Not only are the holidays a time to catch up with loved ones, but they’re also a time when we usually indulge in favorite comfort foods and snacks. With factors like holiday stress and overindulgence, the average person gains about five pounds during the holiday season, which can put a lot of strain on the body, particularly the heart.
When the holidays roll around this year — typically a time when you might go for that extra slice of pie or skip your daily exercise — consider taking some healthy steps for your heart to lower your risk of heart disease and heart attack.
How to Have Heart-Health Holidays
Here are 10 steps you can take this holiday season to help protect your heart:
1. Go on a daily walk: Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity five or more days per week, and use our tips to stay active during the holidays
2. Add a healthy side: Balance your diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and low-fat dairy products
3. Try a protein-packed snack: Before you sit down for a large holiday meal, have a high-protein snack to help prevent overeating
4. Make breakfast a priority: Be sure to eat breakfast — even something simple like berries and oatmeal can give your body a healthy start to the day
5. Get a good night’s sleep: Get at least six hours of sleep per night (but aim for eight)
6. Cook and bake with healthier ingredients: Try a few heart-healthy ingredient swaps in your favorite recipes this year
7. Know your limits: Limit alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women
8. Practice gratitude: Reflect on your priorities or give back safely as you take in the spirit of the season
9. Make time to unwind: Take time for yourself with a relaxing bath, a book to read or just a few minutes of calming music
10. Everything in moderation: Eating healthy during the holidays can be tough, but try to reduce the urge to go for seconds (or thirds) and avoid saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, red meat, sugar-heavy sweets and sugary beverages as much as possible
Talk to Your Doctor to Protect Your Heart
Starting at age 20, visit your doctor for heart-health screenings. Some of the screenings are probably things you’ve already been doing, like checking your blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and body mass index (BMI).
If your doctor finds you have a problem, or are at high risk of heart disease, they may recommend steps you can take to manage it before you develop more serious issues. These steps may include medication management or a combination of lifestyle changes to:
- Manage cholesterol levels
- Lower blood pressure
- Increase physical activity
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Prevent or control diabetes
- Quit smoking, if applicable
How often you need to follow up with your physician depends on your risk factors and overall health.
Cardiology Care During the Holidays and Beyond
Taking care of your heart preventively — not just during the holidays, but regularly — means you can take the necessary next steps to help your heart become healthier and stronger.
At AdventHealth, we provide a full range of cardiology services, from education and screening tests to medications, major treatments and surgeries for heart diseases. Our team of expert physicians, surgeons, cardiologists and nurses is committed to helping you stay well.
We can help you learn about risk factors and lifestyle changes to strengthen your heart through diet, exercise and emotional health — during the holiday season and for years to come. Learn more about our heart and vascular care services.