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Dry January and Beyond: How Sober Living Can Improve Your Health and Business

Millions of people worldwide are participating in the health movement of Dry January, simply choosing not to drink alcohol for the month.

Because many Americans reported increasing their alcohol intake during COVID, there is concern that consumption has remained high even after the pandemic ended. Health professionals report they are seeing increased drinking habits, especially among women.

Colorado has a high prevalence of excessive drinking, with 20.7% of adults reporting binge drinking in 2023 as compared to the national average of 18.4%, according to the America’s Health Ranking Report.

Individuals who consume alcohol identified improving their physical health and mental well-being as the main reasons for drinking less.

READ: Transform Your Mental Health in the Workplace — Strategies for a Healthier, Happier Experience

The health rewards of drinking less

Keeping alcohol use to a minimum allows good things to start happening in your body. You may find that you sleep better, your mood improves and you’re able to think more clearly. Depending on the rest of your diet, you may even shed a few pounds. You’ll certainly lower your risk of several types of cancer, including throat, esophageal, breast and colorectal cancers, per the National Cancer Institute.

If reducing how much you drink is a personal goal, read on to learn tips and strategies that may help.

Tips and strategies for drinking less

Keep a journal to track your feelings

Knowing when and why you reach for alcohol can help you figure out ways to cut back. But if you’re unsure of your reasons, keep a journal for a week. When you feel the urge to pour a drink, jot down what is making you feel that way, whether physical or emotional. Loneliness and boredom are often big ones. You may also feel stressed, sad, anxious or irritable. Review your journal at the end of the week and look for patterns. Once you find some common themes, you can brainstorm ideas for working around them.

Drink mindfully

For many people, drinking alcohol is almost an unconscious habit — they drink without even thinking about it. For example, maybe you sip wine while cooking dinner or open a beer when you turn on the TV. As you reach for that drink, give yourself a moment to think. Do you really want it, or is it just part of your routine? That’s what mindful drinking is all about. If it’s the latter, you can concentrate on changing the behavior pattern. If it’s the former, have the drink, but stay present in the moment — sit down and savor it.

Change your routine

If you normally have your happy hour at 5 o’clock in the evening, postpone it to 6:30 or 7:00. Distract yourself by taking a walk, going to the gym or flipping through your favorite magazine. You may feel the urge to drink at first, but breaking your routine will help change your habits over time. It just takes practice.

REWAD: The Top 5 Ways You Can Support Mental Health in the Workplace

Try breathing exercises

If you often turn to alcohol when you’re stressed, anxious or irritated, try diaphragmatic breathing — also known as box breathing — before you pour a drink. This deep-breathing method calms the central nervous system and can help you relax. Here’s how it works:

    1. Sit or lie down and slowly breathe out all the air from your lungs.
    2. Breathe in through your nose for a slow count of four. Aim to fill your lungs and stomach, not just push out your chest.
    3. Hold your breath for a count of four.
    4. Exhale for another count of four.
    5. Hold your breath again for a count of four.
    6. Repeat the entire sequence three or four times.
    7. Once you’re calmer and more relaxed, you may find that you no longer need a drink to help you unwind.

Swap alcohol for something else

Even if you do well limiting your alcohol at home, it may be harder to stick to your goals when you socialize, especially if your friends, family and coworkers are all drinking. If you feel pressured to drink when you go out — or you don’t want to draw attention to the fact that you’re consuming less, order something nonalcoholic that still looks like a regular drink. There are plenty of tasty nonalcoholic beverage options to choose from. It can be something as simple as club soda with fresh lime, kombucha or even a nonalcoholic version of your favorite cocktail. You could order a virgin margarita and nobody would be the wiser.

The bottom line

Taking action to drink less puts you in control, so that if/when you do decide to have a glass of wine or a cocktail, it’s a conscious decision, not a mindless habit. And while drinking less can take a bit of planning and effort, the health rewards — for both body and mind — are worth it.


Dr. Matthew Husa headshotDr. Matthew Husa is the Chief Medical Officer, UnitedHealthcare of Colorado.

