Good to Grow! Discover the health-boosting (and space-saving) joys of container gardening
10,000 steps per day: Myth or truth? COVID-19 vaccines: What you need to know
Your health. Brought to life.
Contents 4. Starting Point Quick reads to boost your health IQ. 8. Think Inside the Box Want to get gardening’s
I NS I GHT S
The Gifts of Hope and Healing
benefits, but don’t have the space? Consider containers. by Mary Lahr Shier 13. Living Well Taking up art at any age. by Katie Lajiness 16. MythBuster 10,000 steps per day: What does the science say? by Tess Langfus 18. Knife and Fork Foods to brighten up your diet — and help protect your health. by Tess Langfus
With this issue of Be.Well by Medica, we celebrate health. How to find it, improve it, and maintain it. By any measure, health is a gift. And if the past year has taught us anything, it’s how precious that gift can be. If I were to summarize the last 12 months, I’d say it’s been a series of understatements. It’s an understatement to say it tested our perseverance. It’s an understatement to say that watching people struggle to reclaim their health has been heart-wrenching. And it’s an understatement to say that seeing people lose loved ones has been heart-breaking. The good news is that the outlook appears to be brightening. New vaccines — all developed in record time — promise to end the chaos COVID-19 created. While we still need to be vigilant, there are finally reasons for hope and optimism.
22. Covid-19 Vaccines What you need to know. by Katie Lajiness
When faced with loss, I try to find examples of what I’ve gained — and think about how I can help others. At Medica, we know we can best serve our members when we take care of one another first. With that in mind, we’re making extra efforts to treat each other with kindness. We’re trying to pause and be grateful for our health. And above all, we’re focusing on how our teams can help our members and their communities. Here’s to a brighter future — and better health — in the months and years ahead.
President & CEO
S TART I NG PO I NT
Get a Head Start on Your Health The best time to schedule a preventive screening? Right now. If you’re like a lot of people, you might have put off your annual checkup in 2020 because of COVID-19. And that’s completely understandable. Plenty of us have taken extra care not to expose ourselves to the virus. But checkups focused on preventive care — including needed screenings and immunizations — are important and can help identify problems early. Some screenings are recommended for people in specific age ranges. For example, colon cancer screenings and mammograms generally happen after age 50. Some, such as high blood pressure and body mass index (BMI), should be checked every year. Screenings can also identify symptoms of depression. The bottom line: Preventive screenings can help your health care provider catch conditions early, often before they get serious. And that can help keep you healthy. And if you’re concerned about COVID-19, take heart: Many providers are offering virtual care visits, which let you use your computer or mobile device to connect with a provider.
In short, there’s no time like the present when it comes to screenings. Ask your provider how to get started today.
F I VE WAYS TO BOOST YOUR METABOL I SM In your 20s, you ate whatever you wanted. Now it seems like you can barely look at food without putting on a few pounds. What’s going on? In a word: metabolism. Metabolism is what converts calories into the energy for your body to function. While part of it is controlled by your age, gender, and genetic makeup, you can influence how fast your body burns calories.
Here are five ways to make it happen:
Buildmusclemass. Strength training packs on muscle and burns calories.
Get your heart rate up. Daily aerobic activity revs up your internal systems.
Don’t forget theD. The vitaminD you get fromthe sun or supplements has been shown to boostmetabolismand reduce body fat.
Pack on the protein. Nuts, poultry, and the like take morework to digest, so eating themcan increase yourmetabolic rate. Plus they tend to fill you up quickly, which could help you eat less at a sitting.
Eatmeals at the same time each day. Skipping meals can put your system in starvationmode, and your body can respond by storing calories as fat.
Think Inside the Box Want to garden but don’t have the space for a big backyard plot? Consider containers.
BY MARY LAHR SH I ER
Nothing beats back a case of the blues like vigorous weeding. There’s something about ripping out unwanted plants to sooth stress and give you a feeling of accomplishment. But working with plants can bemore than a stressbuster. The Mayo Clinic notes that 30 minutes of daily gardening offers low-impact exercise that can help cut risks for heart attacks, stroke, osteoporosis, and some cancers. And an Australian study found that men and women in their 60s who gardened were 36 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than nongardeners. Butwhat ifyoudon’twant tocommit tothetraditional outdoorgarden? Enter container gardening. With more of us living in townhomes, apartments, and assisted living, garden companies have responded with vegetables and flowers that thrive in containers.
