New Year, New You. Three Health-Related New Year’s Resolutions to Make in 2020

There’s something magical about the New Year, isn’t there? Something about seeing the calendar flip over gives us an immediate feeling of the promise of new opportunities and fresh starts. January 1 is the perfect time to recommit to a healthy lifestyle. If you’re looking for a New Year’s resolution that is good for you emotionally, mentally, and physically, we’ve got three wellness-related resolutions for your consideration. Each is easy to commit to and offers the possibility of a significant impact on your overall wellness in 2020.

  1. Walk for 30 Minutes Every Day (Cumulatively)

Walking is one of the easiest physical commitments you can make that will have a significant impact on your cardiovascular health. If the idea of finding 30 minutes within your already jam-packed schedule seems like an impossibility, know that you can carve out small chunks of time throughout the day that will give you thirty minutes total.

For example, walk your dog down the street and back when you get home from work instead of letting him out in the backyard. Park at the back of the grocery store parking lot and walk to the front door. Walk to pick your child up from the bus stop instead of driving to the end of your block. These small choices will quickly add up to 30 minutes throughout your day.

Commitment Tip: There are a variety of smartwatches and fitness trackers across cost ranges to help you track your walking minutes, which will make it easy to hold yourself accountable.

  1. Cut Back on Your Alcohol Consumption

You don’t need to entirely give up enjoying a glass of red wine with your pasta, or having mimosas with your friends during Sunday brunch. However, if you are consuming more than three alcoholic beverages per day, if you’re a woman, or four if you are a man, then it’s time to cut back. Too much alcohol consumption can lead to such health risks as heart disease, hypertension, stroke, cancer, and liver complications. 

Commit to cutting back how much you consume. Save your drinking for special occasions, or enjoy only a beer or two while watching sports over the weekend. By drinking in moderation, you’ll sleep better, feel more alert, and give yourself a lower risk of developing a serious health complication later in life.

Commitment Tip: Ask your spouse or friends to resolve to cut back with you. Together, you can find non-alcohol related activities that you enjoy, such as taking a yoga class or running your first 5K.

  1. Make an Annual Primary Care Appointment

If you haven’t seen your primary care physician since 2008, you are long overdue for some critical wellness screenings. Healthy adults should have a primary care visit with their physician annually. During this time, your doctor will listen to your heart and lungs, measure your height and weight, take your blood pressure, check your abdomen, thyroid glands, and lymph nodes, and check your hearing and vision. He or she will also address any other needs you may have or screenings that may be in your best interest based on your personal and family history, age, and other health factors.

Your annual visit to see your physician is also your time to ask any health-related questions that you may have—including all those things you’ve been Googling and then drawing conclusions about, potentially incorrectly.

If what keeps you from making an annual wellness appointment is the hassle of taking time off from work, the potential cost, or a general dislike of doctor’s offices, then be sure to find a clinic that is conveniently located to your home or office, that participates with your insurance plan, and that makes you feel comfortable during your visit.

Commitment Tip: At Nova Health, many providers across our 14 clinics are accepting new patients. Click here to find a conveniently located clinic near you and book an appointment.

This Near Year’s, resolve to lead a healthier lifestyle so that you can enjoy countless years to come. By making some simple lifestyle changes, you’ll welcome significant changes in your life. Now that’s something to celebrate.

Seven Safe Holiday Travel Tips

seven safe holiday travel tips
The holidays are a time to be with friends, family, and loved ones—not in an emergency room. During winter months, all of our popular forms of transportation become more hazardous, including planes, trains, and automobiles. This holiday, get to your destination safely, even if more slowly, so that you can take full advantage of all that the season has to offer. Before you hit the road, review these seven holiday safety travel trips.

1. Prepare Your Car for a Winter Road Trip

If you are driving through the Pacific Northwest to your holiday travel destination, you may experience snow, rain, sleet, or ice on the roads. Ensure your vehicle is in proper working order before you begin your journey. Have your car inspected, ensure your tires are properly inflated, check your windshield wiper fluid, and gas up. Also, keep an emergency road kit in your vehicle that includes a flashlight, bottled water, blanket, and kitty litter or sand in case you get stuck in mud or snow and need to create traction under your tires.

2. Get a Good Night’s Sleep

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 1 in 25 adults report having fallen asleep while driving in the previous 30 days. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also reports that drowsy driving claimed 795 lives in 2017 alone. Be well rested before you begin your road trip. Instead of starting your drive after a long day of work and traveling through the night, get a good night’s sleep and drive feeling refreshed the next morning. Your family certainly wants to see you as soon as possible, but they’d rather have you arrive safely.

3. Hide Your Valuables

Unfortunately, some people aim to take advantage of holiday travelers. Hide your suitcases, laptops, and electronic equipment in your trunk or out of sight whenever you leave your vehicle, and keep your doors locked at all times.

