EXPERT ADVICE Q+A
A STRONG FINISH FOR 2017
It’s important to keep your health at the top of your priority list as you navigate the stressors of the holidays. Here, Dr. Puja Singh, internal medicine doctor at St. Vincent, gives us a few tips to keep in mind as the year comes to a close. To schedule an appointment or for more information: St. Vincent Carmel Women’s Center 13420 N. Meridian Street Suite 240 Carmel, IN 46032 317-582-9500 stvincent.org
As stress heightens around the holidays, depression, anxiety and bereavement issues rise up, too. Any advice on how to combat them?
The holidays can be a very stressful time for many reasons. Try not to overextend yourself. Set limits and ask others to help out. Try not to set unrealistic expectations of the holidays, either, when things inevitably do not go as planned. And, certainly, the holidays can also lead to financial pressures. Set realistic budgets and plan wallet-friendly gift exchanges to help avoid that. I also recommend exercising regularly throughout the holidays, as it’s a great way to combat stress. In terms of bereavement, the holidays can be a very sad and tough time. If you know someone who has lost a loved one, and especially if they are alone, try to include them or reach out to them during the holidays. If you are grieving, acknowledge that it is OK to feel sad and not enjoy the holidays, but try not to isolate yourself. The company of others can be very healing and comforting. Reach out to friends, family, support groups or a counselor. Volunteering your time to those in need can also be very rewarding. And if your symptoms are severe, reach out to your healthcare provider.
Travel and close contact with others spreads viruses and respiratory infections -- an issue more common around the holidays. What can people do ahead of time to ward off these illnesses?
to continue to limit your salt intake. If you anticipate you will not have access to healthier food choices, eat healthy snacks before going so you will not be as tempted when you are at a party or gathering. If you are hosting, offering certain food items low in salt can be very helpful if you have guests with chronic medical conditions.
What advice do you have for those with alcoholrelated conditions who are tempted by alcohol at holiday parties?
For people who have alcohol dependence, avoiding places where alcohol will be served is often the best. For everyone, it is important to not overindulge in alcohol. There is a condition called “holiday heart” which can be triggered by excessive/binge drinking in someone who drinks moderately. “Holiday heart” refers to the development of an irregular heart rhythm induced by heavy alcohol in people without previous heart disease and structurally healthy hearts. Moderate alcohol intake is considered less than seven drinks per week for women and 14 drinks per week for men. It also includes less than three drinks at one time for women and four drinks at one time for men. It is also important to have a safe plan for driving home. My emergency room colleagues certainly report increase in alcohol-related injuries during the holidays.
Keep yourself healthy. This starts with good nutrition and quality rest. Stay up to date with your routine vaccinations and make sure to get your flu vaccine. If you are ill with the flu, avoid gathering with elderly family members, newborns, or immunosuppressed friends and family. If you know you will be around newborns and infants, be sure to be up to date with your pertussis vaccine (Tdap). Holiday feasts and parties with lots of unhealthy food choices can be problematic for heart patients. What illness risks can occur, and what can be done about them?
We tend to see a rise in exacerbations and hospitalizations for patients with heart failure.
This is often due to the high salt intake that occurs during the holidays. For patients with heart failure, it is important
What preventative health tests would you recommend checking off the to-do list at the end of the year?
Schedule your mammograms and Pap smears to screen for breast and cervical cancer. Schedule your colonoscopies to screen for colon cancer. Schedule your annual visit with your provider to screen for diabetes and high cholesterol. Schedule a bone density if you are at risk for osteoporosis. Why is it important to get those screenings? How often should we be get them done? It is important to get these tests done because early screening saves lives.
The recommended follow-up of these tests is very individualized based on your results. For example, if your colonoscopy is clear and you have no family history of colon cancer, your next colonoscopy will not be due for another 10 years.
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