. It improves circulation.
Good blood circulation is vital for overall cardiovascular health. Healthy blood circulation also speeds up recovery time from strenuous exercises and work. Cold water causes your blood to move to your organs to keep them warm. Warm water reverses the effect by causing the blood to move towards the surface of the skin. Cold shower proponents argue that stimulating the circulatory system in this way keeps them healthier and younger looking than their hot water-loving counterparts.
2. It’s an anti-depressant.
Depression is yet another thing that cold showers help and prevent. It is caused by the stimulating effect the cold has on the brains "blue spot", the main source of noradrenaline for our bodies, a chemical that might be used to help alleviate depression. You will notice that after having a cold shower, you will feel very happy - sometimes referred to as euphoria. This feeling can be compared to the happiness you feel after exercise because of the endorphin released.
Every morning, after I take a shower with cold water, I leave feeling invigorated and energized. Your heart starts pumping, and the rush of blood through your body helps shake off the lethargy of the previous night’s sleep. For me, the spike in energy lasts several hours. It’s almost like drinking a can of Diet Mountain Dew, minus the aspartame. And while it hasn’t been studied, many people swear that cold showers are a surefire stress reducer. I’m a believer. I bet if you asked the people I work with, they’ll tell you that my energy levels lead them to suspect that I drink a gallon of coffee every morning. I never drink coffee :)
3. It accentuates one’s breathing.What you will notice as an effect of cold showers, especially when you first start, is that you begin inhaling very deeply, while asking yourself if you’re totally out of your mind. This is to try and combat the stress of the shock, the vasoconstriction and the overall need for oxygen to respire and keep yourself warm. I won’t delve into the benefits of something called Pranayama, but the principle is similar: regulation of breathing optimizes organ efficiency.
4. It helps you sleep.
Another great reason to start having cold showers is that for some reason or another, it aids sleeping. Insomniacs are sometimes advised to try this - the physical stress and shock of a cold shower before bedtime really helps you to calm down after the exhilarating feeling of being extra alive under the water. This actually works with hot showers too, but it’s even stronger with cold ones!
5. It augments your immunity.
The most established benefit of cold showers is that overall, they simply increase your chances of fighting off disease and infection. Several studies have suggested that people who take regular cold showers have less chance of getting:
Taking cold showers has been shown to help normalize a healthy human temperature, regulating the amount of sweat you produce in doing so. As a result of the increased brown fat levels, blood pressure and body temperature, chemical reactions in your body will happen faster (heightened metabolism) than they would have without regular cold showers. An increased metabolism is what a lot of people seek out because it means that any process in the body will become more efficient. This also means more weight loss because more calories are being burned to supply energy for more reactions. It also means faster growth/repair of muscles and other cells so any exercise you do will result in better results leaving a fitter, leaner body.
This process opens up the lungs much like strenuous physical exercise does and results in a higher average intake of oxygen, which is good for many things like not feeling tired during the day and doing better at sport or other exercises.
7. It keeps one’s skin and hair healthy.
Hot water dries out skin and hair. If you want to avoid an irritating itch and ashy elbows, turn down the temperature of your showers. In fact, itch receptors don’t even work in the cold, as I tell my patients who have had any kind of allergic reaction. Also, cold water can make your skin look healthier by closing up your cuticles and pores.
8. Potency & Fertility.
Cold showers appear to increase testosterone. During the 19th century, many doctors and ministers recommended that young men take baths in cold water to reduce the sin of “self-pollution”. Cold water was thought to extinguish a man’s flaming carnal desires. How wrong they were! The same study by the Thrombosis Research Institute cited above showed that cold water showers actually increase testosterone production in men. Increased testosterone levels not only boost a man’s libido, but also his overall strength and energy level. If you’re looking to increase your testosterone, instead of hormone supplements (which seem to be the latest fad gripping the nation these days), hop into a cold shower.