Colorado’s Mental Health Crisis: Innovative Services Poised to Improve Health Equity & Access

Colorado is facing a mounting mental health crisis made worse by the unprecedented staffing and economic pressures in the wake of the pandemic. The state currently ranks 45th nationally when it comes to access to behavioral healthcare. The state must start implementing different antidotes to the problem, including long-term behavioral home care for patients.

In Colorado Springs, more than 18 percent of adults reported having experienced a behavioral health disorder in the last year and 43 percent of patients who needed those mental health services reported not being able to receive the care they needed. If people cannot access treatment, they cycle in and out of emergency rooms or mental health facilities, which results in fractured care, frustrated healthcare workers, and high healthcare costs.

READ: Maximizing Your Mental Health Insurance Benefits — A Guide for Gen Z in 2023

Specialized behavioral healthcare needed

As a clinician for almost 30 years and the CEO of a behavioral home healthcare company for over two decades, I can tell you first-hand that without a system in place to support long-term behavioral health patients out of the hospital, people will not get better, and this crisis will continue. In far too many cases they are taking up hospital beds they don’t necessarily need, or worse, they aren’t receiving care at all. 

When we started our operation in Massachusetts, the same problem existed (albeit on a smaller scale). Our model provides in-home behavioral care to complex patients and currently conducts around 20,000 patient visits per week across the state. An example of a patient we serve is a 55-year-old male identifying and suffering from severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia. They also typically suffer from up to twenty comorbidities or complications. They are additionally among the highest-cost patients in the healthcare system who take up to 10-15 medications and often live in communities with less access to care.

Without home-based or community behavioral health services, these patients would utilize the hospital or emergency rooms as the primary care physicians-sometimes up to 15 times a year at an enormous cost. For example, a single hospitalization costs, on average, about $38,000, whereas an entire year of our in-home services costs $25,000. In most cases, hospitalization could be 98 percent preventable with the right home care infrastructure in place, e.g., using technology to assess patients in their homes, sharing cohesive electronic medical records to help treat them, and assigning a clinician to help administer their medication and take their vitals.

READ: Telehealth to Play Key Role as Geriatric Population Soars

Expanding to address Colorado’s mental health crisis

We recently expanded our services to Colorado Springs because we believe this innovative home healthcare model is filling a critical gap for this patient population, which in turn will have an immediate impact in treating underserved patients in Colorado. For example, in Colorado Springs, there is a higher prevalence of severe mental illness — 10 percent — compared to Colorado’s statewide average of 6 percent. 

It is also critical to have the right policies in place, and Colorado lawmakers have demonstrated a commitment to behavioral health reform plans by earmarking $547 million to ensure more access to the continuum of care that the highest cost drivers require. This strategy will ensure interconnectivity on quality, payment, accountability and provider standards that have population health at the center of the thought process. We are hopeful that health equity will remain at the core of Colorado’s vision and that state leaders will work together to implement innovative solutions for vulnerable patients who are disproportionately impacted by social, economic and environmental issues that have downstream clinical impacts. 

We have seen firsthand how home healthcare can remove the social barriers to continuing care and reduce the chances that untreated mental illness leads to other traumas like addiction, homelessness and even incarceration. Also, since multiple studies have shown home healthcare reduces readmissions to hospitals, behavioral home healthcare can help save the state of Colorado up to $200,000 a year per patient, improve patient outcomes, and take pressure off the healthcare system.

Home healthcare services can keep patients in their homes and in a more stable, compassionate environment. We look forward to working within the healthcare system to effectively reach and serve this patient population in Colorado that too often unfortunately goes without the care they need and deserve. 


Joseph Mcdonough 400x400Joseph McDonough is the CEO of Innovive Health, which recently expanded into Colorado with clinical operations out of Colorado Springs

Nurse Entrepreneurship: A Solution to Colorado’s Nursing Shortage and Healthcare Challenges

As the population ages, two major changes are happening simultaneously in the United States: The number of patients needing care and the number of nurses retiring from the profession are both growing. Additionally, many nurses leave the profession due to stress, and enrollments are not keeping pace with demand. This is causing some big problems for Colorado’s healthcare system, including an alarming nursing shortage.

