Arts & Entertainment

Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt Museum

Dear Friends,

Like you, we are adapting to the restrictions placed on everyone in the country. Every day we are learning more about how to deal with the crisis and how to care for each other’s health and safety.

This new “temporary” reality offers all of us time to rediscover the true value and importance of family and friends.

We are concerned for everyone’s well-being and doing our best to stay up-to-date and to comply with recommended guidelines from local and state health officials.

For these reasons we will remain closed until we can reopen safely. With what we learn this spring, we can assess what to do next.

By summer, we hope brighter days will prevail! Our plan is to welcome you back to the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum to rediscover the beauty and magic of the historic Eagle’s Nest estate.

Upon reopening, we will feature new and engaging programs, as well as live concerts and new shows in the Reichert Planetarium. The annual Shakespeare Festival will return to the Vanderbilt Mansion courtyard stage for its 32nd summer and our fabulous suffragette-costumed guides will conduct Living History tours in the Mansion.

Restoration of Mr. Vanderbilt’s original hiking trails is underway — they will offer a great chance to inhale fresh air, enjoy water views, and experience outdoor learning while you get some exercise.

As always, your ongoing loyalty and support is our greatest gift.Looking forward to your return! Stay safe and well,

Elizabeth Wayland-Morgan

Interim Executive Director

Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum

Centerport

Sticking to a plant-rich diet that can reduce high blood pressure. Stock photo
Call to arms to reverse high blood pressure, once and for all

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

Hypertension (high blood pressure) and COVID-19 are intertwined. Those who have hypertension are more susceptible to COVID-19 and are more likely to get a severe form and experience complications from the virus. A study done in China captured the statistics: of 1099 patients infected, 15 percent had hypertension, and of those with severe cases, 23.7 percent had hypertension (1). Ultimately, those with hypertension are at higher risk, but we don’t at this point understand the specifics of why.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent study showed that the number of deaths from hypertension had increased a whopping 26 percent overall from 2007 to 2017 (2). 

What about medications to blunt the association? There is a THEORY, not a study, that angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) may be harmful by increasing ACE2 in the lungs, which is a receptor that COVID-19 binds to; however, there is also a case for these medications having benefits (3). Do not stop or change your hypertension medications without talking to your doctor. Remember, this is just a theory, and theories are very dangerous; we don’t have research to support them, by definition (4).

I view this as a call to arms to control and, even more importantly, treat and reverse hypertension. Presently, only 54 percent of hypertension patients are controlled with medication (5). 

Potential to control and reverse hypertension through diet

We have the capability to treat and reverse hypertension with lifestyle modifications, including diet, exercise, sleep and stress management. We are going to focus on diet.

A whole foods plant-based diet (WFPBD) that is dark green leafy vegetable-rich has been shown to help prevent, control and possibly reverse hypertension. I call this the LIFE diet, which stands for Low Inflammatory Foods Everyday. The most researched type of WFPBD is the DASH (dietary approach to stopping hypertension) diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, grains and reductions in saturated fats and total fat. DASH was the first randomized control trial to show that a predominantly whole food plant-based approach reduces blood pressure (6).

Why does diet have an effect? There are several factors, including inflammation; electrolytes, specifically sodium and potassium; and phytochemicals (plant nutrients and fiber content).

Why is inflammation so important?

Inflammation is a culprit in most chronic diseases, including hypertension. It also plays a crucial role in the severity of COVID-19. Those who take a turn for the worse in COVID-19 have high inflammation. On the news, an ER doctor noted that while COVID-19 patients may come in stable, they need to be watched carefully; in 3-24 hours, they could show high inflammation and fluid in their lungs and need to be on a ventilator.

