Dr. Kevin Most: Health conscious Christmas gifts
Each year we try to come up with a few Christmas Gifts that are health related and so much more appreciated than that sweater you will never wear. A gift that actually may impact the health of the friend or family member will often be appreciated well beyond the 15 day Christmas gift impact that many gifts carry. As we think of gifts that are health related we will certainly discuss some of the more common ones but this year we will also look at some technology based gifts that impact your overall wellness.
Now many of you may find something as simple as the fruit of the month club as a boring gift. However it is widely popular as it is a health related gift and a reminder throughout the year to eat healthy. The companies that do this will be shipping great fruit based on the pattern you choose. You can go as low as 3 months out of the year for around $100, all the way to a monthly delivery that will cost you a little over $400. Fruit of the Month and Harry and David are probably the two most popular companies doing this.
We have discussed that health benefits of red wine and there are many companies that will ship wine every month as well.
Now if you are not focused on health, you can always do Bacon of the month club, cookie of the month club, BBQ sauce of the month or dessert of the month club. These may be fun but really don’t fit in the health related gift bucket
Technology is really starting to have a focus on our health, it was only a few years ago that we had the Nike Fuel band, and all it did was essentially count our steps. We now have wearable devices that monitor our heart rate, measure calories burned, can be worn swimming, tracks our sleep patterns, reminds us to get up and move and allows you to answer your phone or send texts. We have come very far in a short time with these devices. They are made by many different companies and you will find a wide price range from around $100 all the way to the $800 Apple watch. This is a great gift but make sure you understand the individual receiving it and what their needs are when it comes to a device like this.
MUSE is a new technology that helps you teach yourself to meditate and relax by using a monitoring of your brain activity. It is actually a very cool concept. It is a piece of equipment that is worn across your forehead, it has monitors that track your brain activity called an EEG. This tool measures brain activity similar to what a heart monitor does, it measures the activity in your brain. It then gives you audio feedback to help you relax. When your brain is racing with many thoughts the sounds emitted are that of a fierce storm as you relax the storm subsides and you hear gentle calming weather. It is a tool that helps you learn to meditate and relax. This is a gift that can be used thru the year when an individual feels stressed beyond the normal holiday stress.
As we get stressed we know that our blood pressure rises. High blood pressure is very detrimental to our overall health. It does damage to our kidneys, our eyes and most importantly our heart. Estimates are that close to 20 million Americans have high blood pressure and don’t even know it. As there are no outward signs of high blood pressure they are essentially “hiding in plain sight” and don’t even know it. BP monitor sets are a great gift for the patient who is known to have high blood pressure as well as for any adult. One in three adults in the US has high blood pressure, so this is a gift that has a chance to make an impact on a family. I personally own an Omron Blood pressure monitor. On Thanksgiving all of my nieces and nephews wanted their Blood pressure checked, just that awareness is worth the cost. Make sure you get an upper arm unit as they are more accurate. Cost for these ranges from $50- 100. They often have apps so you can share the results with family, friends or your physician.
We have discussed stress a few times this past year and the impact it can make on our lives. It is not good for our heart or for our mental health. We talk about ways to relax and gifts that may help you relax have a wide variety of experience as well as cost. A few lower cost items include the concept of aromatherapy. This has been shown to decrease anxiety and help with sleep patterns by using essential oils. These are made from flowers and other plants, the fragrance are its essence and thus they are essential oils. These have been shown to ease stress, improve sleep and in many cases treat pain. These have a wide spectrum of costs that start as low as $20 but can go into the $100’s for some.
Yoga has also been shown to help with stress as well as flexibility. The great thing about yoga is that it can be an inexpensive gift that can be done at home, can be advanced thru the year, is great for your health and is fairly inexpensive. For the individual who has never done yoga, a simple yoga mat and DVD of yoga positions can be a great starting gift. Purchasing yoga classes at a studio can backfire as many individuals are intimidated by the classes and may need to ease into classes. This is a great gift for the golfer who wants to work out in the winter and work on core and flexibility. The combo of a mat and DVD can be found for under $50
In this time of video games, soccer tournaments, volleyball games, we often lose the importance of family time. If you remember as a child the family trip to the amusement park or the family day skiing, they are often your fondest memories. These experiences are often much more memorable than a gift. With the busy schedules everyone has a great gift is to plan a family outing. It may be as simple as a special picnic. This is a great gift for the family. It is often great for the mental health of all, it gives immediate pleasure with the thought of the event. It can eliminate the stress of actually buying a gift. The planning builds interactions with children and communication that are often missing. It gives families something to look forward to which helps as we struggle thru the winter. Often these are the gifts that are remembered for a lifetime, which impacts your mental health and probably your blood pressure.
I think those of you who listen regularly know that when it comes to winter I am a big fan of mittens over gloves. Mittens allow your fingers to stay warmer as they will warm each other, they also allow for more flexibility. I am a big fan of a mitten called “Hand Out” the great thing about this mitten is it has a zipper on the top of the glove which allows you to get your fingers out to answer the phone or use your hand without taking you glove off. These are very well made and high quality. I personally wear the Hand Out Glove Pro Mitten.
If it is not really cold out, or if you are buying a gift for a runner, consider gloves that are breathable and can also provide touchscreen capabilities so you don’t have to take off your gloves to answer the phone, or change your music. This is a gift that encourages activity and can be a simple stocking stuffer. They cost around $25
American Heart Association cookbook is a great gift. This cookbook has great recipes and teaches you how to cook heart healthy
Infusion pitchers and smoothie makers are very popular now. We all are trying to stay hydrated as we know the health benefits of hydration. Two inexpensive and popular gifts for this are individual smoothie makers and infusion pitchers where fruits and vegetables can be used to increase the nutrients as well as the taste of your fluids. Both of these items can be found for under $25
I strongly disagree with a piece of exercise equipment or a health club membership as a gift unless the individual who would receive the gift has actually done all of the home work. Not every elliptical feels the same, not every treadmill has the same capabilities. Not every health club has the feel or equipment the person wants. These gifts often end up being overpriced clothes hangers or monthly expenses that are never used.
Boxing as an exercise is getting more popular, is inexpensive and can be done at home. Boxing has been known to be a good aerobic exercise, it helps lower blood pressure, decrease the chance of diabetes and strengthen both bones and muscles. Boxing allows for High Intensity Training which is popular now. It also is one of the best ways for stress relief. So a set of boxing gloves and target gloves is a great gift. This is also a great exercise for Parkinson’s patients and a great gift for them. The cost for this can be under $50 but high quality can reach much higher.
A gift card for a new pair of gym shoes or a gift certificate for a new set of earphones can also promote exercise and activity, but again let the receiver choose the shoes or ear phones as this is a personal fit choice