The last newsletter offered some simple and realistic tips to help you get and stay healthy with the holiday season coming up quickly. Here are more additions to that list which you can easily accomplish.
- Avoid Germs. The Ebola virus is in the news daily, which should make us more cognizant of spreading and sharing germs. The best avoidance technique for the common cold and flu virus remains frequent hand washing. Plain soap and water will do the trick, but using gel solutions (such as Purell) can be just as effective. Look for products which contain 99% alcohol instead of unknown chemicals called endocrine disruptors. It is important to pay attention to shared keyboards, door knobs and telephones. Clean surfaces in the kitchen with a disinfectant. There are new environmentally friendly products which do the job as well. The obvious things like covering your nose and mouth when you sneeze will work. Consider not shaking hands during the cold/flu season. Try to crack windows open – even during the winter season – to breathe some fresh air. Pollutants can accumulate indoors and the lengthened exposure to chemicals, dust and dander can increase the risk of asthma, allergies or other respiratory problems. Using a humidifier during the months of dry indoor heat can help keep the mucous membranes moist and reduce the risks of breathing issues. Saline nose drops, which are available over the counter, are great to use on airplanes and during the winter months to decrease nasal dryness, which leads to an easier route for germs. Talk to your health care provider about taking Vitamin C or Reishi Mushroom supplements to boost your immune system. Have zinc lozenges on hand and sugar-free cough drops available if you get a scratchy throat. Do not rush to take antibiotics unless you and your doctor think you really need them.
- Do not miss your regular medications. There are so many reasons why patients skip their medications including cost, side effects, forgetting to renew them, not having a prescription on file and having no transportation to get them if they are not mail ordered. This really is where “Knowledge is Power”. Most of my patients who really understand why they take their medications make a great effort to take them as directed. If you are prescribed a new medication, leave with clear directions and a good understanding. Bring your list to your pharmacist and review them together. There are many medications which work more effectively when taken at a certain time. Some need to be taken with food, or on an empty stomach, without calcium, or at bedtime – find out the correct way for best results. If you can’t afford them, consider receiving samples from your doctor or connecting with drug assistance programs which are often available.
- Eat fall fruits (such as apples). Apples come in many varieties (Macintosh, Delicious, Rome, Cortland, Granny Smith, etc.) and are plentiful, relatively cheap, and full of fiber to keep you satiated. Apples may help reduce your LDL levels (bad cholesterol) and decrease the risk of asthma and COPD. Apples, pumpkins and root vegetables are all easily available in the fall and contain vitamin A and magnesium. They can reduce your blood pressure, strengthen your bones and are good for eye and skin health. Winter fruits such as apples may not raise blood sugars as high as summer or tropical fruits.
- Use your slow cooker/crock pot. I know I went years with my crock pot stored in the back of my closet. When I moved, I pulled it out and started making soups and stews. It is terrific if you work, as it can be used as a time saver, but it’s even better when you are home and smell the delicious fragrance. You can look online and find easy recipes full of vegetables, beans and lean meats which will make a quick, filling, and healthy dinner since you are in charge of the ingredients. These meals also freeze well and can save you more time during the week.
- Create a food journal. Many times you do not realize what goes into your mouth without writing it down. When I do a patient food intake survey, they are surprised at how much they actually eat. Try to keep a record for 3 days and record everything. It will give you another mechanism to track portion size and food choices. Most people just eat too much for their size and activity level.
- Breathe. Stress is around us all the time. Learning to deal with it appropriately is an important factor. Stress alone can raise your blood sugars – even if you are eating right and exercising. Add 10 minutes of meditation a day to help calm you down. There are free downloads of mediation examples or books on the subject, but all you have to do is sit still with your eyes closed and breathe for 10 minutes. Separate yourself from the day and the moment. A study in the Journal of Endocrine and Metabolism, published in July 2014, states “deep breathing and mediation can help with blood pressure and blood sugar control”.
- Living wills or advance directives. These are legal documents that are pre-written to give you preferences about future medical care when you are unable to make a decision for yourself. Instances may include a coma, dementia or a serious illness which may prevent you from making a proper and informed decision. These documents are for all age groups, not just the elderly, as an unexpected problem can arise at any time. This can make life easier for your loved ones as well.
- Stay social and spiritual. Being isolated can take a toll on your health, so get involved and stay mentally active.
There are so many things we can do to improve our health and quality of life without a lot of hard work or money. Try to make this season a season of positive change and focus on a healthier outcome. Good Luck!
NOTE: Consult your Doctor first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.