There are several studies that show a direct relationship between high sensitivity C-reactive protein, one of the most well-studied biomarkers for inflammation, and hypertension in both men and women (7)(8). In the Physicians Health Study, those men who had high hsCRP (>3 mg/L) and hypertension had a 40 percent increased risk of stroke compared to those without hypertension and with hsCRP <1, which is optimal. Not to leave women out, the CARDIA study found that premenopausal women with elevated hsCRP were significantly more likely to have hypertension.

How can we decrease inflammation?

Anti-inflammatory drugs, including NSAIDS like ibuprofen, may suppress the immune system and make patients more susceptible to COVID-19. They also worsen hypertension and may increase the risk for cardiovascular events, such as a heart attack. In fact, prescription NSAIDS carry an FDA black box warning about this dangerous side effect. Anti-inflammatory drugs should not be the “go-to” solution.

Fortunately, a WFPBD is associated with reduction in inflammation, specifically hsCRP. We recently published a study showing that the LIFE diet has an inverse relationship between blood levels of beta carotene, a phytonutrient, and hsCRP (9). As you increase the intake of dark green leafy vegetables, the higher the beta carotene and the lower the hsCRP. There was a 75 percent reduction in inflammation with those that increased their beta carotene over the normal level compared to those who were non-adherent. The DASH diet also emphasizes an increased intake of vegetables.

There are studies to suggest that, as we lower animal protein intake, we are able to better reduce blood pressure. In the EPIC study, those who at who reduced animal protein to none had the biggest impact on blood pressure. This study compared meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans (10). 

Electrolytes – sodium and potassium

The optimal approach for these electrolytes is to have a sodium to potassium ratio that is less than one. For most, this means consuming less sodium and more potassium (11). The American Heart Association emphasizes low sodium, less than 1500 mg of sodium per day and higher potassium intake (12). 

What I find in my practice is that blood levels that are south of 140 mmol/L are better and that the bottom of the range is ideal; the range is between 135-145 mmol/L. This way, whether you are sodium-sensitive or not, you can either help control blood pressure or rule it out as a factor. Potassium should be 4.5 (units) or higher. These electrolytes should come from vegetables, especially dark green leafy vegetables, which have a natural balance of potassium and sodium. Other good sources of potassium are beans and nuts.

Ultimately, the power is in your hands. By changing your diet to one that is more plant-based and vegetable-rich, you can reduce inflammation, strengthen your immune system, possibly reduce or even get off anti-hypertension medications, reverse the trend of dying from hypertension, and reduce your susceptibility to severe COVID-19.

References:

(1) N Engl J Med. Online Feb 28, 2020. (2) J Am Coll Cardiol. Online March 19, 2020). (3) Nephron. Online Mar 23, 2020.) (4) Nature. Feb 2020, 579:270–273. (5) Circulation. 2016;133:e38–e360. (6) N Engl J Med. 1997 Apr 17; 336(16):1117-24. (7) JAMA.2015 Sep:4(9):e002073 (8) Menopause. 2016 Jun; 23(6):662. (9) AJLM Online. Dec. 21, 2019. (10) Oybkuc Gektg Bytr, 2002 Oct; 5(5):645-54. (11) Circulation Online. Oct 11 2017. (12) heart.org.

Dr. Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com.  

Stock photo
Linda Toga, Esq.

By Linda Toga, Esq.

THE FACTS: For months now I have been meaning to schedule an appointment with an estate planning attorney to discuss my wishes with respect to a will, healthcare proxy and power of attorney. I have a lot of questions and really need some guidance as to what I should do and how I can best ensure that my wishes will be honored. Since the onset of the coronavirus crisis, I have been losing sleep over the fact that I do not have an estate plan in place. 

THE QUESTION: Now that law offices are closed and social distancing is a reality, is there anything I can do to move my estate planning process along? 

THE ANSWER: While estate planning is extremely important, at this point in time it is more important that you do your part to avoid the spread of the virus. I urge you to stay at home to the extent possible and, if you do leave the house, to be sure to wipe down frequently used surfaces, wash your hands often and follow the guidelines set by the government for social distancing. 

