Give the Gift of Health This Holiday Season

HYANNIS – Christmas is coming fast and it always feels good to find the right gift—a present that says ‘you’re special to me.’ Gifts that support wellness are truly gifts from the heart, for the heart.

Here’s a rundown of some presents that can help your loved one start the new year off in a healthy way.

Blood Pressure Monitor

TheAmerican Heart Associationrecommends home monitoring for anyone who has high blood pressure. Taking your own blood pressure helps put you in control of your own health and gives you valuable readings to share with your doctor.

“I love the idea of giving someone a blood pressure cuff! What a great present,” saidPeter Crosson, MD, an internal medicine physician atEmerald Physiciansin West Yarmouth “Being able to monitor your own blood pressure at home helps you work in collaboration with your physician. I encourage my patients to bring their blood pressure cuffs to the office; we’ll make sure they’re accurate, and we can read the last few entries to track their readings.”

At-home blood pressure readings can help with “white coat hypertension,” Dr. Crosson said.

“For instance, I have one patient who is always 170/90 in the office (120/80 is the new normal for blood pressure). At home, she’s 110/70. That’s the perfect reason for giving blood pressure cuffs to your family and friends,” he said.

There are also apps that allow your blood pressure cuff to send the information to your smart phone, and some patients are bringing their readings in to the office that way, he said.

[HOW TO: Heart.org explains how to read your blood pressure at home]

Dr. Crosson encourages yearly blood pressure checks with your physician, regardless of what you are measuring at home.

“Don’t stop taking blood pressure medication without consulting your doctor, even if your at-home blood pressure readings are normal,” he cautioned.

Digital Thermometer

Still have an old mercury-filled glass thermometer cluttering your medicine cabinet? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages parents to remove mercury thermometers from their homes to prevent accidental exposure and poisoning.

“Always use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Mercury thermometers should not be used,” the AAP warns. Mercury exposure can cause potentially deadly health problems if the thermometer breaks, so seal the item in a plastic bag and check with your local recycling center or trash collector about disposing of it correctly. Try therecycling locator on Earth911.comto find a center that handles mercury near you.

Owning a digital thermometer can take the guesswork out of diagnosing a fever when children or adults are feeling ill.

[RELATED: HealthyChildren.org shares how to take a child’s temperature]

Exercise Equipment or Gym Membership

You’ll give the gift of good health when you surprise someone with an elliptical trainer, stationary bike, treadmill, stepper, exercise ball and other home gym items they’ve been wishing for. Prices range from several thousand dollars to less than $50 for devices that keep us moving.

Free weights are great gifts for serious powerlifters and body builders. For others, universal gyms with pully systems are options for strength training and customizable workouts. Cable systems allow you to work your chest and shoulders as well as legs for a safe and efficient workout.

Shop around, watch out for gimmicks and don’t be afraid to ask for a demonstration before you purchase exercise equipment. Measure the footprint to make sure the recipient has enough space for your gift.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) advise you to talk with your doctor if you aren’t used to energetic activity or if you have a health problem.

“Doctors rarely tell people not to exercise, but they may have certain safety tips for those who have recently had hip or back surgery, those with uncontrolled health problems, or those with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, or arthritis,” according to the NIH.

Click here for an exercise guidefrom the National Institutes of Health.

Pedometers and Fitness Trackers

Whether you wear it on your wrist, finger, ankle or chest and whatever the brand name, you’ll push harder and achieve more when you wear one of these popular gadgets that count your steps.

“Fitbits® and other fitness trackers are great gifts because they really keep us motivated to exercise,” said Dr. Crosson. “ I use my iPhone and try to get 10,000 steps a day, and a lot of patients come in saying, ‘Did you get your steps in today?’ It’s fun and really good for your health.”

If you’re giving one as a gift, don’t hesitate to ask first to ensure the right fit for your friend or loved one. Dedicated activitytrackerscome with more options every day, and you don’t want to disappoint by giving an insomniac a wrist device that doesn’t monitor sleep or a daughter a smartwatch with no text capability.

Wearables can improve your overall health, andPC Magazinehelps you sort out the options with a new consumer survey.

Digital Smart Scales

Some of these units are so innovative they take the “twinge” out of stepping on a scale. Imagine giving a gift that makes people smile when they weigh themselves!

No longer do scales give you just pounds and ounces. Look for units that check your heart rate, water percentage, body fat, bone mass and muscle mass. Some compare vitals over time and distinguish one user’s stats from others, so several family members can share.

Make sure you purchase the digital smart scale that connects with the recipient’s specific phone, Kindle, or other device.

By BETH ANN LOMBARDI, Cape Cod Health News

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