Dengue Fever, Chronic Disease, & Exercise is Medicine
This past December my husband and I went on vacation in beautiful Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, I became quite sick about a week after we returned home. I did not see mosquitoes, but I did see insects that looked like gnats, and had several bites.The mosquitoes that carry Dengue, Chikungunya, and Zika virus (aedes aegypti & aedes albopictus)are much smaller than Minnesota mosquitoes.
I was extremely sick for 3 weeks and was finally diagnosed with dengue fever by a blood test. I had high fevers, severe muscle cramps, bone pain, nausea, fatigue, and was hospitalized with dehydration. The virus also affected me neurologically by attacking spinal nerves and core muscles. I could not lift anything, had a hard time walking and climbing stairs, and if my back was not supported when sitting, I would just fall backward.
Being on bed-rest causes muscle atrophy, and experiencing it firsthand is quite disturbing! When I first started moving after bed rest, I felt like I weighed 1,000 pounds. I had worked in the fitness industry for years, exercised regularly, and even taught fitness classes throughout pregnancies, so I had never experienced muscle loss before. Muscle loss gave me a glimpse of what it might be like to be 90 years old and have lost 30-40 pounds of muscle over the years. Not being able to do daily activities is very limiting. We start losing muscle around age 30, and can lose up to one pound of muscle per year (more on bed rest) if we don't do strength training to build and maintain it.
Dengue Fever taught me that exercise is truly medicine! I am still working to regain strength, coordination, and balance. It is difficult to start at such a weak point, but also amazing to see how fast our bodies can build muscle. When I'm in pain, I need to get moving. I don't desire to exercise right now, but as soon as I get through the initial discomfort, I feel much better than I did to begin with. Exercise is often better than medication at relieving pain and stiffness!
If you are blessed to be healthy, but you do not exercise, it is time to think about the many diseases caused by being sedentary. Inactivity is our greatest health risk currently because it causes heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, muscle loss, poor sleep, and is even related to some cancers. We are made to move, and our bodies cannot function properly if we do not move enough.
I have learned that exercise is medicine, and a more gentle approach to fitness is sometimes necessary. It is difficult to put personal health at the top of the priority list, but making time to be good to yourself through exercise, wise food choices, adequate sleep, spiritual practices, and enjoyment of life will pay off in improving total quality of life.
Note: If you travel anyplace tropical or subtropical, wear mosquito repellent (even if you don't see mosquitoes)! The mosquitoes that carry Dengue Fever, Chikungunya & Zika virus are tiny, and they like daytime hours and indoor spaces. Tropical viruses can be debilitating and long lasting! Approximately 400 million people get Dengue Fever every year. It may be uncommon in the United States, but it is very common in many popular vacation destinations! Check with the CDC before you travel to get information about current outbreaks of these diseases.
MS Ex Phys