With 2020 behind us, it’s time to look forward to a much healthier and happier 2021. In order to do this, it’s imperative that we take care of our bodies and minds with the most up-to-date medical care, healthy diet, and active lifestyle. Dr. Laura Pennavaria, a board-certified M.D. in Family Medicine, and Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians, founded Homestead Family Medicine in October 2019. A physician for 20 years, she states that her philosophy of care is that it is the patient's body, and the patient's life, and she is there as a shepherd and guardian of their health—a consultant with the medical knowledge to assist them with the challenges they face.
Here, she offers advice on how to live our best lives this year and for many years to come.
Pertaining to diet, what should people focus on to keep their bodies healthy from the inside out?
Ideally, people should know exactly where their food comes from, and it should be from within their local community. There are many local growers and producers of meat and produce that people can get directly from the farmers/ranchers. Here in Central Oregon, the High Desert Food and Farm Alliance produces a Directory every year of all the participating local farmers and ranchers where people can get fresh local food.
Why is a regular exercise program paramount to one’s health, and how can someone go about incorporating that into his or her current lifestyle?
The word "exercise" is most commonly paired with "weight loss." But that is not even exercise's most important role. Regular exercise has vast mental health benefits, boosts the immune system, and keeps the body limber. It helps with balance and endurance. If you are feeling sluggish, MOVE YOUR BODY. I always say there are not really many Central Oregon days that are not conducive to outside exercise, there are just inappropriate clothing choices.
What types of things people can do to keep their minds active and engaged?
Cultivate curiosity. Try to learn something new every day, or better yet, embark on learning a new skill, then challenge yourself to increase that skill. For example, learn how to knit, bake, play guitar, learn a new language. Better yet, do one of these with a partner.
What are some vaccines that can help adults stay well? How often should they be given?
Adults should get an influenza virus vaccine every year, high dose if they are at high risk. I recommend Shingrix shingles vaccine (this one specifically) for adults 50 or older. There are two pneumonia vaccines that need to be given in a specific order at a specific interval, so I recommend speaking to your doctor about when you personally should receive these vaccines. Anyone who will be around a newborn should have a Tdap vaccine, to protect the newborn against Pertussis (whooping cough). Adults should discuss with their doctor whether or not they personally would benefit from HPV vaccination.
What are the benefits of Direct Primary Care (the model of Homestead Family Medicine) and how does it help your patients obtain the best medical care?
My patients have direct access to me. They can call, text, or email me directly. This includes weekends and after hours. This allows me to serve them quickly and efficiently in the way that serves them best. The office visits are as long or as short as the patient needs. I know my patients and will continue to know my patients very well. This allows me to tailor their care to their needs. I don't take insurance for my fees (Direct Primary Care is not insurance), but insurance companies still pay for the labs, medications, and studies that I order, including Medicare.
What other advice would you give to make 2021 a healthy and happy one?
Prioritize your physical, mental, and spiritual health. You are a multifaceted being who deserves love and care, and that starts with you.