A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed an increase in deaths from impaired driving crashes during the holiday season. The analysis states “fatalities associated with impaired driving, expressed as number of fatalities per day, are higher during the Christmas and New Year’s Day holiday periods as compared to fatalities during the other days in December.”
Of course, this serious issue requires year–round attention. In 2008, 11,773 people were killed in alcohol–impaired driving crashes and 1.4 million were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
- Make sure you and your loved ones get home safely and live to celebrate the new year:
- Never drink and drive: Even 1 or 2 drinks affect your driving ability. Your best bet is not drinking or staying home.
- Have a designated driver: Find a trustworthy person to drive home; then find ways to reward their generosity.
- Drive defensively: If you’re driving, remain alert to other drivers and your surroundings on the road.
- Don’t let friends drive drunk: Ignore your friend’s convincing pleas and talk them out of driving.
- Take a taxi: Arrange for a cab or driving service; keep the contact info in your cell phone just in case.
Staying active outdoors during the winter can be great for your health. But it’s important to be vigilant when planning extended outdoor excursions; overexposure to cold and wind poses the risk of frostbite. This potentially serious condition often affects toes, feet, fingers, hands, nose, and ears. The National Institutes of Health notes symptoms start with a pins and needles sensation followed by numbness — and the skin will be hard, pale, and cold.
Before your next winter adventure, remember to…
- Wear loose, layered clothes: Put on 2 pairs of socks, wind– and water–resistant clothes, and mittens instead of gloves.
- Cover all areas of the skin: Wear a hat and scarf. Check for tears or rips in clothing that may expose small areas of skin.
Avoid smoking and alcohol: They decrease blood circulation.
- Seek immediate medical attention for frostbite — it could raise the risk of hypothermia. If a doctor is unavailable, follow advice from the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons:
Warm the affected areas in water (not hot) for 30–45 minutes — unless they might again be exposed to the cold; do not use dry heat (for example, a heating pad, sunlamp, or fire) or the skin could burn
Cover blisters with a sterile cloth
Rest the affected areas; do not rub.
Most everyone has endured those embarrassing white flakes on their shoulders. This time of year it could be snow or dandruff — a seasonal condition most common in cold weather. Warning signs of the white stuff include dry, itchy scalp, flaking, and red, irritated skin. You’re more prone to dandruff, according to MayoClinic.com, if:
- You’re a male between young adult and middle age
- You have excessive oily skin
- You have certain illnesses.
If you’re left scratching your head, try these suggestions…
- Purchase over–the–counter dandruff shampoos: There are many to choose from at your local store or pharmacy.
- Get a prescription: Don’t flake out if symptoms persist for several weeks; just visit a doctor. The condition is rarely serious (it’s not contagious) and is often easily treated. A dermatologist may determine your dandruff is being caused from another skin condition, such as seborrheic dermatitis.
Everyday life can wear down anyone; sometimes it seems you’re facing an insurmountable series of burdens. And when stress swirls, it’s easy to lose perspective. If negativity begins to overwhelm you, try this: Pause, take a deep breath, and count your blessings.
Research shows those who practice gratitude are more optimistic, feel more energetic, have stronger immune systems, handle stress more easily, and are less prone to depression. If you feel like your glass is half full, consciously decide to flip your mood; you may find your cup runneth over:
Start a gratitude journal: Keep a list (at least 5 things a day) of all you’re thankful for, from the mundane to the extraordinary — like a good friend, close relative, or pet; a day of nice weather; natural beauty… even just the comfort of a warm bath and bed.
Express it: Reach out to those who’ve inspired you. A university professor studied students who were required to send real letters of gratitude to mentors. The results: Many students showed stronger feelings of happiness the more often they wrote.
Make new habits: Be optimistic in the face of adversity. Find the good in every situation. This may seem unnatural, but with practice and retraining your thought process, you’ll learn to accentuate the positive.
If you’re feeling leveled by lethargy lately, fight back by boosting your metabolism — defined by the National Institutes of Health as “all the physical and chemical processes in the body that convert or use energy.” To improve your stamina and general health, avoid trendy supplements and drinks that claim to perform metabolism miracles. Instead opt for these time-tested tips to keep your body’s engine humming:
- Exercise: Strength training 2 or 3 times a week will build muscle, and muscle burns more calories than fat. Add 30–60 minutes of regular cardiovascular exercise — such as jogging, elliptical, or fast walking — to see results.
- Don’t starve yourself: Research indicates that skipping meals, especially breakfast, can actually slow down your metabolism.
- Eat more often: Many dieters are finding success by spreading out their calories and eating several smaller meals about every 3–4 hours.
- Stay hydrated: Keep that water flowing and avoid dehydration, which produces the same unwanted metabolic effect as starvation.
- Try green tea: It can raise your metabolism while providing an antioxidant and caffeine infusion.
- Avoid sugar: Soft drinks, alcohol, and processed foods can all contribute to weight gain. Aim for healthier calories from produce, whole grains, lean protein, and low–fat dairy.
Chocolate is one sweet treat you can afford to eat. Although partially boosted by the wishful thinking of its countless connoisseurs, chocolate’s reputation is nearing that of “super foods”— along with blueberries, walnuts, beans, and red wine. According to WebMD.com, early research indicates 4 possible health benefits of dark chocolate and cocoa:
Reducing the risk of heart attack
Decreasing blood pressure and insulin sensitivity
Improving arterial blood flow
Helping those with chronic fatigue syndrome.
Cocoa beans are packed with flavonoids — plant compounds full of antioxidants. Chocolate may also provide stimulants similar to serotonin, a hormone believed to influence mood. But, as with everything good in life, moderation and common sense come into play:
Opt for higher cocoa content and dark chocolate over milk chocolate
Don’t get your chocolate from candy bars; they’re loaded with caramel, peanut butter, nougat, coconut, fat, sugar, preservatives… you get the picture
Experts recommend an ounce or so a couple times each week; beyond that, you’re adding too