By Kumar Dharmareejan
The holidays wouldn’t be the same without baked goods, savory treats, and indulgent drinks; it’s all part of celebrating with family and friends. While there are benefits of social activity on mental health, physical health can suffer from overeating. In fact, Americans gain an average of 1.3 pounds during the holiday season, according to research from Cornell University.
For older Lowcountry residents, it’s especially important to maintain a balanced diet during the holidays. Medical conditions can be exacerbated by a poor diet or lack of exercise. Contrarily, eating well helps improve energy levels and boost immune systems.
As a geriatrician at Clover Health, I am passionate about helping older adults live their healthiest and happiest lives, and the holidays are no exception. Here are five tips to help:
- Have a snack or light meal before going anywhere you’ll be tempted to overindulge. While we may think of parties or family meals as the danger zones, there are many other places you’ll be tempted to grab an unhealthy bite. Enjoy a healthy, filling snack, like unsalted nuts or Greek yogurt with fruit, before leaving the house. You’ll be less likely to overeat while you’re out.
- Stay active. The holiday season allows plenty of opportunities to tell family stories, watch football, and play games. But what about taking these activities outside? Take a walk with your family during halftime, build a snowman with your grandchildren, or try out a fitness video online.
- Wash your hands, more than you think you need to. Wintertime breeds coughs and colds, in part because you’re spending more time indoors where germs spread easily. Make sure to wash your hands for at least 30 seconds with warm water and soap to prevent illness.
- Enjoy eggnog and mulled wine in moderation. As a senior, it’s important to be especially cautious when consuming alcohol. First, check all medications and consult your doctor to make sure it’s safe to drink alcohol. If you are cleared to imbibe, stay adequately hydrated, and limit yourself to no more than two drinks per evening.
- Keep your mind active and engaged. For people without family and friends nearby, the holidays can be lonely — this is especially true for many older adults who live alone. If this is the case, consider getting involved with a local charity or joining a community group to stay in the holiday spirit.
To continue to stay healthy beyond the holidays, I encourage you to research your options this Medicare open enrollment season, which ends December 7. Signing up for Clover, a Medicare Advantage plan in the Charleston area, is another great way for seniors to take a step toward healthier living. Learn more about Clover at https://www.cloverhealth.com/
Kumar Dharmarajan is a geriatrician and cardiologist who serves as Clover Health’s Chief Scientific Officer.