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How Fruits & Vegetables Can Prolong Your Life

How Fruits & Vegetables Can Prolong Your Life | Dr. Ali GhaharyWe all know that healthy eating is important. It has many benefits, such as reducing the risk of many commonly diagnosed conditions – including heart disease and diabetes, as well as can boost energy and improve mood, and of course help you maintain a healthy weight. When we eat healthy foods, we are feeding our bodies the essential nutrients that help us thrive. These nutrients include healthy carbohydrates, healthy fats, proteins, water, as well as vitamins and minerals.

Among some of the best foods that you can eat to get these essential nutrients are fruits and vegetables – and, according to a new study conducted by the American Heart Association (AHA), increased consumption of fruits and vegetables can not only improve your overall health as well as significantly reduce the risk of developing some of the illnesses mentioned above, but can also increase your lifespan. The study, which analyzed data from over 2 million people in the United States and other countries, found that individuals who consumed at least two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables had a decreased risk of developing major chronic illness and an improved change of living longer – while individuals a part of the study who consumed five servings of fruits and vegetables each day saw the lowest risk of premature death by as much as 13%.

When it comes to healthy eating habits in North America, insufficient consumption of fruits and vegetables has long been known to be a significant cause of the diagnosis of many different chronic and non-communicable diseases in individuals of all ages, races and ethnicities – including being linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, respiratory diseases, and cancer – and is attributed to as many as 1.7 million deaths worldwide. To improve healthy eating habits, the Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends following Canada’s Food Guide, which not only promotes the consumption of fruits and vegetables, but also suggests incorporating more whole grains and protein-rich foods into our diets (while avoiding foods that are high in sodium, sugar, and saturated fats.)

As for figuring out what fruits and vegetables are best to eat, the AHA study determined that leafy, green vegetables (i.e., lettuce, spinach, and kale), as well as other vegetables and fruits rich in vitamin C and beta carotene (i.e., carrots, berries, and citrus fruits – such as oranges and grapefruit) were among some of the best in improving life expectancy rates. Other fruits and vegetables that are also known to be beneficial to our health include blueberries (known for being high in antioxidants, which protect the cells against free radicals), apples (a source of fibre, potassium, and vitamin’s C and K in addition to some B vitamins), pomegranates (also high in antioxidants, as well as have anti-inflammatory effects), and strawberries (due to their lower glycemic index), just to name a few.

COVID-Safe Fitness

In light of COVID-19, we’ve all had to make some pretty major changes to our everyday routines – such as our social interactions (having to stick to our immediate households and not being able to gather with other family members or friends), our work environments (with many businesses opting to move to allow their employees to work from home through the pandemic), mask wearing, etcetera.

What some have also had to make changes to is their fitness routines. While many gyms and recreation centres are now open to customers again with things like limits on capacity (both staff and customers), appointments being required for workout sessions, screening (i.e., temperature checks), increased cleaning & disinfecting protocols (including hand sanitizing stations), appropriate signage to encourage the following of safety measures (i.e., physical distancing), temporary suspension of high-impact fitness classes (as per orders of the Provincial Health Officer), and changes to personal training, it’s still possible to be exposed to COVID-19 despite all health and safety measures being taken. Therefore, not everyone will be comfortable stepping foot back inside of a gym just yet. That being said, it’s still important that we get exercise each and every day – and there are still ways we can do that despite COVID-19.

For example, by exercising outdoors. While the winter weather can make being outside feel less comfortable, it doesn’t have to be entirely avoided as long as you take appropriate measures (including wearing weather-appropriate attire.) It’s important to layer up by starting with a thin base of synthetic fabric (which helps pull sweat from the skin), followed by an additional layer (such as a waterproof jacket or windbreaker) to protect you from conditions like wind, rain, and snow. Depending on the temperature, you may also require an additional fleece layer for added warmth, as well a hat and pair of gloves. Because the days are shorter during winter months, it’s also important to wear bright colours so that you can be seen easily – particularly if you are going to be sharing the roadways (i.e., bicycling) with motorists. If you’re going to be walking on snowy or icy surfaces, make sure you’re wearing shoes that are appropriate for the conditions (it’s also recommended that you attach snow/ice spikes to your shoes.) Because exercising in colder weather can also increase your risk of sprains and strains, it’s also a good idea to warm up prior to your workout to help increase blood flow to the muscles to prevent these types of injuries from occurring.

