Category Archive

Lifestyle and Wellness

Eye on Vision

Woman taking eye exam

Many of us got our first pair of glasses in childhood while our peers could see a chalkboard perfectly from the back of the room.

They didn’t have to worry about breaking their glasses in basketball games or poking themselves in the eyes learning to put in contacts, but the vast majority of them wound up with glasses in their mid-40s anyway. This is due to the onset of presbyopia, which is the gradual loss of the ability to focus visually on up-close objects. (Fun fact: the word “presbyopia” literally means “old-person eyes”!)

Roughly 80% of the American population develops presbyopia between ages 45 and 55 and requires some form of vision correction to restore their near vision. There are different treatment options depending on the individual and the severity of the presbyopia.

Reading glasses are the easiest option and often the first for people who had good vision up until this point in their lives. They can be found over-the-counter and offer mild correction at a single strength (the entire lens has the same enhancing power from top to bottom). Bifocals and trifocals are a little more complicated. Their lenses are divided into two or three sections, respectively, by sharp horizontal lines – each section has a different corrective strength, helping you see well both up close and at a distance. Progressive multifocal lenses also have a range of corrective powers, but do not have lines and offer a smoother transition between the power changes.

If you’re over 40 and having trouble seeing clearly up-close, talk with your eye doctor. It’s likely your vision or even medical coverage can help with the financial costs of an exam or glasses. You can also use Health Saving Account or Flexible Spending Account dollars toward a new set of lenses.


Presbyopia – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic
The prevalence and demographic associations of presenting near-vision impairment among adults living in the United States – PMC (

Release Valve: Lowering Blood Pressure

Doctor testing patient's blood pressure

People joke about it in stressful situations, and it’s one of the first things your doctor checks with that big rubber arm cuff when you come into the office.

Blood pressure, simply described, is the pressure that your blood puts on the arteries that carry it through your body. When that pressure stays too high, it can have negative effects on your health such as organ damage, heart attack, strokes, and more.

High blood pressure can be caused by certain health conditions such as diabetes and obesity, as well as not getting a healthy amount of exercise or eating well. If you’re concerned about this aspect of your health, here are some small, daily steps that can help you lower your blood pressure.

  • Balance nutrients. Eating less sodium (under 1,500 mg daily) and eating more potassium (found in foods like sweet potatoes, bananas, and spinach) can help ease your blood pressure down. (If you’re already on blood pressure medications, first talk with your doctor about your potassium intake as certain medications affect potassium levels.) Consuming food with probiotics – such as yogurt – can also help.
  • Get moving. Daily aerobic activity, such as jogging, brisk walking, or swimming, is invaluable to a healthy heart. Shoot for 30 minutes a day (if you have health concerns around exercise, talk to your doctor first).
  • Watch substance use. Too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure and sometimes interfere with blood pressure medications. Smoking is also proven to increase blood pressure and increase risk of heart disease.

If you’re experiencing blood pressure issues, it’s crucial to talk to your primary care physician. Treatment might be a combination of the steps above and medication, but your doctor will help you make a plan to bring it down.


10 ways to control high blood pressure without medication – Mayo Clinic
Prevent High Blood Pressure |

A Listening Ear: Therapy for Kids

Father holding daughter

Whether it’s helping kids process traumatic experiences or simply giving kids a space to learn good coping skills, therapy can help children improve their internal, home, and social life and become healthy, well-adjusted adults.

The stress and isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic have taken their toll on everyone: a late 2022 study indicated roughly 40% of Americans experienced high psychological distress at least once during the pandemic. These effects are certainly not limited to adults. Kids are also social creatures, and the abrupt transition to remote learning on top of sudden, great uncertainty led to an overall decline in youth mental health internationally.

Kids can react to stress in many different ways, including being irritable or moody, experiencing sleep disturbances, crying frequently, or losing interest in things they usually enjoy. One of the best things you can do is listen to your child and take their concerns seriously. Even if you know that some of the things they worry about won’t matter in the long run, it’s important that your child knows you’re a safe and compassionate person to talk to.

Finding a therapist can be helpful for your child as well, whether it’s for short-term or long-term concerns (in addition to pandemic-related concerns, there is a range of therapies for kids affected by ADHD, PTSD, anxiety, depression, and a host of other issues). Coverage varies widely by medical plan, so check your plan details. You may be able to locate a provider through your carrier’s website, as well through the American Psychological Association. It’s also worth checking the details of your Employee Assistance Program – oftentimes it provides both you and your dependents access to a number of visits with a licensed professional and other mental health resources.


Effects of COVID-19 pandemic on mental health of children and adolescents: A systematic review of survey studies – PMC (
Therapy to Improve Children’s Mental Health | CDC

Changing Times: Menopause

Plenty consequences of aging are talked about – balding, joint stiffness, a sudden need for bifocals – but one aspect of aging isn’t talked about as often, even though it affects roughly half the population.

