Doctor’s Tip: Happy, healthy holidays | PostIndependent.com
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Doctor’s Tip: Happy, healthy holidays

This column is based on an article in a recent issue of the Harvard Health Letter titled “Holiday health hazards.”

LIMIT UNHEALTHY FOODS

Most people experience weight gain over the holidays, and don’t lose it afterwards. Unfortunately, many traditional holiday foods are high in calories, salt, sugar and unhealthy fats. Not that you absolutely have to avoid all these things during these festive times, but pick a couple of days to splurge such as Christmas and New Year’s Eve.



Remember the tips in a prior column about how to lose (or keep from gaining) weight, some of the key points being the following: Before each meal drink two cups of cool or cold, unflavored water. Start each meal with a cup or small bowl of low-calorie vegetable or legume soup, and eat it slowly with a teaspoon. Incorporate two teaspoons of vinegar with each meal, which causes satiety (a feeling of fullness). Chew each bite of food thoroughly and spend at least 20 minutes eating each meal, which gives your body time to produce hormones that tell you that you’re full — you will enjoy your meals more and eat less.

For healthy, plant-based holiday meals, go online, and you’ll be amazed at the number of tasty options available. A useful cookbook is “Vegan Holiday Kitchen,” by Nava Atlas. Minimalist Baker is a good website.



AVOID HOLIDAY HEART

Drinking a lot of alcohol over the holidays can contribute to sudden atrial fibrillation, a condition called “holiday heart.” If you have experienced a fib before, even one drink of alcohol can set it off. Eating unhealthy food plus drinking increases the risk. Although the condition is usually temporary, the fast, irregular beat can be uncomfortable and occasionally even life-threatening due to congestive heart failure and/or pulmonary emboli. If your heart is beating rapidly and/or irregularly, and particularly if this is associated with chest pain, dizziness or shortness of breath, go immediately to the emergency room.

To decrease your risk of holiday heart, limit alcohol intake to the recommended one drink a day for women and two for men, with a drink being 4 ounces of wine, 12 of beer, or 1 of hard alcohol.

MANAGE STRESS

For some, the holidays are relaxing and spiritual, but for many others they are stressful, and among other negative effects stress weakens immunity. Exercise regularly throughout the holidays, get at least seven hours of sleep, eat a healthy diet, and consider relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga.

AVOID COVID-19 EXPOSURE

COVID-19 has killed close to 800,000 people in the U.S.; one out of 100 Americans age 65 and over have died from it. Unfortunately, largely due to vaccine hesitancy and refusal, the pandemic is still with us this year. The most important strategy to avoid becoming a statistic is to get fully immunized. Since even that isn’t 100% effective, associate only with people who are fully vaccinated, avoid large groups (even family) and consider masking and social distancing when appropriate.

Dr. Feinsinger is a retired family physician with special interest in disease prevention and reversal through nutrition. Free services through Center For Prevention and The People’s Clinic include: one-hour consultations, shop-with-a-doc at Carbondale City Market and cooking classes. Call 970-379-5718 for appointment or email gfeinsinger@comcast.net.


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