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With COVID deaths in decline, WHO Director-General says pandemic could soon be over. But that’s only if countries stick with prevention methods.

The end of the COVID-19 pandemic may finally be in sight, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD announced Wednesday in a press briefing.

“Last week, the number of weekly reported deaths from COVID-19 was the lowest since March 2020,” said Ghebreyesus. “We have never been in a better position to end the pandemic—we’re not there yet, but the end is in sight.”

The WHO released six short policy briefs with steps that countries need to take now to ensure that the pandemic doesn’t worsen, which include testing and vaccination.

“A marathon runner does not stop when the finish line comes into view. She runs harder, with all the energy she has left. So must we. We can see the finish line, we are in a winning position, but now is the worst time to stop running,” Ghebreyesus added. “If we don’t take this opportunity now we run the risk of more variants, more deaths, more disruption, and more uncertainty.”

But, with various levels of vaccination status, access to antiviral treatments, and other preventative measures around the world, what would it really take for the pandemic to end?

Experts explain what the next phase of the pandemic might be, if we can get there with the current public health measures we have in place, and what could pose a risk to our plans of returning to normalcy.

A Notable Decline in COVID Deaths Worldwide

Though upwards of 50,000 new COVID cases are still being reported daily in the U.S., the death rate of COVID is declining—and it may signal that we’re reaching a new, more manageable phase of the pandemic.

For the week of September 5, the WHO reported just over 11,300 global deaths due to COVID. Weekly deaths from the virus have not exceeded 20,000 since mid April, even as case numbers have increased.

“In an epidemic where you’ve seen so much death […] the first thing you’d want to do is minimize death,” Abraar Karan, MD, infectious disease doctor and researcher at Stanford University, told Health. “Then you would focus on minimizing hospitalizations, you then minimize transmission and yes, you want to do all those things at the same time. But death is, of course, the most important outcome for any disease.”

With all of the tools to fight COVID—masking, vaccines, testing, and antiviral treatments—the disease and death from it can be prevented, which is what’s being reflected in the data.

“We expect there to be future waves of infection but that doesn’t necessarily have to translate into future waves of death, because there is so much that we can do,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, PhD, technical lead for the COVID-19 response at the World Health Organization, in a press briefing.

An End in Sight—But Not Here Yet

Though President Biden was quoted during a CBS 60 Minutes interview on Sunday saying the “pandemic is over” — that’s not entirely accurate. “The pandemic is over, we still have a problem with COVID, we’re still doing a lot of work on it,” Biden told CBS’s Scott Pelley.

Biden it seems, may have been referring the middle ground that has been reached in the battle with COVID-19. While many of us have largely returned to life as normal COVID continues to be a serious issue that needs to be addressed as people continue to build up immunity through infection and vaccination.

Ghebreyesus and other experts, say the pandemic, right now, is still ongoing, and we won’t be able to eliminate unnecessary deaths from COVID without immense amounts of continued and ongoing cooperation.

“We can end this pandemic together, but only if all countries, manufacturers, communities, and individuals step up and seize this opportunity,” said Ghebreyesus.

In other words, explains Susan Hassig, DrPH, MPH, associate professor of epidemiology at Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, we have strategies to curtail the pandemic, but they’re not yet widely adopted.

“We have a lot of tools available to us that we did not have in March of 2020 that greatly modify and blunt the severe impacts of infection with this virus,” Hassig told Health. “But—and it’s a big but—we still don’t have levels of vaccination in all locations, in all populations at high risk, at levels where they should be.”

It can be frustrating for people to continue to incorporate preventative measures into their daily routines, she added, especially if they themselves are not at risk of dying from COVID. But throwing in the towel now could cause us to regress and see case numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths go up.

According to Hassig, using the word “end” when it comes to COVID-19 is also problematic.

“The virus is not going away,” said Hassig. “The question and the problem we have with an RNA virus like coronavirus or like influenza is that—and this one has demonstrated that—it’s going to continue to mutate as it moves into other new individuals. And we just don’t know what those mutations are going to look like.”

This is why those six strategies outlined by the WHO are such an important part of this messaging, Dr. Karan said.

