The focus on wellness has changed dramatically in 2020 with COVID-19 taking center stage. Prevention is the primary strategy for dealing with any respiratory virus, so the first steps include: staying away from crowds, avoiding the spread by wearing masks, washing hands, and sanitizing frequently touched surfaces. The public health tools of testing and tracking are also weapons in the arsenal, but what else can individuals do to stay healthy? The immune system of the body is our personal weapon against COVID-19 or any other viral or bacterial attack. Lifestyle habits of choosing healthy food, getting adequate sleep, physical activity, and managing stress can all help the body maintain a strong immune system to help our bodies fight infection during this pandemic and beyond.
Weight control is an important consideration. During the current pandemic, the greatest risk of being hospitalized, needing the ICU, or dying from COVID-19 is among people with such risk factors as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Restrictive diets are rarely successful in the long term and are not a good idea during a pandemic, since they may hinder consuming important nutrients. To prevent weight gain while spending more time at home, plan a regular meal schedule, choose healthy snacks, and limit calories from beverages. When anxiety triggers a “comfort food craving,” try to pause and take a few deep breaths. If that particular food is still important, serve a moderate portion on a plate and eat it mindfully, actually tasting and enjoying each bite. Then it is easier to focus on choosing nutritious foods.
Eat a healthful diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. Minimize the intake of processed meats, highly refined carbohydrates, such as white bread or white rice, and added sugars such as sweetened beverages and desserts. Choose a healthy plant oil such as olive or canola in place of butter or solid shortening. Using ChooseMyPlate.gov or a mediterranean style eating plan is a good place to start making healthful food choices.
If you are unable to choose a balanced diet, consider a multivitamin with the standard RDA for a variety of vitamins and minerals. Zinc, vitamin C and vitamin D are examples of nutrients that are important for immunity.
The microbiome (the microorganisms in the gut) plays an important role in immune function. To support the beneficial microbes, choose high fiber, plant based foods with lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. Fermented and cultured foods (yogurt with live cultures, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, and miso) may also be beneficial.
Focusing on maximizing health and wellness during and after COVID-19 will help us all get through the pandemic. The mission of the Healthy Lifestyles program is to empower each individual to find ways to minimize disease risk factors while increasing well being. For more information about the next session, call 406-233-3074. Everyone is invited to join in the walking group held Mondays at 5 pm and Tuesdays at 8 am starting at the grassy field in front of the facility.
Holy Rosary Healthcare