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Health & Exercise Forum

Healthy Holiday Tips for Seniors

Dec 23, 2019
Dr. Mackarey's Health & Exercise Forum

Happy Holidays! My gift to readers this holiday season is to offer some health tips. However, before I get accused of being a “Scrooge” about enjoying the food and drink associated with the season, please know that I was raised in an Italian kitchen. As such, it is fair to say that I have and will eat my fair share of the Italian Christmas Eve food celebration consisting of, but not limited to: Chianti wine, seafood antipasti, calamari, baccala, pasta with anchovies, seafood ravioli, cannoli, Italian cheesecake and Baci Perugina Dark Chocolate Hazelnut candy, cappuccino, espresso, sambuca and limoncello. 

Overindulgence during the holidays causes many, including seniors, to make New Year's resolutions related to diet and exercise. But, this year, I propose that you incorporate healthy habits during the holiday season, and you may find that your resolutions are not as hard to keep.

According to American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), seniors are considered those 50 years old and older. I will never forget how humbled I felt when I received my application to join AARP a few years ago. With this in mind, this year I offer healthy holiday resolutions for seniors, who are especially vulnerable to unhealthy holiday habits.

1. Exercise every day.

Every day, get out of the house for a walk to view the outdoor Christmas lights and decorations. Dress for the weather, walk with a companion, and take along a flashlight if necessary to illuminate your path and use caution to avoid falls on slippery sidewalks.

2. Combine shopping and walking.

In inclement weather, combine holiday shopping with your exercise. Indoor malls are great places to walk. Inquire with the mall management about walking clubs. Plan to shop early or late to avoid crowds. If you are planning on shopping in a particular store, park at the opposite end of the mall -- even if time is short, you will still get some exercise.

3. Remember to take your medications.

Routines are disrupted during the holidays and you may forget important medications. Make a special reminder to take your medications or order re-fills. If you are traveling, be sure to take enough medications with you in case of delays and have a copy of your prescriptions in case of loss. Be sure to bring a phone number for your doctor along with your health insurance cards, in case of emergency. Carry your medications in your carry-on luggage if you are flying.

4. Eat your vegetables and salad first.

Beginning your meal with healthy vegetables and salads will fill you up and reduce the temptation to over-indulge on high-fat, high-calorie foods. Taste your holiday favorites in small amounts to satisfy your palate.

5. Be aware of drug interactions.

According to Dr. Amy Anderson, internal medicine physician on the medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center," says holiday spices like cloves, thyme and sage can interfere by as much as 50 percent with the body's natural ability to utilize common drugs." Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about your medications and find out if there are any foods you should avoid while taking them. 

6. Know your food ingredients.

If you have food allergies, ask about ingredients before you indulge. Be especially careful of home-baked goods if you have an allergy to tree nuts or peanuts. Those ingredients can be deadly if you are affected by these types of allergies.

7. Practice allergy-free decorating.

If you suffer from allergic rhinitis, holiday decorations stored in the attic and basement can build up a coating of dust and mold that can trigger allergies. Some people may also need to rethink Christmas tradition and substitute an artificial tree. 

8. Get a flu shot.

The holiday season includes plenty of kissing and hand shaking. Getting a yearly flu shot and frequent hand washing are your best defense for avoiding the flu. If you are sick with a cold or flu, limit contact with others until you are well so you don’t infect others.

9. Get a good night's sleep.

Holiday preparations and helping Santa means less sleep. Do your best to get to get at least 6-7 hours of sleep every night and avoid heavy foods, chocolate, caffeine and alcoholic beverages before bedtime. If you need to recharge, take a nap during the day.

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”   

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.