Keeping your family healthy is important for their well-being and happiness. No one likes feeling run down or sick. Whether you are a lawyer who doesn’t have enough time in the day or a stay at home parent, it is important to put the needs of your family first. Developing healthy habits will keep everyone feeling their best and out of urgent care as we move into the winter season.

There is a common pattern, when the temperature drops, more people are prone to getting sick. This could be anything from the common cold to a severe case of influenza. Viruses and other possible microbial intruders attempt to enter the body through the nasal passageway and break down the body’s safety barrier. Normally our bodies produce snot to help combat these potential viruses. The snot catches the pathogens and pushes it out of the nose using microscopic finger-like projections called cilia. When the seasons change and the cold air hits, it slows this process down and weakens what serves as the body’s first line of defense.

Protecting and maintaining the body’s first line of defense is key to preventing illness. This is why it’s especially important to secure a routine of healthy habits before heading into the winter. With a little planning, there are several ways you can help your family stay healthy and build healthy habits to last a lifetime.

Eat Healthy Foods

About 67% of millennial consumers claim they love ordering healthy food at restaurants, but why not save the money and eat at home? Eating healthy means something different for every person, but research shows careful dieting can reduce diseases like type II diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, and stroke.

When it comes to preventing the cold or flu, there are a few ways modifying your diet can help. If you have the option between taking supplements or eating the actual food, it is recommended you choose the food. People scarf down the concentrated pills of Vitamin C because it is known to assist the immune system. While Vitamin C might aid in preventing sickness, eating an actual orange will be more beneficial. It contains other nutrients alongside the Vitamin C that boosts the immune system more sufficiently than what the Vitamin C can do by itself.

In general, increasing your healthy habits to include more fruits and vegetables will benefit your diet. Different kinds of foods offer the body a variety of nutrients. Consuming enough protein is also necessary. Protein is what provides amino acids. These amino acids build up the immune system. If the immune system falters and you come down with a cold, it is important to eat when you can because the body needs the nutrition to fight off the infection. While you may be sedentary and not using some nutrient reserves, the body is still using energy to power the immune system.

Stay Active

Developing healthy habits early leads to positive long term care. In addition to eating a balanced diet, staying active keeps the body fit enough to fight infections. BBC released a report that suggested staying active reduces the chance of a cold by almost 50%. Data was taken from 1000 people over a three month period. Researchers observed fit people (those who exercised five times or more a week) and those that perceived themselves as fit, were sick for an average of five days over the three month period. Those that minimally exercised, or not at all, were sick for an average of nine days.

Exercise doesn’t have to mean running a marathon or running the fastest mile. Studies have shown a moderate level of activity may be sufficient enough to help reduce the possibility of colds. Increasing your overall fitness boosts the immune system. WebMD recommends a 20- to 30-minute walk every day or biking a few times a week. Just that much activity could be enough to make a noticeable difference in your health. The science behind these theories is that exercise increases the number of white blood cells in the body, the cells in the immune system responsible for attacking infections.

Schedule Dentist Appointments

Are you experiencing tooth pain or perhaps just in need of a regular check up? It may be time to visit the dentist. There is no better time to do so than when it is too cold to enjoy the outside weather. Most people should visit the dentist every six months for regular dental work. If you are experiencing pain or discomfort, you may require more frequent visits to diagnosis and fix the cause of the discomfort.

Like the nose, the mouth is another entryway for bacteria and microbes to invade the body. Regular brushing helps cleanse your mouth of such invaders. Saliva helps wash away or neutralize the bacteria that form. If bacteria pile up, it can affect your overall health. To keep up with oral hygiene, brush twice daily, floss between all teeth, use mouthwash to remove any lingering particles, and replace your toothbrush about every three months. If you get a cold, be sure to dispose of the toothbrush as well. Those germs will linger among the bristles and make the recovery process longer. Between brushes, remember your healthy habits and avoid sugary foods. They attack the enamel on the tooth and make it more susceptible to decay.

Schedule Eye Doctor Appointments

When was the last time you visited the eye doctor? It can be an easily forgotten task. Make an appointment this winter for the whole family to have their eyes checked. A routine check up is recommended every two years for people between the ages of 18 and 60. After 60, it is recommended to visit the eye doctor every year. Just like the dentist, if you suspect any issues or experience abnormal pain, you may need to visit the doctor on a more frequent basis.

Eyesight should not be taken lightly. A family history of eye problems will make you more prone to future issues. If you could inherit eye problems, consult a professional for advice at the first sign of unusual discomfort. Signs you may need to visit an eye doctor include experiencing headaches, far- or nearsightedness, double vision, trouble seeing in the dark, halos when you are in the light, or if you are constantly squinting.

