Winter is often a welcome change after our long, hot summers. However, shorter days and colder weather can lead to some bad health habits.
Here are a few health tips to fend off winter illness and increase your odds of staying healthy, strong and fit.
Maintaining a healthy diet boosts your immune system and reduces the risk of disease. A healthy diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. Think bright colored foods like raspberries, blueberries, sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, squash, carrots. Instead of sugar-heavy desserts, reach for a small handful of dried fruit, a baked apple or yogurt. Use slow cookers to make easy hot meals like chili, overnight oatmeal and other delicious dishes.
People don’t typically associate dehydration with winter, but your body can lose a lot of fluid during the cold, dry winter months. Keeping your body well hydrated can improve your skin, flush out toxins and ward off winter bugs. Make a point to drink six to eight cups of water a day, especially if you drink coffee (which can increase your risk of dehydration). If you don’t like drinking water opt for an herbal, mint, or berry tea that also offers plenty of antioxidant benefits.
Although, it may be difficult to stay motivated during the winter, adults still need a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity each day. Bundle up in weather-appropriate layers, enjoy a walk, join a gym, or bring the family to an ice-skating rink to shake things up.
Keep your hands clean! Keep hand sanitizer handy in your car or purse, avoid touching public pens or doors as much as possible, and wipe down high-touch surfaces like keyboards, phones, doorknobs and faucets around the house to reduce germs. The CDC recommends scrubbing with basic soap and water for 20 seconds to reduce the number of bacteria or viruses you may have picked up on your hands.
Get Enough Sleep
Shoot for seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Sleeping less than seven hours or more than nine hours can have negative effects on cardiovascular health and blood pressure. High-quality sleep is important to reduce stress and keep energy levels up throughout the day.
Know When to Stay Home
If you are feeling sick, nauseous, running a fever, etc. you need to stay home until you feel better in order to protect others. And while you are home recovering, get plenty of rest, drink fluids and not worry about missing work or school.
Get Natural Light
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression that occurs most often in the winter. It affects all segments of the population, though it tends to affect women and seniors more often. One of the main causes of SAD is reduced exposure to natural light. Therefore, one of the best ways to combat SAD is to spend some time in natural light on a daily basis.
Visit your Primary Care Physician and Update your Immunizations
Scheduling annual visits with your doctor is one of the best things you can do to maintain good health and wellness. During your visits, discuss immunizations including your yearly flu vaccine.
Sheela Parrish, M.D.