Trying to become a dad? Cold showers are good for your little swimmers. Your testes aren’t meant to get too hot; that’s why they hang outside your body. Sperm counts decrease when the temperature of a man’s testes increases. Experiments done in the 1950's showed that hot baths were an effective contraceptive. Men who took a 30 minute hot bath every other day for 3 weeks were infertile for the next six months. Perhaps this also explains why sperm counts drop when a country gets more running hot water.
9. Weight Loss
Brown fat, as opposed to white fat is heavily involved in burning energy. Exposure to cold naturally stimulates the production of these brown fats. These cells burn glucose (the calories you eat and the white fat that you store) to try and produces as much heat energy as possible. Having a higher amount of brown fat leads to more energy being burned per second and therefore, more weight is lost. Brown fat:
10. It improves our lymphatic system.
Unlike blood vessels, the lymphatic system does not contain blood. Instead it has lymph, which carries away waste products and white blood cells which handle infection. Also different from blood vessels is that the heart does not pump lymph around the body like it does the blood.
The lymph relies on the contraction of muscles. This contraction squeezes the lymph up to the thoracic duct so that the lymph can mix with the blood and then be dealt with by our organs.
Cold showers cause whole-body contraction and this works excellently with the lymph system, squeezing the fluid up through the body. If the lymphatic system is compromised and inefficient, then the fluid pools at far away places (usually the feet). This results in what is known as lymphedema (type of edema). The pooling of lymph can result in serious health detriments. Another result of the whole body contraction is that it results in the squeezing of toxins and waste products out of the skin. This means that they do not stay inside the body and cause infection or put extra strain on the organs responsible for breaking them down into manageable pieces. This detoxification can make you feel better and more 'fresh'. It also has a good effect on the skin which appears cleaner and younger.
Before Getting Started with Cold Water Showers
If you’ve spent most of your life taking hot showers, suddenly turning the dial in the other direction can be a big shock to the system. I took a break from the James Bond Showers for over 10 years. When I recently decided to get started again with them, my heart almost jumped out of my chest, and I nearly passed out from hyperventilation when the cold water hit my body.
So don’t try this at home (or anywhere else for that matter), if you’re not in awesome health to start with. Getting into the ‘Scottish Shower’ thing might be too much, too soon if you have the following, amongst other conditions:
Just like initiating a work-out program, it’s often a good idea to see your healthcare provider (physician or nurse practitioner) to give you a clean bill of health, before you start the ‘craziness’. So give me a call! How to start if you’re healthy enough:
If you decide to start taking cold showers, slowly adjusting the temperature is best advised.
1. Start off with the warm water (if you’re new at this)
2. Wash your hair with some Pinaud Elixir shampoo, just like 007.
3. When you’re ready to rinse, just turn it down to cold. Spend a few minutes under the cold water, meditating about a lost love or on how awesome your life is.
However, many people (myself included) decide to "throw themselves in at the deep end" of cold showering and start by simply throwing themselves under as cold water as they can get their hands on! This is of course a much quicker way of reaping the health benefits of cold exposure but carries the downfall of much more discomfort and risk to your health. For those with potentially weak hearts, the gradual 'easing' method is strongly advised.
And don’t forget to Save The Planet, like James Bond would do.
Perhaps not a direct health benefit, but taking cold showers also means using no energy whilst washing yourself - which means less CO2 and other greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere. This results in less global warming and a lower electricity bill! So, if for no other reason, promote a healthier planet by taking a cold shower.
After about a week of getting into these cold showers, you will find yourself dreading the shower, which you know is good for you but..... man it’s cold and uncomfortable etc etc, and other such whining. Just don’t quit. Do it solidly for just 30 days, and your early hesitations will transform into enthusiasm. Yes, it’ll make you into a part-crazy-person (compared with all your weak-willed hot-showering peers), but at least you’ll be a happy and healthy, crazy person! Like anything worth doing in life, it’s tough at first, even off-putting (irritating, annoying, insert blistering negative adjective here), but just a sprinkle of perseverance and tenacity, and you will become a winner before you know it. No drug company is going to promote cold showers. Think about it.