Doctors Appointments and the Flu Shot

While you’re making appointments for the dentist and the eye doctor, you might as well catch up with your regular family physician. They can suggest additional healthy habits to follow. During this visit, ask about the flu shot. Signing your family up to receive a flu shot each year should become part of your regular healthy habits.

Every year the flu strain changes, but the Center for Disease Control recommends the best protection against the flu is vaccination. Benefits include a reduction in severity, reduced need for hospitalization, and even full prevention from contracting the flu. Getting the vaccine also may help protect the vulnerable populations that surround you.

Once you receive the vaccination, the body will develop antibodies about two weeks later. The vaccination is designed to protect against the influenza viruses that are projected to be the most common this season according to data and research. It is recommended that anyone over the age of 6 months should be administered a yearly flu shot. Those that are more susceptible to the flu and its consequences are especially encouraged. Highly susceptible populations usually include young children, older peoples, and those with pre-existing health conditions.

Home and Work Environment

Despite how often you clean or how careful you are about dusting, dirt particles spiral around your house and multiply like bunnies. The best way to keep the dust down is to regularly clean your spiral ducts and check your ventilation system in the house. Spiral ducts are the passageways that allow air in and out of your ventilation system. Typically they are made from galvanized steel, but aluminum is also common.

Sick-Building Syndrome was first seen in and associated with business buildings. A building was considered a “sick building” if 20% or more of the employees experienced adverse health conditions. This condition of the building was caused by dirty, poor ventilation systems and airtight buildings. There was a push in the 1970s to reduce the amount of energy used for heating and cooling. In order to accomplish this, buildings became almost sealed housing units to prevent air from escaping. If it was contained, it was likely to stay at the desired temperature and reduce the amount of energy being used to keep it there.

The heaters, AC systems, and other accessories used to circulate the air simultaneously polluted the air. The activities and factory processes that took place within the buildings only added to the pollution that was then trapped and circulated inside, causing the sick-building syndrome to occur. Today, regulations are put in place to ensure indoor air quality is safe for all workers.

Even though businesses are more likely to experience the syndrome, it is still important to think about your own home. Inspect your spiral ducts often and clean them if it is warranted. Air filters of the highest quality available should be used and changed regularly. The filters trap the dust particles and let the air flow into the home. Watch out for any leaks or dampness as well. If you suspect there might be a hole somewhere, locate the spot and fix it immediately before it becomes a bigger problem.

Take a Family Vacation

At the end of the day, sometimes the best medicine for a happy family is to take time off from the daily grind and go on a family vacation. Part of keeping healthy habits is keeping the mind free of stress. Get out of the regular neighborhood and city to see a new part of the world. Going new places together changes the family dynamics and will create lasting memories. U.S. News ranked the top 21 places for family vacations. The top three were Walt Disneyland in Orlando, Florida; Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming; and Destin, Florida.

There’s no place happier than Walt Disney World. The theme park is geared towards pleasing every member of the family with thrilling amusement park rides, dressed characters wandering around, fun souvenirs to take home, and delicious food. Surrounding Disney is a plethora of other theme park resorts such as Universal Studios and Discovery Cove. There is certainly something for everyone. The summer is a busy time for these parks, but choosing a time in March or November could be the perfect time for a family getaway.

Yellowstone was the first national park born on March 1, 1872. Glaciers that passed through years ago shaped its historical landscape along with rock erosion and sedimentation. The park is a land of hydro-thermal wonders and home to the world-famous geyser, Old Faithful. Take the kids for a long hike around the trails, explore the unique ecosystem, and be sure to stay on the marked paths.

Destin, Florida is known for its relaxing atmosphere, friendly for the whole family. If you want to escape to the beach and build sandcastles with the kids, check out Henderson Beach State Park. If you tire of the beach, check out the two main attractions: Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park with rides and water slides for the kids and Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park with marine animals and dolphins.

Find a place the whole family can enjoy and everyone will come back rested and ready to take on the winter.

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Healthy Habits this Winter

Ensuring your family members stay healthy doesn’t have to be hard. It begins with practicing healthy habits at home which are as simple as eating nutritious meals and staying active. Keep up on routine appointments such as visiting the eye doctor, the dentist, and the family physician for regular vaccinations. Make sure your environment is as pollutant-free as possible. Clean air ducts in the home and if all else fails, take a vacation. It will help boost morale and mental health to get away from the daily stress in life.

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