Q: Im done with holiday partying: hanging with friends, drinking and spending more than I should. I want to get healthy again. What now?
WILLIE F., Atlanta
A: Hold on a minute, before you give up too much. Hanging with friends, drinking (in moderation) and being generous are actually good for you. And if you want to get healthy, theyre a pretty good place to start.
Seeing friends regularly for a walk around the neighborhood (make a pact to do it three days a week) or enjoying afternoon tea together actually makes you healthier. Feeling connected boosts oxytocin levels, and that builds bonds. Plus, the release of oxytocin is contagious, so you spread the cheer.
Having a drink or two most days benefits your cardiovascular system (if alcohol isnt risky because of a pre-existing condition or alcoholism). Men 29 to 69 who are moderate drinkers (two a day) lower their risk for heart disease by 30 percent and women who are moderate drinkers (one a day) also protect their heart and are less likely to be overweight than non-drinking girlfriends. Plus, it boosts immune strength (at least it did in a study of rhesus monkeys, which have immune systems similar to humans).
And throughout the year, keep your generous impulses going. It doesnt cost anything to help a neighbor or volunteer in a soup kitchen. Youll reduce your stress responses, have a more optimistic outlook (known to boost healthy decision-making) and live better and longer.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of The Dr. Oz Show, and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com. Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.