It’s a commonly held belief that as we age, our minds and bodies decline—and life inevitably becomes less satisfying and enjoyable.
Many also believe that as we get older, we become less productive at work.
It seems that these beliefs are wrong! KPLR’s ‘Doctor Is In’, Dr. Sonny Saggar, is here to explain why it’s not so bad getting old...
I hear many people, typically around my age (47) or older, saying things like: "I'm too old to make a difference, take a leap, change the game..."
Sometimes, I even hear this from people as young as 30, and it’s just pathetic. Yes, I know this makes me sound old, but seriously, young people these days…...
People believe that the odds are stacked against them, so there’s no need to even imagine the failure that effort will bring. They just decide it’s better to move along and lower their expectations.
What I believe, and what the research shows is that we can, and we must, contribute to society as we get older.
Contrary to the stereotype of later life as a time of loneliness, depression and decline, a growing body of scientific research shows that, in many ways, life gets better as we get older.
As we get older, friendships, creativity and satisfaction with life can actually flourish.
A growing body of evidence indicates that our moods and overall sense of well-being improve with age. Friendships tend to grow more intimate, too, as older adults prioritize what matters most to them.
Knowledge and certain types of intelligence continue to develop in ways that can even offset age-related decline in the brain’s ability to process new information and reason abstractly.
Expertise deepens, which can enhance productivity and creativity. Some go so far as to say that wisdom—defined, in part, as the ability to resolve conflicts by seeing problems simultaneously from multiple perspectives—flourishes.
Yes of course, growing older has its share of challenges. Some people don’t age as well as others. And especially at advanced ages, chronic conditions including diabetes, hypertension and dementia become increasingly common and can take a toll on mental, as well as physical, health.
But that ‘old person’ stereotype of being “depressed, cranky, irritable and obsessed with their next bowel movement” represents less than 10% of the older population.
Here are some myths about aging:
Myth No. 1: Depression Is More Common in Old AgeResearch indicates that emotional well-being improves until the 70s, when it levels off.
Even centenarians “report overall high levels of well-being,” according to a 2014 study.
As the participants aged, their moods—measured by the ratio of positive to negative emotions—steadily improved.
Contrary to the popular view that youth is the best time of life, the peak of positive emotional life may not occur until well into the sixties.
Older adults have been observed to focus on the positive rather than the negative emotions, memories and stimuli. In contrast to younger adults, older adults presented with an array of happy, sad and angry faces directed their gazes more often toward the happy ones.
Why the focus on the positive? As people age, they tend to prioritize emotional meaning and satisfaction, giving them an incentive to see the good more than the bad. They notice the positive more.
National data back up the findings. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 5.5% of adults age 50 and over said they experienced a major depressive episode in 2012. For those 26 to 49, the rate was 7.6%, and for ages 18 to 25 it was 8.9%.
While rates of depression in nursing homes tend to be high, when we look at ALL older adults, they tend to be happier, less anxious, less angry and tend to adapt well to their circumstances.
Myth No. 2: Cognitive Decline Is InevitableRecent discoveries also indicate that—except in the case of dementia—older adults perform better in the real world than they do on cognitive tests.
Because knowledge and experience increase with age, older adults who are tested in familiar situations show few of the deficits that crop up in laboratory tests.
Younger adults may also have advantages in laboratory tests that have nothing to do with their cognitive skills. For example, because professors often recruit students for their experiments, some younger participants may be more comfortable in a lab than older participants.
Older adults who believe negative stereotypes about aging can also unwittingly undermine their own performance on memory tests.