That being said, while you are at home, you can certainly give some thought to your estate plan and gather the information that will be needed in order for your estate planning documents to be prepared. Although I am not in my office on a regular basis, I am continuing to work with both current and new clients by phone and email. 

While personal contact may not be an option at this time, a great deal can be accomplished remotely and I welcome the opportunity to discuss with you your concerns and wishes. Also, it should be noted that the legislators in Albany and the New York State Bar Association are considering changes to the law that would allow for remote execution and witnessing of estate planning documents during this crisis. 

In the meantime, you should give some thought to who you want to name as your agent or agents in your advanced directives such as your power of attorney and healthcare proxy. It is a good idea to ask the people you are thinking of naming as your agents whether they are comfortable with acting in that capacity. Some people may not want to or may not feel they are capable of taking on the responsibility of handling your affairs or making end of life decisions on your behalf. 

While it is important for any agent that you name to know what your wishes are, it is absolutely critical that the person you name as your healthcare proxy be fully aware of the circumstances, if any, under which you may want certain types of treatments and/or procedures to be withheld.

Once you’ve decided on who you want to name as your agents and have discussed with those people your wishes, you should be sure you have the information such as the agents’ phone numbers and addresses that will be needed to prepare your advanced directives. 

In terms of your will, you should give some thought to what assets you have and what assets will pass under your will. Only assets owned by you individually as opposed to assets that are owned jointly, held in trust or subject to a beneficiary designation form will pass pursuant to your will. These assets are called probate assets. 

Once you have a handle on what assets are probate assets and what assets will pass outside your will, you can think about who the beneficiaries of your estate will be and if and how you want the assets divided. You should consider what will happen if a beneficiary predeceases you and whether you want assets to be distributed upon your death or held in trust for future distribution. In addition to how your probate assets will be distributed, think about who will handle your estate. At a minimum, you need to name an executor and a successor executor.

Although making decisions about who will serve as your agents and executor, what your wishes are with respect to end of life care and how your assets will be distributed may seem overwhelming, as I mentioned before, I am available by phone and via email to discuss with you the estate planning process and your unique circumstances. 

Once we have developed a plan, I will send you drafts of your estate planning documents for review. Hopefully by then a procedure will have been worked out for the remote execution and witnessing of your estate planning documents. If not, at least you will be ready to execute your documents in the presence of witnesses as soon as the restrictions that are currently in place are lifted.

In the meantime, I hope that the coronavirus crisis does not cause you or your loved ones undue stress or inconvenience and that you stay well. I look forward to hearing from you. 

Linda M. Toga, Esq provides legal services in the areas of estate planning and administration, real estate, small business services and litigation. She is available for email and phone consultations. Call 631-444-5605 or email Ms. Toga at Linda@LMTOGALAW.com. She will respond to messages and emails as quickly as possible. 

Blaze

MEET BLAZE!

This week’s shelter pet is Blaze, a seven-year-old male pit terrier at the Smithtown Animal Shelter. Blaze came to the shelter after being dumped in a county park, locked in a cage. However, he has truly begun to learn to love and trust his humans. This energetic good boy enjoys running around in the shelter’s dog park, eating treats, and when it’s hot out, splashing around in the pool! He can be a very loyal dog once he learns to trust you. 

Blaze knows his basic commands like sit, wait, give paw, and walks nicely on a leash. Blaze needs an adult-only home familiar with big breed dogs, without other pets. His ideal family will spend time giving him the love (and treats) that he deserves, understanding that he had a tough life before the shelter.

*Due to the health risk presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, there will be limited public access to the shelter. If you are interested in meeting Blaze, please fill out an adoption application online. Once you have an approved application, you may meet with Blaze outside. The Smithtown Animal & Adoption Shelter is located at 410 Middle Country Road, Smithtown. For more information, please call 631-360-7575.

Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon

By Barbara Beltrami

Times being what they are, I have chosen to more or less ignore the holidays specifically and tried to concentrate on comfort foods which often are the stuff of celebrations anyway. Because most of us are self-quarantined and keeping social distance even from extended family if they are not part of our household, I am focusing instead on the unique togetherness that we’ve come to experience these past few weeks. 

The addition of a festive ham or matzo balls is nice, even if it’s just the immediate family, but it’s the idea of being together around the table, getting reacquainted with ourselves, each other, home cooking and mealtime ritual that supersedes even the most traditional and festive of dishes, that turns the cooking and partaking of even the most ordinary and mundane dishes into a special occasion. In that spirit I hope that you all will make this a time to not just eat together, but plan a menu and cook collaboratively because we can all forgo many things, but not food. 

So if we’re all in this together, we might as well do it and enjoy it together. The following are a few of my favorite recipes that I think make any dinner special.

Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon

Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon

YIELD: Makes 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

6 large hard-boiled eggs

4 ounces Nova Scotia smoked salmon, minced

1/3 cup snipped chives

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons minced red onion

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed, drained and minced

2 tablespoons minced fennel

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

DIRECTIONS: 

Halve eggs lengthwise; place on plate and gently scoop out yolks. Place yolks in a medium bowl and mash. Add salmon, chives, mayonnaise, onion, capers, fennel, lemon juice, lemon zest and pepper. With wooden spoon, vigorously beat to combine. Heap mixture in cavities of egg whites; sprinkle with dill; cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with cocktails or wine.

Zucchini Ribbons with Artichoke Hearts and Cherry Tomatoes

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds yellow and green zucchini

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

One 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and diced

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered

One handful flat leaf parsley, and minced

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Using a vegetable peeler cut the zucchini into lengthwise ribbons from all sides; when you get to the seeds, stop and either discard the core or save for another use. In a large nonstick skillet heat half the oil over medium-high heat. When it is nice and hot, add half the zucchini ribbons and some salt and pepper. Cook, gently stirring and tossing the zucchini, just until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove and set aside to keep warm; repeat with second batch. Lower heat to medium; heat remaining oil; add artichoke hearts, tomatoes and parsley. Stirring frequently, cook until heated through, about 3 to 5 minutes. Place zucchini ribbons in serving bowl; scatter artichoke hearts and tomatoes on top, and cheese, if using. Serve hot or warm as a main dish or side dish with fish or poultry.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Flourless Chocolate Cake

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate , coarsely chopped

8 ounces unsalted butter

3/4 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 pod espresso powder

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter an 8” round cake pan; line with a round of wax paper, then butter paper. In double boiler melt chocolate with butter over barely simmering water; stir until smooth. 

Remove top of double boiler from heat and whisk sugar into chocolate mixture; add eggs and whisk well. Sift half cup cocoa  powder and espresso powder over chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Pour batter into cake pan and bake in middle of oven until top has formed a thin crust, about 25 minutes. 

Cool cake in pan 5 minutes, then remove from pan and invert onto serving plate. Dust generously with remaining two tablespoons cocoa powder. Serve with sorbet, fresh raspberries or vanilla ice cream.

The marquee sign outside Theatre Three on March 30. Photo by Heidi Sutton

To All of Our Friends,

On March 15, after the evening performance of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” Theatre Three suspended operations, a week prior to the production’s scheduled closing. We had made the decision both in the interest of the safety of our “Joseph” company and our public.

We have now postponed our next production, “Steel Magnolias,” to the same time in 2021. We have moved our 50th anniversary celebration, originally to take place the first weekend of June, to next year on the same weekend. Our classes, children’s theater productions, and educational touring programs are all on hold. Like everyone in our community, we wait, day-to-day, to see what develops.

We want to express our deepest appreciation for those on the front line … the hundreds of medical personnel, grocery store and pharmacy workers, those in government offices … the hundreds of people who are out there every day, at great personal risk, keeping the essential pieces of our lives going. You are the heroes of these challenging times.  

