Coronavirus Is Deadly But So Is The Flu

Coronavirus Is Deadly But So Is The Flu

This past week – for the first time ever – I spotted non-Asians wearing surgical masks in NYC. The first sighting was at the Converse store in Soho where the cashier was wearing a mask and then Friday night on the subway, numerous mask sightings.

What I find curious is that flu deaths don’t alarm people in the same way – and they should. For example, per year, since 2010 there have been between 12,000 and 61,000 flu deaths in the United States. Most of those deaths are entirely preventable and yet fewer than 50% of us bother to get the flu shot.

But with three confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the United States — one in Washington state, one in Chicago and as of this morning, one in California — people are freaking out and surgical masks are flying off the shelves all around the country.

I am scheduled to be in Shenzhen, China in May. We will see if there are changes made to our itinerary.

In the meantime.

YES! Be careful about this new virus but be equally diligent about the flu. During the 2017-2018 flu season, it killed 61,000 people in the United States alone. Worldwide, 250,000 – 500,000 people die of the flu each year. Flu is the seventh leading cause of death.

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Oscar Health Is A Surprisingly Good Experience (So Far!)

Oscar Health Is A Surprisingly Good Experience (So Far!)

My partner, Brad, is now on his second year with Oscar and of all the insurance companies he’s used over the years, this has been the best so far. Mind you, he has not had any major health issues but compared to the other 5 or 6 companies he’s previously used, this has been an outstanding user experience. Plus, he hasn’t had to switch out any of his doctors – they’re all signed up to Oscar as well.

50% growth both in membership and revenue

Oscar now has 400,000 members and $2 billion in revenue based on the open-enrollment period that just ended.

Three years ago, Oscar had only 70,000 members after pulling out of markets in Dallas-Fort Worth and New Jersey (losing too much money on ACA programs at the time).

However, by the end of this year (2020), they expect to be operating in 29 markets including New York, San Antonio, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Francisco and Phoenix.

So far they’ve raised $1.3 billion to fulfill their vision of providing a more concierge-like healthcare experience. Technology plays a major role and sets them apart from their competitors. Their mobile app is first-rate especially for telemedicine.

They also just announced that they were partnering with Cigna to provide services to small business owners.

Alphabet/Google appears to be their major investor along with Founders Fund.

According to TechCrunch, the company envisions a healthcare industry where employer-defined plans will disappear as more consumers turn to Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangements. 

In that environment, Oscar’s bespoke services — like the recent partnership with the startup Capsule Pharmacy to provide same-day prescription delivery for Oscar’s members in New York — or the company’s tight relationship with providers like the Cleveland Clinic, become competitive advantages.

Bottom Line.

Not cheap but so far, so good. Their tech is beyond par – the whole experience reminds me a bit of Warby Parker – very seamless, helpful, customer-first.

And I believe their excellence stems from the founder’s personal experience at a hospital when he ran into the maze that is health insurance for most people. An experience that ultimately drove him to create Oscar.

And if you’re wondering about my insurance, I’m on Medicare (and that has been the greatest experience of all!!)

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Halfway Thru Dry January: Such a Bore This Year.

Halfway Thru Dry January: Such a Bore This Year.

I don’t know why I’m finding sobriety such a drag this year. I know it’s good for me and I have NOT been tempted to break my Dry Jan commitment. That said, I am finding it tedious and a bit pretentious to turn down offers of drinks because I’m “doing” Dry January (eye roll) . I cannot wait for February 1st to arrive!

Why do dry january?

Last year, which was my first Dry January, was extraordinary. Within a week, I felt so good, so much healthier, better sleep and best of all, my osteoarthritis showed major improvement without all of that alcohol-induced inflammation.

During the course of the year, I also found myself drinking much more mindfully. I’m pretty certain I consumed 50% less alcohol overall.

All around, great experience.

This year, I’m not getting the same lift from going dry. In great part, because I came into Dry January off a much lower alcohol consumption rate. The impact of going dry is not as pronounced as it was last year.

But data shows dry january is increasingly popular

Research group YouGov estimated in 2019 that one in five Americans were spending the month off the sauce.

21% of people “said that they think it’s a good idea and they plan to participate in it.” Sticking to it is the hard part for most people.

But science confirms that taking a break from booze has numerous health and other benefits.

Scroll down for more on the how, why and who of drinking less
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Where Are All These Runners Coming From?

