Gift of Health

Give the Gift of Health – To Yourself!

It’s that time of year again! Time for decorating cookies, counting our blessings, and starting to plan for the year ahead. This year get an early start on those New Year’s resolutions by giving yourself the gift of health. These simple tips will help you and your entire family feel great all throughout the year.

A Balanced Diet

Fruits, Vegetables & Nuts

Don’t worry, you won’t have to avoid all those holiday treats. The key to a healthy, nutritious diet is balance, both in variety and quantity. Make sure to eat vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free dairy, and proteins. A diverse diet means your body gains important nutrients, all while you get to enjoy trying new foods. For example, eating vegetables every day is great, but switching between leafy greens, colorful peppers and carrots, and legumes like beans and peas is even better. But what about dessert? As long as foods with higher sugar and fat counts are enjoyed in moderation, they can remain on the shopping list.

A Daily Dose of Exercise

Senior Woman on a Bike

It might be a bit cooler outside, but there’s still plenty of ways to get the doctor-recommended amount of exercise every week. Physical activity provides so many health benefits, including lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer. Even just taking a brisk, 20-minute walk every day will get your heart rate up while giving you fun out in the fresh air. Also, joining a recreational sports league, biking, exercising along with a video, or going to the gym provides great sources of exercise. Try this: after the big holiday meal, take a stroll outside to help yourself digest, lower your blood pressure, and make room for leftovers.

A More Relaxed Mind

Man Meditating

Just as important as a healthy body, giving your mind a chance to rest will have a profound impact on your overall well-being. Stress is bad not only for your mood, but also your immune system.

If working, cooking and cleaning, or holiday shopping starts to feel overwhelming, try some of these strategies to cope:

  • Take a break! Stepping away from the source of stress for even 20 minutes has been shown to lower anxiety.
  • Start sweating! A short walk, run, bike-ride or swim session benefits your body and your mind.
  • Smile! Research has shown that changing our facial expressions can actually improve overall mood and outlook.
  • Breathe. If you start to feel tense, take a moment to breathe deeply and collect yourself.

A Better (and Longer) Night’s Sleep

Woman Sleeping

It’s no secret that a good night’s sleep does wonders for your health. In fact, the CDC recommends that adults between the ages of 18 and 60 get at least seven hours of sleep per night, while children and teens should aim for eight or more. Getting enough shut-eye may sound wonderful, but it’s not always so easy. An estimated one third of adults in the United States report not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. A lack of sleep has been linked to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other serious conditions.

Luckily, AltaMed has a couple of tips for gifting yourself a better night’s sleep:

  • Wake up and go to bed at the same times every day.
  • Put your phone or computer away at least a half hour before you plan to sleep.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol or eating a large meal late at night.
  • Ensure your bedroom is dark and at a comfortable temperature.
  • If possible, exercise during the day.

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Healthy Holidays Foods

Easy Alternatives to Make Holiday Foods Healthier

This year make it a healthy and delicious holiday season with a few simple food substitutions. You and your whole family can get a jump on all of those New Year’s health resolutions, and you’ll never taste the difference. Best of all, these swaps are easy and filled with regular foods from your local grocery store.

Here are some of our favorites:

Instead of Full-fat Dips, Try a Yogurt Dip

Healthy Meal

Sour cream, we’re looking at you! True, it’s a tasty way to get people to eat more vegetables, but an ounce of sour cream has 60 calories, while an ounce of plain Greek yogurt only has about 20 calories, more protein and good bacteria for improved digestion.
To amp up the flavor, add garlic, fresh herbs, or a drizzle of olive oil. Besides adding taste, these ingredients provide important health benefits.

Say No to Canned Yams and Yes to Sweet Potatoes

Bowl with Sweet Potatoes

Store-bought candied yams are sweet, thanks to added processed sugar that bulks a single serving up to about 420 calories.

Sweet potatoes are a delicious alternative that still hits the sweet spot but with fewer calories and more fiber per serving. Baked sweet potatoes also serve up vitamins that will boost your immune system and promote heart health.

Eat White Meat Turkey

Family Eating Turkey

If you’ve still got some leftover Thanksgiving turkey or you’re serving up a new bird, take the white meat over the dark. The dark meat has more cholesterol, fat, and calories: instead of going for the drumstick, enjoy portions from the breast or wings. This applies to chicken, too.

Even if you just can’t pass up the dark meat, turkey is still a healthier alternative to hams, roasts, and steaks. If you grind up your turkey leftovers, you’ve got a much healthier option to hamburger meat.

Avocado is a Creamy Alternative to Mayonnaise and Cheese

Cutting an Avocado

If you’re looking to give post-holiday sandwiches some delicious and creamy texture, add a thick slice of avocado. Unlike mayo or cheese, avocadoes are full of heart-healthy fats. You should still eat them in moderation, but it’s a healthier swap for a fatty, empty-calorie tablespoon of mayonnaise.