Theatre Three has been a part of Long Island culture for half a century. Theater is a place where people can gather and share in the human experience, both reflected onstage and in the very act of gathering together. While we don’t know when our next act will begin, we know it will. We look forward to re-opening our doors to once again bring you the joy of live theater.

Until that time, be safe and stay well.

Jeffrey Sanzel

Executive Artistic Director

Vivian Koutrakos

Managing Director

Andrew Markowitz

Board President

Douglas J. Quattrock

Artistic Associate

 

Elisabeth Moss (Cecilia) in a scene from the film. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

By Jeffrey Sanzel

H.G. Wells’ 1897 science fiction novel The Invisible Man is the story of Griffin, a former doctor, who has invented chemicals that changes a body’s optics and renders the individual invisible. Whether from the process itself or the inability to reverse it, Griffin becomes unhinged and homicidal. 

Over the years, there have been various adaptations, most notably the 1933 film starring Claude Rains, which most closely followed its source. Sequels, spinoffs, and spoofs have traded on the concept with varying success.

Harriet Dyer (Emily) and Elisabeth Moss (Cecilia) in a scene from the film.

Written and directed by Leigh Whannell, the current version of The Invisible Man focuses on abused wife Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss), married to Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), a world leader in the field of optics.  

The film opens with Cecilia narrowly escaping her violent husband and taking shelter with her sister Emily’s (Harriet Dyer) ex-husband James (Aldis Hodge), a San Francisco police detective. Two weeks later, Cecilia is informed that Adrian has committed suicide and left her a trust of five million dollars. 

Clearly, Adrian is not dead but has found a way to make himself invisible and Cecilia’s life begins to unravel. She knows this but, of course, no one will believe her. Adrian had warned her that “wherever I went, he would find me … that he would walk right up to me and I wouldn’t be able to see him … but he would leave me a sign so that I’d know he was there.”

The film is a traditional thriller, with all of the tropes, including the Kass house which is part tech laboratory, part museum, mostly glass, and all horror movie. Every movement is accented with an ominous chord; every sound — whether the flipping of a light switch or the gush of a faucet — is amplified. The camera slowly pans on vacant rooms and holds on empty corners. There are no surprises in its “surprises.”

Elisabeth Moss and Oliver Jackson-Cohen (Adrian) in a scene from the film.

But what makes the engine go is Elisabeth Moss, an always watchable actor, with just the right mix of classic Scream Queen and self-actualized modern woman. For the first twenty minutes, her character isn’t given much more to do but look around her, behind her, and over her shoulder. But somehow she endows it all with enough manic energy to make it believable. 

Like all horror movie heroines, at first Cecilia thinks she is going crazy (as do all of the people around her). When she realizes what is happening, it all falls into place and she goes on the offensive. As Adrian destroys Cecilia’s life, including framing her for murder, the stronger and more self-reliant she becomes. A life-altering revelation furthers her resolve. 

The majority of the film moves along as a psychological thriller and doesn’t resort to mild gore and special effects until well into the second half. This is a smart choice as floating objects, no matter how well executed, have a certain humor about them.

There are some nice touches that suggest Adrian’s presence: an exhaled breath in the cold night air, a dent in a chair cushion, a bloody fingerprint on a medicine bottle. These small strokes make up for many of the plot holes that are often found in horror movies. The climax is a predictable showdown but the denouement is satisfying enough.

While the film is practically a one-person vehicle, the supporting cast do the best they can. Hodge is likable as the friend. Dyer is relatable as the sister. Michael Dorman is given the unenviable task of Adrian’s sleazy jellyfish of a brother, Tom, who also served as his lawyer. Jackson-Cohen as the sociopathic Adrian barely has any screen time and is reduced to a few disembodied lines.

