With a lengthy to-do list for the busy holiday season, taking steps to stay healthy may not be a top priority. But Kentucky Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Stephanie Mayfield Gibson has some tips for making the holidays healthy and happy. She shared them on a recent edition of Connections with Renee Shaw.
First and foremost, Gibson recommends making time for physical activity by either maintaining your regular exercise routine or committing to walking at least 30 minutes a day. Even walking in three, 10-minute increments can contribute to what Gibson calls a “culture of wellness.”
When it comes to the buffet of holiday foods, Gibson advocates portion control. “I like for people to be happy [and] enjoy the holidays, but you don’t have to eat all of everything,” Gibson jokes. She also suggests replacing the sugar in some recipes with fruit or fruit juices. And finally, Gibson says her beverage of choice at the holiday dinner table isn’t soda but rather water flavored with slices of orange, lemon, or cucumber.
“If you’re the cook, you want people to taste what you have, and not just the sugary beverage,” Gibson says.
Public Health Issues in the News
Gibson says influenza is widespread across the commonwealth, with nearly every county reporting cases. Although this year’s vaccine isn’t a perfect match for the most frequently appearing strain, she still urges people to get a flu shot.
If you do experience flu-like symptoms, Gibson recommends seeing a doctor immediately. She says the anti-viral medications they can prescribe work best when administered within 48 hours of showing symptoms.
While the Ebola outbreak still makes headlines, Gibson says the flu is a much bigger threat for Americans. She says Ebola is only transmitted through direct physical contact with a person infected with the virus, not through air or water. Although this is the largest global outbreak of Ebola, Gibson reminds people that there’s only been one death from the virus in the United States, and that local health care providers have been well trained to screen for the disease.
Legislature to Consider Health-Related Measures
When the Kentucky General Assembly convenes in January, a state-wide smoke-free bill will be one of the measures lawmakers will consider. Gibson calls a smoking ban a passion of hers because so many of the state’s health problems, from lung disease to cancer, are related to tobacco use.
She says a state-wide comprehensive ban on smoking in public places is the best way to address the effects of second-hand smoke. Gibson also notes that many insurance policies now cover the costs of smoking cessation regimes.
Another priority for Gibson is to ensure that the state has enough health care providers to serve the growing number of Kentuckians getting health insurance through the Affordable Care Act and the state exchange, Kynect. That includes a push for Internet-based tele-medicine services to give more rural residents access to medical specialists. In addition to expanding access to health care, Gibson says the ACA has created more jobs in the state, which has contributed to a decrease in unemployment in all 120 counties.