Germs Public Health

COVID-19 Update #6

Most of us have been bombarded with information about COVID-19 for longer than we could have imagined.  The irony is that the majority of people have a weakened immune system due to the typical American lifestyle and aren’t getting the advice needed.  This is especially true if you are one of many that have a weakened immune system due to pre-diabetes, diabetes, heart disease, COPD, or any of many other chronic conditions. 

Where the typical news report highlights the need for ventilators, ICUs, physical distancing, and health-related risk factors, what you need to do for your immune system is seldom discussed.  No news outlet wants to bite the hand that feeds it. To be sure, the food industry feeds ad dollars into every major news outlet in the country, including many that appear to be public service oriented.

To help fill the information gap, I’ve included links to nine recent interviews about what’s important beyond physical distancing, hand washing, and wearing a mask in public.  Given that COVID-19 is likely to be around for a while, everyone needs a long term plan for self protection. 

Do keep in mind that America is succeeding at decreasing the rate of infections.  However, COVID-19 shows no sign of giving up until it has reached the last person.  Hopefully, with a suppressed rate of infections, many will miss the first few waves and have an opportunity to benefit from lifestyle changes.  While we can hope for a vaccine, the time required for development will likely be a year at best, and possibly never.  That prospect makes improving our immunity through lifestyle change ever more important.

The importance of lifestyle change to improve immunity can’t be overstated.  Nearly 90% of COVID-19 hospitalized patients have some type of underlying condition, according to data from the CDC’s newly created Hospitalization Surveillance Network (COVID-NET).  Hypertension (high blood pressure) was the most common concern followed by cardiovascular disease and being overweight.

I invite you to turn off the news if it’s distracting you from focusing on lifestyle changes that you and your loved ones can benefit from. In place of the news, tune in to information sources that are focused on a balanced view of the whole body and healing.  If unsure what you can do, you will find many suggestions in the previous newsletters and in my blog at  For more specific advice, I am available for patients by telemedicine visits (phone, FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, etc.) and office appointments.

If self quarantined, take this opportunity to regroup, slow down, and focus on your health and helping others appreciate what they can do to protect themselves through lifestyle changes.  Say no to social isolation and yes to safe social connections that allow physical distancing.  We need each other more than ever. Stay safe and stay connected.

            Nancy Neighbors, MD

Ready to Serve You

With the need for physical distancing, we try to use telemedicine when possible.  Fortunately, this allows us to serve many needs in much in the same way we always have.  Office appointments are available for needs that can’t be met by telemedicine. Thank you for your patience and understanding with this new routine. Just know that we are always here for you.

While I know that COVID-19 is on your mind, what I think about more is that two-thirds of all diseases worldwide are the result of lifestyle choices. In America, because of our unique lifestyle habits, the numbers are greater.  If ready to talk about a lifestyle change, give me a call, and let’s begin the conversation.  Change is never easy.  Unfortunately, in the long run, not changing is even harder.

Just for Kids

            For children needing a better understanding of COVID-19,  Dr. Peter Attia asks his daughter Olivia what’s on her mind.  From a kid’s perspective come some very interesting questions and in reply, some thought provoking answers.  To hear this interview click here, then scroll down the page displayed and select podcast #104 (About 34 min.)

            For an animated kid’s level explanation, the YouTube video “The Coronavirus Explained & What You Should Do” is an excellent way to impress the importance of having everyone work together.  By the way, both resources are educational and entertaining, even if you’re not a kid.

The Experts Offer Advice
for Improving Immunity

            Below are videos that explore ways we can boost our immunity through lifestyle change.  These videos are presented as interviews with experts in lifestyle medicine.  While some of what they present may be well understood by some, given our human nature for wandering off the path, it’s still nice to have a reminder. 

Each video is presented as an interview with a subject matter expert with questions from the staff at Mastering Diabetes. Now binge-watch (with plenty of short breaks to move around), its doctor approved.

The Science Behind COVID-19

How to Boost Your Immunity Using Food as Medicine

 Take Action to Protect Yourself Against COVID-19 Today

            You can’t always control whether you get sick. But, by understanding how your immune system works, what hurts it and what helps it, you can learn to take steps to stay as healthy as possible. As a spoiler alert, some of the biggest influences on your body’s natural defense system are the foods you put into your mouth. Read more in the article How to Support Your Immune System with a Plant-Based Diet by Dana Hudepohl.

Chef AJ’s Free Nutrition
and Weight Loss Program

For many of us, we still have at least another two weeks of “shelter in place.” where we need to stay home, so Chef AJ is bringing back her most popular video series.  She calls it 14 Days To Fabulous.  In this series, you can expect to discover Chef AJ’s latest recipes, favorite ingredients, her morning and night routines, and so much more.

While I haven’t used this course, Chef AJ has an excellent track record for making helpful lessons that focus on healthy plant-based recipes. 

