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The Benefits of Breastfeeding

Being pregnant is exciting, but it also comes with many uncertainties. What will your day-to-day routine look like once your little one arrives? And how will you feed your baby?

Many expecting mothers plan to breastfeed their babies. It’s not always easy at first — breastfeeding can feel a lot like a new dance, and both you and your new little partner must learn the routine. Once you’ve mastered the rhythm, there are lots of benefits for you and your baby.

5 Advantages of Breastfeeding Your Baby

1. It’s Free

From diapers to car seats, there are many expenses that come with having a baby. If you’re looking for ways to save during your newborn’s first year, breastfeeding is a great option. Families who regularly breastfeed may be able to reduce feeding expenses by up to $1,500 in the first year alone.

While feeding directly from the breast is free and requires no equipment, you may want to consider pumping if you need to be separated from your baby for an extended period of time. But this expense may be covered for you, too. Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance plans must cover the cost of breast pumps, and provide support and counseling services if you need assistance with breastfeeding.

2. It’s Always Available

Recent formula shortages caused tremendous stress for parents relying on it to feed their babies. Many couldn’t find the right brands or types — or sometimes any at all. Even without a formula shortage however, having breast milk ready 24/7 is convenient. For parents who are able to breastfeed, the ability to do so on an ongoing basis can provide peace of mind.

Your breasts and biology will produce milk based on your baby’s needs. The more you breastfeed, the more your supply will respond to required feeding levels. Unless you have a medical issue that affects your milk supply, you should be able to provide enough milk to feed your baby consistently.

3. It Saves Time

Once you and your baby get into a consistent feeding routine and a good latch has been established, you’ll find that breastfeeding can be the quickest way to nourish them. Bottle feeding, for example, relies on the use of dishes which requires sterilization — and all of that cleaning can take time.

Since you’ll be busy caring for your new baby (and trying to rest!), it’s helpful to make your routine easier in any way that you can. Unless you’re pumping, breastfeeding requires no extra dishwashing. You also won’t need to pack bottles and formula when you go out with your baby, which saves time when you’re getting ready.

4. It May Help Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Breastfeeding can reduce your risk of developing breast cancer, especially if you breastfeed for more than a year. Producing milk helps to reduce abnormalities in breast tissue cells. It also leads to fewer periods, which can lower estrogen levels and may help to further reduce breast cancer risk.

5. It Meets Your Baby’s Health Needs

Breastmilk can meet your baby’s complete nutritional needs for the first few months. As your baby grows, your breastmilk will change to continue to supply various powerful antibodies, vitamins, and minerals. Babies who receive breastmilk may be less likely to have ear infections, obesity, and asthma, for example.

When you’re looking for the best medical care for your baby, turn to YourTown Health. We offer personalized women’s healthcare as well as pediatric care for children of all ages. To find your nearest office, visit our locations page, or contact us online.

Different Types of Headaches and What They Mean

You know when you have one, even if the pain varies from piercing or throbbing to just a dull ache. Most are brief, and easily treated with over-the-counter pain relief medication. But certain types of headaches may be a sign of a more serious health problem or require specialized care. Though the International Classification of Headache Disorders lists over 150 different types of headaches, here’s a closer look at several common types.

Migraine

According to experts at Medical News Today, “A migraine is an extremely painful primary headache disorder,” which “usually produce[s] symptoms that are more intense and debilitating than headaches.” 

Typically, a migraine progresses through four stages, each defined by its own symptoms. These include sensitivity to light, nausea, drilling or throbbing pain, and insomnia. Note that not all people who experience migraines go through all four stages, and symptoms within each stage may vary.

A 2018 study found that more than 15% of American adults experienced a migraine episode or a severe headache within three months prior to being surveyed — more of them women than men.

If you suspect you may be experiencing either chronic or episodic migraines, record your symptoms over time, and go over them with your doctor to determine the best treatment. “Keeping a simple migraine diary can be very helpful,” encourages The Migraine Trust. “This might include details of treatment you have tried in the past which has not helped the attacks.”

