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Ten ways to stay healthier this winter

December 11, 2018

Wondering how to avoid sore throats, cold, flu and that sluggish feeling you get from being indoors too long? Marcin Jungiewicz, D.O., a family medicine physician at NCH, calls out some basics that just may boost your health this season.

#1: Get a checkup

Don’t wait until you’re sick to see a primary care physician. I think the annual checkup is important for everybody, regardless of age. We take our cars in for routine maintenance so that we can detect any problems. In the same way, we can identify things in an annual checkup like wheezing, abnormal heart rhythm, anemia, high sodium levels and low vitamin D levels, the latter of which is a common deficiency in this geographic area. Occasionally, we’ll do a urinalysis if patients are symptomatic and we can diagnose prediabetes or diabetes with a wellness exam.

#2: Avoid sugar

Sugar affects the immune system. If you cannot process sugar efficiently or effectively, it leads to prediabetes and spirals off to become diabetes. It is by definition a compromised state, so that makes you prone to developing infections. We see candida and other infections in diabetics.

#3: Exercise

People should exercise minimally 30 minutes at least three to five days per week because it has far-reaching health benefits. In winter it applies even more because people frequently complain of fatigue during the cold months. Since exercise is a natural energy boost and it elevates the mood, stay mobile no matter what your activity level is.

#4: Quit smoking

Smoking is bad for you no matter the circumstances, and second-hand smoke contributes to lung cancers down the road. Children of parents who smoke, even if they smoke outside, have higher incidences of upper respiratory infections and asthma. People do go through several attempts to quit and relapses are common, but patients shouldn’t be discouraged. Keep trying to quit because it’s one of the single, most effective ways of extending your life.

#5: Check vitamin D levels

There have been studies that show taking a regular multivitamin is not necessarily going to translate into major health benefits. Foods are usually fortified with the vitamins we need, including some with vitamin D. However, in our geographical area, we don’t have enough exposure to ultraviolet rays so we frequently develop vitamin D deficiencies.

Vitamin D is important for your metabolism. It elevates your mood and immune system. Get your vitamin D level checked. If the level is low enough, you can take 50,000 units once a week for three months, then get rechecked and stay on a maintenance dose.

#6: Get a flu shot

We follow the CDC guidelines pertaining to flu shots, based on science. The CDC recommends everyone – from the age of 6 months and up – get a flu shot. Almost everybody should get one, except patients with a severe allergy to the components of the vaccine, which is extremely uncommon. The majority of patients should be vaccinated. Remember, you’re not only protecting yourself, you’re protecting everyone else.

NCH offers flu shots at all locations, including the hospital, immediate care centers and Medical Group offices.

#7: Wash your hands

Handwashing is one of the simplest ways of preventing the spread of disease. You should wash your hands frequently, especially if you have contact with a person who is infected. If your hands are visibly soiled, we don’t recommend hand sanitizer. Use warm water and soap. They should be washed for about two minutes; imagine yourself singing the “Happy Birthday” song.

Hand sanitizer is a good short cut, but not all germs are killed.

#8: Stay hydrated

Hydration is very important. The human body is composed mainly of water, and we need it for metabolism and normal functions of the body. A lack of water can cause you to become dehydrated and fatigued, and your skin may lose its normal appearance. Typically, a healthy average person should drink between six to eight glasses of water every day. Certain patients, like those with congestive heart failure or peripheral edema, should follow the guidelines from their cardiologist.

#9: Get enough sleep

There are different sleep guidelines for different age brackets. Preschoolers ages 3 to 5 should sleep between 10 to 13 hours; 6- to 13-year-olds should sleep 9 to 11 hours; 14- to 17-year-olds should sleep 8 to 10 hours; and adults 18 and older should get 7 to 9 hours. Eight hours is a safe bet for adults. Getting less sleep may compromise your immune system. It affects the way you respond to external stimuli, process information and respond when driving.

#10: Eat a healthy diet

We eat too much processed foods and meats, so I recommend focusing on fruits and vegetables. They contain vitamins and fiber, which are lacking in a lot of people’s diet. I would focus on seven or eight servings or a combination of both per day. You can mix them up in any way, shape or form.

Need a family medicine physician? Dr. Jungiewicz practices at the NCH Medical Group, 5999 New Wilke Road in Rolling Meadows. Schedule an appointment by calling 847-255-7107.