COVID-19: Managing Your Overall Health

Prioritizing your Overall Wellness

Reduce stress and anxiety

As news reports about COVID-19 increase, it's not uncommon to become more anxious. The American Psychological Association (APA) shares tips to reduce anxiety and stress, including keeping things in perspective, getting the facts from reliable sources, communicating with children, family and loved ones, and keeping connected to your support system.

If you need support, the following resources are available:

Tips to Stay Healthy

Current data shows that individuals with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease are at higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19. Even if you do not have underlying chronic conditions, every person can take action to keep your body resilient and healthy:

  • Quit smoking and vaping now. Emerging evidence suggests that those who smoke may be at greater risk of developing severe complications from COVID-19. In addition, it is well-established that stopping smoking improves lung function relatively quickly (within a few months,) which reduces susceptibility to respiratory illnesses and improves immune function, along with many other benefits not directly related to COVID-19. Visit www.quitlinenc.com or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for help.
  • Keep your diabetes under control. Follow your doctor’s orders for checking your blood sugar and your diet.  Also ensure you have adequate supplies of testing equipment and medications on hand. In the event you are sick and unable to eat, keep simple carbs nearby like juice, honey, jam, and hard candies to help keep your blood sugar up. Visit diabetesmanagementnc.com to learn more.
  • Exercise in whatever way you can while following social distancing and your local and state government guidance.
  • Keep your blood pressure under control by limiting alcohol and sodium intake, maintaining a healthy weight, increasing physical activity, and increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables (frozen or canned is fine too, just watch for added sodium or sugar).
  • Get a flu vaccine. It is not too late to get a flu shot to protect yourself from the flu.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Keep taking your prescribed medications, including those supplements your doctor may have recommended to keep help with deficiencies such as iron or other micronutrients.
  • Limit your alcohol intake which will help with many factors including chronic illnesses, sleep and stress management.
  • Get plenty of rest.

Your Immune System

The immune system, which is made up of several different cells and proteins, is important for your ability to deal with exposures to infectious diseases such as COVID-19. The immune system is also quite important in making sure that you can recover from an infection. During the current COVID-19 pandemic there are a few things that you can do that may improve the function of your immune system.
  • Exercise: There are data that show that moderate to vigorous exercise increases the release and circulation of immune cells important for your ability to respond to infections. However, it is critical if you vigorously exercise that you maintain adequate hydration and carbohydrate intake. Limiting these may diminish the benefit of exercise on the immune system and your general health.
  • Manage Stress: Continued levels of stress, as found unfortunately from the current pandemic, may diminish your ability to respond to infections possibly by the production of the anti-inflammatory protein cortisol. Studies have shown that individuals with increased stress are more likely to become infected with a virus. Approaches to limit stress such as yoga, meditation or exercise may be helpful for better immune function.
  • Healthy Diet: Multiple studies have indicated that certain diets decrease the inflammatory response which may be important in limiting the damage caused by infections. Fermentable fiber may be important in the production of products in the intestine that limit inflammation. Beans and legumes are good sources of this fiber. Resistant starches are also helpful and are found in cashews, green bananas, oats and cooled white rice and potatoes in addition to beans and legumes.  
  • Supplements: It is not clear if supplements can improve the fitness of your immune system. There are data to show that intake of vitamin D has been associated with a decrease in viral infections in the winter. Zinc intake has also been shown in small studies to reduce the risk of viral infections. Other supplements that may be helpful are vitamin C, selenium, and folate especially if you are deficient in these. Elderberry may also be helpful to improve your immune health. However, none of these approaches have been approved by federal agencies to treat or prevent viral infections.