Thunderclap Headache

A thunderclap headache may be a sign of a condition that can be life threatening,” the experts at Healthline warn. Seek medical attention immediately if you experience a sudden, overwhelmingly severe headache. According to Cleveland Clinic, you may be suffering these conditions, among others:

  • “Torn or ruptured blood vessels in the brain
  • Stroke (blocked or bleeding blood vessel)
  • Brain aneurysm (bulging or bleeding blood vessel)
  • Head injury that causes a brain bleed”

The severity of these intensely painful, acute headaches cannot be underestimated, and swift action must be taken at once. 

Tension Headache

A tension headache is the most common type of headache,” the Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia explains. “It is pain or discomfort in the head, scalp, or neck, and is often associated with muscle tightness in these areas.” Stress, and holding your head in one position for a long period of time are two factors that may cause them. 

To help calm the pain, Harvard Health advises you to get enough sleep, eat regular meals, and avoid stressors. Regular relaxation techniques (such as regulated breathing or guided imagery exercises to release tension and stress) may also be useful. Consult with your doctor about whether biofeedback or other medical approaches may also work for you. 

Cluster Headache

Though medical experts are unsure what causes this kind of headache, it may be related to a sudden release of histamine or serotonin in the body. 

The pain these headaches cause is usually the same each time. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the common symptoms are:

  • “Sudden onset of pain, generally around or behind the eye
  • Pain builds to a peak in about 10 to 15 minutes
  • Restlessness or agitation
  • Red or watering eyes
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sweating on the forehead
  • Eyelid drooping or swelling”

These headaches come in groups (or “clusters”), over several days or even multiple times a day. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing cluster headaches, to help determine potential causes and treatments. 

Ice Pick Headache

Like other headaches, the cause of these sharp, brief stabs of pain — usually in small areas of your head — remains a mystery. But as MigraineAgain cautions, “If ice pick headaches slowly increase in frequency, always occur in the same place in the head, are always one-sided, and/or are triggered by head movements or bearing down, this could be a sign that there is a potential secondary cause for the headache (something else going on like injury to a brain structure).” 

As with migraine, cluster, and tension headaches, keep a record of your symptoms, along with the duration of the pain, and what you were doing or consuming prior to the occurrence. This can help your doctor determine the cause and best form of relief. 

At YourTown Health, we have a wide-range of services to help treat headaches, and whatever may lie behind them. Our affordable, compassionate, and high-quality healthcare is available to you by contacting us online.

What is HIV and How Can You Help Prevent It?

Disease prevention is an important part of healthcare, but it is especially true when it comes to HIV, a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can lead to serious health problems if left untreated. Here’s what you need to know about HIV and what you can do to prevent becoming infected yourself. 

What is HIV?

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the immune system of your body. Left unchecked, HIV can transition into AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome), a late-stage of the illness that can be fatal. HIV significantly weakens your immune system, making it difficult to combat sickness and infections like the flu. Since there is currently no cure for HIV, once you acquire the virus, you live with it for the rest of your life. There are medicines that can keep HIV from becoming AIDS, but prevention can help protect against getting HIV. 

Symptoms 

HIV is categorized by three stages of infection before becoming AIDS: acute HIV, chronic HIV, and AIDS. Symptoms of HIV in its early stage can be hard to identify, as they mimic those of the flu. And some people don’t experience any symptoms at all. 

Here’s what the first two stages of HIV may entail:

  • Chills 
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Skin rash
  • Sore throat
  • Aches and pains
  • Nausea
  • Headaches

As the disease progresses into later stages, some of the above symptoms remain, while others may develop, too:

  • Recurrent fevers
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Pneumonia
  • Recurrent vaginal and/or oral yeast infections 
  • Shingles 

Transmission

HIV is transmitted through bodily fluids like blood, semen, vaginal or rectal fluids exchanged primarily during unprotected sex. You can also get infected by sharing needles or through unsanitary tattoo needles. HIV can also be passed to an infant during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding. You can’t get infected through everyday forms of contact such as hugging or shaking hands. It also can’t be spread through airborne droplets (like sneezes), insect bites, or water. 

Risk Factors

Anyone can be infected with HIV regardless of race, gender identity, age, or sexual orientation. Even so, certain activities can increase your risk of developing HIV. For example, anal sex is riskier than vaginal sex. Having multiple sex partners also increases your risk of developing HIV. 