What’s to lose? It’s free, and you can start today. To join the fun, click here.

            A global pandemic makes one thing abundantly clear: Your health needs to be a priority. Not just someday, but right now.  One quote sums it up.

            “Researchers tell us that many of the COVID-19 deaths are linked to underlying health problems. And that’s actually good news – because studies show that we can prevent MOST cases of chronic illnesses like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s – by eating the right foods (and avoiding the wrong ones!).” – Chef AJ

Good News

            Few people have spent their careers studying pandemics. One person that has this depth of experience is Dr. Amesh Adalja.  From Dr. Adalja’s perspective, he is optimistic that we will be able to meet the challenge of COVID-19 without putting our hospitals into crisis.  He also shares the opinion that while this will be a challenge for this country, it’s not something that is going to break the country.  In the end, it may end up being no worse than a very bad flu season.

From the full interview with Dr. Adalja, you will learn that that the flu has been and may, in the future, still be a greater problem than COVID-19.  By comparison, a virus subtype H2N2 that originated in China may have resulted in four million deaths during the 1957-1958 flu seasons. Of course, the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1920, with 50-100 million deaths worldwide, still ranks as the most devastating pandemic in modern times.  The good news is that initial projections of over 200,000 deaths from COVID-19 are beginning to look far too high.  For now, it looks like hospital capacity in America will not be exceeded. These are very promising projections that we will be able to manage the pandemic until a vaccine can be developed.  Looking to the future, how we respond to the next pandemic will likely depend on how well we remember the last one.  For an interesting view of how COVID-19 fits into the history of pandemics and what it tells us about the future, listen to the interview with Dr. Adalja.  Click here to access the interview titled “Comparing COVID-19 to past pandemics, preparing for the future, and reasons for optimism.”

Let’s Not Turn Fear Into Inaction

            The typical news organization focuses on fear and negative bias to sell more ads.  If you are feeling more anxiety than usual, keep that perspective as you digest the news.  When our destiny is in our control through lifestyle choices, we have far less to fear.

            Although at a different time and in a different context, Franklin D. Roosevelt said it well.

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance” – -Franklin D. Roosevelt

Was America Prepared for COVID-19?

            The claim that America started late in preparing for COVID-19 has some merit.  Unfortunately, Monday morning quarterbacking is what the news cycle thrives on, and speculation about the possibilities for having been better prepared are endless.  Interestingly, in one important way, America was better prepared than the rest of the world long before the novel coronavirus was known to exist.

            The table below show the number of critical care hospital beds per capita that were available for selected countries before COVID-19. You will notice that even before expanding the number of critical care hospital beds, America was far better prepared due to our extensive medical resources. Granted, we pay a price for these resources, and when you least expect it they come in handy.

United States35
Spain 1010
United Kingdom7

More Good News

  • There are 57 drug and 39 vaccine trials underway.
  • The number of people moving around is down about 80% according to wrist biotracker and vehicle GPS data.
  • The number of people with fevers has declined below seasonal levels, according to Bluetooth thermometer company Kinsa.
  • The FDA approved the use of both hydroxychloroquine and plasma from recovered patients.
  • The overall death rate has also dropped.
  • Stress tests on the banking system show much greater health than in 2008.

Grits and Greens

            Take a Southern home-style mix of greens, beans, and veggies, and serve over grits for a simple and satisfying supper.  Click here for the recipe. Prep time is about 30 minutes.

Gardening ideas

            If you enjoy gardening and haven’t kept up with the gardening advice in the Sunday Huntsville Times, then be sure to take advantage of your free online subscription.  For a link to subscribe, see the previous two articles.

            One nice thing about gardens, when the world seems to be falling apart, the garden keeps growing.  While there are many online gardening resources, one that recently came to my attention is offered by a lady named Stacy.  Among her many tips, she offers advice for homes in neighborhoods that don’t allow edibles in the front yard. If that’s your problem, then view this Stealth Edibles video.  If this or any one of a hundred other gardening questions is on your mind, then consider subscribing to Stacy’s Youtube Channel.

Sensitivity and Specificity
The COVID-19 Test Explained
(For Nerds Only)

In a short YouTube video, Dr. Peter Attia provides an explanation of how to interpret screening tests for COVID-19.  His explanation covers the important features of sensitivity, specificity, false positives, false negatives, positive and negative predictive value. If you want to understand screening, you need to understand this. Don’t worry; if you like math it’s pretty straightforward. You can download the spreadsheet mentioned in the video here.  Then, scroll down the page that opens until you see the icon with the spreadsheet image.

Click here for more news about changes in healthcare.

By Nancy Neighbors, MD

... Dr. Neighbors provides a blend of traditional family medicine and evidence-based lifestyle medicine in Huntsville, Alabama. When indicated, lifestyle change is recommended as the first line of therapy.

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