Over the past year and a half, most health concerns have revolved around the Covid-19 pandemic. While this is still a concern, it is vital that other aspects of health and well-being not be pushed to the side.
Doctor Gordon Theisz of Family Medicine in Falls Church said that the main things folks can do to stay healthy remain the same, pandemic or not. “The most important thing that anyone can do for their health is exercise and diet,” said Dr. Theisz. This includes eating healthy both in terms of calories and types of food and making sure to get regular exercise, including cardiovascular.
Additionally, it is important to think about prevention. Dr. Theisz said that most people come in thinking about problems they are currently having rather than preventing problems they could have in the future.
Regardless of age, scheduling an annual exam with your doctor is necessary. “Going in and seeing your doctor for just that annual thought of preventative services would be really helpful,” said Theisz. “For older folks, focusing on cardiovascular disease and prevention and screening tests, quitting smoking, reducing alcohol use and discussing those types of things is really helpful. For kids, making sure that they are growing properly, that their weight is good, that they’re active and that their vaccinations are up to date are all very important. Even young adults have issues and preventative health goals so it’s good for everyone to check in with their doctor.”
The pandemic has also taken a toll not only on the physical well-being of people, but on their mental well-being as well. Theisz, who recently attended an online health conference said that a “wow moment” for him was hearing that the baseline anxiety rate in the United States before the pandemic was about eight percent but that number has grown to over 30 percent since the pandemic began. With the sudden changes to the everyday lives of many people, mental health issues have become more prevalent than ever.
“I think that if people have been feeling anxious, they should know that it’s real, that they’re not alone,” said Theisz. While medications are available for anxiety, they are not necessary for every person currently feeling this way and many simple changes can be made to help reduce these feelings of stress and anxiety.
One recommendation he had for reducing anxiety is to keep up a regular routine, even if you are still working or learning from home. This includes having regularly scheduled meals rather than eating haphazardly and making time for exercise. Exercise has been shown to reduce anxiety and making cardiovascular exercise a part of your weekly routine was Theisz’s biggest recommendation for working through these feelings of anxiety.
“When we’re all stuck at home, our routines fall apart,” he stated. “Whereas when we’re commuting to work and to home and are around other people, people tend to sync up their lives. Having some means of keeping a schedule is really important to reduce anxiety.”
Theisz also recommends following your instincts when it comes to going out again as places begin to reopen. “Following the public health guidelines that are more conservative, and by that I mean they don’t relax on standards that we have come to expect, I think that’s really the important thing. You kind of have to know where you are and what you’re doing. Just be aware.” he said.
As we make our way into autumn, that also means flu season is on its way. The measures that we have put in place to prevent the spread of Covid also help with preventing the spread of flu. This includes continuing to wear a mask in public places and washing and sanitizing hands regularly.
Getting a flu shot is the “best tool we have to prevent the spread of the flu” and are free with most insurance plans. Family Medicine in Falls Church is currently offering flu shots to existing patients without an appointment on October 12, 13, 19 and 20. If you are not a patient of Family Medicine in Falls Church, flu shot appointments can be made online at CVS Pharmacy or the MinuteClinic or other pharmacies in the area. Shots can also be received during a regular appointment with your primary care provider.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend everyone ages six months and older get a flu vaccine annually with very rare expectations. It is recommended that everyone be vaccinated against the flu by the end of October this year.
Theisz concluded by saying that “there’s a growing consensus amongst physicians that this pandemic is going to become endemic which means that it’s going to be around and there’ll be flares from time to time. It may be seasonal, it may not be seasonal. People are going to continue to need to get vaccinated. We have to figure out how to get our lives going again while being vigilant and careful. I think that’s the challenge for all of us. This pandemic is going to change how we do things in the future but we still have to do things. We have to live our lives.”