Staying Healthy in Winter
As a direct primary care physician, I have much more time to provide a medical perspective on a variety of topics to help my patients stay healthy and safe. Given that winter officially starts on December 21, here are some important things we should all think about to prepare for the cold and to stay healthy during the winter months.
- Wash your hands regularly. Washing your hands often throughout the day remains one of the best and easiest ways to stay healthy during any season. It helps to protect us against viruses by limiting their transmission from person to person.
- Eat healthy meals. A healthy diet is important for many reasons. Eating vegetables and staying well hydrated during the winter is encouraged. We should all try to limit the portions of the comfort foods that many of us crave during this season and consider trying new recipes with winter vegetables.
- Exercise. Cold weather will make many of us want to bundle up and sit on the couch, but trying to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day will help to control our weight during this festive season. Going for a walk or ice-skating can be great fun for the entire family, but if it just feels too cold to go outside, exercising indoors is still an option. Body weight exercises are a great tool we can use to stay in shape, and there are many exercise videos available on streaming devices and even local TV.
- Get enough sleep. Most people need at least 7-9 hours of sleep, so we should strive for this if we can. Restorative sleep is important as our bodies try to fight off stress and illness.
- Get a flu shot. A flu shot lowers your risk of getting a serious case of the flu and avoiding dangerous complications.
Our homes and cars need some winter maintenance as well, since we spend a lot of time in both during these cold months. At home we should have our heating system serviced professionally to make sure that it’s clean and working properly. We should also inspect and clean our fireplaces and chimneys, and make sure our smoke and carbon monoxide detectors have working batteries.
We can get our cars ready for cold weather by maintaining adequate antifreeze levels, checking the tire tread, and keeping the gas tank full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines. I also recommend that you prepare a winter emergency kit to keep in your car in case you become stranded. The kit should include things like: your cell phone, portable charger, blankets, food and water, booster cables, a bag of sand or cat litter (for traction), a flashlight, extra batteries, and a first-aid kit.
Winter can be harsh, but we can fight through it and maintain a healthy routine even during the coldest of months. And remember that summer is just around the corner.