Holiday Health Strategies, From the December 2015 Harvard Health Letter

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Mapping out strategies before the holidays helps to avoid health risks such as loneliness and depression, overeating, weight gain, and heart problems brought on by eating and drinking too much.

The winter holidays are known for celebration, but they’re also loaded with hidden health risks, reports the December 2015 Harvard Health Letter. Fortunately, there are plenty of strategies for staying healthy and getting through the holidays.

Sometimes the holidays trigger loneliness and a general feeling of the blues. “People may be missing family members and friends who live far away, or those who’ve passed on. Or they may feel sad if they’re unable to take part in holiday festivities the way they once did,” says Dr. Michael Craig Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Ways to combat the blues include exercising, which releases the body’s feel-good chemicals and is well-known for improving mood; distraction, such as seeing a movie; socializing; and volunteering for a worthwhile cause.

Another holiday health risk is overeating at parties. Strategies to avoid that include using a salad plate instead of a dinner plate to keep portions smaller and cut down on calories; staying away from red meats and other foods rich in unhealthy saturated fat; and avoiding or limiting foods that make blood sugar spike, such as potatoes, pasta, rice, bread, and sugary cocktails and desserts.

Some experiences during the holidays land people in the hospital. One example is slipping and falling in icy conditions. If people go out in icy weather, they shouldn’t carry heavy shopping bags full of presents on slippery walkways or stairs. Another cause of hospital visits during the holidays: foodborne illness. Avoid getting sick by making sure any dishes with raw eggs, which may contain bacteria called Salmonella, are cooked to 160° F — even eggnog.

Read the full-length article: "3 health strategies to get you through the holidays"

Also in the December 2015 issue of the Harvard Health Letter:

  •     Health apps to help the heart
  •     Stop avoiding dietary fats
  •     Tools to make everyday life easier

The Harvard Health Letter is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $20 per year. Subscribe at or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free).


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Kristen Rapoza
Harvard Health Publications
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