The holiday season is kicking into full-swing, which means time spent with family and friends, giving back, and great food. It can also be a season of over-indulgence and busy travel schedules, which ultimately could leave your waistline and health at risk. Don’t miss this essential list of holiday health tips for seniors:
Whether you’re crashing on the couch after Thanksgiving dinner to enjoy some football or watching your favorite Christmas movie with the grandkids, it’s easy to find yourself frequently sitting down during the holiday season. You want to burn all the extra energy (calories) you are consuming, make sure to keep moving! That might mean taking a walk after a big dinner, taking stairs instead of elevators, and finding active things to do with family and friends, i.e. go to the local holiday parade and walk around instead of watching it on TV.
There are a handful of ways to fortify your immune system against infection during cold and flu season. These include getting appropriate vaccines in a timely manner (for influenza, pneumonia, etc.), as well as practicing above-and-beyond hygiene like washing hands frequently, disinfecting commonly-used surfaces like doorknobs, and taking hand sanitizer and tissues with you on the go.
It’s not just rich food and countless sweets that can pack on the pounds this holiday season, alcohol can also be a major culprit. You can still enjoy your favorite beverages, just be mindful of how alcohol consumption affects your body - it can dehydrate you, it puts added strain on your liver and kidneys, and it adds hundreds of unnecessary calories to your diet. Practice moderation, keep up with water intake while imbibing, and avoid high-calorie beers and drinks mixed with sugar-laden additives.
Plan for Exercise
It’s easy to let your workout routine get sidelined by holiday travel. Whether you’re visiting one of your children at their home or staying in a hotel, plan ahead to keep up with some form of physical activity (at least 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week) by scheduling daily walks, packing resistance bands to use at your destination, or taking advantage of the indoor hotel pool. Don’t forget to pack the aids which support healthy pain-free exercise too like a brace to manage knee swelling or compression stockings to promote good circulation.
Between alcohol consumption at holiday dinners and the cool, dry air outside pulling moisture out of your skin, this season can be a quick ticket to becoming dehydrated. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water throughout each day with smart tips like consuming a full glass of water each time you use the restroom, eating lots of water-rich foods like stews and soups, and carrying a reusable water bottle with you when you leave the house.
Getting out and about more during the holidays combined with inclement weather conditions like snow, ice, and sleet can spell disaster for seniors who are at a higher risk of falling. No matter where your holiday fun takes you, make sure you are guarding yourself against falls by utilizing mobility aids recommended by your doctor, asking for assistance when walking over ice or snow, and employing helpful transfer tools when getting in and out of the car (like swivel seats and car caddies).
Stick with Your Sleep Schedule
While it is fun to stay up late catching up with old friends or family, getting off of your regular sleep schedule can be dangerous. Not only has it been shown that even as little as a few nights of sleep deprivation can impair cognitive functioning, but lack of sleep has also been linked to dehydration, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance. As much as possible, stick with your routine bed and wake times and aim to get 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep a night.
Make Healthy Cooking Choices
Salty, sweet, buttery, crispy . . . the descriptions of holiday food, while enticing, also reveal some of the problems they can cause. Over-consumption of salty, sugary, fried, processed and fatty foods can exacerbate existing health conditions, amplify joint inflammation, and lead to unwanted weight gain. Make healthy cooking choices this holiday season by substituting saturated fats (like butter) for unsaturated fats (like olive oil), replacing salt with flavorful spices in savory dishes, and using sugar-free sweeteners like Stevia in your baked good