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Doctors Offer Tips for Keeping You And Your Family Healthy And Safe In 2022

December 29, 2021
New Year Tips 250

Despite the continued COVID-19 pandemic and another stressful year, there are many ways to make 2022 healthy and safe for you and your family.

Doctors at Baystate Health suggest setting realistic goals and prioritizing what is most important to you, taking small steps, and remembering not to beat yourself up if you encounter a setback in your health goals for 2022.

Goals for Your Health and Soul

Some goals to consider as you continue on your journey include:

1. Stay Safe in the Cold When Venturing Outdoors for Exercise

Before beginning any cold weather activity, be sure to warm up to prevent damage to muscles and ligaments. Warming up is always a good idea, but especially so on cold days as your muscles contract to conserve heat, making them tighter and more prone to injury. You can warm up with a brisk walk or jog followed by dynamic stretching such as arm circles and forward lunges.

Remember to be careful when walking outdoors as ice patches may be hidden and can cause a slip and fall. Use shoes that have nonslip soles and provide ankle support and keep your hands free to give you balance and help you avoid a fall. Walk slowly and avoid sudden turning on icy surfaces, and use railings on steps if they are available.

Once you have made it to your destination and are ready to begin your sport, be sure to wear appropriate protective gear, including goggles, helmets, gloves, and padding. Check that your equipment is working properly prior to use. Remember to drink plenty of water before, during, and after activities.

Try to participate with a partner or group if possible. If you are venturing out into the cold solo, be sure that friends or family are aware and know when to be expecting you to return home.

- Dr. Colin S. Cooper, orthopedic surgeon, Baystate Franklin Medical Center & New England Orthopedic Surgeons

2. Don’t Allow Sleep Problems to Affect Your Health

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, stress levels are higher than ever. Stress can make sleep more challenging, but it is important to prioritize sleep because it is necessary for health and well-being.

Most adults function best with 7-8 hours of sleep and teenagers need around 9 hours. Good quality sleep is important for preventing infections and keeping your immune system working well. Studies have shown that sleep deprived people don’t mount the same immune response after vaccinations as good sleepers, so it is important to make sure you get a good night’s sleep prior to getting a flu or COVID vaccine.

Keeping a regular sleep schedule will allow your body’s internal clock to help you get the best night’s sleep.

- Dr. Karin Johnson, medical director, Baystate Health Regional Sleep Program and Baystate Medical Center Sleep Laboratory

3. Stay Safe from COVID-19 and Seasonal Respiratory Infections

With all the attention on the Omicron variant, it is important to get your booster COVID-19 vaccination, and if you haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19, do so now. This is one thing we can do to help protect ourselves and our community against the Delta variant and will likely offer some level of protection against Omicron.

As it is respiratory season, it is not too late to get your flu shot if you haven’t received it yet. Both the flu and COVID-19 vaccinations are important means in preventing serious respiratory infections. Don’t forget to wear your mask if you are in an indoor public setting or in any crowded area.

- Dr. Armando Paez, chief, Infectious Disease Division, Baystate Health

4. Help Our Kids Heal

It has been a long and stressful pandemic for everyone. The stress has caused the mental health of our children to suffer and pediatric rates of depression, anxiety, and self-harm have increased greatly. Let’s focus on helping our kids heal and begin their journey back to a sense of normalcy. Tell them every day that they are loved, and that you will do your best to keep them safe during the pandemic. Demonstrate your love and your commitment to keeping them safe by getting your children vaccinated against COVID as soon as they are eligible.

A gift that parents can give their kids anytime is the gift of gratitude. Create a new family tradition of coming together every day so you can share with each other one thing that you are grateful for that day.

Families can also talk about ways you can help others from donating food or toys to the less fortunate to a simple act like shoveling someone else’s sidewalk when it snows. Replacing your child’s thoughts of stress and fear with those of gratitude and giving back will help them survive the pandemic and thrive.

- Dr. John O’Reilly, chief, General Pediatrics, Baystate Children’s Hospital

5. Address Your Mental Health

One thing we should all do to get healthy in 2022 is to take time to address our mental well-being. It is important to take at least 5-10 minutes each day to relax, reflect on your thoughts, and do mindfulness exercises, which can look different for different people. Some people like to meditate or do breathing exercises — the choice is yours. There are many great mobile phone apps to learn some techniques. With the stress of the pandemic and the future challenges we face in 2022, it is always important to address your mental health so your physical health can follow.