The WHO recommends that all countries continue to:

  • Offer testing and sequence for new virus mutations
  • Make sure those who test positive for COVID have access to care
  • Keep up infection prevention and control strategies in health care facilities
  • Reach vaccination targets, especially for those who are at highest risk
  • Fight against COVID misinformation
  • Build community trust by accurately communicating risks

“Each of these tenants are sort of key critical pillars that you need, not just for COVID, but really for any kind of epidemic—monkeypox, or whatever we deal with next,” said Dr. Karan.

Dealing With COVID Going Forward

With more aggressive strategies—like quarantines or mask mandates—likely behind us, experts say that more innocuous prevention measures may stay with us for a while.

More individualized wastewater testing for COVID—testing schools or nursing homes, for example—could be good ways of keeping tabs on the virus, Hassig said. If a small community is seeing an outbreak, it’d be more helpful to have just those affected mask up or test more frequently, rather than imposing those measures on a whole city, county, or state.

Increased ventilation and air filtration are also good solutions to help stop the spread of COVID without it being a burden on people’s everyday lives, Dr. Karan added.

But people will likely still need to be prepared and ready to increase their prevention strategies, based on what’s happening around them and who they come into contact with.

If we are able to avoid a newly dangerous variant and keep deaths at a minimum globally, it’s possible then that we could see a less volatile version of the pandemic that we’ve known for the last couple years.

COVID will likely never completely go away—and may likely look similar to the flu at some point—but health experts seem hopeful that by committing to prevention strategies now and into the future when necessary, the virus may become less of a constant worry or concern.

“I do think that we’ve sort of turned a corner at some point recently. But with that said, we’re quite vulnerable in the sense that whatever variants we deal with, in the future, we’ll have to keep pushing. It’s sort of a continuous process—revaccinating, treating people with antivirals effectively and quickly, monitoring variants,” Dr. Karan said. “Maybe what we know of COVID as like, the 2020 through 2022 COVID, that phase is on its way out.”

Source: https://www.health.com/news/who-end-of-pandemic-in-sight

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Image by Caroline Whatley

My mental health journey started way before I even knew I was on a mental health journey. I had a really charmed life growing up on a small farm—I went to a great school, never wanted for food or shelter, and I felt quite safe with my adopted family. But there was always something that I hid from a lot of people. I would cry myself to sleep at night. 

I grappled with my pain for years, before I had language for it.

I was a very small person struggling with very deep things that I didn’t know how to navigate. It was only when I got older and began therapy that I realized I had been suffering my entire life, and this wasn’t something new. Now, I have a way to shape how I’m experiencing things, and it was helpful to have a label for it (even though I don’t really like labels), to know that I wasn’t alone.

However, it was also very scary and brought a lot of shame and discomfort leaning into the label of struggling with depression. I’m naturally a problem solver, so once I had a name to it I decided I didn’t want to be my own worst enemy. I knew deep in my core that movement was a powerful tool for me—after all, I’ve been moving my entire life. 

Using movement to ease my depression symptoms. 

I played various sports throughout high school and then two years in college, but after that I dislocated my shoulder, tore my meniscus, got stitches—I realized those sports maybe weren’t for me.

Then, one of my friends invited me to go for a run during college, and I thought: ‘Sure I can do that, but what’s the purpose? What are we chasing?’ But it was fun—and one thing led to the next and we entered a 5K.

After that, I started doing bigger and bigger races. When I graduated college, the habit stuck with me. I liked that I could access running daily without a whole lot of money or resources, and I had the ability to put on my shoes and end up somewhere different both mentally and physically. There was real magic and power in that for me because it was something that I could do, as opposed to feeling hopeless (which I’ve since realized is the form my depression takes).

But with that, I had to learn how not to abuse the activity. In the beginning of my journey, I was running marathons and racing several weekends a month—but it became too much, and I got stress fractures after taking it too far. After recovering from my injuries, I realized I needed to find a way to balance my activity a little more. 

Over the last several years, I’ve honed in on how to balance that part of my life. I do have to force myself to take rest days, and it’s very difficult because my brain usually doesn’t feel the same. 

My running routine for mental health. 

Nowadays, I run five days on, two days off, sometimes six days on two days off, but I know that rest really is part of training. It took a long time for that shift to happen for me, but I realized that when I’m running I just need to go out there and enjoy myself, and it feels like a much happier, healthier place to be.