Some well-known risk factors include:

  • Engaging in unprotected sex of any kind
  • Men who have sex with men (MSM)
  • Commercial sex work
  • Being in a sexual relationship with someone who is at high-risk for HIV or who has HIV
  • Injecting illegal drugs, particularly if sharing needles
  • Having a recent STI (sexually transmitted infection) infection in the last six months

HIV Prevention 

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and safe sex practices are key to HIV prevention and to decreasing HIV transmission. When engaging in vaginal and/or anal sex, always wear a condom. HIV prevention medication or PrEP can be used to decrease the risk of HIV transmission by 99%.

Taking these precautions whenever you have sex will significantly reduce your risk of infection. 

Here are some other ways you can prevent the spread of HIV:

  • Get tested for HIV and encourage your partner(s) to do the same. People living through early stages of HIV don’t always have symptoms, so it’s important to get tested so that you do not pass it along to your partner. 
  • Restrict your number of sexual partners. Having sex with multiple partners increases your risk of coming into contact with someone with uncontrolled HIV. 
  • Never inject drugs without using sterile drug injection equipment, and never share your equipment with others. 
  • Get tested and treated for STIs, as they can cause sores on your genitals that make it easier for HIV to be transmitted. Encourage your partner(s) to do the same. 
  • Talk to your doctor about taking PrEP This is a medication that prevents HIV in people who don’t have the virus or may be at risk of infection. 

YourTown Health is dedicated to preventing the spread of HIV through affordable, compassionate, and high-quality healthcare. Our Primary Care HIV Prevention Program provides HIV/AIDS services and treatment at a reduced or waived cost. Contact us online for more information. 

Ways You Can Prevent Skin Cancer

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, but it brings our focus to a health topic that deserves attention every month. With more than five million cases diagnosed each year, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. Fortunately, it’s also the most preventable.

Most skin cancers are caused by excessive exposure to the sun’s UV rays. Being in the sunshine for a certain amount of time is good for you, but there are ways to keep it from harming you. Here’s a look at how to protect the skin you — and your loved ones — are in.  

Slather Sunscreen

Even when it is cloudy outside, the sun’s damaging UV rays can penetrate the clouds then bounce off water, glass, and sand to cause even more damage. They are even more powerful on bright, sunny days. Wearing sunblock in any season — even if you have darker skin — is one of the best ways to prevent skin cancer. 

The MD Anderson Cancer Center suggests using a sunscreen with SPF of 30 or more, and that offers both UVA and UVB protection. “Also make sure the sunscreen you choose contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide,” they recommend

Putting sunblock on once won’t be enough, either. “Ideally, sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, or more frequently if you are swimming or sweating heavily,” Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital advises. You may also need to wear more than you think, according to experts at The Skin Cancer Foundation. Rub “a nickel-sized dollop to the face alone,” they say. “If you’re using a spray, apply until an even sheen appears on the skin.”

Stay Out of the Sun

You may not need an umbrella in the sun, but staying out of direct, intense sunlight will keep your skin safer. Having fun inside or in the shade between 10 AM and 4 PM ET (which are the brightest parts of the day) is what experts at the American Skin Association recommend.

Cover it Up

Sunscreen works well, but it sometimes needs help. When you’re outside, “Broad-brimmed hats, bucket hats with wide brims and legionnaire-style hats are effective methods of sun protection to the head, ears, face and neck,” says the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency

Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, or long skirts cover the most skin and are the most protective,” the American Cancer Society also advises. Keep in mind that dark colors reflect more of the sun’s rays than light colors, and loose-weave fabrics may not provide as much protection. Have fun with your sun-safe fashion by exploring clothes made with fabric that blocks harmful rays. 

Know the Signs of Melanoma

The most dangerous form of skin cancer is melanoma. But if it is found and treated early, your survival rate increases. Pay attention to any new changes in your skin by using the ABCDEs of melanoma:

  • A – Asymmetry: Most melanomas have an uneven shape.
  • B – Borders: The borders of a melanoma are often scalloped or uneven.
  • C – Color: Harmless moles and freckles are usually only one color, but a melanoma may also be white, blue, or red in places.
  • D – Diameter (or also Dark): Melanomas may start small but grow larger than a pencil eraser. Also, they can be darker than other moles.
  • E – Evolving: If you have a mole that changes size, shape, or color, or starts bleeding or itching, talk to your doctor right away. 