The good news: Recent experiments show that certain activities appear to enhance cognitive function and perhaps slow age-related cognitive declines. In two studies published earlier this year, the memories of 239 adults ages 60 to 90 were tested, about one-half of whom spent about 16 hours a week over three months learning new skills, including how to quilt, use an iPad and taking digital photographs.
Compared with peers who performed word puzzles or engaged in social activities and other tasks that required no new skills, those learning new skills showed greater improvements in memory, with some also showing improvement in processing speed.
So older adults who learn challenging new skills tap more diffuse brain circuits and pathways to compensate for age-related deficits.
Novelty combined with mental challenge is very important, so get out of your comfort zone and learn new stuff. Learn something new every month if you can.
Some scientists also believe older adults can make wiser decisions.
Myth No. 3: Older Workers Are Less Productive
Workers 55 or older make up 22% of the U.S. labor force, up from 12% in 1992. Thanks in part to stereotypes that portray older workers as less adaptable than their younger colleagues, they are widely assumed to be less productive.
In fact, the vast majority of academic studies shows virtually no relationship between age and job performance.
In jobs that require experience, some studies show that older adults have a performance edge.
Myth No. 4: Loneliness Is More LikelyAs people age, their social circles contract. But that doesn’t mean older adults are lonely.
In fact, several academic studies indicate that friendships tend to improve with age.
Older adults typically report better marriages, more supportive friendships, less conflict with children and siblings and closer ties with members of their social networks than younger adults.
Older adults have “a higher rate of close ties than younger people” and fewer “problematic relationships that cause them distress.”
The findings: Until about age 50, most people add to their social networks. After that, they eliminate people they feel less close to and maximize interactions with “close partners who are more emotionally satisfying”.
Over time, the participants also assigned their networks more positive ratings. “Their loved ones seem to mean more than ever, and that is protective against loneliness”
While this doesn’t mean loneliness isn’t a problem for some older people, research indicates that, on average, older adults are less lonely than young people!
Myth No. 5: Creativity Declines With Age
Creativity has long been seen as the province of the young, but academic studies that date as far back as the 19th century pinpoint midlife as the time when artists and scholars are most prolific.
Creativity tends to peak earlier in fields such as pure mathematics and theoretical physics, where breakthroughs typically hinge on problem-solving skills that are sharpest in one’s 20s.
In fields that require accumulated knowledge, creative peaks typically occur later. Historians and philosophers, for example, “may reach their peak output when they are in their 60s”.
Creative genius clusters into two categories: conceptual artists, who tend to do their best work in their 20s and 30s, and experimental artists, who often need a few more decades to reach full potential.
Conceptual artists work from imagination, an area where the young have an advantage because they tend to be more open to radical new ideas.
Experimental artists improve with experience. They take years to perfect their style and knowledge of their subjects.
Myth No. 6: More Exercise Is BetterWhen it comes to improving health and longevity, regular exercise is key, but a growing number of studies show that more exercise may not always be better.
There is an optimum amount of exercise you should do in a week. Everything, including exercise, should be in moderation.
In one study, those who jog from one to 2.4 hours weekly at 5 to 7 mph and took at least two days off from vigorous exercise per week, had the greatest increase in life expectancy.
Fairly modest doses of running provided benefits as great as a lot of running.
Long-term strenuous endurance exercise may cause “overuse injury” to the heart.
Stick to a moderate cardiovascular workout of between 10 and 30 miles a week or 30 to 60 minutes of vigorous exercise a day, and take at least two days off each week. You don’t need to run a marathon, except to put it on your bucket list. It’s got no proven health benefit, and it might even be bad for the majority of people. That may be one reason why half-marathons are becoming a lot more popular than full ones.
Dr. Saggar, an emergency and urgent care physician, is also an internist. You can reach him via his website at STLHealthWorks.com.
