The Seven Plagues of Sin City

Here are some of the biggest health issues locals face and a few endemic solutions

Walk It Off

With the joy of new motherhood comes the pain—especially when it comes to finding a way to lose the baby weight in 100-degree heat. While many gyms offer childcare, they usually don’t allow kids under the age of 1. So what’s a new mom to do? For many, the answer is mall walking.

The local franchise FIT4MOM, run by registered nurse Jessica Peralta, was recently featured in Redbook with the inspiring story of a mom who lost 100 pounds through its classes. There are classes for every stage of motherhood—from prenatal to post-partum classes designed to incorporate babies into the activities, or the more intensive Body Back classes, which include information about nutrition, meal plans, baseline measurements to chart progress and meditation.

“The Body Back classes are a time for moms to not feel guilty about doing something for themselves, since they are always giving, giving, giving to others,” Peralta says. “A lot of times, it’s hard for these moms to take time for themselves.”

Classes are offered at different rates, including an unlimited six-month pass starting at $65. There are 13 locations around the Valley for the Mommy & Me classes and four locations for the Body Back classes, including the new FIT4MOM studio in Henderson.

Up in Smoke

With millions of travelers passing through our city each year, they’re also inhaling a lot of cigarette smoke. A 2011 study by Stanford and Tufts universities found that less than two hours of exposure to secondhand smoke is enough to impair heart function. Indeed, according to the CDC, there is no safe amount of secondhand smoke.

Unfortunately, secondhand smoke in casinos is not only toxic to tourists; it’s a major problem for casino employees. In September, members of the Transport Workers Union Local 721, which represents table-game dealers, picketed outside the Global Gaming Expo, pushing for Nevada’s casinos to go smoke-free. Citing two brand-new, smoke-free casinos built by Caesars Entertainment (in Maryland and Louisiana) and MGM Resort International’s $1.3 billion National Harbor Casino in Maryland, opening next year, smoke-free advocates say the time has come for Nevada to follow suit.

To help cleanse your system after exposure to secondhand smoke, health guru Dr. Andrew Weil recommends using HEPA air filters at home, taking saunas or steam baths to sweat out toxins and increasing dietary fiber and antioxidants, such as vitamins C, E and mixed carotenes.


Killer Heels

Despite protests over the years by cocktail servers for more comfortable footwear, high heels will be de rigueur for the foreseeable future. Foot problems from wearing high heels can range from Achilles tendonitis to bone spurs to arthritis in the foot. And cocktail servers aren’t alone. In an American Podiatric Medical Association survey, 42 percent of women admitted to wearing shoes that hurt and 73 percent said they had shoe-related foot pain.

Dr. Noah Levine, a podiatrist with Absolute Foot Care Specialists, says he sees a multitude of patients because they work in high heels. “The big issue is that you are now redistributing your body weight, from being rather evenly over the whole foot to being on your toes,” he says. “You become ‘toe-walkers’ because the foot stays in that position even after you take off the heels. … This can cause the Achilles tendon to tear.” And it can cause painful callouses on the ball of the foot, atrophy of tendons and more.

Since many people can’t choose their work footwear, Levine recommends a multipronged strategy that includes orthotic shoe inserts, over-the-counter pain medicine for inflammation and stretching. His most recommended stretch: a basic one for the Achilles tendon that uses a towel or belt. Loop the fabric around the ball of the foot and then gently pull the toes toward yourself to feel the stretch.

Another piece of advice from Levine? Pick quality shoes whenever possible, regardless of brand names or trends. His three-point system favors form over function: 1) Pick a shoe with a stiff heel that supports the back of the foot; 2) Make sure the “toe break,” where the shoe bends when you walk, mimics the natural toe bend; 3) Twist the shoe to test its flexibility. “You want it to be semi-rigid, not a steel girder—not too hard, but not soft like dough,” he says.

Alligator Skin

Anyone who is new to the desert notices pretty quickly how the low humidity does a number on hair, nails and skin. In particular, those who’ve never had eczema, or atopic dermatitis, suddenly discover the telltale red, itchy, scaly, dry patches on their skin. To make matters worse, many soaps, lotions and laundry detergents can irritate the problem.

Prevention is key when it comes to eczema and dry skin, according to Cleveland Clinic. Eczema—which often starts as a red, itchy rash that won’t go away—means keeping the skin’s moisture barrier intact and lotioning up every time the skin gets wet. “The No. 1 thing you can do is moisturize. I don’t think there’s any other bigger deal,” says Dr. H.L. Greenberg of Las Vegas Dermatology. He recommends products from brands including Cetaphil and CeraVe, as well as the old standby petroleum jelly.


Tipping the Scales

The good news is that, for once, Las Vegas is not the worst on the obesity list. The bad news is, there’s not a state in the nation that has an obesity rate less than 20 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, our midsection is about middle of the pack, with a 25 to 30 percent obesity rate. But since when has Nevada settled for mediocrity?

With the New Year, it’s as good a time as any to achieve a healthy weight. Going by the old advice of diet and exercise being the best medicine, which diet should you choose? U.S. News & World Report rated the Mayo Clinic Diet, a book and life-overhaul program that goes deeper than just nutrition and calorie counts, a top choice in both short-term and long-term weight loss plans. The first pick for overall weight loss was the DASH diet, first developed for people with high blood pressure, which top rankings for nutritional value, safety and heart health.


Not-So-Deep Breathing

Old-school wisdom was to move to the desert to avoid allergies. That advice is completely outdated. Growth booms in the Southwest brought not only more people, but their preferred (read: non-native) vegetation, including grass and pollinating trees. Las Vegas has shot up the list for one of the worst cities in America for allergies. According to the 2015 Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s annual ranking of the 100 worst cities for allergies, Las Vegas ranks 65th worst for fall allergies, and we’re the 45th worst place for spring allergies. If that wasn’t enough, Las Vegas has been named the second-worst city for ragweed pollen—one of the most common allergy triggers.

So what can a person do to get some relief? Visit a doctor to confirm any allergies and formulate possible treatment options, including immunotherapy (a.k.a. allergy shots) or drug treatments. But that’s not all you can do. Here are some simple strategies to limit the pollen in your environment: keep doors and windows closed in your car and home during high-pollen times; use HEPA-rated air filters; make your bedroom a No Pollen Zone by removing clothes in another room and taking a shower before bed as well as banning pets; avoid exercising or other activities outside during high-pollen times.

Road to Recovery

Despite all the temptations that Las Vegas offers, Nevada’s substance abuse rate for alcohol and illicit drugs is about the same as nationwide, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2014 state report. Unfortunately, that still translates to roughly 201,000 people ages 12 or older who are addicted to alcohol and 71,000 addicted to drugs.

There are a variety of options to help. Some types of drugs require medical supervision during detox. And therapy—including cognitive behavioral therapy and rehab—is a commonly recommended component to the recovery process.

Certainly, a city nicknamed Sin City presents unique challenges to recovery and sobriety. “I would say it is different,” Solutions Recovery CEO Dave Marlon says. “The fact that they sell liquor in the grocery stores here, there are slot machines on my way out, your drug dealer can deliver drugs to you 24 hours a day—it’s different. And I believe that, in general, people who move to Las Vegas are a little different than the people who move to Des Moines.”

Marlon started Solutions Recovery, a rehab facility with more than 200 beds and offers both in-patient and out-patient services, 90 days after he himself got sober. While each person’s path to recovery is different, it starts with a “moment of provenance,” Marlon says. “Each person has to have a moment when they say, ‘OK, I’m willing to get some help.’”

For more information about Solutions Recovery, call 702-228-8520 or visit