In short, there’s never been a better time to start a garden on your deck or patio — or even indoors.
Tip : Estimate your container area’s sun
It’s easy — and affordable One big advantage of container gardening: It requires fewer tools than in-ground gardening. A good pair of gloves and a trowel are all you need to get started. You can also check out your local co-op or share seedlings with family and friends to make your garden grow.
exposure in the spring by checking every hour or two during the day. Less than four hours of sun is shade, four to six is part-sun, and more than six is sun. Plant tags also will tell you how much light a plant needs.
THR I L L ER , F I L L ER , S P I L L ER Ornamental containers can include anything from a single tree (a citrus tree like Meyer lemon in a container grows well indoors and out) to a grouping of varied plants. Many container designers use the thriller, filler, and spiller method. The thriller is a tall, striking plant. King Tut ® papyrus, which can grow 4 to 6 feet tall in a container, has wild, spidery green flowers. For smaller containers, try Baby Tut ® , which tops out at about 3 feet. The filler is a lush, full plant such as impatiens, coleus, or even an herb. The spiller is a plant that drapes over the side of a container, such as calibrachoa, trailing petunias, sweet potato vine, or creeping Jenny.
3. Use real potting soil Fill your containers with a
commercial potting mix. These have fertilizer and materials to provide drainage that’ll stop pots from getting waterlogged. And think twice about using soil from a yard — it’ll turn to cement by the end of the summer. 4. Plan to water Containers need regular watering. In the heat of summer, water every day, preferably in the morning. Here’s one way to tell if your container plants need water: Stick a finger an inch or two into the soil. If it’s dry, it’s time to water.
There are tricks to getting plants to thrive in small spaces. These five will help you get started.
HOW MANY PLANTS IN ONE CONTAINER?
1. Match pot to plant Consider the mature size of what you’re growing. Herbs such as parsley, chives, or mint will be happy in a 10-inch-diameter container. Most patio-sized tomatoes or peppers do well in 14- to 18-inch containers. Whatever container you choose, make sure it has drainage holes. 2. Know your light Sunlight is the most important factor in any garden. If your containers will be on a shady deck all day, grow shade-loving ornamentals such as coleus, begonias, or caladium. If your patio or deck has at least six hours of sunshine a day, go wild with zinnias, petunias, or succulents. For food, grow tomatoes, peppers, or strawberries in sunny spaces.
For ornamental containers, the general rules are: • One to three plants in a pot less than 12 inches in diameter • Three to five for pots 12 to 14 inches in diameter • Up to seven in pots 16 to 18 inches in diameter.
Tip : Herbs are a terrific choice if you don’t feel like checking water levels every day. They don’t mind drying out.
For vegetables, one plant per pot works best.
Continued on next page >
5. Fertilize The plant food in potting soil breaks apart over time. To ensure plants get enough nutrition, add a tablespoon or two of time- release granular fertilizer to each pot when planting in containers. Around the end of June, add some more fertilizer. For annual flowers that you want to bloom heavily, a liquid fertilizer once a week at half the suggested dose (sometimes called the “weakly, weekly method”) works well. Vegetables do well with an organic option such as fish emulsion.
HERB S AND ORNAMENTAL S
Herbs are the easiest plants to grow in a container. They’re also useful. Mint and lemon balm brighten up beverages. Fresh chives and parsley are ideal for cooking. And you can freeze basil to keep on hand if you want to make pesto. Ornamental containers look terrific nearly anywhere, whether it’s with a striking single plant such as a mandevilla, an evergreen shrub, or with a grouping of wildly blooming flowers. If you have a dramatic container that complements your home, the plant can be simple and still make an impact. If you have an outdoor spot, plant for pollinators or hummingbirds by choosing nectar flowers, such as salvia, zinnia, or fuschia.
L I V I NG WE L L
MAKE THE ( V I RTUAL ) CONNECT I ON
Taking Up Art at Any Age It’s never too late get in touch with your creative side. Doing so could satisfy your soul — and maybe even improve your health.
Looking to connect with like-minded gardeners online? A quick web search will turn up plenty of groups. And Facebook has a wealth of groups, including some devoted to container gardening.
BY KAT I E LA J I NE S S
Mary Lahr Schier is the author of The Northern Gardener, FromApples to Zinnias ( Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2017). She also hosts a gardening podcast, Grow it, Minnesota.
