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Health Tips For The Holidays

The holiday season is a wonderful time of year and one of our favorites. There is nothing better then bundling up in a cozy sweater, taking some turns on the hill (skiers and snowboarders), enjoying family time, or in the wise words of Julie Andrews, “snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes.” However, with all the extra food, travel, and stress it can also be unhealthy. So, what can we do to make this a more “healthy” favorite time of the year?

Christmas Dinner

In this month’s Rivergate Pharmacy and Compounding blog we want to share some pointers with you on how to stay healthy over the holiday season.

Don’t get sick

We all know how important it is to wash our hands to avoid getting sick. The best way to make sure you are germ free is to simply wash often with soap and water, but for those sticky situations when you just can’t get to running water and good soap, try some alcohol based hand-sanitizer which can be very useful in stopping viral and bacterial infections. Just remember that it should contain more then 60% alcohol (isopropanol, ethanol, n-propanol or a combination of these ingredients).

One of the best ways to prevent sicknesses is to get immunized. According to the CDC the timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the U.S. between December and February. In other words, we have to worry about it over the holiday season! There are several ways to get the influenza vaccine (shot, intranasal) and depending on your age, there are other important vaccines you should consider. For instance, people over 60 should get a zoster vaccine (shingles), and if you’re older than 65, pneumococcal vaccines (pneumonia) are very important too. Stop by Rivergate Pharmacy and Compounding Center to get your vaccines or ask any questions you may have.

Sleep more, feel better

If you run yourself ragged and don’t get a good night’s sleep, you risk getting ill just because you’ve worn down your body’s defenses. A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who slept at least eight hours nightly were about three times less likely to catch a cold than those who snoozed for less than seven. Lack of sleep can also cause weight gain and increase risk of chronic diseases. Sleeping for eight hours can be difficult with holiday to-do lists, family and friends around, and celebrations.

We’ve compiled a list of some good sleep hygiene tips that may help to improve the quality and time spent snoozing:

  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol too close to bedtime. Caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants, and while alcohol is well known to speed the onset of sleep, it disrupts sleep as the body begins to metabolize the alcohol, causing arousal.
  • Exercise can promote good sleep. Vigorous exercise should be taken in the morning or late afternoon. A relaxing exercise, like yoga, can be done before bed to help initiate a restful night’s sleep.
  • Food can be disruptive right before sleep. Stay away from large meals close to bedtime. Also dietary changes can cause sleep problems and, remember, chocolate has caffeine.
  • Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine. Try to avoid emotionally upsetting conversations and activities before trying to go to sleep. Don’t dwell on or bring your problems to bed.
  • Associate your bed with sleep. It’s not a good idea to use your bed to watch TV or listen to the radio.

Stay Hydrated

Dry air at high altitudes makes our airways more vulnerable to viruses and bacteria. Staying well-hydrated keeps those mucous membranes moist so they can better keep bugs out of our systems. Drinking 2 liters (64 ounces) a day is ideal; try carrying around a smaller bottle that you can refill on the go. Plus, water doesn’t have any calories, helps you feel full, and helps keep your kidneys healthy.

Stay active

There is only one way to say this: “Get up and move.” The American Heart Association recommends:

  • At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for a total of 150 minutes,
  • OR at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week for a total of 75 minutes; or a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity,
  • AND Moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week for additional health benefits.

These recommendations can seem like a lot, especially during the holidays, but we have to start somewhere. Every minute spent moving helps to decrease long-term risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension.

First, find something you love to do. Try walking your dog around the block (they will love you for it), walking around the mall (avoiding the local bakery), or parking far away from the entrance to your favorite store (instead of fighting over the spot closest to the doors).

Then, increase your activity every day. Even if it’s just parking one spot farther away or walking a little faster, you’ll feel better and look better. For those of you that already love to run, bike, swim, hike, or do whatever gets your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes a day, keep up the good work and don’t let the holidays slow you down.

No matter where your level of activity may be, moving is key. Don’t give up or get discouraged; try again the next day and make it happen.

Don’t overeat

Giving up everything that you love to eat is not the most productive way to loose weight and keep it off. Smaller portions, eating vegetables, and eating slower are great ways to help you survive the holidays without overeating. Here’s why:

  • Smaller portions – Try using smaller plates, this helps you keep portion sizes more reasonable and not eat just for the sake of eating. Cutting just 500 calories a day can help you lose weight and you would be surprised just how little 500 calories are.
  • Veggies first – You have always been told to eat your vegetables because they are good for you, and it’s true, they are! Not only are they packed full of nutrition with very little calories, they also have fiber (the greens ones especially) so if you eat them you are going to feel full with less food.
  • Eat Slower – It takes about 15 minutes for your body to register that you are full, most of us eat when we are so hungry that we are finished with the entire meal before our body knows we’ve eaten at all.

This holiday season, try switching it up. Start with the salad first, it will help you feel full (remember the fiber thing), then wait a while before you start on the main course(s), sides and dessert; your jeans will thank you. Ask us for more information on healthy, well-balanced meals or check out Choose My Plate at http://www.choosemyplate.gov.

Have a drink, but not too many

Drinking alcohol and social events often go hand in hand, but moderation is very important. Alcohol is packed full of empty calories and can be very hard on our livers. The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that if you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, do not exceed 1 drink per day for women or 2 drinks per day for men. In event that you do have more than recommended and are suffering from a hangover, stay hydrated and ask your pharmacist what type of over-the-counter pain reliever might be best for you.

With these six pointers, we believe this holiday season will be a happy and healthy one. We wish you the best. Stay healthy and get out and enjoy some of your favorite things – in moderation, while moving, drinking water and after you get your vaccinations

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