I try not to run the same route twice if at all possible. I like changing it up and having variety. I love new things. I don’t really listen to music either because I need to be aware of my surroundings from a safety perspective. 

Other times, running can be playful. If I see a rock that looks manageable, I will jump off. If I see a dog, I’ll stop to pet it or take pictures. This is not a serious endeavor. 

That said, at times, it’s not always easy to keep up the routine. A week and a half ago, I hit a really low spot. I was crying and laying on the bed, but I had enough willpower to get my clothes on and get dressed. My wife suggested that I go for a run and she would follow me on the bike for the first mile or so.

I made it to the end of the driveway, and when I looked down, I thought that my usual route seemed so far. So I started walking, and then moving faster with the next steps. I started jogging, and by the third or fourth mile I felt a transformation. It’s almost like a stranger stepped into my place, and when I get back, I felt so much better.

Advice for anyone struggling with depression.

I’ve come out to myself so many times throughout my life. As a queer person, when I go out into the world, I have to introduce myself to people all the time, and I have to out myself on a daily basis. 

That’s kind of what talking about depression is for me, too, having to come out in a different way. For instance, I would have to explain to my mom or friends: ‘I’m going to be late today, I’ve had a really hard day and I’m not feeling like myself.’

What’s more, I realized I needed to come out to myself as having depression in the same way I did as being queer. I needed to accept that part of myself, even though I wanted to reject it so badly.

In my worst days, I hated that about myself, but I think the best thing is to really try to love yourself, even when you’re having a hard time. That’s why my running shoes are always right there. Because even when I’m in my darkest place, I know that if I can just put them on and get out the door, I’m going to feel better. Running saved my life.

One final note.

Nothing is one-size-fits-all. My way of managing mental health doesn’t look like some of my other friends who have struggled with depression. A lot of people are often surprised when they hear I have depression, because I have a bright personality—but they may not realize I just don’t go out into the world when I’m feeling bad. It’s such a vulnerable place, but it’s important to not have assumptions about what depression is or what it isn’t.

If someone is bold enough to share that they are struggling with it, being supportive and non-judgmental is the most helpful thing. It’s a very personal experience.

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/erin-mcgrady-invisible-illness?utm_source=Iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter_20220918&mbg_mcid=5108399&mbg_hash=57103be3843e0e1cb6615f5efa797221

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Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient for our health and well-being for a number of reasons (think mood, bone health, immunity, and more).* Unfortunately, though, many of us don’t get enough. Research demonstrates an alarming 93% of Americans fail to get in just 400 IU of vitamin D per day from their diet—and the science is abundantly clear that 400 IU doesn’t even come close to cutting it, anyway.

Given that, it’s no surprise that vitamin D supplementation has become such a massive and important topic. Thing is, though, reaping the benefits of the sunshine vitamin in supplement form isn’t as simple as grabbing the first bottle you see and popping it haphazardly. Instead, getting your supplement routine right ensures you’re doing right by your health and your wallet.

So, when is the best time to take vitamin D—and how can you get the most out of your regimen? Here’s what the experts have to say.

The benefits of supplementing with vitamin D.

The reason why vitamin D supplements have become such a necessity for most people: “There are essentially no good, natural food sources of vitamin D,” says renowned vitamin D researcher Michael Holick, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine at Boston University and author of The Vitamin D Solution.*

Since a 3-ounce serving of farmed salmon contains about 447 IU, while a cup of fortified milk offers up to 100 IU, and 8 ounces of vanilla yogurt provides just 86 IU, you’d have to eat a truly unrealistic amount of D-containing foods to rack up a significant amount (i.e., an amount to achieve vitamin D sufficiency). “You really cannot get enough vitamin D from your diet,” Holick confirms.

And while you can get some vitamin D from sunlight, it’s still practically impossible to meet your needs via food and safe skin exposure alone, according to Holick. “Unless you’re a lifeguard, it’s unrealistic to think you can get enough vitamin D exposure from the sun,” he says.