At YourTown Health, we care about the skin you’re in from head to toe. If you have a new skin concern or want more advice about taking care of your skin and everything it covers, visit our website to contact us.

Key Things to Know About Autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD, or autism for short) is a developmental disorder that affects communication, socialization, and behavior. While children are born with autism, its signs may not become noticeable until later in their development. For example: when they begin interacting with other children their age.

If you’re wondering if your child could have autism, here are some basics that may be helpful to monitor.

Autism Symptoms to Watch For

Most signs of autism appear by age two or three. In some cases, a child may be diagnosed as early as 18 months old. Watching for early signs is important, since early intervention is linked to positive outcomes later on in life.

The National Autism Association explains that children with autism have difficulty communicating, may repeat specific behaviors, and face a variety of other social and cognitive challenges. Some don’t express any symptoms until ages one or two, when they may begin showing a loss of some of the earlier growth skills they’d gained. This is known as regressive autism. 

Regardless of at what age they occur, autism symptoms to watch for include:

  • Desire to be alone
  • Lack of interest in playing make-believe games
  • Lack of speech or delayed speech
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Obsessive interests
  • Hand flapping, spinning in circles, or body rocking
  • Limited social skills
  • Repetition of words or phrases
  • Avoidance of physical contact

Children with autism may also engage in particularly notable behaviors, such as carefully lining up their toys, or playing in the same way over and over. They may become upset by minor changes, have obsessive interests, or express extreme anxiety over very specific things. It’s also common for children with autism to become fixated on specific objects, such as wheels. They may have frequent meltdowns, be hyperactive, act without thinking, cause self-injury, or be aggressive towards others.

Not all of these behaviors automatically mean autism is present, but they are all worth keeping track of and talking about with your pediatrician. 

Potential Causes

A leading national autism organization, Autism Speaks, notes that there is no single identifiable cause behind autism. But there are certain factors that appear to increase risk. These include:

  • Gene variations carried by parents
  • Advanced parental age
  • Pregnancies spaced less than one year apart
  • Complications during pregnancy or birth, such as low birth weight

We do know for certain that there is no link between vaccines and autism. While some families report the first appearance of symptoms around the same time their children have received their recommended shots, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has compiled many studies indicating the safety of vaccines.

Diagnosing Autism

Since there’s no single test to diagnose autism, doctors rely on a child’s behavior, parents’ observations, and other developmental baselines to make a determination. 

This is why regular well-child visits are important. During these, your child’s pediatrician may discuss developmental screenings beginning as soon as nine months old to monitor your child’s growth. They may also ask questions to track the common signs of autism. Afterward, if any signs seem present, they may recommend a formal evaluation from a specialist.If you think your child may have autism or have more questions about the condition, contact one of the caring providers from YourTown Health. Our team offers care for children of all ages and is ready to attend to your concerns. Visit our website to find one of our convenient Community Health Centers near you.

The Difference Between Seasonal Allergies and COVID-19 Symptoms

The arrival of warm spring temperatures, budding flowers, and longer daylight hours are making it easier and more pleasant to spend time outside. But with enjoyment of the great outdoors comes pollen and other possible airborne irritants.

So how do you know if your new congestion, sneezes, cough, or lack of energy mean you have regular spring allergies, or symptoms of the still-lingering COVID virus?

Similarities and Differences in Symptoms

There are some clear symptoms of COVID-19 and seasonal allergies which are very alike, including:

  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tiredness
  • Cough
  • Sore throat

But COVID-19 often comes with other symptoms that allergies do not:

  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Fever or chills
  • Upset stomach or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If you’re unsure whether your allergies are simply coming home to roost, or you have something more serious, paying attention to your eyes may be the greatest help. Both the CDC and the Mayo Clinic assure that if you have itchiness in your nose, eyes, mouth, or inner ear — that’s more likely to be allergies. “Coronavirus symptoms generally do not cause those uncomfortable itchy, watery eyes,” the American Academy of Ophthalmology also agrees. 