If outdoor fitness isn’t something you’re fond of, you can just as easily exercise in the comfort of your own home without requiring any special gym equipment. For example, you can find plenty of pre-recorded exercise (i.e., yoga and pilates) videos online that you can follow along to, or download a workout app onto your smartphone. If you do, however, want to get some at-home workout equipment, things like treadmills and bikes are great for cardio, while weights can also help increase strength.

Bleeding Gums

Practicing good dental hygiene is important. Doing so keeps your teeth healthy and prevents things like cavities and improves gum health – which ultimately also prevents you from having to make extra trips to the dentist.

If you have gums that bleed – particularly after brushing your teeth or flossing, this is usually caused by a buildup of plaque. With regular hygiene appointments and continued at-home hygiene, this is something you can easily improve. However, if you’re not following good oral hygiene, this plaque buildup can turn into hardened tartar which can lead to increased bleeding as well as something known as gingivitis (affecting as many as 16 million Canadians) or periodontal disease (as it progresses), in which the gums and bone that surround and support the teeth become inflamed or infected due to bacteria in the mouth.

Warning signs and symptoms of gingivitis and periodontal disease include:

• Red, swollen gums
• Bleeding gums (especially when brushing or flossing)
• Painful gums
• Receding gums
• Painful chewing
• Sensitive teeth
• Loose teeth
• Changes to your bite
• Changes in the fit of dentures

There are also certain risk factors that can increase your chances of developing gum problems, such as:

• Poor dental hygiene
• Being a smoker
• Diabetes
• Stress
• Old fillings
• Certain medications
• Hormonal changes
• Being immunocompromised
• Stress

As mentioned, practicing good dental hygiene is one of the best ways to prevent gingivitis and periodontal disease from developing. When it comes to brushing your teeth, it’s also important that you are following the proper technique – by using a small amount of toothpaste and aiming your toothbrush towards an angle at the gumline, rotating it in a gentle circular motion on both the outer and inside surfaces (an electric toothbrush is something you may also want to consider using.) When flossing your teeth, you should glide the floss gently in between the teeth. Once the floss reaches the gumline, move it in a C-like shape against the tooth and gently move it in the space between the tooth and the gums. In combination with brushing, this helps to reduce and remove plaque from in between the teeth and therefore reduces your risk of gum disease.

In some cases, bleeding gums could be an indicator of other health problems – such as certain vitamin deficiencies, or a type of blood cancer known as leukemia. If your gum bleeding persists, you should book an appointment with your dentist and/or physician for further evaluation.

Energy Boosting Tips

If you find that you’re feeling more fatigued and lacking overall energy that you’re otherwise used to having, there could be many reasons why. Among one of the most common reasons for that fatigue is due to not getting enough sleep. When you’re sleep deprived, not only will you feel more tired, but you can also experience poor concentration which may affect things like work or schooling. Over time, sleep deprivation can also have an impact on your overall health and may increase your risk of developing things like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, as well as obesity. Therefore, it’s important to ensure you’re getting a good night’s rest. People also often don’t think that mental health contributes to their energy levels, but stress and anxiety are also major contributing factors in depleted energy. If you’re experiencing anxiety or are struggling with your mental health in any way, it’s important to be able to identify your triggers, take note of how you’re feeling, and reach out to a trusted individual – like your physician – for support – which could include referrals to counselling services as well as medication.

Another reason why you might be lacking energy is due to your diet. For example, when you eat, the body breaks down nutrients which are absorbed and used as fuel to give us the energy that we need throughout the day. However, if you’re not eating the right foods, or if you’re someone who tends to skip meals, then you’re likely not getting the calories and nutrients that you need to help keep your energy levels up. This can also lead to deficiencies in these essential nutrients, including healthy fats, healthy carbohydrates, and proteins (the three main nutrients that are used for energy), along with fibre, and vitamins and mineral deficiencies too.

When people think of the word “carbohydrates,” it’s often thought of as something that is bad and should be avoided. However, there are different types of carbohydrates and not all of them need to be avoided. Refined or simple carbs (sugary foods and beverages, for example) contain little to no nutrients and fibre and are linked to an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. For these reasons, refined/simple carbs should be avoided as they don’t provide nutritional value. When it comes to sustaining energy, you’ll instead want to focus on the “good” carbohydrates known as complex carbs, which are found in foods like vegetables, beans, whole grains, and high-fibre cereals. Complex carbs digest at a much slower rate than simple carbs do and are also turned into glucose, which ultimately give us that boost of energy.