Although the state needs 33,000 nursing graduates per year to meet demand, some years have only seen 24,000 nursing students graduate, creating a major shortfall of new talent. To ensure that patients can get the quality care they deserve while also helping to reduce stress on existing nursing staff, getting more nurses to graduate and enter the workforce in Colorado is critical. 

READ: Guest Column — Denver Physician Details 5 Common Medicare Mistakes

One important way to help address this problem is with nurse entrepreneurship. Advanced practice nurses, such as nurse practitioners, can start their own practices and provide a range of health services with autonomy in Colorado. 

Here’s why these businesses can help with the nursing shortage in the short and long term. 

The role of independent nursing practices 

Nurse practitioners have a lot of freedom to practice independently in Colorado, once they meet the requirements. NPs can diagnose and treat patients, and even prescribe medication once they’ve had enough hours under supervision and collaboration with a physician. 

While many nurse practitioners choose to work at medical groups or hospitals, others start their own independent practices. This is helping to ease the nursing shortage that is making it more difficult for patients in Colorado to access care. 

With nurse practitioners able to diagnose, treat and prescribe, many patients can take care of their routine health needs at an independent nursing practice. This helps to reduce the number of patients in hospitals and decreases wait times for patients who need to see their primary care physician. Nurse practitioners offer patient-centered care, which can be more appealing for many patients who want a personalized healthcare experience. 

READ: 7 Tips for Choosing Your Health Insurance in 2023

Providing preventative care & telehealth services 

One key way that nurse entrepreneurs can help with the nursing shortage is to provide more preventative services in their practices. When people are more proactive with their health, they are less likely to need invasive treatments and other hospital procedures requiring inpatient care. This reduces the number of patients in the hospital and eases the workload for existing nurses who are already stretched thin. 

Telehealth is another great option that nursing practices can offer patients. It allows people who live in rural areas or do not have access to transportation to access preventative care and basic health advice without needing an appointment in person. Telehealth services make life easier for patients and providers alike. 

READ: Telehealth to Play Key Role as Geriatric Population Soars

Other types of nursing businesses 

The field of nursing is expanding, and there are lots of opportunities for nurses who want to make a difference in healthcare. Nurse entrepreneurs in Colorado who don’t want to open an independent practice can start businesses that provide services like travel nurse staffing or nursing informatics. 

These kinds of businesses help with staffing issues and can help make hospitals more efficient overall. They also provide more career choices for nursing students and might even encourage more young people to join the profession by offering different options for students with a range of talents and interests. 

Encouraging and inspiring the next generation of nurses

Starting an independent nursing practice is also a great way to encourage and inspire the next generation of nurses. Long-term, solving the nursing shortage will require increasing the enrollment levels at state nursing programs and improving working conditions for nurses who are already in the field. 

Encouraging the next generation of nurses in Colorado needs to start right now. As our nursing workforce continues to retire and patient numbers rise, the situation for nurses who are in the field now is only going to get worse. 

Nurse entrepreneurs create new job opportunities and show how it’s possible to practice independently as a nurse in Colorado. That example of success might just lead to more young people pursuing this challenging, yet rewarding career path. 


Andrew Deen HeadshotAndrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in a number of industries from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He implements lean methodology and is currently writing a book about scaling up business.

Colorado Quality of Life Shines: Study Ranks Centennial State 2nd for Healthy Lifestyles

An oft-cited reason people and businesses relocate to Colorado is for quality of life, and a recent study by the online wellness publication backs up that perception, finding that Colorado has the No. 7 best outlook for life expectancy in the years to come.

Colorado’s ranking is based on its No. 12 rank for actual life expectancy at birth — 78.3 years — and No. 2 rank among all states for healthy lifestyles.

To come up with its ranking of longevity projections, the study compared data on life expectancy at birth with healthy lifestyle metrics — spanning diet, fitness, stress, sleep, outdoor recreation and social connection — to forecast how life expectancy is expected to trend in all 50 states and D.C. in the years to come.

READ: A Burgeoning Van Life — How Colorado Became a Hotspot for Campervan Enthusiasts

A few key lifestyle metrics for Colorado show 83.6% of residents exercise, 71.5% eat healthy, 26.1% have anxiety, 2.7% of GDP is spent on outdoor recreation and 29.3% get insufficient sleep. Vermont was the only state with a higher healthy-lifestyle ranking.

