The 2017 health stories that really hit home

We don’t always want to talk about our health, probably because we aren’t too proud of our dietary guilty pleasures. This year, a handful of stories made us stop and think seriously about our well-being.

1. In October, we learned that Dr. Neal Barnard is not the kind of physician who tells you what you’d like to hear. He often does just the opposite, especially when it comes to your favorite dietary staples. When confronted with familiar comforting platitudes such as “All things in moderation,” the doctor doesn’t hesitate to squash them. He does so without apology or qualification, feelings be damned.

Living well with Dr. Neal Barnard

2. That same month, Nancy Zimini of Manassas, Maria S. Breyer of Springfield and Stacy Grace-Moore of Alexandria shared with us their battles with breast cancer. The women agree that a mammogram—the routine one—shocked them. But it also saved their lives.

Catching Breast Cancer Early: Three NoVA women share their stories

3. In the United States, 43 children are diagnosed with cancer every day. Katherine Donahue, a pediatric nurse practitioner in the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s National Health System, knows firsthand that pediatric cancer is particularly devastating and grueling—physically, mentally and emotionally—for both patients and their families alike. Donahue was diagnosed with osteosarcoma when she was only 3 years old. In this moving article, Donahue discusses why she’s dedicated her life to caring for kids with similar diagnoses.

From patient to practitioner: How pediatric cancer shaped my life

4. By many measures, Northern Virginians are among the healthiest—and longest living—people in the nation. Yet when it comes to getting their daily dose of shut-eye, it’s a different story. Virginians rank 25th in the nation when it comes to healthy sleep practices, with more than a third of adults in the state reporting that they sleep less than seven hours each night. That’s a problem because insufficient sleep, whether voluntary or caused by a sleep disorder such as insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea, is linked to a host of negative health consequences, including high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, memory loss and premature death.

Dream On: Why sleep is critical for good health

5. Dr. Nimali Fernando, a Fredericksburg-based pediatrician and co-author of Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater, launched the Doctor Yum Project nonprofit in 2011 with co-founder and director Heidi DiEugenio in hopes of instilling families with tools and education to practice healthier eating habits.

Fredericksburg pediatrician connects families with tools for healthier eating

6. The Japanese were onto something in the 1980s when they started to prescribe walks in nature as part of their national health regimen. Since this practice started—and other people across the world have begun to partake in forest bathing—the science is only growing to show the benefits of what a walk in the forest, or any part of nature, can do for humans’ mental and physical health.

Make forest bathing your next healthful practice

7. Working out can be painful, but the good news is that you don’t always have to go it alone. These Northern Virginia organizations provide ways to get healthy while also forging new friendships.

Find strength while socializing

8. When Khloe Kardashian’s weight-loss transformation show Revenge Body premiered on E!, viewers were forced to ask themselves what motivated them to live healthily. Was it a desire to be an even better version of themselves? Or did it take someone else’s ego-bruising assessment to kick them into health-conscious high gear? Licensed psychologist Dr. Keith Kaufman, who has an office in Old Town Fairfax, and Vienna psychiatrist Dr. Valerie Buyse weigh-in on what striving for a “revenge body” may mean.

Local health experts weigh in on Khloe Kardashian’s ‘Revenge Body’ show

9. Pain, as ubiquitous as it is damaging, is how your body lets you know that something isn’t right. Typically, it is pain that eventually prompts Americans to make an appointment with their doctor. Below, Prashanth Mally, M.D., from the Kaiser Permanente Tysons Corner Medical Center offers some medication-free alternative therapies for those looking to better manage their chronic pain. Other contributions from Kaiser Permanente include how to identify and manage high blood pressure, how to treat migraines, tips on how to make it through menopause and insight into osteoporosis.

Manage your chronic pain without popping pills

10. Brushing your teeth is a task that you do, or should be doing, more often than any other personal hygiene regimen. In order to make sure you step out with a confident, healthy smile, follow these tips from some of the top dentists in Northern Virginia.

Smile brighter with these 2017 Top Dentists’ tips