As mentioned, skipping meals is also problematic. By skipping meals, you’re not only depleting yourself of essential nutrients, but it can also cause you to become hungrier which can then cause you to overeat. Dietitians recommend eating three healthy, well-balanced meals each day (ensuring that you are including something from each food group – i.e., vegetables and fruit, meat and alternatives, milk products, and grain products.) If you’re hungry in-between meals, you can have a small, healthy snack (i.e., fresh fruits, nuts.)

Caffeine is also something that is commonly consumed in order to boost energy – and while it can be effective for a few hours, it’s usually followed by a crash. Alcohol is also something that should be avoided, as it is a depressant and can significantly reduce your energy levels.

If you’re still finding yourself tired after making dietary and lifestyle changes, this could be an indicator that something else may be going on with your health and you should follow up with your physician for further evaluation. Common health-related causes of fatigue include things like anemia, chronic fatigue syndrome, concussions, chronic inflammation, infection, and more.

Kidney Stones vs. Gallstones

Both kidney stones and gallstones are things that you may often hear about, but it’s important to know the difference between the two.

What Are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones (also known as renal calculi, urolithiasis, or nephrolithiasis) are hard deposits (made of minerals and salts) that form inside of your kidneys. The smaller the stone, the easier it is to pass on its own. However, stones that range between 4 and 6 millimetres will typically require some time of treatment. In some cases, a kidney stone can pass without you even knowing it – while in other cases, passing a kidney stone can be quite painful.

Who Gets Kidney Stones / What Are the Risk Factors?

The risk factor of developing kidney stones is 9% in women, and 11% in men. Other risk factors for developing kidney stones include things like not drinking enough water/dehydration, consuming diets that are high in sodium (salt) and protein (it’s recommended that you avoid high-oxalate foods), having certain digestive diseases (such as inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis), obesity, having a family history of stones, and even being on certain medications.

What Are the Symptoms of Kidney Stones?

Common symptoms associated with kidney stones include severe pain on one side of your lower back, stomach pain that persists, nausea and/or vomiting, fever and/or chills, cloudy urine, and blood in the urine.

Kidney Stone Treatment?

As mentioned, most kidney stones (up to 80% of them) will be small and will pass on their own, therefore not requiring any treatment. However, if you are unable to easily pass a stone, then you may be prescribed a medication known as an alpha blocker. This type of medication will help relax your ureter muscles and allow you to pass the stone easily and with less discomfort. In cases where a stone is unable to pass or is causing a blockage, more extensive treatment may be required – including use of sound waves to help break up the stones, or even surgical removal.

What Are Gallstones?

Gallstones are hard deposits (stones) that form in the gallbladder. These stones form as a result of bile (a digestive fluid) forming into solid particles – often due to an imbalance of the chemical make-up in the bile – such as high cholesterol or bilirubin .

Who Gets Gallstones / What Are the Risk Factors?

Gallstones can occur in both children and adults, though they are more common in middle-aged adults – and also tend to be more common in women than they are in men. There are other factors that may increase one’s chances of developing gallstones, such as being over the age of 40, living a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight or obese, consuming a high-fat diet, having certain medical conditions (such as diabetes), as well as pregnancy.

Gallstone Treatment?

It is possible for gallstones to go away on their own. In some cases, dietary changes can help reduce complications as a result of having gallstones. However, if gallstones become problematic (i.e., start causing pain or other issues), then you may need to have surgery.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Triggers

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease – also known as GERD (or sometimes referred to as “acid reflux”) – is a common condition that is caused when stomach acid backflows into the tube found between the mouth and stomach (known as the esophagus.) To date, an estimated 5 million Canadians suffer from this chronic disease. While Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease itself isn’t considered to be life-threatening, it can become problematic and result in complications if it is left untreated – including damage to the tissue that lines the esophagus, causing inflammation and pain. In some cases, this damage can be permanent and may also contribute to esophageal cancer – although this is rare.

