Staying healthy, safe and thankful during the holidays

turkey-248x300As we all race to groaning tables for one of the traditional and happier holidays of the year, here’s hoping the turkeys stay brown, tasty, and on the table. Sadly, food poisoning is a real issue, and not just for worry-warts.

Cooks preparing this major feast may want to keep watch on growing reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about salmonella outbreaks tied to turkey.

As the Washington Post reported:

[F]ederal health officials are still trying to identify the source of a salmonella illness outbreak linked to raw turkey products that has spread to 35 states and sickened 164 people. The outbreak, which started a year ago, has sent 63 people to the hospital. One person in California has died. The salmonella strain has been found in raw turkey pet food in Minnesota, raw turkey products collected from people’s homes and live turkeys from several states, indicating the bacteria is widespread in the industry.

Officials haven’t identified the source of the infection, and they have been reluctant to name names of products and producers of the tainted turkey. But USA Today reported:

Investigators say raw turkey products from numerous sources are contaminated with salmonella, including ground turkey and turkey patties. The latest: Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales of Barron, Wisc., which [recently] recalled about 91,400 pounds of raw ground turkey products that may be associated with salmonella outbreak. … Among the recalled products, produced Sept. 11, 2018, were 1-pound packages of Jennie-O Ground Turkey 93 percent Lean/7 percent Fat (with “Use by” dates of 10/01/2018 and 10/02/2018), Jennie-O Taco Seasoned Ground Turkey, Jennie-O Ground Turkey 85 percent Lean/15 percent Fat, and Jennie-O Italian Seasoned Ground Turkey (all with “Use by” dates of 10/02/2018).

Food safety experts warn cooks to handle and prepare turkey with care, ensuring that frozen birds are thawed correctly and that this and other preparations, such as for stuffing, follow proper sanitary procedure. By the way, for those obsessed about getting the best taste from this poultry product, it seems as if savvy chefs have reversed themselves and decided that there’s a better way than liquid brining, which had been a kitchen favorite for awhile — but no more. Think dry salting, a day or two in advance, instead. And, instead of focusing on just the mmmm of the feast, how about considering some holiday MMC&G? Meaning: Moderation, movement, civility, and gratitude.

Moderation matters

For too many of us, Thanksgiving is the start of weeks of gorging. Those best health and fitness intentions fall away in favor of, for example, a one-day frenzy focused on a meal that may include as many as 229 grams of fat and 4,500 calories.

It needn’t be this way, and a little moderation may matter, particularly if informed eaters know the calorie toll of specific foods and decide to take a taste of this and a smidge of that, with a tiny splurge on favorites. Holiday weight gains may be exaggerated, but that’s no reason for so many Americans, 40 percent of whom already struggle with weight issues, should give in needlessly to temptation.

Boozing it up, especially during the holidays but also year-round, poses growing health problems, sufficiently concerning that don’t be surprised if your doctor follows new professional recommendations and asks you about your drinking. It’s more than a fair question or two. As USA Today reported in a timely reminder of alcohol-related nightmares:

[A]lcohol kills more people each year than overdoses – through cancer, liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis and suicide, among other ways. From 2007 to 2017, the number of deaths attributable to alcohol increased 35 percent, according to a new analysis by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. The death rate rose 24 percent. One alarming statistic: Deaths among women rose 67 percent. Women once drank far less than men, and their more moderate drinking helped prevent heart disease, offsetting some of the harm. Deaths among men rose 29 percent. While teen deaths from drinking were down about 16 percent during the same period, deaths among people aged 45 to 64 rose by about a quarter. People’s risk of dying, of course, increases as they age. What’s new is that alcohol is increasingly the cause.

Please don’t drink and drive, or smoke marijuana and hit the roads, or fail to account for the effects of prescription drugs on the skills and capacities needed to get behind the wheel safely. Intoxication, distraction — especially by device and because of texting — sleepiness, and impairment all have boosted the nation’s road toll in unacceptable ways. The horror multiplies with holiday deaths or injuries, so don’t become a sad statistic.

A civil meal that moves us, too

The day may prove more pleasant and memorable in good ways if hosts and guests alike practice — maybe even  enforce — manners and civility on Thanksgiving. Almost 6 in 10 Americans say they dread holiday get-togethers because they too quickly turn to ugly discussions of politics, religion, personality, and other personal and once-taboo (at least at the dinner table) topics that divide and inflame people. Maybe Thanksgiving can be a day to ban talk about national politics and focus, instead, on family or collective projects to help those in need (more on that in a second).

Instead of turning into sports-viewing, beer-and-wine guzzling, chip-eating couch potatoes this Thanksgiving, more of us might want to be exercise “snackers,” too. Uncle Sam has just issued new (basically they’re same-same) recommendations on the benefits of Americans getting up and moving.

Moderate exercise, research shows, can help to reduce risks of cancers, heart and lunch disease, as well as preserving cognitive health. But experts now say it need not just be done in rigid, longer spans, say, as thrice weekly, tough, hour-long regimens. Instead, many folks can preserve and improve their health and well-being by moving in increments every day as short as 10 minutes. A little tossing around a ball outdoors would work in this plan, as would a trot around the block before dessert. Or maybe the young folks could share and teach their elders a few of the more manageable dance moves?

Gratitude, in big helpings

Finally, the holiday is not called Thanksgiving for nothing. In my practice, I see the harms that patients suffer while seeking medical services, and anyone who knows me knows that I have experience, evidence-based criticisms aplenty for doctors, nurses, hospitals, nursing homes, and many other parts of the health care system.

At the same time, we owe praise and gratitude to all the medical personnel who will be away from their loved ones, caring for the sick and injured on this and many other holidays. They, and others — including first-responders and military personnel and their loved ones — not only sacrifice greatly for the good of all, they, and we, have endured some tough, awful circumstance in recent days. Hurricanes. Mass shootings. Wildfires. International terrorism and strife. They demand action and we can be grateful that a great nation can do so with the talent and labor of so many, including in the medical field.

If there’s any carping at the holiday table, it might be good to have at the ready the news reports, for example, of the suffering across California, where dozens of lives and hundreds of homes and businesses have been incinerated in recent days. At least 1 million youngsters can’t be in school due to evacuations,  sickening air, and other wildfire-related circumstance. Thousands of families are struggling in shelters, seeking help with food, water, and against disease. They’re encamped in places like a tent city in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

At the same, it’s worth spotlighting the brave actions of caregivers like Allyn Pierce, a northern California nurse: Not only did he see his personal truck all but melt down as he tried to help rescue others, he then returned to his work to treat, then to help evacuate patients as fires bore down on his hospital.

We have much to be grateful for at this time — and, as always, that thanks goes out from me, my law firm, and my team to all of you.

Patrick Malone & Associates, P.C. listed in Best Lawyers Rated by Super Lawyers Patrick A. Malone
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