Top Health Tips for 2016

It is that time of the year again the time where many of us overindulge, not quite knows the consequences. Herzliya Medical Center has compiled the top holiday health tips (or New Year’s health resolutions) for this year’s festivities; these New Year’s resolutions are realistic and attainable health goals.

The season to be jolly could also be the season to raise awareness, particularly where cardiac health is concerned. A real-life and deadly phenomenon called “Merry Christmas Coronary, Happy New Year Heart Attack” has been named after this popular holiday season of overeating, excess alcohol consumption, reduced exercise and high stress levels, which can lead to a heart attack or arrhythmia (abnormal heart rate or rhythm).New Year's Resolutions Top Health Tips

In 2014, a study published in the journal Circulation, and the origin of the aforementioned term; found a spike in the number of deaths involving heart attacks at the time of Christmas and New Year, namely caused by:

  • Cold weather - constricts vessels, which in turn raises blood pressure, and blood clotting
  • Stress during the holiday season due to numerous factors
  • Pollution – this includes wood-burning fireplaces which are hazardous for people with existing heart conditions
  • Food and alcohol binging, which is not only associated with heart attack, but also diabetes and stroke. Binging on alcohol and very salty food causes atrial fibrillation (type of arrhythmia) that subsequently increases the risk of stroke (and heart failure)

The Journal of the American Heart Association published an article in 2004 that documented over 53 million deaths in the US over almost 3 decades; it was found that more Americans died from natural causes on Christmas, the following day and New Year’s Day than any other time of the year.

With the above mentioned in mind, here is how you can maintain your health this season:

December 25: Mindful eating

Holiday festivities have taken weeks to prepare, so it is important not to rush through your fragrant roast turkey, rather savor every forkful at a slower pace. The brain takes over 20 minutes to receive signals from your stomach to indicate satiety (no longer hungry) – so wait before you go for second helpings. Eating slowly minimizes overindulging and can reduce calorie intake by around 20%. Christmas is also the time of excess calories and too little exercise, try not to be tempted by rich, fatty and salty food and opt for healthier alternatives (low-carb foods in the evening) and take advantage in the abundance of fruit and vegetables this holiday season.

Healthy food options lose nutritional value when topped with rich gravies, mayonnaise, BBQ sauce and dressings, if you cannot resist the unhealthy options – aim for moderation. Buffet dinners can be equally tempting, reduce the amount you eat by 30-50% by using a smaller plate.

If you have been trying to lose weight without success following a series of modifying diet and exercise and more, and have a BMI over 30 you may be a suitable candidate for bariatric surgery at Herzliya Medical Center (HMC), various types of overweight (bariatric) surgery are available, following thorough evaluation and the needs of a patient, the most suitable is selected.

December 26: Enjoy a long stroll with the family

Christmas should not have to be a sedentary holiday, plan various activities with the family that involve some form of physical activity, boosting your metabolism and lowering blood sugar levels. Moreover, studies indicate that connecting with nature can help increase serotonin levels, ultimately lifting depression and stress, boosting ones overall well-being and mental health.

The second day of Christmas is a great opportunity to escape to the outdoors, and burn off mince pies, eggnog and more. Head out for a long walk at either the park or your nearest nature trail. Although, avoid over exertion, particularly if you have known risk factors of heart disease, such as high blood pressure, smoke or high cholesterol.

December 27: Find a top-rated comedy film

A feel-good, comedy actually has real benefit: According to The American College of Cardiology, comedy films have a positive effect on cardiac health – lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, and boosting immunity.

If you have a family history of cardiac (heart) disease, diabetic, a smoker (or was in the past), have high blood pressure or cholesterol, or are concerned regarding the health of your heart, contact HMC – where some of the best cardiologists can advise you. Gum disease is a strong indication of heart disease; this may be possibly due to inflammation –many academic articles have established gum disease as a risk factor for coronary artery disease.

December 29: Meet friends

Use the day to relax and avoid stress of everyday life, indulge in your favorite hobby or meet up with friends. High stress levels are associated with many health conditions; which include depression, infectious diseases and heart disease.

December 31: Ladies opt for comfortable shoes for your night out

Although heels may look quite attractive, excessive wear and genetics can cause bunions. Bunions (hallux abducto valgus or hallux valgus) - bony growth that develops on the base joint of the big toe, making walking painful. The big toe tends to point towards the adjacent toe, if left untreated bunions can severely deform the foot and the chronic pain can lead to arthritis. Bunions are not just restricted to heels, narrow or very tight shoes can also cause bunions.

Furthermore, the Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery documented that the number of high-heel related injuries in the US have doubled over a decade (7,097 in 2002 to 14,140 in 2012). Heels also alter the spine alignment, knee and ankle joint, muscle and tendons, which affect overall balance and stability. This does not mean one should not wear heels at all, simply that they are worn in moderation and coupled with strengthening and stretching exercises.

HMC’s orthopedists successfully treat hallux valgus using both conservative and surgical methods.

January 1: NYE’s resolutions and alcohol abstention

Prevent serious illness later on in life, avoid or rather abstain from alcohol - the Royal Free Hospital in London indicates that this allows the liver to heal, and also lowers blood pressure and cholesterol. In addition, abstaining from alcohol for over a month alone can reduce the risk of developing diabetes and cancer, prevent fatty liver and help maintain weight.

Other holiday health tips

  • Don’t forget to order ahead of the holiday season any regular prescriptions, particularly if you are travelling. Avoid procrastination – do not avoid medical check-ups or treatments due to the upcoming holiday season, on the contrary, these checks could save your life! If you experience unusual symptoms during the Christmas period, such as chest pain, heart palpitations or discomfort that spreads into the shoulders, neck or arms, seek medical attention immediately
  • Consider going to the doctor for a flu vaccination if you have heart disease or over 65 years of age as fever and infection add stress on the heart. Try stop smoking – one of the most important factors that can make a huge difference on your health
  • There is a lot of food preparation during the holiday season, it is important to maintain food hygiene to avoid food poisoning, wash hands regularly with soap especially when handling raw meat and poultry. Ensure meat is cooked properly and appropriately stored after the meal (and cooled down) before being put in the refrigerator
  • Keep hydrated - with all the festivities involving alcohol and food it can be easy to become dehydrated, drink a glass of water when you wake up, half hour before every meal, with every alcoholic drink you have and before bed
  • Following the busy events of Christmas and New Year, catch up on some much-needed sleep – avoid alcohol or heavy foods before bed as this interferes with a good quality sleep

Be ready for 2016, follow these New Year’s resolutions and protect your health, contact Herzliya Medical Center for any health concerns that you may have. HMC offers comprehensive health check-ups for men and women; it also features numerous innovative treatments for a wide range of medical conditions.

We wish all our patients and staff a happy holiday and optimum health for the New Year, and those to come.

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