Healthy Gifts That Are Doctor Recommended
Show you care with gifts that will help a loved one eat better, exercise more, stress less, and get a better night's rest. A little research can help you make the right pick and spend your money wisely. We want to help with that, so we gathered advice and insights from doctors and researchers about their top healthy gift choices. Here are some health-wise options for virtually everyone on your list.
A Water Bottle—But Not Any Water Bottle—to Boost Hydration
Staying hydrated maintains the balance of fluids in the body and contributes to glowing skin, among other good things. But give a bottle that is BPA-free, says John Morton, MD, chief of Yale Medicine Bariatric Surgery. If it costs a bit more, it's worth it, he says, because BPA, or Bisphenol A, is an industrial chemical that is considered to be not only a carcinogen, but an obesogen (an umbrella term for environmental factors that contribute to weight gain). Dr. Morton advises anyone who wants to lose or maintain weight to avoid BPAs—and stay hydrated. When you are hungry for a high-calorie snack, take a big drink of water, then wait 15 minutes to see if you feel better. You may find you aren't as hungry, he says.
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Lunch Packs to Encourage Healthy Eating
Not only is a recyclable lunchbox good for the environment and your wallet since bringing food from home is cheaper than buying, there are also health benefits. "It's good for your body to prepare healthy, delicious food you love ahead of time," says Ania Jastreboff, MD, a Yale Medicine obesity medicine physician and endocrinologist. "Being prepared and bringing a packed lunch also eases stress and prevents rushing to buy something to quell your hunger." Research shows that carrying lunch from home helps increase intake of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains and may even prevent eating extra sweets that are full of empty calories.
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Stylish Compression Stockings for Varicose-Vein-Free Legs
Though it may seem like a gag gift at first, compression stockings are a healthful holiday stocking stuffer for those who stand on their feet for long periods of time—like a nurses or teachers—for those who have a family history of varicose veins, or for pregnant moms since 20% of pregnant women will develop varicose veins during their pregnancy. "Wearing compression stockings increases venous circulation, reduces swelling, helps prevent the development of varicose veins, and reduces symptoms from vein disease," says Angelo Marino, MD, a Yale Medicine interventional radiologist and vein specialist. "Compression stockings have also been shown to lower the risk of developing a blood clot (deep venous thrombosis) during long travel and reduce lactic acid build up after exercise, improving recovery times and decreasing muscle soreness."
Compression stockings come in a variety of support levels. "I typically recommend 20-30 mmHg strength stockings for most of my patients," he says. "You also want to make sure that the stockings are properly fitted, as stockings that are too loose do not apply enough pressure and stockings that are too tight can restrict healthy blood flow." For the fashion conscious, compression stockings now come in cool patterns and colors that make them more wearable.
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Blue-Light-Reducing Glasses to Encourage Better Sleep
Sleep is essential to health, but 70% of adults in the United States report insufficient sleep at least one night a month, and 11% report insufficient sleep every night. Christine Won, MD, director of the Yale Medicine Women's Health Sleep Program (and a specialist who treats both sexes) says blue light emitted from screens can delay the release of sleep-inducing melatonin, increase alertness, and reset the body's rhythm (sort of an internal clock) to a later schedule. Blue-light-blocking glasses can counter some of these effects and avoid any disruption of the sleep routine. "This might really be a helpful gift for teenagers who insist on being on their phones late at night," Dr. Won says.
Blue Light Blocking Glasses
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A Cleansing Device for Crystal-Clear Skin
A Clarisonic Facial Brush is a great gift for women, men, and teens on your list. "Unlike other cleansing devices, which use manually rotating brush heads that can be too abrasive on sensitive skin, Clarisonic employs ultrasonic vibration to gently, yet deeply cleanse skin," says Kathleen Cook Suozzi, MD, director of aesthetic dermatology at Yale Medicine. "The Clarisonic brush can help make skin appear brighter, minimize acne breakouts, and maximize the penetration of products you apply afterward."
