GIVE THE GIFT OF HEALTH TO YOURSELF
Sure, it’s the season of giving, but what about that most special of gift recipients—you? This season, ConsumerReportsHealth.org is recommending 12 health-enhancing gifts you can feel good about buying yourself this holiday season or anytime. All are based on the organization’s independent testing and research, so you know they’re worth buying. Feel guilty about treating yourself? Don’t: Two-thirds of Americans we surveyed in November who planned to shop Black Friday weekend said they intended to get something for themselves. Log on to www.ConsumerReportsHealth.org for our list of gifts to help you look and feel your best.
MAKE SURE THE EVIDENCE IS ON YOUR SIDE WHEN TAKING A PRESCRIPTION DRUG
Doctors can legally prescribe medications for any disease or condition they see fit, not just for the reasons approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Such off-label use is often perfectly justified, but many times it’s not. Yet doctors frequently don’t even know when they’re prescribing drugs off label, according to a recent study. For example, 25% of the doctors who prescribed the antidepressant paroxetine (Paxil and generic) for bipolar disorder thought the drug was approved for that purpose. But evidence suggests that it’s ineffective for that use. There’s plenty of steps consumers can take to find out if a drug is being prescribed for an off-label use. First of all, open up the lines of communication with your doctor and find out if the drug in question is being prescribed off-label. If he or she doesn’t know, then ask your pharmacist before you fill the prescription. In general, you should use a drug off-label only if doing so has supporting evidence and if approved treatments have been ineffective or unavailable. For more details about prescription drugs, log on to www.ConsumerReportsHealth.org and click on the prescription drug tab.
As we ease into winter we sometimes change the very lifestyle habits that go hand in hand with better health. Some tips for weathering winter: Don’t forget your doctor. One reason mortality rates increase during the holidays is that people are so busy with family and friends that they delay seeking care. Warm up, then bundle up. You can prevent the jump in blood pressure that can occur with sudden exertion in cold air by warming up inside, preferably by moving your muscles the same way you would outside. Take a morning walk. An hour’s exposure to early–morning sunlight may help prevent or ease mild winter doldrums. Watch your step. To reduce the risk of falling on an icy sidewalk, bend your knees and take tiny sideways steps. Finally, remember to take your sunshine vitamin. In the winter, the sun isn’t intense enough in the northern states to stimulate production of vitamin D. Aim for 800 to 1,000 international units daily.
HAND WASHING AND SINGING TO STAY HEALTHY
Consumer Reports Health notes that nearly 40% of Americans seldom or never wash their hands after coughing or sneezing. Public health experts say that proper hand washing could save more than a million lives a year worldwide. Proper hand washing entails washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, about as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. To view a video about hand washing, go to www.ConsumerReportsHealth.org and click on “videos.” The most important times to wash are:
- Before preparing or eating food.
- After going to the bathroom, changing a diaper, carrying dirty laundry to the washing machine, blowing your nose, coughing, handling garbage, sneezing, or taking care of an animal.
- Before and after tending to a cut or wound, or having close contact with someone who is ill.