- Dr. Evan Altman, Baystate Wing Hospital, medical director, Baystate Health Urgent and Convenient Care

6. Take Care of Your Breast Health

As 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, it is important to take a moment to think about risk, lifestyle and ways to stay healthy. Regular breast cancer screening with mammography is very important. However, some women could be at higher risk for breast cancer than others, and I suggest you think about your family history and talk to your physician if this could apply to you – you might want to consider earlier or enhanced screening, genetic testing or prevention. I also recommend to be aware of what your breasts look and feel like at baseline, so you can reach out if there are any changes. Generally, I think it is important to take care of yourself, both physically and mentally. Physically, a balanced diet that is rich in fruit and vegetables and high quality protein and 30 minutes of exercise daily can help to become healthy and stay healthy. Mentally, I cannot stress enough how important it is to take some time and dedicating it to your mental health and resilience. There are many different ways to do that, start by thinking about what makes you happy and content.

- Dr. Ann-Kristin U. Friedrich, Baystate Surgical Oncology and Breast Specialists

7. Make A Plan To Quit Smoking

Quitting smoking is the single most important thing you can do to improve your health — and you will feel better too! The New Year is a very common time to quit, so now is a great time to prepare. Some simple things can make a lot of difference.

First, make a plan and share your plan with family members and co-workers. Get all the support you can.

Second, contact your doctor and get smoking cessation medications. The patch, gum, lozenge, inhaler, Chantix, and Zyban are medications that double to triple your chances of quitting.

Third, find and use an effective resource for help. These include 1-800-QUIT-NOW, the national hotline where smokers can get free coaching and often get free medications. Smokefree.gov and Becomeanex.org are websites with plenty of useful information, including a text messaging program you can sign up for. These programs will improve your chance to quit.

Lastly, even if you slip up, keep trying. Remember that there are more former smokers in the United States than there are current smokers. And, millions of smokers quit each year. You can do it. Make 2022 the year you become an ex-smoker.

- Dr. Quinn Pack, preventive cardiologist, Heart & Vascular Program, Baystate Medical Center

8. Eat Healthy

Make healthy eating and a healthy weight a priority in 2022! The New Year is a great time to commit to some healthy eating habits.

Start by preparing meals in advance. Set yourself up for success by spending a few hours on the weekends cooking your meats and prepping your vegetables and other ingredients for the week ahead.

Make fruits and vegetables more accessible for snacks. When fruits and vegetables are washed and ready to eat, you are more likely to choose them.

Make some healthy swaps. You don’t have to give up your favorite meals. Instead learn to substitute. For example, substituting cauliflower rice for a starchy rice and using spaghetti squash instead of pasta can help reach your nutrition goals.

Don’t drink your calories. Most people don’t even realize that the fancy coffee drinks, fruit juices and alcohol drinks can add up to big calories. Try to choose zero calorie, zero sugar fluids and save those calories for solid food.

Work on reducing portions. Use small plates and dishes, cook less food and when eating out pack half to go home for leftovers.

Lastly, get up and move that body! Try to schedule 30 minutes most days of the week to take a walk, do a YouTube video, dance or go to a fitness center. Weight loss surgery is an option for people who are severely obese (about 100 lbs. over your ideal body weight and a BMI (body mass index) of 35 and above) and cannot lose weight with diet and exercise alone. If you are interested in more information about weight loss and healthy eating habits, call the Baystate Bariatric Program at 413-794-7020.

- Kimberly Estremera, RD, registered dietitian in the Baystate Bariatric Program

9. Keep Safe from Accidental Injuries

Traumatic injuries often occur at home. Remember to shut off tools and appliances before troubleshooting or repairing them. A snow blower which is malfunctioning due to ice or other debris should be shut down to reduce the risk to fingers, hands, toes, and feet. Similarly, in summer months, ensure that the lawn mower is shut down prior to troubleshooting a malfunctioning lawn mower due to rocks or other debris, to also reduce risk to fingers, hands, toes, and feet. When using a ladder, have a spotter and ensure that it is firmly placed and balanced to reduce the risk of falls. When on the road, be careful in inclement weather when operating a vehicle. Remember to slow down and give yourself plenty of time to react to unexpected events while driving. Wet, snowy or icy roads require substantially longer distances to bring your vehicle to a stop. Wet roads after a storm can be deceiving in the depth of the water as can the force of the water moving across the road. Ensure that it is safe to use a road when moving water is noted over the road surface.

- Dr. Gerald Beltran, EMS Physician, Division of Prehospital Disaster Medicine, Baystate Medical Center

10. Become an Organ Donor

Consider becoming an organ donor and giving the ultimate gift of life as part of your New Year’s resolutions. Every 9 minutes a new person is added to the national transplant wait list, which is already overcrowded with more than 106,000 men, women and children waiting for a lifesaving organ. Upwards of 40,000 transplants were performed in 2020 with about a third of them from living donors.

Making your wishes known is easy. If you would like to become a donor, your wishes can be indicated on your driver’s license, or you can register online. Today, more and more people are making a difference in someone’s life by becoming a living kidney donor to a patient on the Baystate Health waiting list, an alternative to waiting for a kidney from a deceased donor. Learn more about the process of living donation.

- Dr. Kenneth McPartland, Medical Director, Transplant Division, Baystate Medical Center.

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