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Staying healthy this Christmas

Press release issued: 22 December 2010

‘Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry. However, keeping healthy at Christmas can be a challenge. University of Bristol expert, Dr Knut Schroeder, author of Diagnosing Your Health Symptoms For Dummies®, offers his tips for staying healthy and happy throughout the festivities.

Beating the bottle

Many people underestimate the potential harm that alcohol misuse can cause, particularly when they’re unaware of the safe limits of consumption. You can find out if you drink too much on the NHS Choices website.

If you find it hard to cut down on your alcohol intake, here are some tips:

· Drink slowly

· Alternate alcoholic drinks with soft drinks or water

· Switch to drinks with a lower alcohol content and avoid the stronger varieties

· Avoid situations and social activities in which you know you drink too much

· Whenever you buy other people a drink, get a non-alcoholic one for yourself

· Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ or ‘not now’ to anyone who urges you to drink.

Stress-busting strategies

It’s common before and during the Christmas period that ‘life gets in the way’, making you feel increasingly tense.  The good news is that a few simple steps can help keep too much stress at bay:

· Make sure that you get enough sleep and avoid taking sleeping tablets if possible

· Avoid too much coffee, tea, alcohol and cigarettes

· Look after your health: eat regularly and healthily, and be sure you spend time with your family and friends

· Remember that exercise is great for stress relief!

· Try to pinpoint the cause of your stress and sort it out by, for example, talking to your line manager at work, arranging additional child care, or booking an appointment with a debt or marriage counsellor

· Treat yourself to something nice that you can afford (like a massage or a trip to the cinema) - or even taking some time out to go for a longer walk may do the trick.

· Try to manage your time effectively: make lists and prioritise tasks in order of importance.  Consider getting out of commitments or appointments that can wait or are not really important.  Look at your ‘to do’ list and strike out anything that can safely drop without any major consequences.

Stumbling Over: Falls

It’s easy to underestimate the risks to your health from falling, particularly when you’re older, when you go out in icy conditions, when you hang up Christmas decorations in your home, or when you’re under the influence of alcohol. 

The consequences can potentially be disastrous: falls are the leading cause of death due to injury in people over 75 years of age; you have a 10 per cent chance of suffering a fracture (commonly the wrist or hip) if you belong to an older age group; and about one person in five who falls needs medical attention.  Preventing falls is high on the UK National Health Service agenda: you can do your bit by being aware of the following factors that increase your risk of falling:

· You go out in icy conditions with shoes that have slippery soles

· You’re under the influence of alcohol

· You take medication that may make you drowsy or unstable on your feet (such as some blood pressure lowering drugs)

· You’ve had falls in the past; have problems with your gait or your balance; suffer from poor vision, or your specs need changing

· You feel low and lack confidence

· You’re not as mobile as you used to be because of physical ailments, for example urine or chest infection, weakness or arthritis in your legs; problems with your feet, Parkinson’s Disease or have had a stroke in the past.

Dr Knut Schroeder’s book, Diagnosing Your Health Symptoms For Dummies® is available now.  It aims to act as a family health bible, providing clear expert advice to allay fears or encourage those with serious symptoms to seek professional advice.

It covers over 100 common, important, potentially serious and often worrying symptoms and emergencies, such as headaches, chest pain, dizziness, fever, bleeding, tiredness and stress.  As well as providing reassurance, the book also includes guidance on how to perform basic physical assessments and a run-through of key first aid techniques.

Diagnosing Your Health Symptoms For Dummies® by Knut Schroeder Published by Wiley, October 2010 ISBN: 9780470660966, Paperback Original - £16.99/€19.60

Dr Knut Schroeder MD MSc PhD MRCP FRCGP CertMedEd is an experienced family doctor and Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer in General Practice at the University of Bristol.  He holds a Degree in Medical Education and developed undergraduate and postgraduate courses on clinical diagnosis and evidence based medicine.  Knut has had multiple papers and books published, including The 10-minute Clinical Assessment, due to be published by Wiley-Blackwell/BMJ in January 2010.  He is Guest Author of the 2009 edition of the Oxford Handbook of General Practice.