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Baby Boomer Articles - Health and Fitness Health and Fitness
No previous generation has been as focused on health and wellness as Baby Boomers. This section is devoted to helping you stay healthy and fit, while also making sense of the information overload.
Staying Healthy and Safe

(Editor’s Note: The following helpful information was provided by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and the Pitt Schools of the Health Sciences. Please read for some important tips and information on staying healthy and safe this winter.)


How to exercise safely in cold conditions


Whether you’re training for a competitive race or just an avid runner, you should know that temperatures don’t have to be in the freezing range to cause hypothermia during long runs, especially in windy or humid conditions. Kathleen Nachazel, certified athletic trainer, UPMC Center for Sports Medicine, and Medical Operations Manager, Dick’s Sporting Goods/Pittsburgh Marathon, offers tips for staying safe while outdoors at this time of year.


  • You may be more accustomed to the cold in mid-winter, so be sure to dress warmly even though temperatures may not feel as cold as they are. Dress in several layers of light, loose and water- and wind-resistant clothing, and completely cover your head to reduce the loss of body heat. For keeping your hands warm, mittens are better than gloves. 
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Most would not think of dehydration during winter, but loss of fluids during exercise or play in cold conditions can accelerate hypothermia.
  • Warm up thoroughly prior to heading outside. Cold muscles, tendons and ligaments are more likely to be injured.


Keep your New Year’s resolution for eating right


Many who set New Year’s resolutions aim too high, ultimately setting themselves up for failure. If you have resolved to eat healthier or lose weight in 2009, Leslie Bonci, R.D., director of sports nutrition, UPMC Center for Sports Medicine, suggests ways to set realistic goals.


  • If you want to drop pounds, set weekly goals, rather than resolving to lose a set amount. For instance, aim to lose a half-pound per week -- that’s two pounds per month or 24 pounds per year. To achieve this, you would need to eat only about 250 calories less per day.
  • Don’t keep hard-to-resist foods in your desk or car, and clean out your cupboards, refrigerator and freezer at home. Beware: the more food choices you have, the more you will eat!
  • People who monitor their eating are more successful, so track everything -- not just what you eat and drink, but how much, the time of day and even how you feel after the fact. You can track your eating online, on paper or through your voice mail.
  • Change your eating environment to be successful. Bring your lunch to work, and cook healthy meals at home. Bonus points: Chopping, cooking and cleaning up burn extra calories!

 Shovel snow safely


Though it’s a must after a winter storm, shoveling snow can be dangerous and should be approached with caution. Aryan Aiyer, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, UPMC Cardiovascular Institute, and Vonda Wright, M.D., orthopaedic surgeon, UPMC Center for Sports Medicine, offer advice to help you shovel snow safely and avoid heart and musculoskeletal complications.


  • Take your time while shoveling, and take frequent breaks. There’s no need to shovel the entire driveway in 10 minutes.
  • Lift the shovel with your legs rather than with your shoulders. If you can’t hold a conversation while shoveling, you’re working too hard and could be putting unnecessary stress on the body.
  • Don’t pile too much snow on the shovel.  Snow actually weighs a lot and lifting too much can put undue stress on your heart -- not to mention your back.
  • If you experience chest pain while shoveling snow, stop immediately and go inside and rest. Do not go back to snow shoveling. Discuss any symptoms with your doctor.
  • Call 911 immediately if chest pain or other heart attack symptoms persist.

Frostbite prevention

  • Frostbite can affect anyone exposed to below freezing temperatures, especially when conditions are windy or humid. Preventing frostbite is possible and proper identification of frostbite is the first step toward successful treatment, according to Alain Corcos, M.D., trauma director, UPMC Mercy.
  • Before exposure to freezing temperatures, bundle in warm, layered and loose-fitting clothing, making sure to protect the head, face, hands and feet. Be sure to stay dry since wet clothing or skin can increase your frostbite risk. If possible, go inside periodically to warm up.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol before or during exposure to cold weather since alcohol may prevent you from realizing that your body is becoming too cold.
  • Get out of the cold at the first sign of pain, or if skin turns red, blue or white.
  • Early frostbite is characterized by waxy, white and hard skin that feels numb and has a persistent burning sensation. If you have early frostbite, do not touch or apply heat to the affected areas. Instead, soak the area in warm water (between 101 and 104 degrees) until it becomes pink. Avoid further exposure to the cold, and seek medical attention as soon as possible for a thorough exam and additional treatment.
  • In more severe cases, frostbitten skin will become blue and mottled or splotchy. Severe frostbite requires immediate medical attention. 

Medication safety


The New Year is a perfect time to ensure that your medications are organized, stored safely and easily accessible in case of emergency. Robert J. Weber, associate professor, University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy, and chief pharmacy officer, UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside, offers medicine storage and safety tips.


  • Despite its name, the bathroom medicine cabinet is no place for your medication, as heat and moisture may cause damage. Instead, keep medication in a cool dry place, such as a kitchen cupboard or a locking cabinet if you have children.
  • Keep a list of all of your medications in your wallet near your identification card. The list should include the name of the drug, dosage instructions and the condition treated with the drug. Also include your doctor’s name and phone number.
  • Frequently update the list with any new medications, allergies or side effects.
  • Dispose of any medications that you no longer take. Discard the pills into one garbage can and place the prescription bottle in another. 

Prepare for severe winter weather at home and away


When winter temperatures drop significantly below normal, staying warm and safe can become a challenge. Don Yealy, M.D., professor and vice chair, Department of Emergency Medicine, UPMC, says one of the best ways to plan for winter emergencies is to stock up on supplies in both your home and car.


  • In case of a power failure or getting snowed in at home, be sure to have a safe alternative heating source (such as dry wood if you have a fireplace); blankets; matches; a multipurpose, dry-chemical fire extinguisher; flashlights with extra batteries; a battery powered radio; extra non-perishable food; bottled water; a first-aid kit; a battery powered clock or watch; a non-electric can opener; a snow shovel; rock salt; and special needs items, such as diapers and medicines. 
  • Keep a cold-weather emergency kit in your car. The kit should include blankets; a first-aid kit; a can and waterproof matches (to melt snow for water); a windshield scraper; jumper cables; medications; road maps; a compass; a tool kit; a bag of sand or cat litter (for added traction); tire chains (in areas with heavy snow); a collapsible shovel; high-calorie canned or dried foods and a can opener; a flashlight with extra batteries; a can of compressed air with sealant (for emergency tire repair); a brightly colored cloth; a tow rope; extra clothing to keep dry; and a cell phone. In addition, fully check and winterize your vehicle before winter begins.

Suggestions for seniors in dealing with the cold


According to Robert Palmer, M.D. and a geriatrician at UPMC Senior Care, seniors have limited natural protection from the cold, due to having thinner skin and less body fat than younger adults. Dr. Palmer urges seniors to take extra precautions to avoid hypothermia, a low body temperature that can cause symptoms as mild as cold fingertips or as severe as confusion or coma.


  • Stay indoors as much as possible to help reduce the risk of cold-related injury or illness.
  • If you must venture outdoors, dress in loose fitting layers of long underwear, wool and fleece.
  • Wear insulated gloves and a hat, since up to 50 percent of body heat escapes through the head.
  • Wear insulated boots with rubber treads to maintain your footing.
  • Wrap a scarf around your mouth to help protect your lungs against cold air.
  • Know the symptoms of hypothermia: exhaustion, dizziness, drowsiness, disorientation, severe shivering and confusion. Call 911 immediately if you are experiencing these symptoms.

For more information, visit www.upmc.com.


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