Oh, the holidays! We wait all year for special foods, gatherings with friends
and family, and our favorite winter sports. Keep your holiday season joyful,
safe, and healthy with this advice from the health professionals at Cortland
Regional Health Center.
Watch What You Eat
On average, adults gain one pound between November and January. While
that doesn’t sound like much, registered dietician Michelle Nardi
says most of us won’t lose it in the new year. You can still enjoy
your holiday favorites by practicing portion control and making smart
trades. “Maybe you can’t give up eggnog, so enjoy a glass.
But then swap the sweet potatoes with marshmallows for roasted carrots,”
she says. “Once you have decided where to splurge, fill in with
non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins — shrimp,
salmon, lean beef, or poultry without skin.” Food safety is also
a concern at the holidays, says Nardi. “Follow basic food safety
guidelines — defrost frozen foods in the fridge or under cold running
water, cook foods to the proper temperatures, and cool and refrigerate
Fight The Germs
It takes two weeks for the vaccine to take effect, so give yourself the
gift of a flu shot as soon as possible, recommends Maria Whitaker, infection
preventionist. Keep your hands away from your face, as well. Using hand
sanitizer can help reduce germs, but it’s no substitute for regularly
washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with hot water and lots of
soap. “And don’t forget to practice good respiratory etiquette,”
Whitaker says. “Sneeze or cough into your elbow or tissue, throw
the tissue away, and wash your hands after.”
Get Enough Sleep
It seems like there’s never enough time for all the shopping, cooking,
and parties at this time of year, but scrimping on sleep isn’t smart.
Maintaining a consistent sleep pattern is important to your overall health,
says Jenniferleigh Clune, of Cortland Regional’s Family Practice.
“We talk about maintaining a regular bedtime and wake time –
and not just on weekdays. It’s what you should be doing every day,”
she says. Sure, you can stay up a little later for a party, but Clune
recommends getting back to the routine right away. Good sleep habits also
include keeping the bedroom cool and dark, and leaving the television,
cell phone, and computer in another room.
Keep Up The Exercise
You may be tempted to skip exercising during the holiday season but don’t
do it, says orthopedist Dr. Gregg Steencken. “Exercise needs to
be a part of your daily routine. It doesn’t have to be a big block
of time or anything strenuous,” he says. “Walking is great;
just make sure to get your heart rate up.” Fitbits and smartwatches
can help track how much exercise you’re getting. “They also
serve as a reminder that you’ve been sitting too long,” Dr.
Steencken says. “It turns exercise into a game by reminding you
that you need to get your steps in.”
Keep A Healthy Attitude
Cards, commercials, movies, magazines — almost all of them depict
the holidays as joyful. For many people, however, the holidays can bring
depression and anxiety. Have a plan to help fight the blues says Dr. Roger
Levine, a psychiatrist with Cortland Regional’s Mental Health Services.
“If you’re alone at the holidays, make arrangements to volunteer
at a local shelter or a hospital, for instance.” If you’ve
lost a loved one, “don’t focus on the loss but on the happy
times. Your loved one wouldn’t want you to be unhappy,” he
says. Making a holiday spending plan and sticking to your budget can also
help prevent the stress and after-holiday letdown that comes with big
credit card bills. And don’t be ashamed to ask for help from a mental
health professional if you need it to get through the season – and beyond.
Ring In A Healthier New Year
Dr. Disha Narula, with Cortland Regional’s Internal Medicine team,
is seeing more and more adult patients with pre-diabetes, and she understands
the struggle in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. As a kidney specialist,
she also sees the long-term damage that diabetes can do to critical organs,
damage she says, that “could be prevented with regular exercise
and weight management combined with a healthy diet of lean protein, fruits,
Many people make New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier and exercise
more, but “go slow and be realistic,” advises Dr. Narula.
“Talk with your primary care provider about a plan that makes sense
for you and your lifestyle.” She cautions against jumping into extreme
diets or “doing sudden, high-intensity exercise like the 9-11 stair
climb or a marathon. Without proper warm-up and preparation, you can cause
stress, injury, and long-term damage to your body and health.”