The most common symptom that is frequently associated with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease are as follows:

• Heartburn (described as burning or a pressure-like sensation in the chest)
• A bitter or sour taste in the mouth
• Regurgitation of foods or liquids

While less common, it is also possible to experience the following symptoms in addition to those mentioned above, such as:

• Persistent sore throat
• Hoarseness when speaking
• Chronic cough
• Lump-like sensation in the throat
• Difficulty swallowing
• Uncomfortable feeling of fullness after meals
• Asthma

As for what triggers episodes of GERD to occur, the most common culprits are the things that we eat. For example, tomatoes and citrus fruits (such as oranges and grapefruits) are highly acidic. These can either cause heartburn to occur or add fuel to the fire if you already have too much acid in your stomach and therefore compounding the problem. Other food-related triggers for acid reflux include things like garlic, onions, peppermint, foods that are spicy, fried foods, caffeine (such as coffee or carbonated beverages) and alcohol. While not all of these foods will be triggers for someone with GERD, and while the severity of symptoms may not be as bad for certain people with GERD who do happen to consume these foods, you may want to consider reducing your consumption level of these particular foods – or avoid them all together to prevent flare-ups from occurring.

GERD also isn’t just about the types of foods you eat. How much you eat, and when, can also be two contributing factors. For example, when you overeat, you develop a feeling of fullness which puts significant pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter – which is responsible for keeping stomach acid from going where it shouldn’t. One way to prevent this is by eating smaller portions of food more frequently as opposed to large meals – and to eat to the point where you feel comfortable as opposed to feeling like you’ve eaten too much. It’s also important to avoid eating food late at night. This is because, in the evenings, the concentration of acid in your stomach is much higher. When you’re laying down lounging on the couch or in bed, it’s also much easier for acid to make its way up into the esophagus. For those reasons, you should try your best to avoid late-night eating. There are certain foods you can eat, however, that are actually known to help prevent acid reflux. For example, apples, blackberries, carrots, and kale. Apples are high in fibre – and fibre is associated with less reflux; while blackberries contain healing compounds that can help protect the esophagus, and carrots and kale both contain important tissue-repairing nutrients such as beta-carotene. In order to determine which foods help vs. contribute to your reflux, I recommend keeping a food journal to take note of what you eat and any symptoms that you might develop as a result.

If you are overweight or obese, this can also increase pressure on the abdomen and cause strain to the lower esophageal sphincter as mentioned earlier. Therefore, losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight can be helpful. In some cases, certain medications may also be to blame – particularly those used to treat high blood pressure and asthma. While you should never stop taking a medication that has been prescribed to you, it is a good idea to consult with your physician about whether or not any medications may be playing a role in your GERD flares and what can be done about it – whether it’s dosing changes, or trying something else all together.

COVID-19 Variants

In recent months, news of variants of the SARS-CoV-2 have been making waves. A strain of a virus is considered a variant when it has mutations that change its genetic code. Variants of a virus can affect who is most impacted by it, the symptoms that one might experience, how quickly the virus spreads, how deadly it may be, as well as its response to vaccines.

Currently, the known variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus include:

B.1.1.7 (first identified in the United Kingdom)
B.1.351 (first identified in South Africa)
P.1 (first identified in Brazil)

In British Columbia, we have so far seen a total of 25 cases of the U.K. variant and 15 cases of the South African variant reported as of February 8th – bringing the total to 40. While the majority of these variants found in our province have been linked to travel, there have been some instances where health officials have been unable to determine the original source. Despite there not yet being any widespread community outbreaks of these variants, they are cause for concern given the alarming rate of transmission that is known to happen, which has been seen in other parts of the world. Also found in each of the variants is a mutation known as E484K. This particular mutation is also equally concerning as research suggests that it has an impact on not just the body’s immune response, but also the efficiency of vaccines.

In order to help further identify these variants in British Columbia, genome sequencing on positive COVID-19 tests is being increased from hundreds to thousands per week – including random sampling of certain demographics, positive tests linked to international travellers, as well as those that have been linked to outbreaks.

In the meantime, British Columbians are urged to continue doing what we know works to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to prevent further spread of the aforementioned variants. This means continuing to follow public health orders – i.e., sticking to your immediate household and avoiding large gatherings, avoiding all non-essential travel, and wearing masks in all indoor public spaces (such as at grocery stores, shopping malls, medical facilities, libraries, etc.) It’s also important to continue utilizing other layers of protection, including keeping a 6 feet/2 metre distance from others when out in public, washing your hands frequently with warm water and soap (or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer), and, most importantly, staying home if you are exhibiting any signs of illness.