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A Safer, Healthy Way to Organize Daily Pills
Even young people who take one pill a day can forget; elderly people may take a dozen or more medications, each with its own particular instructions on when and how to take it, says Carolyn Frederickson, MD, a neurologist. "Even missing a dose or two can lead to significant problems," she says. There are all sorts of pill organizers: Some won't open until it's time to take the pill, others have alarms or play music, and others send texts and emails to a loved one or the doctor know if a dose is missed. Think about what's best for the recipient: for instance, "smart pillboxes" with Wi-Fi might be great for a young person, but could confuse a tech-challenged senior. "You want to make sure it's easy to set up, and it's not something they have to constantly be rethinking," Dr. Fredericks says.
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Noise-Cancelling Headphones to Protect Hearing
For the music lover on your list, consider a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. "The beauty of this technology is they help the wearer simply cancel out that ambient noise from their surroundings, so they can listen to favorite tunes at a safer-for-hearing volume," says Yale Medicine ENT Douglas Hildrew, MD, an otolaryngologist. For concert-goers who enjoy live music (or for those who work in loud industrial environment), Dr. Hildrew suggests electronic ear plugs that adjust the amount of needed ear protection as noise increases or decreases.
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At-Home DNA or Ancestry Mapping Kits for Those Curious About Their Genes
If you want to give a highly bespoke gift, it's hard to beat the consumer genetic test kits sold by many companies, including 23andMe and Ancestry.com. But both the giver and receiver should be aware of significant caveats that come with these kits. First, privacy and consent rules need be read carefully to know how the companies handle personal information. Second, remember to receive any results with a grain of skepticism. "Any DNA test you can order for yourself from home falls into a category I've been calling 'curiosity genetics,'" says Yale Medicine geneticist Lauren Jeffries, DO. The results can be conversation starters with friends and family, but anyone with a specific inheritable health concern should visit a genetics professional, she says.
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A Light Therapy Box to Boost Mood
Multiple studies have shown these boxes can help people who have seasonal affective disorder (SAD), says Paul Desan, MD, a Yale Medicine psychiatrist who has been studying these boxes for years. Light therapy boxes are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration at this time, but Dr. Desan recommends trying them as long as they meet the following criteria: 10,000 lux light at the manufacturer's recommended distance; a field of illumination that allows the user to move 6 inches off center and still be in the light; and comfortable to sit in front of (no glare or hot spots). He recommends using a light box each morning for a half hour, starting at 8 a.m., and says it's best to try light therapy under the under the guidance of a qualified physician.
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Fitness Trackers to Count Steps and Encourage Exercise
Fitbit may be the most popular brand, but there are other brands of devices that count steps, and may also exercise and sleep. If those are out of your price range, there is My Fitness Pal, a phone app that also tracks eating and exercise patterns, says Tara Sanft, MD, director of Yale Cancer Center Survivorship Program at Smilow Cancer Hospital. Exercise has been proven to lower cancer risk by helping control weight and strengthen the immune system, among other things; it can boost quality of life, and it can lower your risk for at least 13 specific types of cancer. "There have been many studies showing physical activity after breast cancer reduces all-cause and breast cancer-specific mortality," says Dr. Sanft, who has firsthand experience. "I use one, and I am way more active than I was before," she says.
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A Device to Help Improve Posture
Everyone should be thinking about posture awareness and alignment, especially people who sit all day. A wearable technology gift can help. Examples include Lumolift and Upright Go Posture Trainer, small, lightweight devices that are worn on the body. They provide vibrational feedback as a reminder when the person wearing them slouches. They also can track improvements in posture over time, usually with the help of a companion app. Some monitor daily steps and distance walked as well. Eric Holder, MD, a Yale Medicine physiatrist (a physician who practices physical medicine and rehabilitation), recommends them. "One of the most common discussions I have with patients as a physiatrist specializing in spine, general musculoskeletal, and sports medicine, is the importance of posture and proper alignment for reducing back and neck pain," Dr. Holder says. "Studies demonstrate that upright posture can improve a person's self-esteem, mood. and energy levels," he adds.
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And to live your happiest and healthiest life, don't miss these 50 Things Doctors Would Tell Their Own Mothers.