Menopause is a natural part of aging, marking the time in which a person with a uterus stops menstruating. It typically occurs between the ages of 45-55, but can happen earlier, for example, if someone had a hysterectomy or suffered damage to their ovaries from chemotherapy.

The menopausal transition lasts on average from 7 to 14 years. Its length depends on many factors such as smoking, current age, race, and ethnicity. Menopause involves changes in hormonal levels, specifically estrogen and progesterone. These hormones regulate one’s period and release of eggs, or ovulation. When the body stops ovulating, the levels of these hormones drop off. The reduction of these hormones can cause multiple symptoms:

  • Hot flashes
  • Changes in menstrual cycle
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Emotional changes/mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Weight gain
  • Changes in libido
  • And more

These symptoms can range from mild to pretty miserable, but there are hormonal and non-hormonal ways to treat them. Hormonal treatments involve taking low doses of estrogen or estrogen-progesterone through a patch, pill, or cream, while non-hormonal treatments involve changing one’s diet, exercising, and other prescription medications. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, have a uterus, and are over 40, you may want to talk to your doctor to see whether you are beginning menopause. They can help you figure out the best path forward to minimize your symptoms.


Too Bright! Blue Light Concerns

Between computers, tablets, and smart phones, we spend a lot of time looking at screens every day – almost half of every day, in fact.

The isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic boosted weekly screen times even higher. Aside from the well-documented effects that much screen time can have on your mental health, there’s a possibility it can affect your physical health too.

You may have read about or seen ads for blue light glasses or blue light filters, which are supposed to help protect your eyes from the harmful effects of a certain kind of blue light. This spectrum of blue light is created primarily by the sun, but also by fluorescent lights, LED TVs, and most device screens. Our eyes are not good at filtering blue light naturally, so most of it passes through the front of the eye to the retina (the part of the eye that helps the brain process what we see).

Some studies indicate that constant, ongoing exposure to blue light could eventually damage the retina, causing problems such as macular degeneration. However, these studies are ongoing and not conclusive. There is some evidence that blue-light blocking lenses do not actually protect your retinal health, despite what some advertisers may claim. Blue light lenses may help reduce eye strain from prolonged screen time, but that is unrelated to retina damage.

While blue light might not damage your retinas, it can still be harmful to you in other ways. Too much blue light can reduce your body’s production of melatonin and throw off your circadian rhythm, which disrupts your sleep cycle. A simple fix is to limit your screen time before bed so your body knows it’s time to go to sleep.


Practical Self-Care

It’s a phrase prominent in recent ads, whether for ice cream, golf clubs, or even soap – “self-care” is everywhere, convincing you that you could make yourself happy with a new exfoliant or take a much-earned break with a glass of wine. While there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself now and then, that’s not actually what self-care is – it’s far more important.

Self-care, simply put, means setting aside time to do things that bolster both your physical and mental health. While this could certainly involve a special snack or a bubble bath, there are multiple, daily acts of self-care you can take that will help you take care of your emotional and physical health.

Take care of your body. This could be as simple as taking twenty minutes to walk up and down the block. It might mean making sure you drink enough water. It could look like making sure you get enough sleep, getting enough protein in your diet, or taking up yoga.

Take care of your mind. Self-care in this arena can look like eliminating sources of unnecessary stress from your life. Cutting back on social media time might be a good self-care practice. Making sure you see friends and family who help you be your best self, doing a relaxing, creative hobby, or even meditation are just a few examples of mental and social self-care practices.

Not every practice works for every person. Set some time aside to experiment with different practices. Maybe yoga isn’t for you, but you want to pick up tennis instead. Meditation is not everyone’s cup of tea, but walking in nature might be just as effective in helping you move your body and relax your mind (see HERE and HERE for more suggestions.) It might take some time to find your best individual self-care practices, but they’ll be invaluable to your overall health and happiness.

What is Self-Care? – ISF (
Self-Care: 12 Ways to Take Better Care of Yourself | Psychology Today
NIMH » Caring for Your Mental Health (

Down the Rabbit Hole: Dangers of Doomscrolling

Many of us experienced quarantines during 2020, which abruptly left us home for much longer periods than normal. During this time of social isolation, there was a collective uptick in time spent online.

Boredom, readily accessible social media, and bad news joined forces to create a new term: doomscrolling. Loosely defined as habitually reading bad news or disturbing content for extended periods of time, doomscrolling is a hot topic right now due to its societal prevalence and impact.

Going down depressing internet rabbit holes on your mobile device or computer didn’t start with COVID-19, but the social isolation of the pandemic made it a new or worse habit for many people. It can have multiple negative effects on your mental and emotional health, including the following:

  • Emotional burnout from unrelenting bad news
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Loneliness
  • Tiredness
  • Depression
  • Feelings of helplessness

Constant consumption of negative news is proven to be bad for you, but doomscrolling can be a hard habit to break. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to help limit your intake of heavy content. You can localize the behavior by only getting on social media or scrolling the news at certain times and places in your day (not in bed at night, for example). Practice mindfulness when you pick up your phone – think about why you’re picking it up instead of doing it compulsively. Think about what you’re feeling when you’re online and why you feel that way. Most importantly, make a habit of disconnecting. Set your phone down and take a walk outside. If you’re feeling the itch to read something, pick up a hard-copy book or magazine.