In fact, his research on vitamin D levels has found that average serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] levels (the body’s clinical biomarker of vitamin D status) of adults in the U.S. were only hovering around 18 to 22 ng/ml at the end of winter, and still only at 29 ng/ml at the end of summer. Both fall below the 30 ng/ml cutoff for baseline vitamin D sufficiency. (i.e., the cutoff, not the goal). “The difference is small regardless of season,” Holick says. “You still can’t get enough.”

Because of these different factors, Holick (along with many other health practitioners and researchers) recommends supplementing with vitamin D daily.*

(Want some recommendations that’ll actually help you meet your needs? Check out our favorite vitamin D supplements.)

What to consider with timing your vitamin D supplement.

Since vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, it strongly prefers a source of fat in order to be properly absorbed in the body. According to integrative dietitian Whitney Crouch, RDN, CLT, vitamin D supplements are “best absorbed when taken with food containing avocado, olive oil, flax, or other sources of beneficial fats.”* So, popping your standard D supplement on an empty stomach probably isn’t the best idea.

There’s one important exception here, though. “If your supplement is already packaged with adequate fats included, there’s no need to take it with food,” Crouch adds. This is a rare feature among vitamin D supplements offered today, so it’s important to check product labels to make sure yours contains some kind of fat or oil to foster absorption, Holick says.

If that is the case, though, you can feel free to take your vitamin D sans food. And if not, you’ll still absorb some vitamin D. “We’ve done studies and shown that vitamin D with oil can be taken with a full meal, on an empty stomach, with additional fat or without it,” says Holick.

That’s why mbg uniquely and expertly formulated our vitamin D3 potency+ with three built-in, high-quality organic oils (from extra-virgin olive oil, avocado, and flaxseed) to be sure you’re maximizing the fat-soluble bioavailability of this critical nutrient.* With this absorption support, you can get the most out of your vitamin D, regardless of when you take it (not to mention the healthy omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids).*

The link between vitamin D & sleep.

Perhaps you’ve heard some of the buzz out there right now that suggests that supplementing with vitamin D before hitting the hay can affect your ability to snooze. Well, it’s not a super-clear story right now.

Research has shown that vitamin D is involved in the production of the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate your circadian rhythm and sleep. As mbg’s director of scientific affairs Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN, explains, “The vitamin D and sleep relationship appears to be a bidirectional one. Suboptimal vitamin D status is linked to lower sleep quality and shorter sleep duration, and inadequate sleep is linked to a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency. The science is young and emerging here.”

Holick concurs, “There is some evidence to suggest that vitamin D promotes sleep, but research is ongoing.”* Indeed, vitamin D deficiency has been linked with several sleep issues—but the true relationship between supplements and sleep still requires some investigation to understand, he explains.*

So, when’s the best time to take vitamin D, then?

According to the experts, when you take your vitamin D supplement is really up to you. “It does not have to be taken at a certain time,” says Connie Weaver, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Nutrition Science at Purdue University. “The best time is whenever in your schedule you can remember to take it.”

As long as your supplement contains fat, you’ve got plenty of flexibility. To stay consistent, though, Crouch suggests trying tying your vitamin D supplement to some other part of your routine that happens daily, like drinking your morning coffee or brushing your teeth.

 If it doesn’t contain fat, try tying it to your breakfast (and just make sure you’ve got some healthy fat like avocado or olive oil in there).* If lunch or dinner works better for your D ritual, go for it!

And if you happen to take your vitamin D at different times or even forget to take it here and there, don’t panic. “Vitamin D is very forgiving,” Holick says. “If you forget it one day, you can take double the next day.” No sweat!*

The takeaway.

There’s no question that taking a vitamin D supplement is a good idea. Once you’ve gotten your levels tested and picked out a high-quality supplement (like mbg’s vitamin D3 potency+), tack it onto an established part of your daily routine like eating your breakfast or brushing your teeth. Remember: If your supplement doesn’t contain fats to support absorption, you’ll need to pair your vitamin D with some sort of healthy fat, like avocado for optimal absorption.* Want specific recommendations? Check out our vitamin D supplement roundup.

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/best-time-of-day-to-take-vitamin-d-according-to-experts?utm_source=Iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter_20220916&mbg_mcid=5098766&mbg_hash=57103be3843e0e1cb6615f5efa797221

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