Health News & Notes

Being mindful

Mindfulness is a simple self-care tactic that can reduce stress, help you be less reactive, and assist you in finding a path to greater calm. Utah-based Intermountain Healthcare announced in September it was offering free online classes to help people comfortably work toward achieving better emotional wellness.

Many people who practice mindfulness report:


  • Capability to relax
  • Energy and enthusiasm for life
  • Self-esteem and self-compassion
  • Ability to cope with discomfort


  • Physical and psychological symptoms
  • Acute and chronic stress
  • Perception of pain

Indeed, practicing mindfulness meditation for even a few minutes a day has been shown to help improve overall health and well-being and can be useful in managing stress.

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Wildfires, COVID pose dual threat

As wildfires raged across the entire west coast this fall, the air quality had the potential to reach extremely unhealthy levels. The Washington State Department of Health released information aimed at helping citizens to stay safe from smoke and fire, while preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Breathing in wildfire smoke can cause symptoms that are relatively minor, such as eye, nose, and throat irritation, and also more dangerous symptoms like wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. The best way to protect yourself from smoky air is to stay inside and keep your indoor air clean by improving filtration and creating a clean air room in your home. To reduce the intake of smoke into your home, the DOH recommended:

  • Close windows and doors when it’s smoky outside, and open windows to let in fresh air during times when there’s better air quality outside.
  • Set air conditioners to re-circulate.
  • Avoid burning candles/incense, smoking, broiling/frying foods, and vacuuming, as these can add to indoor pollution.
  • Use a portable air cleaner with a HEPA filter – Air Cleaner Information for Consumers – California Air Resources Board.
  • Build your own box fan filter – WA Department of Ecology’s video on how to make your own clean air fan.

“This wildfire season is especially challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the DOH said in a release. “If you’re considering leaving the area to escape smoke or fire, consider the COVID-19 restrictions in the county you are traveling to, and the people you are visiting. This is especially important if they are at high risk for severe COVID-19. For those taking in people trying to escape fire or smoky conditions: please keep your circles small, wear masks indoors, and continue washing your hands often.”

These steps alone are not enough to protect you from COVID-19: Wearing cloth face coverings to protect yourself and others is still critical. “Cloth face coverings generally do not provide much protection from wildfire smoke, but they are still crucial in a pandemic,” said Secretary of Health John Wiesman. “We want people to continue to wear cloth face coverings to slow spread of COVID-19.”

Youth sports amid a pandemic

In a recent blog post for the Mayo Clinic, Jason Howland examined how youth sports have changed in 2020, and what safety measures should be put in place.

“Sports do require oftentimes close contact, sharing of equipment and other things that do pose risks. How do we do that in the safest way possible I think is the million-dollar question,” says Dr. David Soma, a Mayo Clinic pediatrician who specializes in sports medicine. Dr. Soma says sports provide valuable mental and physical benefits for kids, but the COVID-19 pandemic is a whole new ballgame. “If we are going to have kids play sports, we need to really strongly encourage a lot of those social safety measures: social distancing, hand hygiene, masking when possible.” He also recommends screening athletes for COVID-19 symptoms before practices and games.

Study: Positive effects of metabolic surgery may be independent of weight loss

A Cleveland Clinic study shows that 5% to 10% of surgically induced weight loss is associated with improved life expectancy and cardiovascular health. In comparison, about 20% weight loss is necessary to observe similar benefits with a non-surgical treatment. The findings also show that metabolic surgery may contribute health benefits that are independent of weight loss. The study is published in the October issue of Annals of Surgery.

This large observational study looked at 7,201 Cleveland Clinic patients: 1,223 patients with obesity and type 2 diabetes who underwent metabolic surgery (bariatric or weight loss surgery) were matched to 5978 patients who received usual medical care. About 80% of the patients had hypertension, 74% had dyslipidemia (elevated triglycerides and cholesterol), and 31% were taking insulin to treat their diabetes.

Using different statistical models, the effects of weight loss were studied to identify the minimum weight loss needed to decrease the risk of death and of experiencing major adverse cardiovascular events, such as coronary artery events, cerebrovascular events, heart failure, kidney disease, and atrial fibrillation.

“Following metabolic surgery, the risk of death and major heart complications appears to decrease after about 5% and 10% weight loss, respectively. Whereas, in the nonsurgical group, both the risk of death and major cardiovascular complications decreased after losing approximately 20% of body weight,” said Ali Aminian, M.D., director of Cleveland Clinic’s Bariatric & Metabolic Institute, and lead author of the study.

“This study suggests greater heart disease benefits are achieved with less weight loss following metabolic surgery than medical weight loss using lifestyle interventions. The study findings suggest that there are important benefits of metabolic surgery independent of the weight loss achieved,” said Steven Nissen, M.D., Chief Academic Officer of the Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute at Cleveland Clinic, and the study’s senior author.

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