Feeling Good about Memorial Day?

memorial_dayWe’d like to start this post by wishing all of our US readers a wonderful Memorial Day. And for those elsewhere, Happy Monday!

For some of us, Memorial Day signifies a welcome day off from work and the unofficial start of summer. For others, the day is all about trips to memorials or cemeteries with family. And for a few it may be a day in private introspection and remembrance.

Memorial Day aloneIf you’re one of the latter, or tend to keep to yourself on this day, you might want to re-consider this year.  According to research, getting together with friends and family for a grill out or participating in a parade can have positive health benefits.

Holidays offer the opportunity to gather with others to laugh and bond. Social activities have been shown to reduce stress, and satisfying social relationships have been shown to result in fewer health problems and longer, happier lives. In contrast, an isolated, less social life has been linked to depression and cognitive decline, according to reports in the Harvard Women’s Health Watch.

One study of almost 5,000 adults in Alameda County, Calif. showed that individuals who maintained strong social connections live longer than those who lived more isolated lives. Subjects were rated using a social network index, which translated their answers into a number. A high number indicated a strong amount of social contacts while a low number represented social isolation.

memorial-day-partyOver the following nine years, researchers tracked the subjects’ health. They found that people who placed lower on the social network showed an increased risk of death, implicating social isolation as a major risk factor for poor health.

So why are social connections so healthy? It appears that both biological and behavioral factors are at play. Some research points to stress reduction when we’re happily supported and surrounded by a social circle. Conversely stress, wreaks havoc on our immune system which in turn negatively affect coronary arteries and heart health.

Of course, holidays such as Memorial Day, can also bring out the worst in us.  Excessive drinking, eating and sun-tanning are not good for our health. And sadly, bingeing on beer with a buddy or piling your plate with potato salad in the company of others doesn’t make it any healthier!

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Memorial Day Health Tips

Happy Monday and Happy Memorial Day to our US readers.  Today, we would like to start by thanking our servicemen and women for all they do in the line of duty, and reflect on those who have died serving our country.

Later today, many people will be celebrating this unofficial start of summer. And with that comes  BBQs, beer, and burgers. I could go on. And so could you. But don’t!

Instead, Word on Health would like to offer the following tips to help you enjoy the day – healthily:

Don’t talk with your mouth full!

It’s all too easy to wolf down food during holiday cookouts because we’re so busy talking and laughing with friends. But, eating too quickly leads to swallowing air, which leads to indigestion and bloating. By all means, talk to your friends, laugh and have a great time, but do it in-between eating and try to not talk until you have chewed properly and swallowed.

Eat the fruit first!

Summer cookouts are synonymous with overeating.  One of the worst habits is to get loaded up with burgers, chicken and hot dogs, then bring out the watermelon as an afterthought. From a digestive standpoint this is about as wrong as it gets. Fruit digests very quickly, whereas heavier foods don’t. Eating fruit first can help to prevent bloating and other digestive issues.

Don’t Fry!

Avoid sun burning, by applying sunscreen generously before you go out and after each dip in the pool. Wear sun-protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses and seek shade in the heat of the day.

Pack Light!

If you are planning on traveling, pack a cooler of low-fat, healthy snacks and water. This will help curb the temptation of drive-thru fast food restaurants.

Whatever you end up doing, we wish you a happy, healthy, and safe Memorial Day!

Watch Out this Memorial Day!

As we observe this Memorial Day and commemorate the men and women who died while serving in the American military let’s also remind ourselves to take care of the living. Holidays aren’t always fun and games. They also present ideal opportunities for our loved ones to get hurt. From burning themselves on the barbecue on Memorial Day to sticking themselves with carving knives on Halloween or ingesting sharp decorations on Christmas, holidays it seems are hazardous for health.

However, parents should be wary of both routine and out-of-the-ordinary activities on a holiday weekend.  According to a new study published in Pediatrics, children are more likely to suffer injuries from everyday activities, such as playing football, than they are to be victims of holiday-specific pitfalls.

Labor Day and Memorial Day are the top two holidays for injuries.  The study authors from the Center for Injury Research and Policy in Columbus, Ohio, and Ohio State University suggest this is because they are often celebrated outdoors and people are more likely to take part in physical activities.

The researchers collected childhood-related injury information from a nationally representative sample of 98 U.S. hospital emergency departments. They looked at records from 1997 through 2006 over eight holidays: New Year’s, Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. They included injuries occurring in a five-day period around each holiday (two days before and two days after, as well as the holiday itself). The thinking was that people don’t always celebrate a holiday on the day itself, or they might hold festivities over multiple days.

An estimated 5,710,999 injuries related to holidays occurred over the nine-year period. After Labor Day and Memorial Day, the runners up for the most injuries were the Fourth of July and Halloween. Christmas had the least number of injuries.

Boys suffered from most of the injuries (62%), followed by children under 5 (29%). The most common injuries were lacerations (29.2%), and the most injured body parts were the face, fingers and hands.

Close to half of the injuries were sports or recreation related. Only a small portion of injuries were from activities that might be considered specific for the holiday. For instance, just 2.9% of injuries occurring around the Fourth of July were related to fireworks while 8.6% were related to riding bicycles!

SRxA’s Word on Health wishes all its readers a SAFE and HAPPY holiday.