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How to Stay Healthy in the Hudson Valley This Winter

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Read on for ways to stay healthy this winter. Adobe Stock | Mangostar

Now that it’s cold and flu season (plus there’s the continued risk of Covid), it’s more important than ever to shore up your immune system.

Here’s smart advice from Tracy Williams, D.O., an internal medicine physician at NewYork-Presbyterian Medical Group Hudson Valley.

Can a strong immune system keep you from getting sick?

Yes, plus if you do get sick it can help to minimize symptoms.

What are some proven ways to strengthen immunity?

Eating a well-balanced diet is important, including plenty of vegetables and fruits (vitamin C is a great antioxidant), nuts, and good fats (from olive oil, avocados, and salmon). All the vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial phytochemicals in plants help to repair and strengthen the pathways that help to fight and/or decrease the effects of viral and bacterial infections in the body. Exercising for at least 150 minutes a week and shooting for at least 7–8 hours of sleep nightly also helps to keep the immune system strong.

How can you tell if you have a cold, the flu, or Covid?

They can have similar symptoms. The common cold (caused by various viruses) usually presents with nasal congestion, a runny nose, and a cough. Influenza characteristically presents with abrupt fever, headache, and muscle aches and pains. GI symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea are not typical. Covid symptoms that we see most often are headaches, body aches, cough, diarrhea, sore throat, and smell abnormalities. Symptoms can vary widely with some presenting with all of these or none. Testing is the best way to know if you have Covid.

Stay healthy this winter. Adobe Stock | Mangostar

We’ve been hearing about the importance of vitamin D. Do you recommend supplements?

Since the pandemic, there’s been new interest in the role that vitamin D plays in our immune system. And while there has not been any evidence that taking D above the recommended levels can prevent the flu or Covid, its receptors are found in many different parts of our bodies including cells that are involved in our immune responses. In other words, we should try to get our vitamin D to recommended levels. Since the best way to get vitamin D is from sun light, living in the Northeast can make that challenging. Taking a daily supplement—600 to 1,000 units—can be effective to stay within therapeutic levels.

How about chicken soup? Does it really help?

Most of us were given some form of soup when we were sick as children and then continued the habit as adults. Who doesn’t want a warm bowl of soup when you’re feeling achy and miserable? The warmth itself is therapeutic, but the ingredients can be too depending on how long that soup is simmered for and whether it was cooked with bones—the protein, minerals, and collagen may also provide some benefit for our bodies. Chicken soup or bone broth will not likely be the cure for your cold or flu, but the soothing effects may be just the thing to jumpstart your way back to health.

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