There’s no reason to trap yourself down a well of negative feelings. These simple steps, practiced daily, can help you feel better about the world and yourself.

Turning Up the Volume

Hearing loss is more common than you might think, and it has many different degrees and causes of hearing loss. Roughly one in every eight Americans have hearing loss in both ears.

In the hearing process, sound waves enter our ears and create vibrations that are carried to the brain by the middle and inner ear and translated into sounds. Hearing loss can occur when any of these parts suffer damage.

Aging is probably the best-known cause of hearing loss. Generally age-related hearing loss occurs when tiny hairs that help process sound in the inner ear suffer damage over the years and cannot regrow.

Damage is another common cause of hearing loss. This damage can be from hearing one too-loud sound or cumulative damage over time from frequent exposure to sounds over 70 decibels (see HERE for a helpful decibel chart). It can also be caused by chronic ear infections, meningitis, or trauma to the ear or head (such as experiencing a blow to the head or a punctured ear drum).

Additionally, some people are born with varying degrees of hearing loss due to genetic factors or problems during gestation. Others suffer temporary hearing difficulties due to a buildup of earwax. Some of these factors are unavoidable, but others can be reduced by wearing proper ear protection around noises over 70 decibels.

Hearing loss can have a profound effect on one’s life. If you are experiencing difficulty hearing, talk to your doctor. Hearing aids are not generally covered by medical insurance, so it’s important to check whether your vision or dental plan includes coverage for hearing aid fitting and purchase – if not, hearing aids are eligible purchases for Health Savings Accounts, Flexible Spending Accounts, and Health Reimbursement Accounts.

Can’t Catch a Breath

There are plenty things in life that take our breath away – a proposal, a beautiful sunset, a child’s first steps – but it’s not fun when the cause is asthma.

It’s estimated that about 25 million people in the US have asthma, a lung condition that occurs when the airways between the nose and mouth and the lungs get inflamed. This swelling makes the passage of air to the lungs more difficult, which results in breathing trouble ranging from mild to deadly serious. There are many potential asthma triggers — pollen, dust mites, tobacco smoke, pets, exercise, mold, and even stress can set off an attack.

While asthma is not a curable condition, there are multiple ways to reduce one’s exposure and reactions to triggers. A combination of medication and prevention is often most effective. These are a few everyday things you can do to reduce your contact with asthma triggers:

  • Avoid tobacco smoke
  • Routinely dust and vacuum your home, especially if you have carpet
  • Wash your sheets regularly to avoid dust mites
  • Use an air cleaner with a HEPA filter
  • Wear a mask when using disinfectants to clean
  • Use an indoor dehumidifier to reduce chances of mold

On the pharmaceutical side, there are many different kinds of asthma medications. The inhaler is probably the most iconic asthma medication. Inhalers come in two types: a quick-acting inhaler for emergency use or a long-term control medication. Additionally, there are other medications that help reduce the body’s inflammatory responses, and if allergies play a significant part in your asthma, allergy medications or allergy shots may help control your symptoms.

If you routinely have trouble breathing, it’s important that you talk to your doctor to figure out what’s going on. If asthma is the problem, rest assured that there are plenty of ways to help you breathe easy again.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Man looking distressed

There was a time when most people thought of post-traumatic stress disorder — or PTSD — in terms of soldiers who returned home from combat. Today, we know that anyone can develop PTSD at any age, and it can stem from many types of traumas.

Individuals who experience a car wreck, physical or sexual assault, witness a violent crime, a natural disaster, or the sudden loss of a loved one can develop a prolonged feeling of stress or fright long after they’re no longer in danger. Someone who wasn’t directly impacted by a traumatic event may also develop PTSD when they discover that loved one close to them has been involved in one.

PTSD affects people differently. The symptoms — which can develop soon after the traumatic event or appear months later — tend to be categorized into four different types:

  • Re-experiencing symptoms (flashbacks, nightmares)
  • Avoidance symptoms (staying busy, avoiding related places and activities)
  • Arousal and reactivity symptoms (angry outbursts, irritability)
  • Cognition and mood symptoms (trouble concentrating, feeling helpless)

These symptoms can impede a person’s everyday functions and relationships, and rarely get better with time alone. PTSD treatment often includes a combination of talk therapy and medication. Working with a mental health professional to learn to identify and manage trauma triggers can be life-changing for many suffering from PTSD. Certain medications can also help treat symptoms, including sadness, anger, depression, anxiety, and sleeplessness.

Untreated PTSD can cause a person to persistently re-experience their trauma and suffer from prolonged symptoms that negatively impact their everyday life. If you think that you are experiencing PTSD, talk to your physician today. They can help you determine whether you’re suffering from PTSD and, if necessary, refer you to a specialist. If you are experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) (if you are a veteran, dial this number and then press 1 to access the Veteran Crisis Line).