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On the First Day of Christmas…

By Michelle Walter, RN BScN

This holiday season, give your true love or yourself the gift of health and wellness. When it comes to chronic disease, 80% of Canadian adults over the age of 45 can expect to live with one or more chronic conditions. Depending on the condition, 80-90% could be avoided with healthy lifestyle choices. A healthy lifestyle means managing the five modifiable risk factors: nutrition, activity, stress, alcohol and tobacco.

Lifestyle changes can be overwhelming. Whether we are aware of it or not, we all make numerous decisions each day that impact our health. During this holiday season, think about the following Twelve Days of Christmas to help you develop habits that will help keep you or your loved one well.

On the First Day of Christmas, get 10 minutes of activity. Try parking on the far side of the parking lot, taking stairs instead of the elevator, and walking out the lane or around the block when you get home. Activity accumulates throughout the day. The aim is 30 minutes most days of the week.

On the Second Day of Christmas, compare a set of food labels. Food labels can seem overwhelming, but practice makes perfect. Start by comparing labels between your favourite products. Remember to note the serving size.

On the Third Day of Christmas, wash your hands to prevent the transmission of germs. Wash before you eat, after being in public places, and after using the bathroom. Hand washing is your primary defence system.

On the Fourth Day of Christmas, eat breakfast. Breakfast continues to be the most important meal of the day. To rev up your metabolism, you need to fuel your body with nutritionally-sound food – start with three out of the four food groups at breakfast.

On the Fifth Day of Christmas, have your blood pressure checked. Five million Canadians have high blood pressure and almost half don’t know it. High blood pressure, along with high cholesterol and diabetes, are the leading risk factors for developing heart disease – the highest cause of death in Canada. Optimal blood pressure is 120/80. Automated blood pressure machines are located at multiple locations – give them a try!

On the Sixth Day of Christmas, find and experience a moment of joy – in the beauty of a falling snowflake, the freshness of the air, holding the door for someone, or smiling as you greet a stranger on the street. Research is demonstrating the positive healthful impact of joy in the management of chronic disease. Joy is in our hearts to be felt!

On the Seventh Day of Christmas, add a fruit and vegetable to your lunch. Five to ten servings of fruit and vegetables each day provide your body with vitamins, minerals and fibre, which are all needed to keep your body functioning optimally. The way to get them is one at a time.

On the Eighth Day of Christmas, if you choose to smoke, delay your first cigarette of the day. Your success with breaking your habit will increase if you delay your first cigarette by 30 minutes after you wake up.

On the Ninth Day of Christmas, spend 5 minutes in the morning stretching. Stretching lengthens your muscles and keeps them from tightening. By staying flexible, you will be able to help maintain your activities of daily living and independence.

On the Tenth Day of Christmas, follow your 5 minutes of stretching with five to ten deep belly breaths. Most of us only use a fraction of our lung capacity. Filling our lungs to the fullest helps nourish our body with needed oxygen. It also helps promote relaxation, therefore a great stress buster too!

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas, drink smart. Christmas holidays are social times and with that goes social drinking. Bruce County is above the Canadian and Provincial averages for binge drinking. Low-risk drinking guidelines suggest one to two standard drinks per day, adding up to less than 14 drinks per week for men and 9 for women.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, enjoy your holiday food and keep your waistline in check with portion control. By simply cutting back the amount you consume and aiming to fill half your plate with vegetables, you will save calories and in turn save inches.

Best wishes for health and happiness for Christmas and the New Year from the Brockton and Area Family Health Team!