4. Follow Flight Attendant Instructions

While the odds of a plane crash are extremely rare, there are occasions where flights are delayed, need to be rerouted, or passengers are asked to deplane while crews address an unexpected maintenance issue. Listen to the instructions of the flight attendants and airline personnel, and do your best to keep your frustrations in check. If your plane does experience an emergency event and passengers are instructed to evacuate quickly, leave your bags behind. They aren’t worth your safety. 

5. Bring Emergency supplies on Your Train

If traveling by train, you, too, should be prepared for an unexpected delay or an emergency event. Bring an emergency kit with you that includes a spare cell phone charger, flashlight, bottled water, snacks, and a blanket.

6. Always Carry a Cell Phone and Spare Charger

No matter how you are traveling, being able to contact emergency personnel at any time is critical. Always carry your cell phone on you and ensure you have a  spare battery or charger in your possession.

7. Bring Contact Information for Your Medical Team

One study found that airplane passengers are 100 percent more likely to get sick than non-airplane passengers. With 51 million people traveling during the holidays, that’s a lot of germs flying across the country and arriving in people’s homes. Make sure you have the phone numbers for all your physicians and physician offices in your phone. If you or your child gets sick while you’re away from home for any reason, you may want the advice of your regular physician or pediatrician. If you experience a true medical emergency while traveling, call 911. From all of us at Nova Health, we wish you and yours a safe, happy, and healthy holiday season. As always, we’re here if you need us.

What is Kombucha, and is it Really Healthy?

Is Kombucha Healthy.

It seemed, at first, that kombucha was only popping up at farmers’ markets and natural food stores. Now, it’s established on the shelves of big brand grocers and chain restaurant menus. What is this new, trendy wellness drink, and is it just one more here-today-gone-tomorrow health trend, or is it a genuinely healthy beverage that you should incorporate into your weekly meal planning? We’ve got the answers.

What is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented tea, and it’s anything other than new. In fact, kombucha has been around for thousands of years, dating back to, researchers believe, ancient China or Japan.

How is Kombucha Made?

To make kombucha, specific bacteria strains, sugar, and yeast are added to green or black tea and allowed to ferment for at least one week. During the fermentation process, the yeast and bacteria form a balloon-like film on the tea’s surface. The film becomes a living symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). By setting aside a sample of the film, producers can use it to create further batches of kombucha.

What are the Health Benefits of Kombucha?

Kombucha offers all the same health benefits as tea, plus a whole lot more.

  • Bioactive Compounds – Green tea includes polyphenols and other bioactive compounds. Studies have found that regular consumption of green tea offers such health benefits as controlled blood sugar, improved cholesterol, reduced belly fat, and improved calorie burn.
  • Probiotics – Kombucha is rich in probiotics, the same good-for-your-tummy bacteria, and yeast that you find in yogurt. Such bacteria may offer such health benefits as weight loss, reduced inflammation, and improved digestion.
  • Antioxidants – Kombucha is packed with antioxidants (like superfood blueberries) and can kill harmful bacteria, which helps it serve as part of your body’s immunity support team. Thanks to these powerful substances, studies have found that regularly drinking kombucha can reduce liver toxicity by at least 70 percent.
  • Acetic Acid – Kombucha’s fermentation process creates acetic acid, a substance also found in vinegar. The acetic acid is what gives kombucha its mild carbonation, and these acids can also help kill potentially harmful microorganisms, particularly infection-causing bacteria and candida yeast, which can cause fungal infections.
  • A Healthy Heart – Kombucha may help to reduce the risk of heart disease by helping to improve two heart disease markers, Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL) known as “bad cholesterol,” and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), known as “good cholesterol.”
  • Reduced Blood Sugar – Regular consumption of kombucha may help to regulate blood sugar, which is critical for those living with Type 2 Diabetes. Studies have found that kombucha may slow carbohydrate digestion, which reduces blood sugar levels and improves kidney and liver function.

It is essential to recognize that while kombucha has been around for centuries, and that preliminary studies are revealing potentially significant health benefits, the studies are just that—preliminary. Much still needs to be assessed about the health benefits of kombucha in longer-term research. As with any significant modification to your diet, before you make any changes, talk to your doctor. He or she can guide you toward the food and exercise lifestyle adjustments that will have the most significant impact on your overall health.

Three Ways to Stress Less on Gift-Giving This Holiday Season

Stress Free Holiday List

No matter the size of your family, whether you travel or host the season’s events, and splurge or save on gifts, overspending during the holidays can feel unavoidable. The month of December is inevitably filled with parties, gift exchanges, volunteer and donation drives, travel needs, and even local holiday festivals and festivities. While all these elements make the holidays the most wonderful time of the year, they also make the time between Thanksgiving and December one of the most expensive times of the year. One of the biggest budget breakers for most families is gift-giving. This season, don’t break the bank just to show your loved ones how much you care. Follow our budget-saving tips below to maximize your holiday joy without suffering buyer’s remorse in January.

1. Check Your Credit Score

Driven by feelings of altruism, many Americans splurge on gifts for their friends and family—relying on the payment procrastination offered by credit cards. Retailers and department stores also boost their line of credit sales goals at the end of the year. As a result, they dangle tempting offers in front of shoppers that promise to reduce their purchase price by opening a line of credit.

