Tips to help patients manage their health during the holidays

Patients should limit holiday snacking
Patients should limit holiday snacking

 As I was reading through potential ideas for this blog entry, I ran across several articles that were written to remind people that depression can increase during the holiday season. Then, I started thinking about other illnesses and how they might be made worse during this time.

I made a list of common illnesses, and after some research, I found some good suggestions to help decrease illness during the holiday season. These suggestions may help your patients manage their conditions better during this holiday season.

Diabetes can worsen if patients enjoy holiday goodies a little too much. Ask patients with diabetes to be cautious and limit some of the snacking and alcohol. Suggest that patients eat a healthy snack before going to a party so that they will be inclined to eat less and make better nutrition choices.

Hypertension is often worse during the holidays. Remind patients to take their medication because there can be a tendency to forget with all the running around looking for that perfect gift. Remind patients to limit alcohol. Remind patients to try to exercise at least 30 minutes per day.

During the holidays, insomnia may worsen. Often, there is travel and sleeping in strange places. Encourage that patients make sleeping arrangements as much like home as possible. Advise that patients use earplugs and eye masks to help manage noise and light.

Cholesterol levels can increase during the holidays. Make sure you remind patients to watch the eggnog! It is loaded with fat. Patients should also be reminded to watch nibbling at the table. Providers can also suggest nibbling on vegetables.

Heart attacks increase during the holiday season; research has shown distinct spikes around Christmas Day and New Year's Day. With increased stress and anxiety, poor eating habits, and increased alcohol consumption, emergency personnel are busy. Encourage patients to do relaxing activities, continue with regular exercise. Remind patients to monitor what they are eating and drinking.

Anxiety and depression increase every year around this time. Families who have experienced the death of loved ones will be flooded with memories that can lead to sadness. Remind patients that some relatives are not always the most pleasant people, but we are all forced to share these occasions with them sometimes. Make sure patients know that they don't do things that make them miserable! Advise that patients remove themselves and go to another room if needed.

The list could go on. The important thing to share with your patients is that this time of year that is meant to be a pleasant and enjoyable. If they are not happy, ask them to look at the source of their unhappiness. Perhaps changing the way they observe their holiday season could be considered.

Sharon M. O'Brien, MPAS, PA-C, is a practicing clinician with an interest in helping patients understand the importance of sleep hygiene and the impact of sleep on health.

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