The Invisible Man will never be considered a great movie, and, for many, not even a good one. Even as a genre film, it doesn’t touch some of the contemporary classics like Halloween, Carrie, Get Out, The Babadook, and Let the Right One In. But for a star performance and a well-paced two hours, The Invisible Man entertains.

Rated R, The Invisible Man is now streaming online.

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

COVID-19, a strain of the coronavirus, is now a pandemic. I have been barraged with questions from patients, neighbors and friends. They are right to be asking questions, because there is not enough information being circulated about how to protect yourself and your family. 

Key elements

The key weapons we have in this fight against COVID-19 are containment and mitigation. A lot has been shared about containment by the Centers for Disease Control. Containment is reducing the incidence of new cases to a goal of zero, thus flattening the prevalence curve so this virus is no longer infecting anyone. This requires social distancing, hand washing for at least 20 seconds, surface cleaning, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth (1). If you have not already, I encourage you to review the guidelines at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus.

There is less information being provided about how we can minimize the severity of the disease if we are infected. This is mitigation. Mitigation is about preparing ourselves, so we experience an asymptomatic or a mild form. 

Who is most at risk?

According to a study focusing on Wuhan, China findings, people most at risk are those who have chronic diseases, with high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease being the three most common (2). Also at risk are those who are “older,” that is 60 years or older, for they are more likely to have weakened immune systems and increased inflammation.

Managing your immune response

Ultimately, the goal is to have a healthy, appropriate immune system response. If the immune system “under-responds,” the virus’s symptoms will be more severe. Another term for this is immunocompromised. 

If the immune system is overstimulated, your white blood cells are more likely to attack healthy tissue and cause further damage, exacerbating the situation. This sometimes happens after a heart attack, where the immune response is overzealous, targets healthy tissue and causes dysfunction in the heart. This process is called remodeling.

The goal is to create a healthy/strengthened immune system — not to boost and not to suppress the immune system. You want the “Goldilocks” of immune responses: not too little, not too much, but just right.

What can be done?

The best methodology here is to lean on what I call the four pillars of lifestyle modification: diet, exercise, stress management, and sleep.  

Diet. By implementing a nutrient-dense, whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet or, more specifically, what I call a “Low Inflammatory Foods Everyday (LIFE) diet,” you can rapidly improve or even reverse these chronic diseases, decrease inflammation and strengthen your immune system, which will decrease your chances of dying from the virus.

The Lancet study referenced above found that inflammation and a weakened immune system were central to determining how people will do on entering the hospital.

What I’ve found with the LIFE diet in my practice is that people have white blood cells that are on the low end of the scale, between 2.5-4.5, rather than in the middle or upper range of 6.0-10.8. Typically, my patients’ white blood cells when they get sick stay within the normal range of 3.4-10.8. In fact., I had a patient who recently got a cold virus: their white blood cells were 3.4 before they got sick, and they rose to only 7.8, well within the normal range. This resulted in a targeted response with recovery in a very short time period. 

For those with healthy immune systems, if they do get the coronavirus, their response will be more likely targeted instead of a disproportionately large response that starts killing the virus but also the healthy tissue in the lungs, leading to increased inflammation and fluid build-up in the lungs. Dr Fauci has warned this could potentially happen – what is called a cytokine storm – although the chances are very small. Ultimately, the immune system in these situations contributes to the problem, instead of helping.

So, what can you do to incorporate LIFE diet habits into your daily routine?

Focus on fresh and frozen fruits, vegetables and legumes. This is very important. With vegetables, the focus should be on dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, bok choy, kale, broccoli and cauliflower, as well as mushrooms. More is better. You cannot have too much. For fruits, apples have shown to play an important role in lung health, and all types of berries have high anti-inflammatory effects. 

WFPB diets ultimately help with inflammation and immune strengthening and also support reduced stress and better sleep. The reason for these effects may have to do with the microbiome, the microbes living in your gut, which are an important determinant of how your immune system functions. Seventy percent of your immune cells are in your gut.