The states with the best outlook for life expectancy from one to 10 are Hawaii (which led all states in life expectancy at 80.7 years), Minnesota, Vermont, Washington, New Hampshire, Utah, Colorado, Massachusetts, California and Oregon.

U.S. life expectancy has declined two years in a row to 78.5 years, and despite spending more on healthcare per capita than any other nation, the U.S. ranks No. 40 in the world behind countries such as Kuwait, Estonia and Panama, according to the study, citing statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the U.S. Census Bureau. The recent decline was spurred on by COVID-19 and drug overdoses, but in stating the obvious, the study points out that residents in states with healthier lifestyles are more likely to see increases in longevity.


Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer’s Colorado, Frommer’s Montana & Wyoming, Frommer’s Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver’s Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected]

Lazzaro Medical, the Boulder-Based Medical Device Venture, Secures $1M from Northwell Health

Lazzaro Medical, a Boulder-based medical device company seeking to help millions of people suffering from Tracheobronchomalacia (TBM), received a $1 million strategic investment from Northwell Health, New York State’s largest healthcare provider.

The investment aims to support restoring healthy breathing in previously untreated patients while addressing a large untapped market with Lazzaro Medical’s Robotic Minimally Invasive Tracheal Repair (MITR™) surgery using its newly patented LM Scaffold System™. Pioneered by world-renowned, robotic thoracic surgeon Dr. Richard Lazzaro, the system is designed to increase safety and decrease time to perform this procedure.

READ — Robots Tapped as Companions for Seniors

“In the United States, TBM is estimated to be present in half of the nation’s 16 million COPD patients. Previous treatment was worse than the disease for many potential patients,” said Dr. Lazzaro, Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of Lazzaro Medical. “The LM Scaffold System™ will dramatically reduce operating times by an estimated 50% and shorten patient recovery time from months to weeks.”

The funding will be used to prepare the company’s 510K FDA submission and support its forthcoming commercial launch. Subsequent rounds will support Lazzaro Medical’s platform expansion, which includes a game-changing diagnostic endoscope, comprehensive training programs for thoracic surgeons and additional devices to further simplify the procedure.

“Dr. Lazzaro’s work is truly life-changing for so many people,” said Richard Mulry, President & CEO of Northwell Holdings. “We look forward to seeing the company’s progress and are delighted Northwell can play a part in supporting these efforts.”

With Northwell’s strategic investment, Lazzaro Medical has raised a total of $2 million from investors, including a $250,000 grant from the Global Business Development division of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) Advanced Industries Accelerator Grant Program. Bolstering Lazzaro Medical’s remaining $3.5 million convertible note offering is an investment commitment from another strategic partner. These strategic partner investments help further validate Lazzaro Medical’s mission of helping people breathe better again.

“We’re thrilled to welcome this strategic investment from Northwell, a world-class leader driving innovation in patient outcomes and care,” said Rob Israel, Co-Founder and CDO of Lazzaro Medical. “We’ll be able to expedite our regulatory process and bring our LM Scaffold System™ solution to market more quickly while adding to our growing patent portfolio.”

Lazzaro Medical was founded in 2019 with a mission to help millions breathe easily again by bringing awareness to TBM as a largely under or misdiagnosed disease and offer a less invasive and risky repair option to those suffering from this degenerative condition that causes the collapse of the airway due to the softening of cartilage in the trachea.


Lazzaro Medical is a Boulder, Colorado-based medical device company on a mission to restore healthy breathing in millions of people suffering from tracheal and bronchial maladies with a transformative platform of life-changing, minimally-invasive, robotic procedures, devices, and diagnostics. Co-Founded by Dr. Richard Lazzaro, a world-renowned thoracic surgeon with 35 years of specialized expertise in minimally invasive and robotic thoracic surgery, the company’s platform is based off his groundbreaking firsts in robotic thoracic surgery and his leading the largest tracheobronchomalacia (TBM) programs in the nation. For more information on Lazzaro Medical, please visit, or follow @Lazzaro Medical on LinkedIn.

