By MICHAEL GROSSO
There are three ways to keep healthy over the holidays.
- Keep moving. Find one or more ways to get exercise. Even walking for a half hour a day confers significant benefits, improving cardiovascular health, making it easier to maintain a healthy weight, and increasing energy and fostering a positive mood. Though it’s certainly not a solution for everyone, I like to ask my patients if they have a dog that needs walking. And if they don’t, consider getting one.
- Partake in the spirit of the season, but leave the cookies. Unfortunately, our favorite holiday foods – pastries, candy canes, egg nog, those white chocolate bark pieces in the fancy red box – have one thing in common, and that is sugar, or carbohydrates that quickly break down to sugar. These are the foods that stimulate the release of insulin, and high levels of insulin are bad for us in a host of ways. For one thing, insulin encourages the deposition of fat and weight gain. And gaining weight increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, low self esteem and the need to buy bigger clothes. On the other hand, there are no calories in hugs, smiles or shared conversation with family and friends. Regardless of one’s traditions or culture, this is a time of year when “people time” is in season. Maybe gift giving is a part of that, but remember that visiting your old aunt is as much a gift as anything available from your favorite web-based distributor. It will improve your wellbeing as much as hers.
- Get a flu shot! Almost 80,000 persons died in the US last year as the result of influenza infection. By far the most effective way to reduce your individual risk of getting the flu is to be immunized. Even if you get the flu, if you’ve been immunized against influenza your risk of being hospitalized and your risk of death is significantly reduced. Although the very young and the very old are at highest risk, we see deaths every year among previously-health young adults, and these are usually the un-immunized.
Dr. Michael B. Grosso is medical director of Huntington Hospital