Christmas is notoriously about indulging and ‘getting merry’ with those close to you – but it’s important to take a step back and think about your health, as well as the health of your family and friends, before the festive season commences. We asked Dr Hilary, GP & health broadcaster, to share his top tips…
1. Avoid the temptations
Did you know, the average British person consumes 6,000 calories on Christmas day, three times the average daily amount for women?! And let’s not forget the calories of alcohol. Despite its association with merriment, alcohol is actually a depressant – and it lowers your sleep quality. Its weekly recommendation is 14 units a week which equates to seven 175ml glasses of wine or seven pints of lager, so don’t be afraid to say no to that extra glass of mulled wine!
Tip: There are some easy ways to eat healthily over the holidays, for example: choose anti-oxidant rich dark chocolate over the super sweet liqueur filled selection; seek vitamin rich foods like sweet potato, spinach and broccoli to keep your energy levels up; limit your alcohol intake, and don’t forget to drink plenty of water.
2. Keep an eye on loved ones
Christmas is the perfect opportunity to organise a gathering and catch up with friends and family. It also gives you the chance to ensure your relatives, friends and neighbours, who you may not have seen in a while, are healthy and happy. Look out for any changes – for example, feelings of lethargy or weakness may be an indicator of type 2 diabetes; physical unsteadiness may be an indication of osteoporosis; and being asked to repeat what you have said may highlight a hearing problem. So, be alert to even small differences, as latest research shows that hearing loss can increase someone’s chance of developing dementia by 2-5 times if left undiagnosed.
Tip: Be attentive to any deterioration in your loved ones’ health - you are much more likely to notice any changes than they are, especially if you haven’t seen them for a while. It might be a good time to gently suggest a health check-up. If you notice your family member or friend is having difficulty following the conversation, suggest they get their hearing checked by booking in for a free hearing test at their local Hidden Hearing branch or book a test here.
3. Stay physically active
A shocking survey by the British Heart Foundation revealed that British people spend an average of 178 hours sitting down over the festive period – make sure you’re not one of them by staying active this Christmas!
Tip: Something as simple as a daily walk has been shown to improve your health. A study by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress found that just 15 minutes of brisk walking a day can add up to seven years to your life, so why start your daily walks before the Christmas season commences? Alternatively, if you want to stay indoors and avoid the cold weather, get in some exercise by playing games with your younger family members, whether that be a kickaround with a football or an exaggerated version of classic charades!
4. Take it easy
Try not to stress out too much over fitting in every dinner or party invitation, or the seasonal strain on your finances – you don’t have to say yes to everything. Enjoy the holidays by spending time doing what you want to do rather than constantly catering for the needs of others. A survey of 1,000 Brits revealed that 81% of people find Christmas stressful, so it’s important to switch off and take some time for yourself.
Tip: Stop thinking about your Christmas checklist and schedule in some quiet time to de-stress, either by reading a book, relaxing in a bubble bath or just by sitting down and watching a movie. It may be a good idea to do your Christmas shopping in advance to avoid the crowds, freeing you up to spend more time relaxing with or without friends and family. If you feel as though stress might be getting on top of you, visit your GP for advice and support.
5. Set yourself a New Year’s resolution
See the New Year as an opportunity for re-evaluating where you are in life, and where you’re headed. Set yourself some goals to make 2019 your happiest and healthiest year yet. New Year resolutions are a great opportunity to infuse your brain with extra motivation, but it’s important not to be too ambitious when setting your resolution – make sure it’s something you really want to achieve.
Tip: Take time to really consider areas in life you wish to improve – perhaps you want to start a new fitness regime, get a promotion at work or write a book – create a realistic timeline for yourself to make your goal achievable. This could also be made fun for the whole family, a friendly competition to keep you all motivated. Each member of the family can choose one or multiple goals and together you can check-in regularly on your progress, with rewards being offered at each milestone.