A COVID Test Will Help You Know for Sure

After two years of the COVID pandemic, it’s understandable if you are exhausted by safety rules and ever-changing information. Our advice is to simply get a COVID test when you fear you may have the virus. A test can not only help your state of mind, but it can also reduce the spread to your family and community. 

Free, at-home testing kits are available at our pharmacy location in Palmetto, Georgia.  

Vaccination is the Key

While you can’t be vaccinated against seasonal allergies, you can for COVID-19. If you are worried ahead of time that you won’t know the difference between allergies or the virus, receiving a vaccine can boost your confidence. Free vaccinations are available without an appointment at our mass vaccination center. 

There are several other benefits of being vaccinated, beyond gaining clarity around what could be causing your congestion. They are safe and highly effective, but our caring specialists are happy to talk through any questions or concerns you may have. 

Maintain Continuous Protection

Believe it or not, the face mask that provides a shield between you and airborne COVID-19 particles may also reduce your allergy symptoms. A November 2020 study published in Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and shared widely to the public by VeryWell Health shows that for some people, even a simple cloth mask can reduce the physical impact of seasonal allergies. “Although masks aren’t going to be the thing that resolves all your allergy issues, it’s a good tool to have in your toolbox,” says allergist Amina Abdeldaim, MD. “On your highest pollen days, a mask could really help alleviate symptoms.” 

Do keep in mind to wash your mask regularly, however, as small pollen particles may still cling to it.

Whether you’re suffering from allergies or something more serious, our team at YourTown Health is here to provide care for all our neighbors in need. Visit our website to learn more about our services. 

What Is a COVID Booster Shot and Why Is It Important?

Research on the COVID-19 pandemic is continually being updated, making it crucial to stay current and safe. Since August 23, 2021, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been fully FDA approved, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines remain approved under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). All three vaccines can be safely used to protect yourself and others. Now, there are also COVID booster shots: additional doses of approved COVID-19 vaccines. Here’s what to know about the booster shots. 

What Is a COVID Booster?

Johns Hopkins Medicine provides a good overview in their guide to COVID vaccines: “A COVID booster shot is an additional dose of a vaccine given after the protection provided by the original shot(s) has begun to decrease over time.” It’s similar to needing an extra tetanus shot a few years after you got one as a child. 

Yale Medicine infectious diseases expert Albert Shaw, MD, PhD explains it another way: “The simplest answer is that it’s just another dose of a vaccine you received . . . particularly if there is evidence that protection is waning after a period of time.” 

Who Needs a Booster and Why?

Due to emerging variants including Delta and Omicron, the CDC recommends that everyone ages 12 years and up (who has already been vaccinated) gets a booster dose when they are able to, especially if they are 65 years or older. 

Receiving the initial doses of a COVID vaccine still offers protection. But that degree of safety may lessen over time. A booster shot helps to further increase your ability to fight infection, should you be exposed.

Two Vaccine Doses +  Booster?

Consider the booster shot a top-up on your protection. The initial vaccine establishes a frontline of protection, and the booster then later amplifies that protection. That’s why your medical provider would never give you two vaccine doses and a booster at the same time. Pacing the shots according to public health guidance ultimately leads to better immunity. 

According to guidelines from the CDC, if you’ve received a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, it’s advised to get a booster shot at least five months afterward. While these mRNA vaccines are the preferred standard, if you’ve gotten Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine, it’s advised to get a booster at least two months later.

No matter what vaccine you had originally, a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna booster shot is advised.

What Does Being Boosted Mean for You?

The ultimate purpose of a COVID booster is to ensure that you have maximum protection against COVID infection. Receiving a booster means that you can rest assured that you have done everything medically possible to improve your immune defenses. In the case that you do test positive, a booster provides the best chance that you will avoid the severe effects of illness. 

So for your peace of mind, and for the sake of your community, family, and friends, consider receiving a booster shot.

As a reminder: regardless of your vaccine status, you should still mask up when indoors and around crowds. Also, stay aware of COVID surges in your area.
At YourTown Health, we offer appropriate medical care to all our neighbors in need. This means offering COVID vaccination and ensuring we are all protected. Call (770) 626-4038 or visit our website to learn more.

