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Make Your Holidays Merry, Safe & Healthy

Happy holidays! 

It is that most wonderful time of the year – a time to celebrate the season with family and friends, appreciate the wonderment and awe on children’s faces and of course, enjoy some good food.   Hopefully, we can also slow down a bit to appreciate what we have. 

The key to fully enjoying the holidays is to stay healthy and safe!  The health care providers of Privia Medical Group North Texas want you to have the information you need to get the most out of this holiday season. 

Guard Against Germs

The holidays coincide with the time of year that cold and flu are most prevalent.  And while it is thankfully far less of a factor now, COVID-19 is still around.  Check out this month’s article on respiratory infections for an in-depth look at common ailments this time of year.  And if you don’t do anything else, make sure you do the following to reduce your chances of getting sick:

  • Get your flu vaccine.  Everyone six months and older needs to get a flu shot every year.
  • Get your COVID-19 booster.  Your local pharmacy will have updated boosters available.  These boosters protect against the recent COVID variants and are available for everyone age five and older.  If you have not yet received a COVID vaccine, vaccines are available for everyone six months and older.
  • Wash your hands!  One of the most common ways we get sick is when we touch a dirty, germy surface – like a doorknob or shopping cart – and then put our hands to our faces.  Avoid touching your face and wash your hands frequently with soap and water.  Keep hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol content) available for times when it is not possible to wash your hands. 

Deck the Halls, With Care

For many of us, it just doesn’t feel like the holidays until the tree is up and the lights are on!  When you’re decorating your home this year, keep in mind a few precautions:

  • If you’re putting up a live Christmas tree, always keep the water basin full.  If the tree dries out, it becomes a fire hazard.  Be sure to keep your tree away from fireplaces and other heat sources. 
  • When you put up lights, inspect them to make sure the wires are not cut or frayed. If the lights are damaged in any way, throw them away – they are a fire and electrocution hazard. 
  • If installing outdoor lights, exercise extreme caution.  Falling off a ladder is one of the most common household injuries – every year in the United States, more than 500,000 people are treated for a ladder injury.  If you are putting lights on the outside of your house, it is best to hire an insured professional to hang them for you.  
  • If you have young children at home, be sure to keep breakable and small ornaments that could pose a choking hazard out of reach on higher branches. 

Mind the Calories

The holidays can be hard on our waistlines! In a five-week span, we go from the feast of Thanksgiving to revelry of New Year’s.  In between, there’s Hanukkah and Christmas.  But that’s not all.

You may be attending a holiday party or two.  Are you helping the kids make a gingerbread house?  Perhaps it’s the year to dust off your grandmother’s famous fudge recipe.  Can’t resist the peppermint bark that’s been strategically placed in the grocery store checkout line?  You can see how the calories add up fast!

Here’s the good news:  contrary to common belief, the average person does not gain five pounds over the holidays.  Typical holiday weight gain is more like one pound. 

Here’s the bad news:  Studies have shown that one pound does not come off; it stays with us throughout our lives.  That leads to a cumulative lifetime weight gain that is significant and unhealthy. 

But don’t let this stress you out!  With some pre-planning and a little thought, you can enjoy the holiday food without it showing up on your bathroom scale later. 

The most important thing is to not overindulge.  Splurging a little around the holidays is fine – you can still have that slice of pecan pie or cornbread dressing.  Just keep an eye on your meal portions.  Remember, the average-sized dinner plate holds far more food than what we should consume in a single meal. Resist the urge to fill up every square inch of your plate with food! 

Keep in mind also that many holiday foods are loaded with ingredients you want to consume only in moderation, such as fat, sugar and salt.  If you have an underlying health condition, such as diabetes or hypertension, be especially mindful of how much sugar and salt you are eating when you sit down to a holiday feast. 

Go Easy on the Eggnog

Holiday dinners and parties often include alcohol.  If you drink, do so in moderation – it’s easy to have one too many at a fun dinner party or social event.  Moderate drinking is considered a maximum of two drinks per day for men and one for women. 

Excess alcohol consumption is unhealthy for several reasons: alcohol contains a high number of calories and contributes to weight gain. Too much alcohol at one time can cause nausea, dehydration and headaches. 

The most dangerous aspect of excessive alcohol consumption is that it impairs the drinker’s judgement.  Far too often, this results in someone getting behind the wheel of a car under the influence. 

Tragically, drunk driving deaths increase around the holidays.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that drunk driving and alcohol-related road deaths are more prevalent around the holidays compared to the rest of the year. 

If you’ve been drinking, don’t drive. 

Stay Active

One of the challenges of the holiday season is that just as we may be tempted to eat richer foods — and eat more than usual – our exercise routine may take a hit.  While we are busy with cooking, entertaining, shopping, decorating and traveling, it’s harder to find time for ourselves – and exercise may be the casualty.  Make a plan now to prevent this from happening. 

Regular exercise is an important part of staying healthy – it helps keep your heart strong and the pounds off.  So, make time for yourself and get in your exercise.  It can be as simple as a 30-minute brisk walk, at least five days a week.  Maintaining your exercise routine will help you stay fit and will also help reduce your stress level.    

Speaking of Stress…

While the holiday season is ideally a time of celebration and relaxation, the reality for many people is that it can be stressful.  Some people are prone to putting too much on themselves – trying to be the perfect holiday host, prepare the perfect meal, find the perfect gifts or decorate the perfect tree. Your family and friends will not care if things aren’t exactly “perfect” – they’d rather spend time with you when you’re relaxed and able to enjoy yourself.

Try not to overload yourself with chores and errands.  Make time to relax and de-stress – get in that exercise, read a book, watch a movie or do whatever helps you be at peace. 

Having a happy and joyous holiday season starts with putting your health and safety first.  By taking time to ensure you’re protecting your health, minimizing stress and getting rest, you’ll better enjoy this special time of year and your family and friends will enjoy their time with you.  So slow down, give thanks for what you have and take care of yourself!

From all of us at Privia Medical Group North Texas, we wish you Happy Holidays and a healthy and safe New Year!

This article has been reviewed and approved by a panel of Privia Medical Group North Texas physicians. 

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