It’s easy to overdo it with alcohol and junk food over the festive season, so December’s Healthy Peterborough campaign is offering tips and advice on staying healthy, happy and safe.
The festive season can be a time to relax and socialise, but drinking too much too quickly at Christmas parties and family celebrations can increase your risk of misjudging risky situations, of accidents resulting in injury and causing death in some cases, and of losing self-control.
To reduce such risks, it’s best to limit how much you drink and make sure you have something to eat. Alternating alcohol with water or non-alcoholic drinks and drinking more slowly can also make a difference.
After a few drinks, the urge to smoke a few extra cigarettes, or even to start smoking again can be a problem for some.
If you’re struggling with willpower, or decide that now is the time to quit, the Stop Smoking Service can offer support and provide access to medications which will help increase your chances of successfully stopping. You can call them on 0800 376 56 55 for free support and advice.
Some people may try a new drug for the first time while under the influence of alcohol, opening themselves up to significant risks. You may feel pressured to try them but remember, most people don’t take drugs, so if you refuse you’re in the majority.
Since May 2016, it’s been illegal to supply drugs that used to be known as ‘legal highs’. These drugs come with little or no research into their effects, and in some cases can be as harmful as drugs which have been classed as ‘illegal’ for a long time. More information is available at www.talktofrank.com
Drink spiking is a risk, so never accept a drink from someone you don’t know or leave your drink unattended.
Getting carried away after a few drinks can lead to unsafe sex and you may find yourself with an unwanted present of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or pregnancy. You can get free condoms, emergency contraception, or get checked and treated for STIs at the Integrated Contraception and Sexual Health (iCaSH) clinic at Kings Chambers, 39-41 Priestgate, PE1 1JL. The service is free and confidential, even if you are under 16. You can also get free online chlamydia testing at www.freetestme.com.
For some of us Christmas can be a lonely time of year if we are spending it alone. Try not to let the season get you down, and try to keep yourself as busy as you can by getting out to visit people, or if you have spare time you could spend a few hours volunteering. For information on local opportunities, visit www.do-it.org, ask at your local library or look for adverts in the local paper.
It might also help to speak to someone completely removed from your situation. Some organisations, such as Mind or the Samaritans, have befriending services and offer confidential support over the phone.
It’s not just alcohol which can cause health problems in the festive season – many of us will put on weight over Christmas. It’s easy to eat 6,000 calories on Christmas Day alone, which is about three times as many as we need. But you can make this festive season a healthy one and still enjoy delicious food, for example by including plenty of vegetables as part of Christmas dinner and starting the day with a healthy breakfast to help avoid snacking throughout the morning. And just because it’s Christmas, don’t forget to have your five portions of fruit and vegetables each day.
Councillor Diane Lamb, cabinet member for public health, said: “Christmas is a time for celebrating with friends and family, but it’s important that we all know our limits to make sure we have a healthy, happy and safe festive season.
“At this time of year, it’s not just overeating and drinking to excess which can affect our health. With a busy schedule of parties and events, it’s easy to forget to incorporate some physical activity into the day. It’s particularly important at this time of year to aim to do your 150 minutes of exercise each week to help burn off some excess calories. Try a post-dinner walk with the family or take them ice-skating or swimming.”
Winter is also the time for colds and flu. If you are over 65, are pregnant, or have a long-term condition you are entitled to a free NHS flu vaccine, so make sure you take this up through your GP surgery or some local pharmacies.
Dr Liz Robin, director of public health at Peterborough City Council, said: “The best way to protect yourself from bad colds and flu is to have a healthy lifestyle – eating a balanced diet, taking regular exercise and drinking plenty of warm drinks in the winter months. Cold temperatures won’t give you a cold on their own – but getting cold does allow the viruses which cause the common cold to multiply more quickly.
“If you are an older person, a young child or have an ongoing health problem, cold winter weather can be bad for your health. Getting too cold can increase your risk of chest infections, and can also raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. There are simple things you can do to reduce these risks and stay warm and well, for example check that your boiler is working properly before the weather gets really cold, wear plenty of layers of light clothes which will trap warm air, and heat your home to at least 18 degrees.”
For more advice about staying healthy, happy and safe this festive season, visit www.healthypeterborough.org.uk.