How to Bring in the New Year Safely

Along with any other personal resolutions you may have already made, one thing to keep front-of-mind as we welcome a new year is to care for your own health and safety. Here are a few ideas from the caring team at YourTown Health that can help you prioritize these two things well into 2022 and beyond.

Stay COVID Safe and Get Vaccinated

While many of us are eagerly looking forward to when we can say goodbye to face masks, in order to protect against the spread of the virus and its new variants, we may need to continue social distancing and wearing masks in everyday life through 2022. 

The CDC also recommends that everyone over 5 years old gets vaccinated for COVID-19, and everyone over 18 gets a booster if already vaccinated. Making these appointments, standing in lines, and getting an injection may not be pleasant experiences, but the COVID-19 vaccines bring many benefits, and provide added protection during normal activities. Getting the vaccine doesn’t only help the recipient; it has been shown to also help protect the unborn fetuses of expectant mothers and newborns who are nursing.

Keep in mind, however, that the COVID vaccine isn’t the only one to think about at this time of year. Getting the flu shot is also essential for helping us to keep our community healthy, and our COVID-strained hospitals better equipped to help those in the most dire need. 

Thankfully, many health clinics offer both COVID boosters and flu shots at the same time. Modern Family star Sarah Hyland shared her experiences getting both a COVID booster and flu shot on her social media platforms, and other celebrities have shared their vaccine experiences to help encourage everyone to stay safe together. 

Keep the Habit of Washing Your Hands

Making sure to wash your hands regularly has been lifesaving during this pandemic as “one of the most effective ways of keeping diseases at bay,” as Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director of the WHO South-East Asia Region has noted.

The simple act of washing your hands can not only help to protect you against the COVD-19 virus, but also many other viruses and diseases, as well as those caused by bacteria on food. For this reason, we must maintain the habit of regular hand washing in 2022 to continue keeping ourselves and our communities safe.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings and Take Precautions

Health and safety aren’t just about the things you can’t see, like viruses and bacteria. Some of the most important precautions you can take are right in front of your face… or under your feet.

As you travel around your community, stay aware of your surroundings. Make sure to check for oncoming traffic and make an effort to always be a safe pedestrian. Also remain mindful of things such as where exits are in a building in case of a sudden emergency. 

Taking precautions like wearing non-slip shoes so you don’t fall on slippery floors seems simple but can also help. If you’re driving — or in a car at all — one of the safest choices you can make is to put on your seatbelt. It only takes a couple of seconds, but making sure that you and your passengers wear your seatbelts every time can help you and your family avoid accidental injury and keep you all safe.

At YourTown Health, we have been serving our communities for over 35 years and are devoted to providing high-quality health care to everyone in our community, regardless of insurance coverage. For more information on how you can stay safe and healthy, visit our website.

How to Safely Celebrate the Holidays During the COVID-19 Pandemic

For the second year in a row, it appears the COVID-19 pandemic may affect how we gather and celebrate during the holiday season. While cases have reportedly dropped since early September, exercising caution will still keep us healthiest. 

Fortunately, there are ways you can enjoy the holidays while keeping your risk of COVID-19 low.

Get Vaccinated

The COVID-19 vaccine lowers your risk of infection and helps reduce the spread of the virus, even where there are reports of breakthrough cases in vaccinated people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends the vaccine for anyone over five years old, and boosters are also available for adults. If you’re unsure whether you should receive an additional dose, talk to one of our care providers about your eligibility. 

Increase Your Ventilation

If you’re hosting the holidays, ventilating your home could help by giving germs an escape route. You can increase airflow by including one fan in an open window to blow out indoor air, while opening other windows to bring in more fresh air. It’s helpful to do this before any of your guests arrive. Keep in mind that even when it’s cold out, your home can heat up when the oven is on and there are more people present.

Consider an Outdoor or Virtual Gathering

Hosting an inside gathering may be considered safe when everyone has been vaccinated. But it’s best to avoid unmasked, indoor get-togethers if you don’t know who’s been given a shot or not. To make sure everyone’s safe, an outdoor or virtual gathering may be best. Keep up the festive vibe by mailing gifts in advance and having a virtual unwrapping or plan a holiday picnic in the park if the weather is mild. Exchanging letters that share your reflections on the year may also make things meaningful. 