Northwell Health is New York State’s largest health care provider and private employer, with 21 hospitals, 850 outpatient facilities and more than 12,000 affiliated physicians. We care for over two million people annually in the New York metro area and beyond, thanks to philanthropic support from our communities. Our 80,000 employees – 18,900 nurses and 4,900 employed doctors, including members of Northwell Health Physician Partners – are working to change health care for the better. We’re making breakthroughs in medicine at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research. We’re training the next generation of medical professionals at the visionary Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and the Hofstra Northwell School of Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. For information on our more than 100 medical specialties, visit and follow us @NorthwellHealth on FacebookTwitterInstagram and LinkedIn.

Bringing holistic health and wellness into your home

Despite occupying just two words of the vast English language, “health” and “wellness,” depending on who you ask, carry more meaning than most.

From conquering that next Colorado 14er or fitting comfortably into a favorite pair of jeans to redefining a lifestyle or finding space for self-care and mental respite, definitions for both words can be as wide-ranging as they are individualized.

While this presents an opportunity for many people to forge their own path, creating a truly healthy and balanced lifestyle can still be a challenge.

There are a number of ways that Colorado residents can apply aspects of wellness into their daily lives. This includes topics like nutrition, fitness and mindfulness as well as yoga, cooking and art classes.

Today, developers are beginning to wrap these aspects of health and wellness into buildings and their resident communities. These communities, with a wealth of amenities can now play an increasingly important role as wellness takes on a new meaning in the places where we live. However, you don’t need to live in one of these communities to achieve this type of wellness. It’s never been easier – nor more relevant – to bring holistic, healthy living to your own doorstep.

For those of you interested in creating your own wellness routine, here are a few tips to consider.

Create Your Space

Making any change takes time. You can set yourself up for success, however, by creating a space for growth and change that helps you foster a positive mindset as you phase into each chapter of your life.

Creating your space can be as simple as decluttering and organizing your home or office. Beyond that, I always recommend incorporating elements of biophilia – leveraging our natural human instinct to be close to nature and bringing natural elements indoors. You might cultivate a calming, garden-like oasis somewhere in your house, complete with houseplants and other greenery, or simply notice how much better you feel when your desk is near a window to take in the light, air and natural views.

Whether you make big changes or small adjustments, it’s important to create the right conditions for your wellness journey.

Find a Routine

Defining healthy habits and goals for yourself and your family unit can provide both balance and structure along your wellness journey. Find an accountability partner – this can be a family member, friend or neighbor – and have regular check-ins to discuss your progress.

But don’t expect perfection – be gentle with yourself. Take the time to notice when things tend to fall off track and have constructive conversations with your accountability partner, who can help you manage your own expectations and take pride in your progress or newly formed habits.

Nourish Your Body 

Contrary to popular belief, eating well doesn’t have to break the bank. Make sure your diet is nutrient-rich, with a healthy mix of fruits and vegetables, grains and high-quality proteins like eggs, lean meat, fish and legumes.

An easy weekend trip to your local Farmer’s Market is a great way to add variety to your plate while choosing foods that align with your body type. Remember, we all digest differently, so what works for one person might not work for another.


Happiness is a natural byproduct of moving your body and being active in ways that boost your energy. In addition to helping you maintain a healthy personal weight and fighting against chronic disease, increased movement allows for healthy aging with improved flexibility, mobility and balance.

Enrich your exercise by visiting a local park or path where, in Colorado, you’re certain to benefit from an extra dose of Vitamin D activities, like yoga and workout classes (a little tricky these days), which provide a little healthy competition while accommodating a variety of skill and comfort levels.

Empower Your Mind

While nourishing your body usually gets most of the credit, it’s nearly impossible to overlook the inextricable connection between physical and mental health.

Expressing gratitude, practicing meditation, socializing and getting in touch with your creative side are simple, community-minded ways to bridge the gap between your physical and mental health. It’s also important to be open and accepting to how relationships, your surroundings and your personal story may change over time. I also recommend making time for reading, journaling or dedicated time for self-education. You will be surprised how a little effort in this area can go a long way.

Like most things, creating a holistic health and wellness environment in your home takes a mix of discipline, patience and lots of hard work. The goal, however, is not to find perfection, but balance your approach in a way that makes you feel safe, healthy and well from both a physical and mental perspective.