You’ve probably heard it from one of your friends. Maybe you’ve even said it yourself. “I’m too old to take up painting.” Or: “I used to write poetry, but I gave it up a long time ago.”
Think it’s too late to take up a creative pursuit? Think again. History is filled with examples of people who started later in life. Case in point: The artist known as Grandma Moses started painting — without formal training — at age 78. Within years, her work hung in museums and galleries around the world. Another: Writer Harriet Doerr published her first novel, Stones of Ibarra , at age 73, and won a National Book Award for it. Yes, those might be extreme examples, and your work may never make you famous. But there are a host of benefits to taking up a creative pursuit.
What the science says Picking up a pen or paintbrush may be just as good for your health as eating an apple a day. A few years back, Neurology , a peer-reviewed journal, published a four- year Mayo Clinic study on arts and aging. One finding: Participants whomade creative projects were 73 percent less likely to forget everyday tasks. Plus they were better at learning new concepts andmaking decisions than their peers.
Art: Good for the brain — and the heart
Researchers aren’t certain why art helps keep us youthful and happy. One theory is that creativity helps stimulate growth of new brain cells. But that’s not all. Plenty of us have been feeling isolated as the pandemic has dragged on. Over time, that can lead to depression and other health issues. But making art can help you feel better by helping your brain produce a feel-good chemical called dopamine. And finding an online art class could help you make new social connections. Get started without breaking the bank Sites such as YouTube offer a wealth of how-to courses. Aweb search will uncover other options — community education offerings, programs by arts nonprofits, and more. Many offer free or discounted courses for older adults.
Numerous studies also have found that retirees who take group art classes tend to bemore satisfiedwith their lives. Prefer towork alone? You can still benefit. TheMayo study found that peoplewho didwoodworking or quiltingwere 45 percent less likely to suffer frommemory problems.
Whoknows, you couldbe thenextGrandmaMoses.
Katie Lajiness is the assistant editor of Be.Well by Medica.
Living Well 14
MYTHBUS T ER
10,000 Steps Per Day: What Does the Science Say?
Does that number make you want to burrow deeper into your couch? Here’s some refreshing news for you.
BY T E S S LANGFUS
Take the first step
Need more reasons to lace up? Consider these benefits:
Over the last decade, the idea of taking 10,000 steps per day has become a benchmark figure. But do you really need to hit it to get and stay fit? Before we answer that, let’s take a step back to the number’s origins. In 1965, a Japanese company began selling a pedometer it called the Manpo-kei . Literal translation: 10,000 steps. The number has been floating around since — and it took off in a big way with the rise of digital activity trackers, some of which have a default 10,000-step target.
In 2019, researchers at Boston’s Brigham andWomen’s Hospital looked at that goal in a study of 16,741 women. Some key findings: Women who averaged 4,400 steps a day lived longer and were healthier than those who walked an average of 2,700 steps. And women who averaged 7,500 steps benefited even more. But here’s the surprising result: Womenwhowalkedmore than 7,500 steps each day didn’t get any extra health benefits. So don’t stress about hitting 10,000 steps. Start where you’re at and try to work up to 7,500 if you can. And remember: Any number of steps is better than none at all.
• The National Institutes of Health reports that walking five days a week for 30 minutes at a stretch can cut your risk of heart disease by 19 percent. • Making an important decisionor in the middleof a conflict?Abriskwalk canhelp you thinkmore clearly and improve yourmood. • Movement can help get rid of stress, which can have harmful effects on your health.
• Studies from the U.K.’s University of Exeter found that a 15-minute walk can curb cravings for sugary snacks. • American Cancer Society research shows that women who walk seven hours or more a week can lower their risk of breast cancer by 14 percent. So put on some comfortable shoes, grab a walking stick and water, and enjoy your stroll. Your body and your mind will thank you.
Tess Langfus is an Eden Prairie, Minn.-based freelance writer.
KN I F E AND FORK
FABULOUS FOODS FOR F I GHT I NG CANCER
Researchers have found direct links between food and cancer. These tips can help you change your diet — and maybe even protect your health.