Understanding Cancer

At the end of last year, an estimated 225,000 Canadians were diagnosed with cancer, while there were an estimated 19 million new cases diagnosed worldwide – with an estimated 10 million people dying from cancer each year, making it the second-leading cause of death. Cancer occurs when the normal cells in our bodies change and lead to uncontrolled and abnormal growth of tumours, which can also potentially spread to other areas of the body if not caught early enough or if left untreated.

Divided into three groups, tumours can be:

• Benign
• Malignant
• Precancerous/Premalignant

When a tumour is benign, it is not considered to be cancerous and usually is not considered life-threatening but should be watched carefully. When you have a tumour that is malignant, these grow faster than tumours that are benign and can destroy tissue as well as metastasize (spread to other areas of the body.) When a tumour is considered precancerous/premalignant, this involves cells that appear abnormal and are likely to develop into cancer.

There are also five main types of cancer:

• Carcinoma
• Sarcoma
• Lymphoma/Myeloma
• Leukemia
• Brain/Spinal Cord

Carcinoma is a type of cancer that arises in the lining of the cells that help protect our organs known as the epithelial cells. Carcinomas can invade organs and tissues, as well as affect the lymph nodes and other areas of the body. Common types of cancer in this category include lung cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer. Sarcoma is a type of malignant tumour that can affect the soft tissues (such as the muscle, blood vessels, nerves, and fat), or bone. With lymphoma/myeloma, these are types of cancers that affect the immune system’s cells. Lymphoma impacts the lymphatic system (which is responsible for balancing body fluid levels as well as defending the body from infections), while myeloma starts in a type of white blood cell known as plasma, which produces antibodies to help the body fights infection. When one is diagnosed with myeloma, the ability to produce these antibodies decreases. Leukemia is another type of cancer that also affects both the white blood cells and the tissue that is responsible for forming blood cells (known as bone barrow.) There are also cancers of the brain and spinal cord which affect the central nervous system (CNS). The central nervous system is responsible for a wide range of bodily functions – including awareness, memory, sensations, and movement.

As many as one-third of cancers can be prevented by making lifestyle changes, such as improving your diet, getting regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, and avoiding workplace hazards (such as asbestos.) These are known as modifiable risk-factors. However, things like age, genetics, the immune system, and carcinogens (substances that affect how cells behave) also play a role in the diagnosis of cancer. These are known as non-modifiable risk-factors.

Depending on the type of cancer and its stage, symptoms can include things like unusual swelling or lumps (which are often painless), extreme fatigue, unexpected bleeding, coughing, difficult swallowing, unexplained weight loss, changes in bowel habits, problems with urination, loss of appetite, sores that won’t heal, persistent heartburn or indigestion, and night sweats.

Early detection of cancer is important, as this allows for not only earlier treatment, but better treatment options and an improved quality of life. Depending on age and risk-factors, your physician will recommend various types of screening – including screening for breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, and lung cancer.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Fatigue is something that all of us experience – particularly when we lead busy lives and have multiple things to juggle such as work, school, family, and other commitments. As a result, it’s not uncommon to have poor sleep quality – with 1 in 2 Canadian adults reporting they have trouble going to sleep or staying asleep, 1 in 3 having difficulty staying awake, and 1 in 5 finding they don’t feel refreshed after sleeping. Fatigue and poor sleep can also be precipitated several other health-related factors, including poor mental health and chronic stress or anxiety, anemia, inflammation, concussions, thyroid disease, and kidney disease…just to name a few. Certain medications can also cause one to feel tired. Depending on the cause of your fatigue, making certain lifestyle changes such as avoiding alcohol and caffeine before bed, maintaining a regular sleep/wake schedule, ensuring you have a good sleep environment, and practicing relaxation techniques can all be beneficial in improving your quality of sleep.

Over half a million Canadians also suffer from a condition known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Unlike normal fatigue where you may feel tired from time to time, someone who is diagnosed with CFS will experience symptoms for at least six months or more (in some cases, years) – and these symptoms usually go beyond simply feeling fatigued. These can include things like memory problems, inability to concentrate, headaches, sore throat, enlarged lymph nodes, unexplained body pain, and dizziness. When it comes to the fatigue side of CFS, you may also experience extreme exhaustion that worsens following physical activity. As a result, chronic fatigue syndrome can be disruptive to one’s everyday life including their ability to carry out day to day tasks, whether it’s getting out of bed, doing household chores, or going to work. This can then lead to social isolation, as well as mental decline (including depression.)