Where Are All These Runners Coming From?

Anyone else noticing more runners on city streets (NY or elsewhere)? For the last 6 months, in my neighborhood, the streets are filled with runners every morning at 7-ish as I’m heading to the gym. Over the summer, likewise, hordes of runners making their way across Rivington Street (headed, perhaps, to one of the bridges to Brooklyn).

I have no idea if they belong to a running club or are affiliated with NYU (they look too old to be students) but they are out bright and early every day.

Try as I might I could find no statistics to bear out what I’ve been observing. As a matter of fact, all the data indicated we were in the midst of a five-year decline in road racing. Running peaked in 2013, when 19 million runners crossed the finish line at U.S. running events.

But then I uncovered this:

“Running Is Back, Baby! 
Buoyed by the
persistent failure of studies to find any evidence that even extreme amounts of running will kill you and the persistent brilliance of Eliud Kipchoge—2020 will be the year that the trend finally turns around. Lapsed runners will return to the fold, new runners will discover the Trial of Miles, and hardcore veterans will redouble their efforts.”

Alex Hutchinson, Outside Magazine Columnist/Author
And finally, THIS!
Orchard Street Runners

They arrange weekly runs (Tuesday nights) starting at Allen Street near Canal. Meeting up at 7:45 pm, they start their run at 8 pm SHARP and rules are strict: “Come ready to run, no bathroom, bag check or changing.”

They also have a super intriguing midnight run planned for next Thursday, January 16.

This inaugural OSR1 will take athletes on the fastest mile of their lives, screaming through open New York City streets at 1:00am in the morning. The distance will be measured to the best of OSR’s abilities and the race will feature electronic timing. Click here for details.

Bottom Line.

The Orchard Street Runners organization is a big deal. I can’t believe I haven’t discovered it before (literally my neighbors) but I do now understand why I am seeing such an influx of runners.

I also noticed Eventbrite is hosting dozens of group runs in NY and NJ and I’m sure in other parts of the country. So this is definitely a “thing” that I just happened to catch serendipitously because of my location.

Will keep tabs on it and look forward to interviewing some runners in the not too distant future.

Something definitely percolating here. Let me know if any of you have also picked up signs of a running renaissance .

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Sick As A Dog Over New Year’s. Why? Second Shingles Shot!

Sick As A Dog Over New Year’s. Why? Second Shingles Shot!

If you’re about to hit 50 (or you’re over 50), it’s time to get both your shingles shots. Why? you ask. Especially since I’m telling you it made me so sick. Here’s why: because one out of every three people in the U.S. will eventually develop shingles if they are not vaccinated.

“As we age, our risk of shingles goes up. Shingles is a very devastating infection causing extreme nerve pain and discomfort that can last for years.”

Dr. Kathleen Dooling, shingles expert, CDC Division of Viral Diseases

At my last physical, my doctor asked me to get re-immunized against shingles with the recently approved Shingrix vaccine. It’s much more effective than previous vaccines but it has to be administered in two separate doses (from two to six months apart).

I got my first shot in late October and on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve as I walked past Duane Reade, I thought “let me get this whole shingles thing out of the way before we head into 2020.”

Fortunately, my New Year’s Eve plans consisted of nothing more than a night at home – in peaceful solitude – with some great wine and a delicious cheese plate.

While the first shot left me with little more than an achy arm, I was not so lucky the second time around. By early evening, I was running a 102 fever, had a horrible headache, and my arthritis was acting up (joint pain is one of the side effects of Shingrix I learned). As you can imagine, my New Year’s Eve was a bust!

I was in bed by nine, sick as a dog.

Next day, same thing (Happy New Year!).

I took an Advil at around noon when my temperature hit 101. I had no appetite and once again, nasty headache. However, by early evening I was starting to feel better. And by the end of the day, the side effects had passed. So all in all, I was down for the count for 1 day. Not too bad.

In doing some research, I discovered that this is par for the course for this newest vaccine. One in six people who get Shingrix shots, suffer from some kind of flu-like side effects. But they go away within 1-3 days. No explanation, however, for why there were no side effects the first time around.

Bottom Line.

Shingrix is much more powerful and fully effective for up to 4 years versus prior vaccines.

So, despite the side effects, it is absolutely worth getting the shots. The benefits far outweigh the short-lived side effects.