To help you avoid the lure of relying on plastic this season, check your credit score before you begin your holiday shopping. Credit utilization is the second highest factor in your credit score. If your credit score is lower than you’d like, then you may be better served not opening up additional lines of credit or maxing out your existing cards this season. Knowing where you stand financially will help you set your budget and keep from overspending.

2. Agree Collectively on Your Spending Strategy

For some, the reason why the overspend is out of a pressure to give as extravagant gifts as those around them. If you have one sibling who spoils all the cousins with expensive electronics, you may find yourself making purchases outside of your budget to try to compete with your sibling’s generosity. Have a candid conversation with your family to set agreed-upon guardrails around family spending. If appropriate, replicate the discussion with your group of friends, co-workers, neighbors, or fellow parents.

3. Create a List. Check it Twice.

Before you make your first-holiday purchase, create your gift recipient list. Some shoppers break their budget on the last few days before the holiday when they realize they forgot to buy someone (or someones). Under pressure to make the holiday deadline, they settle on spending outside their budget. Start your holiday shopping by identifying form whom you will be buying gifts.

Also, be strategic as to whether your gift-giving will be wide or deep. If you have a large family and network of friends and co-workers, then consider spending less per person. If you have a small family or only purchase gifts for your children, you can afford to spend more per person. White Elephant or Secret Santa exchanges are cost-saving options for people who want to go deep but have a large family.

Remember that while financial stress can negatively impact your health, spending time with your loved ones can be one of the best medicines for your mind, heart, and soul. Make this holiday not about what you buy, but who you’re with, and focus on what matters most.

Don’t Overstress this Holiday Season—Five Stress-Less Tips

The holiday season is the happiest time of the year, right? Unfortunately, for too many people, it’s fraught with anxiety, worry, and stress of every kind: financial, emotional, work, and time. According to a survey by Think Finance, forty-five percent of people would prefer to skip Christmas entirely. In addition, nearly twenty-five percent of Americans report feeling extreme stress levels when the end-of-year holidays approach, with 69 percent feeling stressed by lack of time, 69 percent feeling stressed by lack of money, and 51 percent feeling stressed by the pressure to give or receive gifts. Such feelings are certainly not aligned with the reason for the season.

Over time, stress can cause such serious health complications as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and anxiety, and the holiday season can exacerbate risk factors. Research from Sweden identified that the odds of a heart attack increased by nearly 40 percent on Christmas Eve.

This season, don’t let the holidays—or your health—be ruined by stressing over the big or little seasonal details. We’ve got five tips to help you prioritize and recontextualize your seasonal commitments so that you can truly enjoy the last month of the year and your time with friends and family.

  1. Create and Stick to a Budget. For many families, the cost of holiday gift-giving, travel, and hosting puts an uncomfortable pressure on their finances at year’s end. Create a holiday budget and stick to it. Include how much money you will spend on gifts for all your friends and family. If you’re part of a large family with lots of little ones, consider a white elephant or Secret Santa exchange to limit how much everyone spends on one another. The goal of the holidays should be to spend time together—not to spend money on each other. 
  1. Learn When to Say, No. If it hasn’t already, your calendar is about to blow up with holiday commitments. There are parties, shopping trips, cookie-baking, gift-wrapping, caroling, eight-days of menorah lighting, school concerts, volunteering and, simply, not enough time. Accept that you can’t be everywhere and you don’t have to RSVP yes to every invitation. Set boundaries with your friends and family and make sure you’re not putting too much stress on your calendar and spreading yourself too thin. You won’t enjoy any event in which you’re feeling overly stressed and run-down. 
  1. Stick to Your Routine. When your schedule gets full, it’s even more important to take time for yourself. Don’t give up you healthy routine during the month of December. Make sure you are exercising regularly, eating healthfully (extra cookie or two excluded), getting enough sleep at night, and making time for mindfulness practices, yoga, or meditation—whatever helps you to relax. 
  1. Scale Down. If your holiday stress comes from trying to do too much, sit down and prioritize where you most enjoy spending your time. Maybe bake three dozen cookies this year instead of five, or send holiday cards from an online stationery service rather than hand-writing them individually. No one can make everything from scratch and personalize every holiday detail­—not even Mrs. Claus. Be realistic and cut back where you can.
  1. Get Out and Get Some Sun. The days may be shorter, but you still need to get in your Vitamin D during the winter, especially during stressful holiday months. Weather-permitting, get outside daily, even if only for ten minutes. Walk your dog, take a short hike, or take a mid-day stroll around your business complex with your co-workers. Exposure to natural sunlight boosts the production of feel-good serotonin, helping you to ward-off holiday blues.

Remember, most importantly, that the holidays are about spending time with your loved ones, reflecting on what makes you feel grateful, and planning ahead for a new year. By making time for yourself, maintaining your healthy practices, and not overbooking your schedule, you can enjoy the very best of the holidays, without the stress. Cheers to that.