Baby, It’s Cold Out There

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Baby, It’s Cold Out There

A safe and healthy winter season goes hand in hand with a little preparation.  For any of us living in northern Arizona, we are aware of the rapid temperature changes.  We can see the daytime high temperature plummeting  forty degrees as the sun goes down.  We have seen low temperatures well below zero in the dead of winter.  We have seen cloudless days and blue skies replaced with storm clouds and whiteout snow in the blink of an eye.  With these life threatening weather transitions, it is best to be prepared.

As many of us prefer to stay tucked in at home, we are not guaranteed to be secure and protected.  A healthy home starts with good insulation to prevent the heat loss from wind and low temperatures.  Weather stripping windows and doorjambs, cleaning out gutters and downspouts, and insulating exterior pipes are a good start.

Professional cleaning and maintenance of furnace systems can be an excellent investment to assure a warm and cozy home.  Change filters, clean woodstoves, fireplaces and chimneys seasonally, and install and maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors as well.  To have an alternative heating system and available fuel or an emergency generator can be especially beneficial for the common power outages during a winter storm.

We still need to go out from time to time, so preparing your vehicle for the winter is also a wise idea.  Service and top off all fluids with low temperature fluids, and assure the tire tread is adequate.  Keep the fuel tank topped to avoid accumulation of water in the tank and lines.  Maintain an emergency road kit, including extra blankets, flashlight and batteries, jumper cables, some food and water, first aid kit and a shovel with cat litter or sand for traction if you get stuck.  Keep an eye on the weather, and avoid travel with inclement forecasts.

If you must travel during bad weather, make sure you have advised a friend or family member of your route and expected travel time.  If you get stranded, stay with your vehicle.  Use an exterior light on your car, and flag the antenna.  Run the engine no more than ten minutes an hour, keep a downwind window cracked and keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow.

Finally, if you must spend time in the elements, dressing in layers provides the best ability to stay warm.  The skin layer should be a wicking layer of merino wool, synthetics like polyester or silk to take moisture away from the skin.  The middle layer is the insulation, with good choices including wool, fleece or goose down.  The outer layer or shell should be both wind and water resistant.  There are varying degrees of waterproof vs water resistant and breathable vs non-breathable choices that have a wide variety of cost as well.  And don’t forget hats, gloves and boots to complete your weather protection.

Live well, travel well, dress well and stay well through the harsh winter weather of northern Arizona.

Bradford Croft, DO

East Flagstaff Family Medicine

Weighing In On the Holidays

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The “holiday season” is synonymous to many of us with the “eating season”.  Starting at Thanksgiving, our feeding frenzy extends relentlessly through Christmas and New Year’s, and continues to perpetuate all the way through the football playoffs into the February Super Bowl.  And every holiday deserves a feast!  Not just the holiday dinner, but also the endless numbers of parties, events and treats at the workplace as well as those at home all contribute to the caloric avalanche we experience through the winter months.   No wonder it is not a surprise that most people gain the most weight every year in the month of December.   They also commonly do not lose all of those acquired winter pounds.  Maintaining just two of those extra pounds each season makes you twenty pounds heavier in a decade.

The answer is, of course, calories.  Some fun facts are that, on average, the adult male needs 2500 calories to maintain his current weight.  The average female needs only 2000 calories per day.  It only takes an extra 500 calories each day to gain a pound every week.  Imagine that the typical holiday dinner alone packs a usual 3000 calories, and with appetizers and drinks may top 4500 calories for just that meal and up to 7000 for the day.  “Not bad”, you say.  “There are only a couple of excessive meals during that season in which I indulge”.

However, add the onslaught of holiday snacks, those extra calories may be easy to accrue.  A couple of calorie counts for example: a slice of pumpkin pie is 279, slice of pecan is 532, cherry pie is 304 and apple pie alamode is 414 calories.  Not a pie person?  How about cookies, then.  Each sugar cookie from Subway is 220 calories.  Beer is anywhere from 64 calories in the ultralight to 200 for a hearty IPA.  Wine may range anywhere from 110 to 300 calories per glass depending on sweetness and alcohol content.  If you are considering the playoff parties, a serving of beef nachos is 430 calories, a chili cheese hotdog is 340, one pork rib is 370 and a half dozen chicken wings is 616 calories (www.calorieking.com).

The point is not so much the specific calorie count, but rather the ready availability of “extracurricular” food and treats in which we mindlessly and consistently indulge.  Adding this onslaught of calories consumed throughout the “season”, one could readily pack on two, five or even ten extra pounds this year.

Your awareness of these points may make it easier not to go overboard this year.  Some tips include limiting your choices to eating only your favorite foods.  You do not have to try one of everything.  Serve yourself smaller portions, as most holiday foods are rich and should readily fill you up.  Only eat one helping at a service.  If you feel you must have more, drink a big glass of water and set your timer for twenty minutes.  It is likely by then that meal has caught up, and you will not be hungry for a second helping.  Finally, eat slowly, taste every bite and enjoy these special treats.  Celebrate the holidays and enjoy your time with family and friends.

Bradford Croft, DO
East Flagstaff Family Medicine

Commit to Fit

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It is well accepted that the keystone to good health starts with a prudent diet and regular exercise.  To promote this concept, the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition has earmarked the month of May as National Physical Fitness and Sports Month.  According to healthfinder.gov, all ages can benefit from physical activity.  Children and adolescents can improve muscular fitness, bone and heart health.  Adults can lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other diseases.  Older adults can benefit by reducing fall risk and improving brain function and judgement skills.

The guidelines differ among age groups.  Children age 6-17 are recommended to achieve 60 minutes of daily activity.  Most of that activity recommended is aerobic, at a moderate or vigorous intensity three days per week.  The balance is made up of muscle and bone strengthening.  Examples of aerobic include running, jumping rope, dancing, bicycling and swimming.  Muscle strengthening can be unstructured, such as climbing on playground equipment, or structured such as weightlifting or resistance bands.  Bone strengthening also includes running and jumping, as well as basketball, racquetball and tennis.

Adults age 18-64 will gain most of their health benefits with at least 150 cumulative minutes of aerobic activity of moderate intensity beyond baseline activity per week.  The older population of 65+ benefits from exercise similarly.   A subset of this group can additionally profit from balance training.  This program includes lower extremity strengthening along with a core or abdominal strengthening program, reducing the risk of fall injuries which may increase with age.    The same recommendations apply throughout for general muscle and bone strengthening exercise which benefits all populations.

For those who are already maintaining a level of fitness, these are some guidelines for activity.  For those who are starting a program or have chronic conditions that may limit their abilities, any level of activity is better than none.  Start slow and ramp up to goal.  The threshold for significant impact seems to come at three or more days per week of consistent effort.  If there is any question about your ability to initiate or increase a regular exercise program, or for additional information or specifics regarding exercise, please visit your primary care provider.  An additional resource from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion can be found at https://health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines.

Bradford Croft, DO