Tips for a Happy, Healthy 2021
The New Year signals a new opportunity to make positive changes in your life. Whether or not you are personally impacted from lymphedema, this is an excellent time to take renewed charge of your life. With the continuation of the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s more important than ever to make good choices for your health. We put together a few ideas for kicking off 2021 right:
1. Try a New Exercise
Mounting research shows that any number of exercises, from swimming and yoga, to aerobics and weight-training, can yield “significant improvements.” Perhaps even better, none of these forms of exercise have been linked to any adverse effects. Indeed, doctors used to believe that weight training on the affected side might be harmful. They cautioned against it. But that belief has been turned on its head by careful research.
If you have had lymph nodes removed, or radiation therapy on your right side, for example, resistance exercise on that side is now recommended to help prevent or minimize the effects of any right-arm lymphedema. Better still; there’s zero evidence that manual drainage and/or exercise therapy can increase metastasis. The old fear that these therapies might help spread cancer is based on a myth.
Medical research findings in a review conducted by Zhen Yan of the University of Virginia School of Medicine last year strongly support the possibility that regular exercise can reduce or prevent the severity of ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome) in Covid-19 patients. The CDC estimates that 20% to 42% of Covid-19 patients will develop ARDS.
Exercise May Protect Against Deadly COVID-19 Complication, Research Suggests | UVA Today (virginia.edu)
2. Give Yourself a Break
Take heart from emerging research, which suggests that one day a diagnosis of lymphedema may be reversible. At present, lymphedema is considered essentially incurable. That’s not to say it’s unmanageable. On the contrary, appropriate medical grade compression wear and therapies such as complete decongestive therapy have been shown to help manage symptoms greatly. Exercise and weight loss can also help slow the severity and progression of the disease. But what if the condition were completely reversible?
New research out of Stanford University in California targets an inflammatory response within the tissues of affected areas. Rather than being a condition caused by faulty lymphatic “plumbing,” say researchers, lymphedema may be driven by excessive, key inflammatory proteins in affected tissues. Targeting these inflammation-associated compounds may be the key to reversing lymphedema altogether. Granted, this research is preliminary and any “cure” could be many years away. But there is hope. Drink that in and celebrate a modicum of relief from worry.
3. Invest in New Compression Garments for 2021
Another positive step you can take is to start the year with all-new compression garments.
Wearing the appropriate compression garments for the prescribed periods of time each day is one of the most important things you can do to take charge of your life and manage your symptoms. Fresh new garments may help give you the fresh start your new year needs. Tackle the new year with the renewed determination and confidence that come from wearing new garments that you know are working round-the-clock to benefit your health.
4. Sleep On It
There’s probably nothing you could do that’s better for your physical and mental health than grabbing some extra sleep. Although it varies somewhat from one person to the next, most adults require an average of eight hours of sleep daily to be at their best. Sleep is so much more than “down” time. It’s also healing and self-repair time. Give yourself permission to say yes to more sleep.
The coronavirus pandemic has seen a sharp increase of insomnia in people caused by stress, anxiety and a disruption of daily life and normality. If you find this is the case for you, some things you can do to improve sleep include:
- Establish a set time to wake up, wind down, and go to bed
- Showering and dressing, even if you aren’t leaving the house
- Eating meals at the same time daily
- Try to spend time outside daily in natural sunlight
- Be mindful of screen time
- Be careful of napping
- Maintain a healthy diet and regular exercise
5. Just Say No
And speaking of saying “yes,” the second most powerful word in the English language is “no”. Say no to tasks, obligations and responsibilities that do not bring you joy. Of course you should pursue a social life. A rich social life featuring meaningful friendships is linked to a longer, healthier life. But that doesn’t mean you have to over-schedule yourself to the point of exhaustion. Just say no unless it brings you joy.
Unfortunately, the ongoing pandemic has made socializing almost non-existent. You can, however, maintain contact with family members and friends in a socially responsible way. Regular phone calls and video chats are a good way to do this.
6. Try Some Inflammation-Fighting Foods
Losing weight — or maintaining a healthy body weight — are important things you can do to take charge of your lymphedema. Excess body weight has been linked to a greater risk of developing lymphedema, as well as a faster rate of progression. But it’s not all about weight loss. Your diet can either promote, or discourage, inflammation. Inflammation is the underlying condition that drives lymphedema in the first place, so apart from any weight loss you might achieve, your diet provides an opportunity to take positive steps to control your condition.
Take fresh, peeled ginger root, for instance. Consider trying some ginger stir-fry recipes, featuring lean protein and fresh vegetables. Keep in mind that fried foods and most meats are somewhat pro-inflammatory. Fruits, vegetables, and fish tend to be anti-inflammatory, especially when combined with the potent anti-inflammatory properties of natural ginger. Other natural anti-inflammatories include whole herbs, such as rosemary and oregano, and extra virgin olive oil.
1) Baumann FT, Reike A, Hallek M, Wiskemann J, Reimer V. Does Exercise Have a Preventive Effect on Secondary Lymphedema in Breast Cancer Patients Following Local Treatment? – A Systematic Review. Breast Care (Basel). 2018 Oct;13(5):380-385. DOI: 10.1159/000487428. Epub 2018 May 3.
2) Baumann FT, Reike A, et al. Effects of physical exercise on breast cancer-related secondary lymphedema: a systematic review. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2018 Jul;170(1):1-13. DOI: 10.1007/s10549-018-4725-y. Epub 2018 Feb 22.
3) Cheifetz O, Haley L; Breast Cancer Action. Management of secondary lymphedema related to breast cancer. Can Fam Physician. 2010 Dec;56(12):1277-84. Accessed Dec. 9, 2018: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3001918/
4) Study finds the first possible drug treatment for lymphedema. Accessed Dec. 10, 2018: https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2017/05/study-finds-first-possible-drug-treatment-for-lymphedema.html