You can also connect with Dr. Saggar, the Director at STLPrimaryCare.com, and ask him any questions you like
via STLPrimaryCare.COM, or
Twitter @DoctorIsInSTL | Facebook: DoctorIsInSTL | Blog: DoctorIsInSTL.com
Why Should Anyone Quit Smoking?The health benefits of quitting start immediately from the moment of smoking cessation. Quitting while you are younger will reduce your health risks more, but quitting at any age can give back years of life that would be lost by continuing to smoke. By quitting — even for one day — smokers will be taking an important step towards a healthier life – one that can lead to reducing cancer risk.
Is smoking still a problem in the US?
Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the US, and yet 42 million Americans still smoke cigarettes — that’s about 1 in every 5 adults. As of 2012, there were also 13.4 million cigar smokers in the US, and 2.3 million who smoke tobacco in pipes — other dangerous and addictive forms of tobacco.
So, you’ve got three days: perhaps you should increase your desire to quit smoking, so that you can quit this Thursday, or definitely before Thanksgiving!
Can you list some of the health benefits of quitting smoking?
- I sometimes hear these words: ‘I never get a flu shot, and I never get the flu.’
O.K. Let’s play that game. What if people said:
Despite the scientific impossibility of getting the flu from the flu vaccines, this widespread flu myth still won’t die. Experts suspect two reasons for its persistence.
1. people mistake the side effects of the vaccine for flu. While side effects to the vaccine these days tend to be a sore arm, in the past, side effects often felt like mild symptoms of the flu.
2. flu season coincides with a time of year when bugs causing colds and other respiratory illnesses are in the air. Many people get the vaccine and then, within a few days, SOME will get sick no matter what, with an unrelated cold virus. Some of these people immediately blame the innocent flu vaccine that they just received a day or a few days earlier, rather than their co-worker with a runny nose and cough. It’s statistically guaranteed that of all the 135 million people in the USA who get the flu shot every year, some are going to get sick anyway, either with the flu that had already infected them before the vaccine was given, or with another virus or bacteria, and then this vocal minority is going to spread the falsehood that “the flu shot gives people the flu”, which is utter nonsense. Most doctors know this. All hospitals know this and that is why 99% of healthcare workers, including medstudents and nursing students, are required to get the flu vaccine if they are to continue employment.
2. Surely getting seasonal flu is just annoying but mostly harmless?
Unfortunately, many think of the flu as a very bad cold, but it’s much worse than that.
In addition to the congestion and cough, you’ll have nasty body aches and fever and you usually feel terrible. You feel like you’ve been hit by a truck.
Aside from the short-term misery and lost workdays, flu can have more serious implications. Although, most people who get the seasonal flu recover just fine, the seasonal flu hospitalizes 200,000 people in the U.S. each year. It kills between 3,000 and 50,000 people each year. That’s close to the number of women killed by breast cancer each year.
3. But isn’t flu only dangerous for the elderly or people with chronic medical conditions?
It’s true that the people most likely to become seriously ill or die from the seasonal flu are aged over age 65, but flu is risky for anyone, even healthy young adults. Some of the most susceptible people to seasonal influenza are young children.
Children under 2 have some of the highest rates of hospitalization from seasonal flu. Children under 6 months are at the most risk from the seasonal flu because their immune system is too undeveloped to properly process the vaccine.
To protect infants from the flu, keep babies away from people who have the flu. Parents and caretakers of infants should get vaccinated, and first time parents are [tellingly] far more willing to get a flu shot than other young healthy people. Perhaps people will do what they know is the right thing more often to protect a loved one, like their own newborn, than they will to protect themselves.
4. What would you say to young and healthy people, who think they don’t need to worry about getting the vaccine?
First of all, we should all get the seasonal flu vaccine. Sure, if you’re in good health, you’ll probably recover from the seasonal flu just fine if you get it. But why suffer through the flu if you can avoid it? Second, protecting yourself isn’t the only reason to get vaccinated.
Healthy adults forget that while they themselves might be at low risk for getting serious flu complications, other people in their family might not. If you have a small child at home, or an older parent, your failure to get yourself vaccinated could endanger them.