Make Your Own Dressing with Virgin Olive Oil

Bottle of Olive Oil

Most store-bought dressings have too much of everything you want to avoid: too many calories, too much sodium, too much added sugar, and too much of the bad kind of fat.

There are so many healthy, do-it-yourself alternatives. Try lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, canola oil, a splash of vinegar, or you can try mixing a few of them together to see what suits your taste. Lemon juice, vinegar, and garlic are all low in calories, while olive and canola oil are full of healthy fats and antioxidants.

Also, see the suggestions below to whip up a salad that’s so deliciously flavorful, you won’t want to hide it under dressing.

Ditch Iceberg Lettuce in Favor of Tastier Alternatives

Plate with Healthy Food

Contrary to popular belief, iceberg lettuce really isn’t all that good for you. It’s 95 percent water, so it doesn’t have much in the way of fiber or vitamins. It wilts fast and – let’s be honest – doesn’t have much of a taste.

If you’re making a salad switch to heartier greens, such as:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Mustard greens

Besides making your salad much more colorful, any of these substitutions will add fiber, vitamins, crunch, and taste. Or instead, go bold and try one of these summer salads. All are healthful, delicious, and will look good on your table.

Canned Fruit in Light or No Syrup (Better Yet, Opt for Fresh)

Panned Pineapple

Fruit is sweet enough that it shouldn’t be drowning in heavy corn syrup (which is still sugar, even if it says corn). Skip fruit in heavy syrup and instead purchase fruit in light syrup, no syrup, or sugar-free syrup. You’ll save as many as 100 calories per serving. Or, if it’s an option, purchase fresh, colorful fruits.

Sad Woman On Bed

Mental Health Matters

Mental Health is Part of Your Health

Couple at a Doctor's Appointment

The first step is recognizing that your mental health is your health. Your mental health can also affect your physical health in some serious and surprising ways. When you’re feeling down, you may be less likely to take care of yourself: you may skip dosages of a medication or not get enough sleep. You may also engage in riskier behavior, such as drinking or eating to excess, taking drugs, or acting out aggressively.

It goes both ways: people with chronic conditions may be more likely to suffer from poor mental health. And if you have a physical condition AND you suffer from depression, you may have worse health outcomes.

Understand the Difference Between Sadness and Depression

Tired Man

You’re probably no stranger to sadness: it’s an emotion that makes you feel bad or down, usually following an unfortunate or unpleasant event, such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or ending a relationship. Sadness is a common, and even appropriate reaction to these circumstances.

But in some cases, the sadness becomes something more, and can manifest in intense and even physical symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue/loss of energy
  • Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of worthlessness

If you have any of these feelings that last almost all day, for at least two weeks, and it’s gotten to the point that it interferes with your daily activities, you may actually suffer from depression.

Depression is a serious condition. It may have its roots in an event, such as a major life change (getting fired, moving away from family and friends…even the stress from a happy event like getting married may trigger it). It can be a physical condition, or it may run in your family. Even getting less daylight can cause depression.

There’s a common myth that you can just snap out of it; perhaps if you just get some fresh air, talk to a friend, or treat yourself to a nice meal, you’d be able to cheer yourself up. But that’s not how depression works. It’s not a matter of will power, commitment, or positive thinking. Unless you get help, depression can last for months or even years.

Seek Out Professional Help

Woman Listening to Her Doctor

If you think you’re suffering from depression or mental illness, talk to a doctor. Under the Affordable Care Act, all health care plans are required to provide coverage for mental health care.

Your primary care doctor is a good place to start, since they already know you and your health care history. It may be easier for you, since you’re already familiar with them.

Getting Tested and Treated

Young Man Talking To Her Doctor

Once you’ve found a doctor, they can help you determine if you do have depression or another mental health disorder, its underlying causes, and the best treatment to help you feel better.

You may be given a physical exam and lab tests to help rule out other conditions. For example, if your thyroid gland isn’t producing enough hormone, you may experience depression-like symptoms, such as a low mood, fatigue, and weight gain or loss.

At this point, your doctor may recommend medication or refer you to another doctor for additional testing and treatment.

If your doctor recommends medication, you may need to try different medications before you find the one that works for you. Having bloodwork and a history of your symptoms will help your doctor tailor your treatment, but not every patient responds to every drug. If that’s the case, communicate your feelings to your doctor, be patient, and follow their advice about your prescription.

You Don’t Have to Suffer – and You Don’t Have to Do It Alone

Women Embracing Each Other

AltaMed is here for you, and we’re committed to your mental and physical well-being. To learn more about AltaMed’s behavioral health services, call 855-425-1777.

If you have suicidal thoughts and feel like you could be a harm to yourself or others, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255.

Give the Gift of Health – To Yourself!