How to Stay Well in Winter

Winter brings the cold and snow. Shorter days and colder weather can lead to some bad habits. People who normally exercise and eat their vegetables may find themselves sitting indoors, watching TV and eating junk food during the winter. Here are a few health and wellness tips for winter to help you stay in good health:

Wash Your Hands
Winter is cold and flu season. Washing your hands is a simple and effective way to help prevent the spread of germs and stay healthy.

Get your flu shot
The best way to avoid the flu virus is by getting vaccinated. Washing your hands can only do so much, and it’s next to impossible to completely prevent the spread of germs. Flu vaccination is the most effective way to help prevent the flu.

Eat Healthy
Hearty foods may offer comfort when it’s cold outside, but that doesn’t mean you can’t eat healthy during the winter. A healthy diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein. Chili, beef stew, lentil soup, roasted vegetables, and even pot roast or chicken cooked with vegetables can all be comforting and nutritious.

Stay Hydrated
People don’t typically associate dehydration with winter, but you can get dehydrated regardless of the temperature outside. Your body loses a lot of fluid during the cold, dry winter months, and many are less diligent about hydration. Make a point to drink water and replenish fluids.

Stay Active
It can be difficult to stay motivated to exercise during the winter, but adults still need a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity each day. Bundle up in weather-appropriate layers and enjoy a walk, or join a gym to get the exercise you need indoors.

Pap Test vs. Pelvic Exam

Do you know the difference between a pap test and a pelvic exam? Many women think they are the same thing. But there are important differences between the two.

Pap Test
The purpose of a Pap is to screen for cervical cancer. During an annual visit, your health care provider will test a small sample of cells from your cervix and screen for any abnormalities that may be indicative of cancer.

Detecting cervical cancer at an early stage provides patients with a much better chance at early treatment and a cure. Paps should start at age 21 or as soon as a woman is sexually active. It is an annual test from age 21 until age 55 or until your health care provider says it is no longer necessary. After that time, it may be required every other year or every three years depending on your provider’s recommendation.

Some women may still require annual Pap tests, including those who receive abnormal results or who use hormone replacement therapy, have a history of dysplasia, cancer, or HIV. Your health care provider can help you determine if you’re at an increased risk for cancer or require more frequent Pap smears.

Pelvic Exam
While a Pap smear is perhaps the most-discussed component, an annual pelvic exam involves many more components. An annual visit to your health care provider will include a full examination starting with your breasts and continuing to your vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, rectum, pelvis, and ovaries.

In addition to screening for cervical cancer, an annual pelvic exam is also a chance to detect abnormalities like ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids, as well as other cancers—like vulvar, vaginal, and uterine. These types of cancers cannot be detected via a Pap smear.

Skipping your annual pelvic exam can allow concerns like these to go unnoticed for an extended period of time, which can prevent early detection and treatment.

An annual visit also provides women the opportunity to talk to their health care provider about lingering questions, whether it’s persistent pelvic pain, irregular periods, or breast pain, that they may have been shrugging off for a while. If you are unsure, ask your healthcare provider what they recommend, as they know best what is right for you.