And that’s true on a larger, societal level. People with the weakest defenses, like children under 6 months, can’t get the flu vaccine. Their safety depends on the rest of us getting immunized. Let me rephrase that: THE SAFETY OF THOSE AROUND US WHO ARE LESS STRONG, DEPENDS ON THE STRONGEST AMONG US GETTING VACCINATED.
5. How do you respond to those who say vaccines are dangerous?
In recent years, there’s been growing mistrust of vaccines, including the flu vaccine. Some believe that there could be a link between vaccines -- specifically the ingredient thimerosal -- and developmental disorders in children, like autism. However, there is no evidence that vaccines cause autism, and many healthcare professionals feel we’re losing sight of how important vaccines are.
Vaccines are, arguably, the greatest medical advance in history AND IN HOMELAND SECURITY. They’ve prevented more illness and death than any other implemented strategy or protocol.
If you’re still concerned despite the evidence, you should know that there are thimerosal-free flu vaccines available. In fact, every year, manufacturers produce more of this vaccine than people use. If you want your child to get it, just ask your doctor.
The flu vaccine is not out best vaccine for at least three reasons:
(1) every year the immunologists developing the vaccine have to make an educated guess as to which which influenza strains will be circulating 9 months in the future. The better the guess, the better the protection the vaccine should provide. Some years they choose better than others. But often the match between the vaccine and the disease is not optimal, so vaccine efficacy can be decreased. The vaccine works best when there is a good match between the vaccine and circulating strain of influenza.
(2) response to the vaccine is not 100%. The older and those with weaker immunity are the least likely to develop a good antibody response to the vaccine, and yet they need this vaccine the most.
(3) vaccination rates are often suboptimal to get benefit in populations, i.e. herd immunity. The elderly will more likely benefit if they are not exposed to influenza at all rather than relying of vaccine mediated protection. It may be more important if those around them, say their health care provider or family, receives the vaccine and as a result does not pass flu on to more vulnerable people. But we rarely get vaccination rates at levels for herd immunity to kick in.
There are some anti-vaccine people who seem to require that vaccines either be perfect, with 100% efficacy and 100% safe, or they are not worth taking.
The influenza vaccine is not 100% efficacious in preventing disease, but it is as close to 100% safe, and much safer than the disease.
Or you can look at the preponderance of data, with all the flaws, nuance, subtleties and qualifiers, and conclude the flu vaccine is of benefit. The vaccine decreases the probability of morbidity and mortality. It is a good thing.
6. Does cold weather cause the flu?
No matter what your grandma may have said, going outside in the winter without a hat or warm coat does NOT increase your risk of flu. While there might seem to be a connection -- since flu season coincides with colder months in the U.S. -- there isn’t. Flu season is the same throughout the whole country: even if it’s freezing in Minnesota while still warm in Florida. Colder weather might increase the risk of flu in one way: We do come into closer contact with other people because we’re all stuck inside. That does make it easier for the virus to spread.
7. I’ve heard people say that if you haven’t gotten the seasonal flu vaccine by November, there’s no point getting vaccinated at all. Is that true?
While supplies of vaccine used to run out by November, that’s not the case anymore. Nowadays, there should be enough vaccine for anyone who wants it, and you should be able to get it as late as December or January. Besides, the flu often doesn’t hit its peak until February or sometimes as late as March. The flu vaccine will protect you for the strain that is going around, even if it’s 6 months later, so I say get it as early as possible, like this week!
No matter what month it is, if you haven’t had your flu vaccine yet, go get it. You could spare yourself -- and your family -- a lot of misery.
