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Health & Exercise Forum

Holiday Health Tips for Seniors

Dec 24, 2012

Dr. Mackarey's Health & Exercise ForumAccording to American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), seniors are considered those 50 years old and older! By this definition, as hard as it is to admit, I am a senior and as one, I offer holiday health tips for seniors.

Overindulgence during the holidays causes many seniors 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.

1. Exercise every day: Every evening, get out of the house for a walk to view the Christmas lights. Dress for the weather, walk with a companion, and take along a flashlight to illuminate your path. 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. Also, be aware that alcohol should be avoided when taking many drugs.

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 sleep 6-7 hours every night and avoid heavy foods and alcoholic beverages before bedtime. If you need to recharge, take a nap during the day.

10. Spend Time With Loved One’s: The holiday season and throughout the year, be proactive and participate in outings with family and friends. Make a call and invite a loved one over for coffee and eagerly accept invitations. Studies show, those who are social and interactive are mentally and physically healthier.

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” in the Scranton Times-Tribune.

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 The Commonwealth Medical College.