How to Tackle Winter Health

Snowballs at Kirby Pines

What usually happens in the winter? We have shorter days with less sunshine, cooler temperatures, more germs spreading, slicker surfaces and more holidays with food. All of these side effects of winter can affect our health. So how can we stay healthy during the winter season?

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older individuals live more independently, have fewer health costs, and remain healthy if they engage in preventative services and practice healthy behaviors. Five preventative services and/or healthy behaviors include:

1. Soak Up The Sunshine

To help avoid the winter blues, soak up 10-15 minutes of sunshine a day. Winter has limited daylight, so try to sit next to a window to get sunlight when it is available. Though it might be too cold to go outside, it is still important to get some sunshine. The sun is a great source of vitamin D which helps decrease inflammation, depression, and illness while promoting bone growth. The sun also helps to enhance your mood by increasing your serotonin levels. Serotonin is
known to positively affect your mood and behavior.

2. Get Your Flu Shot

The winter time brings dryer air and colder temperatures, thus creating an environment for germs to live longer. To prevent disease, get vaccinated. As we age, our immune systems become weaker and therefore we become more susceptible to become ill. People 65 and older are 90 percent of flu-related deaths and 60 percent of flu-related hospitalizations. Once vaccinated, it takes two weeks for our body to develop an immune response which means, ideally, we should get vaccinated in mid-October.

3. Healthy Eating Habits

What comes with the winter season? Many holidays with great food! While we eat, we should be mindful of the amount and types of food we are putting into our bodies. Remember these simple phrases:

“Out of sight, out of mind”
This philosophy teaches you to place your food on your plate and then walk away from the food. Many times individuals consume food just because it is right in front of them. However, if we adopt the “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy, we will remove ourselves from having easy access to food.

“Smaller plate, smaller portion”
Where you taught to clean your plate? Sometimes this can cause us to overeat even when our body tells us to stop. To help avoid overeating, use a smaller plate. The smaller the plate, the less food we will eat and if we have the “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy, we will not go back for several servings.

“Colorful plate, healthy weight”
What are the most colorful foods? Fruits and vegetables. According to the World Health Organization, insufficient consumption of fruit and vegetables have caused 1.7 million deaths worldwide. Eating colorful foods can prevent obesity as well as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Fruits and vegetables contain adequate amounts of vitamins and fiber.

4. Safety

What else can occur in the winter season? Slippery walking surfaces and occasional outings. Walking outdoors can be more difficult than walking inside our homes. There are sidewalk cracks, curbs, and changes in walking surfaces. Now place some wintery mix on those sidewalks and it can create even more safety hazards. To prevent slipping, always ensure you have someone with you and try walking flat-footed. We also have to be mindful of safety in our family and
friends homes during the holiday season.

Items to consider in homes other than your own:

  • Are there throw rugs?
  • Are there steps?
  • Is there room to navigate with my walker, wheelchair, or cane?
  • Do their chairs have arms to aid with standing?
  • Is their toilet raised or have grab bars to aid with standing?

5. Physical Activity

Cooler temperatures are brought on by high air pressure which increases our blood pressure and can trigger thickness in the fluid around our joints causing joint pain. Cold weather also thickens our blood which can cause more heart complications. For this reason, it is important to stay active all year around. Exercise can help reduce blood pressure, arthritis pain, and heart disease.

Healthy Eating at Kirby PinesIf you feel ill and weak this winter season, therapy can help. Therapy can assist in developing a wellness plan that will help prevent loss of strength, range of motion, and falls so you can continue living an independent and active lifestyle. Let’s be preventative this winter season and not wait until something happens for us to take action.

Please join us December 19th at 1:30 pm in the PAC for our Smart Moves presentation on this topic.