Certain risk factors may increase your chances of developing chronic fatigue. Age, for example, is one factor. While it can affect people of all ages, those between the ages of 25 and 40 are at higher risk. Gender is another, with a higher rate of women being diagnosed with CFS than men. While it’s not exactly known what causes chronic fatigue syndrome, things like viral infections, hormonal imbalances, immune system problems, as well as physical and/or emotional trauma are all thought to be potential triggers.

Because there is no cure for chronic fatigue, treatment is focused more on relieving symptoms, which can be done through a variety of ways – including medication and other types of therapy. If pain is associated with your CFS diagnosis, over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen are often recommended. If these are not helpful, your physician may also prescribe medications like gabapentin or duloxetine. These types of medications work by reducing the level of neurotransmitters that cause pain. However, it’s also important to note that when prescribed these medications, it may take having to be on them for several weeks before you will start to notice any improvement. If you are experiencing depression as a result of your diagnosis, it’s also important to seek out treatment for this. This normally includes a combination of medication in addition to therapy – such as counselling and CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy). Combined, these can not only help improve your mood, but also help you to find better ways of coping with your diagnosis. While high-impact exercise is known to exacerbate symptoms of chronic fatigue, it’s still important to stat fit by having a low-impact, tolerable routine, such as going for a short walk each day.

If you have chronic fatigue syndrome, keeping a diary is recommended so that you can keep track of certain triggers, things that might alleviate symptoms, and things that don’t.

COVID-19 Q&A: Part 12

“What are the most common symptoms of COVID-19?”
Symptoms of COVID-19 can be similar to that of a common cold or flu, such as fever, chills, cough, body aches, loss of smell or taste, headache, fatigue, weakness, and gastrointestinal symptoms (such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting.) If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s recommended you get tested for the virus. (You can find a local testing centre by clicking here.) In severe cases it is also possible to develop shortness of breath or have trouble breathing. If this happens to you, you should seek immediate medical attention by calling 911.

“How contagious is COVID-19?”
COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus that is spread through respiratory droplets (or aerosols) that release when an infected individual coughs, sneezes, or talks. You can become infected with the virus through having close contact with an infected individual, or by touching a contaminated surface and then by touching your face (such as your mouth, nose, or eyes.) The main way the virus spreads is through inhalation of these particles, which get into the airways and cause infection. There is also evidence to suggest that airborne particles can remain suspended in the air for extended periods of time, as well as travel certain distances, therefore increasing the risk of transmission of the virus.

“How can I prevent myself from getting the virus?”
One of the most important things you can do to prevent yourself from spreading the virus as well as prevent passing it on to others is to continue to utilize all the layers of protection that we know work – including washing your hands with soap and water regularly (or using hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water isn’t immediately available), keeping at least six feet apart from others when out in public, wearing a face mask, and staying home if you’re sick. Individuals who are over the age of 60 or those who have certain underlying health conditions, such as a respiratory disease (i.e., asthma, COPD), heart disease or diabetes, are at much higher risk of contracting COVID-19. If you are someone who happens to fall into the high-risk category, then you need to take extra precautions to protect yourself – even if all layers of protection are already in place and being carefully followed, as these measures do not come with a 100% guarantee that you won’t contract the virus. The extra precautions that high-risk individuals should be taking include things like working from home, ordering groceries and other necessities online, and simply staying home as much as possible.

“What does it mean to be “asymptomatic”?”
The term asymptomatic refers to someone who is infected with COVID-19 but does not develop any symptoms. While the virus is considered to be most contagious when someone does have symptoms, it’s still possible to transmit the virus to others without developing any symptoms at all and without knowing you actually have it – which, again, is why things like hand washing, mask wearing, and physical distancing are so important.

“How does the COVID-19 vaccine work?”
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use what’s known as messenger RNA – or mRNA – which mimics the S protein (also referred to as the “spike”) that causes the infection, which then results in the body’s immune response. When it comes to these particular vaccines, you will need to receive two injections. In order to achieve a strong immune response to help prevent the virus, the World Health Organization recommends receiving your booster shot 21 to 28 days after the first. However, given the slow rollout and delays of the vaccine in some areas, the World Health Organization says the second dose of the vaccine can be scheduled for administration up 6 weeks after receiving the first dose.

“How long does immunity last after receiving the vaccine?”
Because the COVID-19 vaccines are so new, it’s not yet known how long immunity from them lasts. This is, of course, something that researchers are following carefully. That being said, studies have shown the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to be 94.1% to 95% effective.