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Our final post in our Staying Healthy series for Alpha-1 Awareness Month is full of tips for the coming holiday season. Thanks for following along, getting active and learning along with us! If you missed any of our daily posts, please check out (and like) our Facebook page:

12 tips to stay healthy over the holidays:

  1. Be Wary of Dusty Ornaments – Getting the decorations out of storage can produce some nostalgic memories, but it can also produce a lot of dust! Be sure to wear a scarf, mask, or bandana to protect against particles. Also be sure to ask your doctor about the proper use of your rescue inhaler. Make sure you thoroughly clean the dust off your ornaments too.
  2. Keep Scented Candles Unlit – Plenty of people love to break out scented candles during a holiday party. They may smell good – but they can irritate the lungs of someone who has been diagnosed with COPD or has allergies. Don’t be shy about explaining this fact to your host and ask if they’d be willing to keep them unlit for their party.
  3. Rinse the Pollen from the Tree – Real Christmas trees are beautiful but they also tend to carry pollen spores and mold. These can trigger serious breathing problems for COPD patients. If you do go with a real tree this year – rinse it off and let it dry out before bringing it inside.
  4. Cut Out the Stress – Pressure to purchase the right gifts, decorate festively, spend time with challenging family members, and survive business parties all contribute to holiday stress. Unfortunately, stress has a negative impact on your health, including your lungs and liver. When people feel stressed, natural killer cells are expanded in the liver – which contributes to liver cell death. Recognizing ahead of time that December might get stressful can urge you to be proactive. Scheduling time strictly geared towards relaxation (such as meditating, doing yoga, taking a peaceful hike, singing Christmas carols, watching a funny movie, receiving massage or acupuncture, or soaking in a hot tub) can ease the burden of stress on your liver.
  5. Don’t Overdo It – You can still be the life of the party, without expending too much energy. If you feel the need to contribute, make sure it can be done comfortably (preferably sitting down). If attending something like a concert or church service, make sure you can park close and have convenient seating. If hosting an event, rely on family members and friends to do the “heavy lifting.” Potluck dinners are never a bad idea and allow your friends the opportunity to feel like they are contributing to the party. Give yourself plenty of time to get ready, travel, and arrive at the venue early. Rushing will just cause you to get out of breath more quickly, and anxiety will hurt your breathing! Make sure you are not sitting near an area with fumes, strong scents or stale air – or especially near a fireplace!
  6. Limit Your Shopping to What’s Absolutely Necessary – As an Alpha, it is never advisable to be out among large groups of people, especially during flu season. Thankfully, we are in the age of the internet where we can do much of our shopping from the comfort and safety of our home! Many of the largest retailers have excellent websites featuring many of the items they carry in their stores that can be easily purchased, usually with free shipping! The sites often also offer easy returns and gift certificates.
  7. Watch What You Eat! – Eating too much can worsen your breathing. Pace yourself! Eat small portions so you don’t feel bloated. High-fat and high-sugar foods can also affect your liver. Besides contributing to the progression of NAFLD (fatty liver), these kinds of foods exacerbate the inflammatory process in the liver – a precursor to liver cell injury. If you choose to indulge in a high-fat or high-sugar food, do so sparingly. Make the rest of your meal count towards liver health by choosing fresh vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and lean meat or fish.
  8. Limit the Alcohol – The holidays are known for overindulgence in alcohol. We know that alcohol has a direct negative impact on the liver – especially if you have liver issues. As the liver breaks down alcohol, the byproducts actually kill liver cells. Ideally, alcohol should be completely eliminated, but if you are going to drink, consider consuming a large glass of water alongside your alcoholic drink to dilute its potency in your liver.
  9. Dress Appropriately – Cold weather and COPD are not usually a good combination, so dress warmly for both the expected outdoor temperatures and the indoor ones. If you use supplemental oxygen make sure that you keep your oxygen hose under a layer of clothing so that the air you breathe will be warmer. Also, consider a scarf or facemask to make breathing colder air easier.
  10. Get Enough Sleep – Studies have shown that lack of sleep can affect our health in many different ways, so if you start to feel overwhelmed or fatigued don’t be afraid to draw some lines. If you allow yourself to overdo it, you will weaken your body making it susceptible to illness and might cause you to have to take downtime to recover. Don’t feel guilty about calling it a night early. If company is coming to stay, don’t feel bad about asking for help to prepare and then be ready to let some things go once they’re there. They’re coming to spend time with you, after all, not your immaculate house!
  11. Keep Up with Your Exercise! – You don’t want to lose all the progress you’ve made over the holidays. Even if you’re travelling or visiting with family, it’s important to get in some moderate exercise so as not to lose lung function.

    A primary concern regarding exercise when travelling is access and altitude. If facilities and equipment are not available where you’re staying; a walking program can be substituted. Walking can be done anytime and anywhere.

    High altitude locations present a different challenge. The air we breathe becomes less dense at higher altitudes. If you’ll be staying in a city at a higher altitude than what you’re used to, be aware that your shortness of breath and other symptoms may be increased. Monitoring your perceived dyspnea will allow you to exercise in the range that is safe for you. Remember that exercising at moderate levels is adequate for maintaining fitness. If you have an oximeter, you may wish to use it to determine if your oxygen saturation has changed at the new altitude. You can then adjust your effort to meet your exercise prescription and your oxygen needs.
  12. Remember to Enjoy the Holidays! – By keeping these tips in mind, you should be able to avoid many of the pitfalls that can ruin the holidays. We want to leave you with one last recommendation: live in the moment. Enjoy yourself and soak up the cozy holiday spirit with friends and family. As the old saying goes – we are promised today, nothing else. ?