You can test for inflammation by looking at both white blood cell count and high sensitivity CRP (hsCRP). Beta carotene levels in the blood are a way to measure nutrient levels. I recently published a study that showed there is an inverse relationship between beta carotene in the blood and inflammation measured through hsCRP. This showed a 75 percent reduction in inflammation with higher beta carotene levels achieved through a plant-rich diet focusing on dark green leafy vegetables.

Interestingly, you don’t seem to achieve the same reduction in inflammation from vitamins or plant-based powders as you do by eating actual fruits and vegetables and legumes.

Stress management and exercise. Please, don’t panic. When you stress, your body releases cortisol, or internal steroids, that actually weaken the immune system and increase your risk of serious infection. Techniques to reduce your stress include exercise, yoga and meditation.

Mild to moderate exercise can be effective, such as a walk or jog outdoors or up and down the steps of your home. Just because the gyms may be closed in your area does not mean you can’t get exercise. It is spring, let’s take advantage of the weather, which will also help with mood and stress.

You can also exercise your lungs using an incentive spirometer. My personal favorite is the Triflo II version, but there are many on the market. I recommend taking 10 breaths using the incentive spirometer twice a day. This can help expand your lungs and keep the aveoli healthy and open. Aveoli exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide molecules to and from the bloodstream.

Sleep. Exercise will also help with sleep, as will the LIFE diet. Getting enough quality sleep is important to strengthening the immune system. Quality, not quantity, is most crucial. 

What if you are infected?

If you are infected, supportive care is most critical: stay hydrated; focus on foods with fluids in them to help with this, like fruits, vegetables, and low-salt vegetable-based soups; and sleep.

Importantly, stay away from NSAIDS. These are mostly over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen and even aspirin, but can be prescriptions such as diclofenac. These suppress the immune system, thus making it more difficult for it to fight (3)(4). The mechanism of action for this suppression of the immune system is an anti-inflammatory effect that is different and detrimental, compared to the favorable anti-inflammatory effects of a WFPB diet such as the LIFE diet.

Instead, you want to reduce fever using acetaminophen, or Tylenol. This will not have any effects on inflammation, thus not interfering with the body’s immune system. If you can’t tolerate acetaminophen for fever, some alternatives may be elderflowers, catnip (which is a gentle choice for children), yarrow, white willow bark, echinacea, and lemon balm, although there is little data on their effectiveness.

Do not hesitate to go to the hospital if you have difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in your chest, new confusion or an inability to get up, or bluish lips or face. These are signs of potentially severe and life-threatening COVID-19 symptoms.

To sum it all up, chronic diseases and not managing those four lifestyle pillars are risk factors for dying from COVID-19. You can improve or reverse your chronic diseases, as well as strengthen your immune system and reduce inflammation through a plant-rich dark green leafy vegetable diet like the LIFE diet

References:

(1) cdc.gov/coronavirus. (2) Lancet. Published online March 9, 2020. (3) Lung. 2017;195(2):201-8. (4) Chest. 2011;139(2):387-94

Dr. David Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com.       

 

By Melissa Arnold

As most businesses come to a standstill to aid in social distancing, many people are looking for ways to help their neighbors and community. While there’s plenty to do for one another, local wildlife organizations have their own plea: Don’t forget the animals.

It’s a tough time for places like the Save the Animals Rescue (STAR) Foundation in Middle Island, a non-profit which rescues and rehabilitates a wide variety of injured wildlife. They also provide a place of sanctuary for those animals not well enough to return to their natural habitats.

Photo courtesy of STAR Foundation

“We rescue those unusual pets that people have abandoned, birds and reptiles, guinea pigs, rabbits, and we’ve been doing this for 25 years,” said STAR Foundation co-director Lori Ketcham. “We are 100 percent reliant on volunteers, and have no paid staff or municipal support. [Normally] about 30 hands-on volunteers assist with rescues, provide animal care, clean cages, help with transport and do whatever else we need help with.”

