Monday Medical: Staying healthy through a pandemic |

Monday Medical: Staying healthy through a pandemic

Susan Cunningham
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Editor’s note: This story is part one of a two-part series recapping our favorite health tips from 2020. Part two focuses on tips for a healthy new year.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — With months of experience under our belts, we know a lot about living through a pandemic. But as we face a long winter with increasing case counts, it may be helpful to review local experts’ tips for staying healthy during this challenging time.

Seek medical help when needed

Even as we hunker down in our homes, remember that there are some symptoms that should never be ignored. Those include signs of stroke, such as facial drooping and difficulty talking and controlling your limbs; signs of heart attack, such as tightness, pressure or pain in the chest or upper-trunk; serious trauma and burns; sudden, severe head pain; and unusual abdominal pain.

Don’t hesitate to call 911 and go to the emergency department when it’s necessary.

“More and more injury can be occurring as time is passing,” said Dr. Nathan Anderson, an emergency medicine physician at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. “It’s better to overreact and over-respond and be reassured, then to underreact and under-respond and miss the chance to intervene meaningfully.”

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

Eat healthfully

“You’re working from home, feeling stressed, watching too much news — so you go to the pantry and eat some cheese and crackers or chips,” said Laura Stout, registered dietitian nutritionist at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. “But that’s what we want to try to avoid now that we’re settling into this new routine. We want to get back to our healthy lifestyle.”

Keep staples such as rice, beans, frozen veggies and fruits, pasta, nut butters, canned tomatoes and onions on hand. And keep meals simple: roasted vegetables and meat added to rice can make for a hearty bowl meal.

It’s OK to treat yourself every now and then.

At a glance

Don’t forget to practice Routt County’s six commitments to containment to help limit the spread of COVID-19:

1. Wear a mask.

2. Stay 6 feet apart from people outside your household.

3. Wash hands often.

4. Stay home if sick, do not go to work or schools with symptoms.

5. Get tested if you have symptoms.

6. Avoid personal gatherings. Keep it small and in your family.

“Don’t sacrifice good nutrition but make sure you take care of yourself during this stressful time,” Stout said. “If it means you have ice cream or chocolate at the end of meal, go for it.”

Keep moving

From creating a simple home gym to embracing solo sports such as running, it’s important to stay active.

“Running is a huge stress reliever,” said Dave Grinnell, a physical therapist and board-certified clinical specialist in orthopedics at UCHealth SportsMed Clinic in Steamboat Springs. “A lot of us are going stir crazy, so it’s a good way to let off some steam while also getting a good cardiovascular workout.”

Running is a great option because you can do it from your home and progress at your own pace, and it’s affordable.

As with any new activity, start slowly. Choose comfortable running shoes, warm up before your workout, build strength off the trail, and if pain strikes, take a break.

Stay social

Staying connected might be more important now than ever.

“As human beings, we have a need to be in connection with other people,” said Sara Ross, a licensed clinical social worker for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. “It’s not just a want — it’s a need, like our need to eat.”

While most of us have probably become well-versed in Zoom, FaceTime and other options for reaching out, we may need the reminder to schedule time to connect into our days.

And don’t forget, there is power in giving and asking for help.

“(Helping others) makes you feel good and gives you this little sense of control or purpose,” Ross said. “And we all know how good it feels when someone allows us to do something for them. When we don’t let that reciprocation happen, we rob the blessing from that person.”

Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at


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