8. So where is the best place to get a flu shot?
You can get your influenza vaccine from your local pharmacy, although they’ll typically charge you $30, which is another annoying part of getting a vaccine. One thing we do at all four of our clinics is to offer patients who comes in for any other problem, such as a sprained ankle, a flu shot, at no extra charge, meaning if their insurance doesn’t pay, the patient won’t have to pay anything more for the shot. Yes, it costs us, but we believe in doing whatever we can to get the whole community vaccinated, so this is our strategy, as well as a marketing ploy to come to us for your illness or injury, instead of anywhere else! You can find out more at STLFluShots.com
3. What are the symptoms?
It is not always easy to know if someone has a concussion.
Symptoms of concussion can last for hours, days, weeks, or even months, and they fit into four main categories:
Concussions in the elderly can also be dangerous and these too are often missed. If you are caring for an older adult who has had a fall, check him or her for symptoms of a concussion. Signs of a serious problem include a headache that gets worse and/or increasing confusion. See a doctor right away if you notice these signs. If you are caring for an older adult who takes blood thinners—warfarin (Coumadin) is an example—and who has had a fall, take him or her to a doctor right away, even if you don't see any symptoms of a concussion. If you can’t get in to see your doctor immediately, come and see us at STLSportsClinic.com, open 7 days a week.
Sometimes after a concussion you may feel as if you are not functioning as well as you did before the injury. This is called postconcussive syndrome. New symptoms may develop, or you may continue to be bothered by symptoms from the injury, such as:
5. How is a concussion treated?
Any person who may have had a concussion needs to see a doctor. Some people have to stay in the hospital to be monitored overnight. People who go home still need to be watched closely for warning signs or changes in behavior. Call your doctor or come and see us, or go to the ER if you are watching a person after a concussion and the person has:
Rest is the best way to recover from a concussion. You need to rest your body and your brain. Here are some tips to help you get better:
6. How can you prevent a concussion?
Reduce your chances of getting a concussion:
Have you ever noticed that you feel better when you're around your pet?
It's true. Spending quality time with a dog, cat or other animal can have a positive impact on your mood and your health.
1. A Healthier Heart
Your dog may make you less likely to get heart disease. Why? Dog owners walk more and have lower blood pressure than people who don't have dogs.
Pets can also be good for you if you already have heart problems.
Heart attack survivors and people with serious abnormal heart rhythms who own dogs live longer than people with the same heart problems who don't have pets, studies show.
2. Stress Soothers
Petting your cat or dog feels good. It can lower your blood pressure, helps your body release a relaxation hormone, and cuts down on levels of a stress hormone.
It also soothes your pet!
3. Social Magnets
Pets, especially dogs, can help you connect with other people.
Many people don't feel comfortable striking up a conversation with a total stranger, but they could if the stranger had a dog . It's an acceptable interaction that otherwise wouldn't be possible.
People who use wheelchairs say that other people make eye contact with them more often and ask if they can be of help when they're with their dogs.
4. Better Mood, More Meaning
People with pets are generally happier, more trusting, and less lonely than those who don't have pets. They also visit the doctor less often for minor problems.
One reason for that may be that your pet gives you a sense of belonging and meaning. You feel like you have greater control of your life.
5. Benefits for Baby’s Immune System
Babies raised in families that have pets may be less likely to get allergies and asthma, some studies show.
Babies with dogs or cats at home have fewer colds and ear infections during their first year than babies living in pet-free homes, one study found.
6. Social Support for Autistic Children
Kids tend to relate better to their classmates who have autism when pets are in the classroom.
Animals change the classroom environment and help to integrate those who are a little less typical. Once the children get involved with animals, they view each other more positively and work together better.
7. AND ONE MORE THING:
With the high temperatures we’re having right now, although we covered all the ways to prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke, please remember that dogs left in cars have a very high risk of heat stroke. Just a few minutes" could be an eternity in a 120F degree car. Never ever leave your pets alone in a car. Not even for a minute. Not even with the car running and air conditioner on. On a warm day, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise rapidly to dangerous levels. On an 85-degree day, for example, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees. Your pet may suffer irreversible organ damage or die.