The STAR Foundation has a long-standing relationship with the Animal Emergency Service clinic in Selden. Temporary limits on staffing and social distancing measures have added additional pressure to the clinic, and for now, STAR is no longer able to send animals to them for immediate care.

“They’re short on equipment and supplies, and what can they do? We [in the animal care field] need gloves and masks just like every other profession, and when those things are gone, they’re gone,” Ketcham said. “And while we’d happily welcome vets who are willing to provide care, not every vet is certified to work with wild animals, so we can’t turn to just anyone.”

The warmest months of the year are also the busiest times for animal rescue organizations, between the arrival of new baby animals and those that sustain injuries while out and about. STAR cares for about 150 animals at a time — currently they’re bottle-feeding baby squirrels and rabbits, caring for woodchucks and all kinds of birds, from quail to great horned owls, and small exotic pets with nowhere to go thanks to suspended adoptions.

While the foundation is keeping a skeleton crew of two to three people on-site, sanitizing regularly and staying separated as much as possible, each new person that enters the building resets that process and introduces new risks, Ketcham explained.

At Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown, they have the same concerns. 

“It’s certainly a big challenge for us — since we’ve been closed to the public, we have only one or two people coming in to work,” said Sweetbriar’s education director Eric Young. “Volunteers have taken some of the animals home for care, but that’s only temporary.”

Photo courtesy of Sweetbriar Nature Center

The center is home to countless animals of all kinds, from bustling ant colonies and hissing cockroaches to box turtles and groundhogs, the occasional goats and foxes, to name a few. Young estimates there are around 50 different kinds of animals on site. At the moment, its on-site Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is caring for several owls and rabbits, a hawk that suffered a gunshot wound, gulls and Canada geese, among others. 

As education director, Young said he’s feeling the loss of the many students who visit the center at this time of year. Sweetbriar interacts with thousands of students annually, including in-school presentations and class field trips.

Now, with schools closed and students adjusting to digital learning in varied forms, Young is trying to find creative ways to bring the animals online.

“We’re thinking about sharing our animal presentations on YouTube, and I’m in the process of putting together resources to share with teachers,” he said. 

At this point, Director of Wildlife Rehabilitation Janine Bendicksen is simply hoping for a quick end to the pandemic so that they can ensure the wellbeing of the staff.

“The Town of Smithtown covers our utilities and major repairs, but we still depend on financial support to pay the salaries of our staff, care for the animals and purchase formula, medicine and food,” Bendicksen said. “Our greatest need right now is to continue to support our staff.”

Ketcham echoed the need for continued donations in these difficult times. 

“We plan our fundraisers well in advance, and without doing five or six fundraisers a year, we’re not going to make it,” she said. “We don’t know what events we will be able to hold. Everything is up in the air right now. It costs about $8,000 a month to keep the center going, and donations have slowed to a trickle.  We have utility bills and insurances, cleaning, food and medical supply bills, no matter what else is going on. Without programs or fundraisers, it will become critical in no time.”

Both the STAR Foundation and Sweetbriar Nature Center are encouraging those who wish to support them with donations to send money only at this time — please protect the staff and do not bring supplies to their physical locations.

To donate to the Save the Animals Rescue (STAR) Foundation, visit www.savetheanimalsrescue.org. Call 631-736-8207 for urgent assistance with wildlife.

To donate to Sweetbriar Nature Center, visit www.sweetbriarnc.org. For those who find an injured wild animal, call 631-979-6344 and leave a message.” All our phone calls go directly to an answering machine that we check each day, we will call them back and give advice. We will accept wildlife if possible,” said Bendicksen.

You can also visit the Department of Environmental Conservation website at www.dec.ny.gov and search for “wildlife rehabilitator near me” to connect with other rescue organizations in your area.