9 Tips for a Healthy Holiday

This holiday season, give your patients the gift of better health.

This holiday season, give your patients the gift of better health.

Although pharmacists should be promoting healthy habits throughout the year, December is usually marked by unhealthy albeit beloved holiday traditions.

Here are a few easy counseling points pharmacists can offer patients to help make sure they have a happy and healthy holiday season:

1. Eat, Drink, and Be Merry in Moderation

December is arguably the most gluttonous month of the year. The opportunities for overdoing the food and snacks are seemingly endless. While this is generally socially accepted behavior, there is a difference between treating and overeating.

The average person gains a pound between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which may not seem like much, but a lifetime of unmonitored holiday seasons can contribute to “creeping obesity.” Patients should be reminded that even a moderate amount of weight gain can be detrimental. It’s all about portion control.

In general, pharmacists can be an essential resource for obese patients who are attempting to manage their weight. They can monitor patient medication regimens and detect anything that may have the potential for weight gain, and they can also help patients choose healthy alternatives to holiday snack staples.

With respect to drinking, people are increasingly engaging in heavy drinking and binge drinking in general, and this behavior becomes more likely during times of celebration.

As medication experts, pharmacist can remind patients that many of their medications have specific warnings about alcohol use. This is especially pertinent for patients taking a number of medications, as they often come with warnings about the risks of mixing with alcohol.

2. Get a Head Start on New Year’s Resolutions to Exercise

Why wait until January 1 to start becoming healthier? Encouraging patients to work out in early December could set up healthy habits for the future.

Pharmacists can remind patients that the benefits of exercise extend way beyond weight loss. Regular activity can boost high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and prevent high blood pressure, certain types of cancer, depression, arthritis, and type 2 diabetes.

In some cases, however, introducing exercise should be done in moderation. This may be especially true for diabetics.

“If pharmacists are providing physical activity counseling to their patients with type 2 diabetes, they should keep in mind the importance of encouraging patients to set personal physical activity goals that they can confidently achieve,” Amy Huebschman, MD, MS, previously told Pharmacy Times.

3. Get a Head Start on New Year’s Resolutions to Stop Smoking

It’s important to have goals, and pharmacists are in a prime position to help the estimated 70% of smokers who want to quit.

Pharmacists should remind patients that smoking can cause or exacerbate chronic lung disease, several types of cancer, and cardiovascular disease, just to name a few.

Pharmacists can also remind patients of the effect that their smoking habits can have on the loved ones around them, as studies have shown that second-hand smoke can increase the risk of cancer in children.

Pharmacists can promote the wide variety of smoking cessation agents available and remind patients that many of these products are available OTC.

Lisa Kroon, PharmD, CDE, professor and department chairperson of clinical pharmacy at the University of California School of Pharmacy, told Pharmacy Times about the advantages of community pharmacy-led smoking cessation programs.

4. Stand Up for Health

The unfortunate reality is that many patients’ jobs require them to sit at a desk all year round. Even more sitting happens during the holidays when families gather around the dinner table, and then again on couches to deal with food comas.

Pharmacists can encourage patients to stand during work activities that do not require sitting, such as talking on the phone and checking e-mail. On days off, patients can take a walk with family, friends, or even a pet to help keep their health in check.

5. Don’t Forget to Take Medications

Medication adherence is obviously important for patients every day of every month, but the hustle and bustle of December could cause people to let their routines fall by the wayside and be more forgetful about taking their medications.

Pharmacists should take the opportunity to promote adherence and remind patients that deviating from their medication regimen could cause their condition to worsen and even land them in the hospital.

Click here for 5 easy ways pharmacists can help promote and improve medication adherence.

6. Stay Hydrated

When running the many errands that come along with a hectic December, patients could easily forget to stay hydrated.

Staying hydrated is important for all aspects of health, and because pharmacists are the most readily accessible health care team members in the community, they are in a pivotal position to help address the needs of patients who may experience dehydration from both medical and nonmedical causes.

7. Get a Good Night’s Sleep

December is a very busy month, and not just because there are holiday parties to attend. People often have to deal with a mad rush at work to get things done by the end of the year, or they may be busy trying to coordinate care for children during their winter break.

Whatever the reason, patients should be reminded that getting a decent night’s rest can help them better manage their conditions. Reduced sleep duration is linked to more repetitive negative thinking, and the resulting stress can disrupt the body’s hormone balance, and ultimately the immune system.

8. Take a Deep Breath

Although the holiday season is typically characterized as a time of good tidings, the reality is that many people find it very stressful.

In some cases, stress can cause individuals to experience physical or psychological symptoms. In extreme cases, excessive amounts of stress could exacerbate or increase the risk of developing a myriad of medical conditions.

Pharmacists should take the opportunity to counsel patients with reminders about the effects of stress on overall health.

9. Keep Friends and Family Close

Studies have shown that patients trying to live a healthier lifestyle or even ward off depression may be more successful if their family, friends, and coworkers support them.