Mask Up in Public

To give yourself and your loved ones extra protection, wear a mask when you go out. This includes during regular tasks like grocery shopping, but also when you have an indoor party or event you’d like to attend. Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, still advises that even vaccinated people should wear a mask in public, indoor settings. You can make it festive by finding a mask with sequins or a holiday print — extra wrapping for the gift that is you!

Creative Low-Risk Activities

To keep the holidays bright, focus on what you can do without introducing any COVID risks. Create some new traditions (or put a new spin on the old) with the following ideas.

  • Take a drive at night to see nearby light displays.
  • Have a virtual holiday cookie baking competition.
  • Challenge kids to get their rooms holiday-ready using only dollar store or at-home decorations.
  • Host a virtual movie night “watch party” including your favorite holiday snacks and films. Add some trivia to the mix to make it even more challenging! 
  • Play holiday music and have family members guess the artist for a fun, lighthearted game.
  • Deliver treats to friends, neighbors, and a local food pantry or homeless shelter.

Whether it’s virtually or in person, the best way to celebrate the holidays is to make memories with loved ones. By practicing COVID safety, you can continue to give each other the best gift of all: your health.YourTown Health offers COVID testing and vaccination services to help you stay healthy through the holiday season and beyond. To find a provider near you, visit our locations page. Or, request a telehealth appointment online.

Ways You Can Prevent Diabetes

Diabetes is common and affects more than 10% of the U.S. population. While type 1 diabetes is diagnosed during childhood and can’t be prevented, type 2 diabetes often can. Even if you have risk factors such as a family history, here’s what you can do to identify and control your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Understand Your Diabetes Risk

Diabetes occurs when glucose, or sugar, builds up in the blood. In type 2 diabetes, the cells become resistant to insulin, which normally helps absorb sugar. While experts aren’t sure exactly why this occurs, it’s believed that a combination of lifestyle, genetic, and environmental factors leads to diabetes.

Being overweight is a known risk factor for diabetes, but not everyone who gets diabetes is overweight. Your diabetes risk is also higher if you:

  • Are over the age of 45
  • Have a parent or sibling with diabetes
  • Don’t exercise
  • Are Black, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander
  • Have high blood sugar or cholesterol
  • Have had diabetes during pregnancy
  • Have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)

Fortunately, identifying risk factors that can’t be changed will allow you to focus on the following risks that you can control.

Manage Your Weight

Being overweight is one of the biggest risk factors for developing diabetes, but it’s also one that can be changed. If you’re overweight, losing seven to ten percent of your body weight could cut your diabetes risk in half.

Adjust Your Diet

Even small changes in food choices can go a long way to reduce your diabetes risk. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Swap out sugary beverages for water to reduce your overall sugar intake, which can improve your body’s ability to process sugar.
  • When possible, choose lean proteins such as grilled chicken or beans over heavily processed meats. Go for whole grains such as brown rice and whole wheat bread or pasta, as these cause less of a sugar spike in your system.
  • Eat plenty of fiber-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, since they help control blood sugar.
  • Control your portions. Smaller meals are easier for the body to process, so start with smaller servings and stop once you feel full.

Exercise Regularly

Combined with a healthy diet, exercise can be even more powerful than certain drugs for preventing diabetes. Exercising for 150 minutes a week (30 minutes, five days a week) is ideal for reducing your diabetes risk, but you can work up to that amount gradually over time. Finding an exercise you enjoy is the best way to stick with physical activity, but it doesn’t have to be complicated — walking is free, requires no special training or equipment, and can be done almost anywhere.

Move Throughout the Day

In addition to routine exercise, small movements throughout the day can help prevent diabetes. Breaking up long periods of sitting with short walks has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels. If you have a desk job, set reminders on your phone to get up and move each hour.

Get Enough Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps the body control blood sugar. If you’re vitamin D deficient, taking a supplement could help your body produce insulin to significantly reduce your diabetes risk. Good sources of vitamin D include egg yolks, saltwater fish, and liver. If you think you might not get enough of the nutrient from your diet, ask your doctor about taking supplements.

If you want to learn more about ways to prevent diabetes or there’s another health issue you’d like to discuss, turn to one of our caring practitioners. Find your closest location, or request a telehealth appointment for a virtual visit.

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