The nights are long, the temperature is low, and many of us are spending more of our days cooped up indoors.
So what can we do to make sure we are healthy and safe during the winter doldrums?
Methodist providers offer their top eight tips.
» Get a flu shot. If you haven’t gotten your flu shot already, there’s still time. The flu season lasts through early spring.
“Flu season has become such a routine, it’s easy for many of us to shrug it off,” said Dr. Sasan Gholami, Methodist Physicians Clinic infectious disease specialist. “However, each year the virus kills hundreds of people and costs billions of health care dollars.”
» Eat a balanced diet. It’s easy to throw the diet out the window and seek out comfort foods, but eating a healthy, balanced diet is always important.
“Seeing a dietitian can help, because there might be vitamins or minerals you’re not getting enough of,” said Martha Nepper, a dietitian at the Methodist Center for Diabetes and Nutritional Health. “As we age, we have to ask ourselves if we are drinking enough milk and getting enough nutrients. Making sure we’re eating a balanced diet plays a big role in our overall individual health.”
» Check your medications. There are two things you should know about medications. First, be sure to have your refill ready before any severe weather strikes. Secondly, have your pharmacist or primary care provider review your medications for any contradictions or side effects.
“Medications can affect your blood pressure or balance, and may have side effects that can cause dizziness or lightheadedness, putting you at risk for falls,” said Dr. Rebecca Reilly, medical director of the Methodist Hospital Geriatric Evaluation and Management Clinic. “Anyone taking more than four medications — prescription or over-the-counter — is at an increased risk for falls.”
» Add exercise to your day. Exercise is the single most important thing people can do to keep both their body and brain strong. Adding movement helps to improve circulation, maintain muscle mass and reinforce bone strength.
» Reduce risk of falls. You can reduce your fall risk by adding grab bars in your bathroom, skids to your shower and tub surfaces and using nonskid floor mats.
» Shovel safely. Shoveling and blowing snow is hard work, especially when the snow is wet and heavy. And if you don’t tackle this task correctly, you could injure your back, pull muscles, get frostbite and even suffer a heart attack.
“It’s important to do a light warm-up with range of motion exercises or stretching prior to shoveling to help ease your body into the heavy work ahead,” said Barb Fye, physical therapy assistant at Methodist Physicians Clinic HealthWest. “Do 10 minutes of shoveling and then give your muscles a break. Exhaustion increases your risk for injury.”
» Install carbon monoxide detectors and replace batteries in smoke detectors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 500 people die each year from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning. More than 95 percent of these deaths are due to improperly functioning furnaces and gas space heaters.
» Stay social. Shutting yourself away for the winter like a bear in hibernation is not good for your body or brain. Find time to speak to friends — face-to-face whenever possible — and be social as much as you can.
article is sponsored content from Methodist Health System