Here are some tips from experts at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore and the University of Maryland School of Medicine to help make your holidays healthy and happy.
- Celebrations are among the healthiest activities. They create positive feelings and reinforce a sense of self, family, culture and community. The holiday season, however, can become quite hectic and stressful. Most holiday-associated stress is related to unrealistic expectations or family tensions. Remember not to sweat the small stuff.
- Self care is the most important strategy to manage stress. Get the proper amount of sleep you need, especially if you know you have to handle something difficult or complex the next day. Eat a healthy and balanced diet. Get enough physical activity and exercise. Limit use of alcohol and avoid overuse of prescription medications.
- Keep a great sense of humor, let go of the past and do something for someone else. You may be grieving, worried about a loved one far from home or struggling through a financial crisis. Allow yourself to experience pleasure and fun. It may happen unexpectedly.
HEALTH IN COLD WEATHER
- The holiday season is the worst time of year to get sick and the easiest time of the year to contract a cold or the flu because of all the extra human contact. Remember to wash hands with warm water and soap or alcohol-based hand sanitizer before eating and drinking. Carry a small bottle of sanitizer with you if you’re travelling by plane, train, or automobile for the holidays. And don’t forget to scrub after fighting the crowds at the shopping mall.
- No one wants to miss out on the festivities of the season, however, if you are sick it is important that you stay home and limit contact with others. Staying home not only provides you with the rest you need to recover, but it also limits the spread of germs to others.
- Now is the time to be vaccinated against seasonal and H1N1 influenza (these are two different vaccines). Getting vaccinated is the single best way to prevent the flu.
- Mind your medications. It is very important that you maintain a regular schedule for taking your medications. Missing doses can increase symptoms or complications related to a variety of disorders.
- Hypothermia develops when a person’s temperature falls below normal due to exposure to colder temperatures. It can happen when a youngster is playing outdoors in extremely cold weather without wearing proper clothing or when clothes get wet. As hypothermia sets in, the child may shiver and become lethargic and clumsy. If you suspect your child is hypothermic, call 911 at once. Until help arrives, take the child indoors, remove any wet clothing, and wrap him in blankets or warm clothes.
- Enjoy treats, but be choosy. For each meal, pick a few favorite items and stick to them rather than trying everything. Portion size is a key. Start with half a portion and wait 15 minutes before you consider going back for seconds.
- Eat regularly during the holidays – don’t starve yourself, saving all the calories for that big party. You will be more likely to overeat and ingest more calories than if you had small meals throughout the day.
- Choose nutrient-rich rather than high-calorie foods. These include pistachios, almonds, walnuts, and fresh fruit and vegetables (hold the dip!). The more colorful the vegetable, the more heart-protective antioxidants it contains. If you have eaten several hors d’oeuvres, take smaller portions of the main course. Choose salmon and tuna as protein sources, if available.
- Battle the bulge. Beverages or foods that contain alcohol, chocolate, caffeine, peppermint, spearmint, coffee, carbonation, and acidic fruits and vegetables can trigger heartburn or acid reflux. A large intake of fluid and/or salt can cause fluid retention in people with liver disease. Caffeine, alcohol, dairy products, acidic fruits and vegetables, spicy foods, and foods high in fiber can worsen diarrhea in patients with Crohn’s disease, colitis, or irritable bowel syndrome.
- If you have diabetes, discretely carry your glucose meter with you. Check your glucose midway through the holiday party to see if your glucose levels are being maintained in the normal range.
- Holiday ornaments add to the festivity of the environment, but some family heirloom ornaments and ornaments from other countries may pose a lead danger. Keep these away from areas where inquisitive small hands can reach them. Icicles and angel hair contain glass particles and may cause cuts in the mouth. Bubble lights are very pretty, but the liquid inside is extremely dangerous. Avoid using them if there are small children around.
- Candles are beautiful and, in some traditions, an essential part of holiday observance. Open flames pose a particular hazard, though, and care is needed. Never leave a burning flame unattended. Extinguish candles if you need to leave the room. Chanukah candles are supposed to burn themselves out, so DON’T LEAVE THEM UNATTENDED! Consider an electric menorah if real candles can’t be watched.
- Be sure to practice safe food handling: Wash hands, counters, cutting boards and utensils frequently. Make sure that uncooked meat, poultry, and seafood, and surfaces where they are prepared, do not come in contact with food that is already cooked or is eaten raw. Cook food to recommended temperatures. Refrigerate perishable items promptly. For more information, visit: www.fightbac.org/content/view/6/11/.
- Make certain that oil and gas furnaces are in proper working order to prevent exposure to potentially deadly carbon monoxide. Wood stoves, fireplaces, portable generators and portable heaters (kerosene or propane) are other seasonal sources of carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas that is the product of incomplete burning. Carbon monoxide detectors provide an added level of safety.
NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS
- Create realistic and measurable New Year’s Resolutions. Instead of saying, “I will get more exercise,” say “I will get up 30 minutes earlier each day and walk on the treadmill.” Set the initial targets well within your reach so that you can get off to a good start and give yourself some positive feedback for a job well done.
- Weight loss. The beneficial effect of physical activity on your weight is cumulative. Look for “opportunities” during the course of your normal day to do more. For example, park a block or two away from your destination and walk; try the steps rather than the elevator, especially for just 1-2 flights; rather than sitting and talking, take a walk with friends and relatives.
- Quit smoking. Cigarette smoking is the single most important cause of disease and premature death in the US. If you’ve been thinking about stopping, now is the time. There are many resources available for people trying to quit: Web sites, including www.smokefree.gov and www.smokingstopshere.com; printed information from the National Cancer Institute (1-800-4CANCER) or you can call 1800QUITNOW to speak to a counselor who will help you quit. Make 2010 the year you become smoke free!
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