BY T E S S LANGFUS
Researchers have long known that diets low in plant-based foods and fiber are one cause of cancer. And they’re now working to isolate the specific foods — primarily fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans — that can help prevent cancer, and maybe even improve chances of survival from it. As that work continues, one point is clear: More is better when it comes to fruits, veggies, and the like. The federal government’s guidelines call for us to eat 2.5 to 3 cups of vegetables and 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit every day. And the American Cancer Research Institute recommends that fruits, veggies, beans, and whole grains make up two-thirds (or more) of every meal. Hitting those numbers might seem like a stretch. But with a little creativity, it’s not hard to add healthy, potentially cancer-fighting foods to your diet. On a tight budget? Check out if your grocery has senior discount or loyalty programs. In the summer , shop local farmer’s markets or at local food stands for fresh healthy produce.
Knife and Fork 18
Use zucchini noodles instead of regular pasta and top them with a rich tomato sauce. Several studies have found that a nutrient called lycopene in tomatoes can help protect against prostate cancer. Eight great ways to get your health fix
The research is ongoing, but studies suggest apples, pears, and other white fruits can help cut cancer risks. Swap out oil with applesauce in your baked goods. It has less calories, plus it adds moisture.
Blending, chopping, or crushing cauliflower and other cruciferous
vegetables (such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage) before cooking releases substances called phytochemicals that can help stop the division of cancerous cells. Coarsely chopped and steamed cauliflower is a healthy substitute for white rice, and you can use it instead of flour for pizza crusts.
Pureed black, pinto, and great Northern beans add fiber, protein, and a B vitamin called folate to any dish or baked goods. Use them in tacos or as a flour substitute in baked goods. Carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and other orange vegetables are rich sources of alpha carotene. While the evidence is mixed on alpha carotene’s effects on cancer, the foods have undeniable health benefits. Plus blended carrots make a terrific macaroni and cheese filling. Pumpkin lends savor to a Sloppy Joe mix. Sweet potatoes add fiber and flavor to soups and casseroles.
Spinach may help protect you from a
range of cancers. Add it to scrambled eggs at breakfast, in a salad at lunch, and mixed with chili at dinner. A healthy diet is one potent defense against cancer. But don't forget about regular screenings. They can help find and treat several types of cancer, often before they cause symptoms.
Don’t toss out day-old cooked vegetables. Instead, toss them into eggs, soup, or pasta to load up on nutrients.
Chickpeas — also known as garbanzo beans — are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Mix them with baby spinach for a tasty side dish, use them in a creamy soup, or roast and eat them whole. They contain a substance called butyrate, which some studies show can help cut the risk of colorectal cancer.
Tess Langfus is an Eden Prairie, Minn.-based writer.
Knife and Fork
ready. Researchers shared data, which helped quickly produce potential vaccine candidates. Pharmaceutical companies then ran clinical trials on those, andall vaccines had topass three phases of clinical trials togain approval. Finally, governments around theworld funded the efforts. Are the vaccines safe? All research and clinical trials show that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe. And while the vaccines were developed in less than a year,
they all needed to complete the same clinical trials and regulatory procedures as any other vaccine. Are there side effects? You might feel tired and get headaches, body aches, and the chills after a shot. You may also have pain or swelling where you got the shot. But those usually last less than a week. Plus this means that your immune system is getting ready to get to work.
THE F I NAL WORD
COVID-19 Vaccines : What You Need to Know
Answers to five common questions about the new vaccines.
BY KAT I E LA J I NE S S
How can I get vaccinated? Each state has its own vaccination plan. Contact your health care provider to see if you’re eligible. Medica.com/Covid-19
The COVID-19 vaccines have arrived, and people across the country are getting their first or second dose of the vaccine. That’s good news. But plenty of people still have questions about vaccines and how they work. Here are answers to five of themost common ones. How do the vaccines work? Vaccines allow your immune system to create antibodies against a specific organism. The COVID-19 vaccine helps your body produce the antibodies needed to fight COVID-19. It typically takes a few weeks for a vaccine to help you reach full immunity. The COVID-19 vaccines are no different.
You can still catch COVID-19 after you’ve been vaccinated — and before your system has built up its defenses. That’swhy you still need towear amask, practice social distancing, andwashyour hands. How did the vaccines get created so quickly? Creating a vaccine in less than a year is a huge job. But researchers had some advantages. Scientists have been studying viruses like COVID-19 for more than 50 years. So when the pandemic began spreading, the global medical community was
Note : We’ve put together a COVID-19 page on Medica.comwith more answers to top questions, details on how to get care, and more. You’ll find it here: Medica.com/Covid-19.
Katie Lajiness is the assistant editor of Be.Well by Medica.
The Final Word
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