And if you have been vaccinated for shingles in the past, remember it only lasts a few years so it’s probably time to get revaccinated. Just make sure you don’t have anything urgent scheduled for the next day!!

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What Happens When I Give Up Drinking For A Whole Year?

What Happens When I Give Up Drinking For A Whole Year?

My second Dry January is just around the corner and I’m looking forward to it. But it also made me wonder if I could go dry for a few more months or even an entire year? And, more importantly, would I want to.

What’s hard about not drinking?

For me, it’s how it might impact my social life. Having a glass of wine or a cocktail goes hand in hand with most of my get-togethers.

That said when this year’s Dry January ended I did not revert to drinking at anywhere near the same level. And my friends, wonderful people that they are, totally support my not drinking which is very cool.

I drink about 50% less now than I did before my first Dry January earlier this year. That’s in great part because I now rarely drink at parties or at dinners where wine is poured freely. Experience has taught me that’s where the worst damage gets done. On the other hand, ordering a bottle of wine or two at a restaurant is a much more mindful experience. That’s the kind of limited wine consumption I see in my future.

What was the first dry january like?

When I first started Dry January in 2019, it took me about a week to notice the results.

But it was major. Everything was better, from how I slept to the effects of my osteoarthritis (alcohol causes inflammation). Waking up without a hangover also has to be about the most wonderful feeling ever.

Since 2019’s Dry January worked so well, I am considering upping the ante for 2020.

Scroll down to see what i’ve got in mind
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50% Increase In People Using Walking Aids.

50% Increase In People Using Walking Aids.

This week I noticed an ENORMOUS number of people with walking canes in NYC. I thought I was having that “new word” experience, i.e., you learn a new word and then you suddenly see it everywhere. But, in researching this topic, I found the use of walking aids did, indeed, jump 50% over the last decade.

Here’s how this trend got on my radar in the first place

On my weekly treks to Chinatown, I’ve found myself increasingly sharing the sidewalk with elderly Chinese using walking canes – I’d estimate at least one-third of the adults I encounter are using a walking stick of some kind. Another more recent development is the use of mobility scooters. I now encounter at least one or two every time I head to Chinatown.

The homeless. I’ve also been noticing increasing numbers of homeless men on the Bowery using walking canes – especially the men utilizing the services of the Bowery Mission. These men, I’ve also noticed, tend to be overweight and arthritic.

Art lovers. My most recent sightings, last Friday, were in Chelsea. As I was heading to the Yayoi Kusama show, I ran into at least a dozen people gallery hopping, cane in hand. Says a lot about the age of the collector class.

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5 Tips On How To Best Live With Osteoarthritis

5 Tips On How To Best Live With Osteoarthritis

Over the last few months I’ve had some major breakthroughs with my osteoarthritis. I’m more limber, my gait is better and the day-to-day discomfit has eased significantly. I know there is no such thing as remission but I’m definitely on the path to improved mobility.

It’s also important to point out that these tips are preventative measures that I wish I had been aware of years ago.

“By age 40, 90% of people have some level of osteoarthritis in their weight-bearing joints but they may remain asymptomatic until they are older. “

Osteoarthritis is the most frequently experienced joint disease among Americans and yet it is largely preventable. Had I been aware of it when I was in my thirties or forties, I would have done everything possible to nip it in the bud then as opposed to dealing with it now.

Here are 5 tips that have made living with osteoarthritis easier for me
1. Exercise/ Gym

If there’s one thing an individual with osteoarthritis should do every day, it’s exercise. It strengthens muscles and improves flexibility and balance. It not only helps ease pain and stiffness but also improves overall health.

Harvard medical school

I’ve gone to the gym for years and have worked with my trainer, David Luis, for several years. Over the last six months, however, we’ve focused specifically on building up my hip flexor muscles to compensate for the joint weakness I have in that area.

I train with David one day a week but I’ve incorporated many of these new exercises into my daily regimen. It’s making a huge difference.

My daily workout consists of 30 minutes on a stationary bike (which is better for arthritis than the treadmill), plus an additional 30 minutes working on flexibility and muscle strength.

A side benefit of my gym is its community. I get a lot out of my fellow gym-goers, especially the older Chinese men and women who are all in their late ’70s and ’80s. They work out every day, are in great shape, and are living “the life.” They absolutely inspire me.

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