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Winter Health Survival Guide

November 20, 2012

Ware, MA (November 19, 2012) - Winter is quickly approaching and along with it come the changes in weather, temperature and the amount of light during the day, all which can have physical and psychological effects on your body that can also impact your overall health.

“Being confined indoors with others increases our exposure to colds and the flu, and traveling exposes us to new viruses,” said Dr. Muhammad Gul, Medical Director of BMP-Quabbin Adult Medicine.  “Hand washing is the most effective way to ward off the spread of most viral diseases.  Carry a bottle of hand sanitizer with you for times when you can’t wash your hands.” 


In addition, Dr. Gul offers the following winter health tips:


Get a flu Shot.  Everyone, 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each year.

New flu vaccines are released every year to keep up with rapidly adapting flu viruses. Because flu viruses evolve so quickly, last year's vaccine may not protect you from this year's viruses.

Eat healthy.  When it’s cold and dark outside it can be tempting to fill up on unhealthy comfort food, but it’s important that you still keep your diet healthy by including five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. If you find yourself craving a sugary treat, try a juicy clementine or sweet dried fruits such as dates or raisins.

Drink up. You have probably heard how important it is to drink plenty of fluids when you are ill, but it’s just as important for preventing illness. Adequate hydration keeps the tissues of the respiratory system moist, which prevents microbes from settling in. Hydration also helps the immune system work properly. Opt for water.

Exercise.   Exercise is an essential part of any healthy lifestyle, whatever the season.  Regular exercise has been proven to boost your immune system and make you feel more energetic.  Exercise increases the production of endorphins, a hormone that gives you a natural sense of well-being. It also reduces the production of stress hormones such as cortisol.  A recent study showed that men with higher levels of activity experienced a 35% reduction in number of colds and women had 20% fewer colds.

Get enough sleep. This is vital; lack of sleep can contribute to health problems such as high blood pressure, weight gain, and a decrease in your immune system’s power to

fight off illness See your primary care provider especially if you have trouble sleeping more than three nights a week.  Your sleep issues could be caused by an underlying health problem.  


Don’t smoke.   Studies show that smokers have more frequent and severe colds.  Secondhand smoke also makes people more susceptible to respiratory illnesses.  Talk to your primary care provider if you smoke, to help you quit.  Get the support of friends and family to help you succeed. 

Limit Stress Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed by a flurry of holiday activities.  Pick a few favorite holiday activities, really enjoy them, and skip the rest.  Decide which traditions are most important to you and eliminate other activities that leave you feeling exhausted. 

Winter Blues.  During the holidays, generally defined as the period from Thanksgiving through New Years, we’re expected to be filled with joy, cheer and love 24 hours a day.  In reality, the holidays can be, and frequently are, a difficult time for many.   Try to recall what you’re grateful for and remember that our lives consist of more than the months between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve but throughout the whole year.  

“If you find yourself feeling persistently sad, anxious, or you have a health concerns, talk to your healthcare provider,” said Dr. Gul. “What may just seem like annoying symptoms to you could be cause of a more serious health concern down the road.”

Preventive medicine is a key component to maintaining a healthy lifestyle regardless of the time of year.  Developing an ongoing relationship with your healthcare provider who knows you and your medical history leads to a better overall outcome and lower costs.  Providers at Baystate Medical Practices – Quabbin Adult Medicine include Dr. Muhammad Gul, Dr.  Mario Lysse, Dr. Ronald Beauzile, Dr Anuja Garg, and Nurse Practitioners, Suzanne Dabakis Choquette, FNP and Rosario Nelson, FNP.  The practice is presently accepting new patients at both locations; to make an appointment at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital in Ware call 413-967-2343 or at 95 Sargent Street in Belchertown call 413-323-7212.