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DOH gives tips for a healthy holiday season

By: - Reporter / @mj_uyINQ
/ 06:36 PM December 09, 2011

MANILA, Philippines—Avoid the Christmas rush, prepare more salads and fruits for Noche Buena and if possible, pass up returning to the buffet table for a second helping.

Concerned over the prevalence of heart attack cases during the holiday season, the Department of Health Friday issued a wide range of tips to make Christmas and New Year celebrations among Filipinos healthier and merrier.

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In a press conference Friday, heart experts said over time, the Christmas season–the longest celebration in the country–has been “bad for the health” of Filipinos, particularly those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and existing heart conditions.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona advised the public to watch out for their health during the protracted holiday festivities to prevent and control non-communicable diseases or lifestyle-related diseases.

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Citing a study of the Philippine Health Statistics in 2006, Ona said NCDs are the top leading causes of death in the country.  These include cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic lower respiratory diseases and diabetes.

These diseases are linked to four “most common but preventable” risk factors: smoking, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity and alcohol use,” said Ona.

People around this time of the year tend to overindulge in food and alcohol and go through unnecessary stress due to heavy traffic and worrying about Christmas shopping and their budget, according to Dr. Dante Morales, a cardiologist.

Usually, heart attack and stroke incidents peak from December to January, noted Morales, also president of the Philippine Society of Hypertension and senior vice president of the Manila Doctors Hospital.

“The source of stress often comes from the rushed holiday preparations, from buying gifts and worrying about the lack of money,” said Morales. “People around this time of the year also neglect the observance of a healthy lifestyle by overindulging in food and alcohol during parties.”

Merrymakers with heart conditions and diabetes, among other non-communicable diseases, also tend to neglect their maintenance medicines, he said.

He also cited studies in the US showing that the peak of heart diseases occurs during the Christmas season, particularly four to five days after Christmas Day.

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“While there are no similar studies yet in the Philippines, we have observed the same trend in our hospitals,” added the cardiologist.

Dr. Norbert Lingling-Uy, also a cardiologist, said revelers must also be conscious about the food served in parties or during Noche Buena or Media Noche.

While the usual Christmas staple such as lechon (roasted pig), ham and fried chicken cannot be avoided, at least 30 percent of the food served must consist of fruits and vegetables, said Uy, president of the Philippine College of Physicians.

Among the healthy dishes that can be served during the holiday festivities include steamed fish, baked chicken, instead of fried and a vegetable garden salad with vinaigrette. Skip the mayonnaise please, added the health experts.

Another alternative for the usual meat-loaded pasta is seafood pasta, they said.

The DOH also enumerated 12 ways of ensuring a healthy and stress-free holiday season:

*  Prepare early, avoid the Christmas rush to prevent stress

*  Give children toys that are safe and appropriate to their age and abilities

*  Buy only legitimate and registered food and toy products to ensure safety

*  Prepare healthy food, including vegetables and fruits, for Noche Buena and Media Noche

*  Make sure that meals to be served are unspoiled and fresh to avoid food poisoning

*  Be sure to eat moderately when attending parties

*  Skip fatty and salty foods for a healthy heart

*  Stay sober and drink moderately. Do not drink and drive

*  Engage in regular exercise like jogging, walking and dancing to keep fit.

*  Have enough rest and sleep

*  Avoid firecracker-related injuries

*  Start a new culture of celebrating Christmas and greeting the New Year by mounting organized fireworks display in villages or town plazas.

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TAGS: Christmas, Health, Heart Diseases, Noche Buena
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