Not only are the holidays a time to catch up with loved ones, whether virtually or in person, but they’re also a time where we indulge in favorite comfort foods and snacks. “The average person gains about five pounds during the holiday season, and that can put a lot of strain on the body, particularly the heart,” says Dr. Toralben Patel, MD.
The American Heart Association urges adults to begin taking preventive measures against heart attacks as young as age 20. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking are the key risk factors for heart disease.
You can’t change some risk factors, such as your age, family history and gender (men have a higher risk for heart attack than women). Others you can. Some factors you can control include:
- Quitting or never smoking
- Managing cholesterol levels
- Lowering blood pressure
- Increasing physical activity
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Preventing or controlling diabetes
So when Thanksgiving and Christmas roll around, and that’s typically a time where you go for that extra slice of pie or skip your daily exercise, consider what these choices could mean for your heart health.
Heart Healthy Holidays
Here are 10 steps you can take this holiday season to help protect your heart:
- Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity five or more days per week
- Balance your diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and low-fat dairy products
- Before you sit down to a large holiday meal, have a high-protein snack to help prevent overeating
- Eat breakfast, even something simple like berries and oatmeal can prepare your body for a healthy start to the day
- Get at least six, but shoot for eight, hours of sleep per night
- Have a sweet tooth? It’s all about moderation. Indulge in a piece of rich dark chocolate
- Limit alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women
- Reflect on your priorities and take in the spirit of the season
- Take time for yourself with a relaxing bubble bath or just a few minutes of calming music
- Try to reduce the urge to go for seconds (or thirds) and watch your dessert intake. Stay away from saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, red meat, sweets and sugary beverages as much as possible
Cardiology Services at AdventHealth
“Taking care of your heart preventively — not just during the holidays, but on a regular basis — means you can take the necessary next steps to help your heart become healthier and stronger,” says Dr. Patel. 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 are committed to helping you achieve whole-health wellness.
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.
Guidance From Your Physician
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, like high blood pressure, he or she will recommend steps you can take to manage it before you develop more serious issues. These steps may include a combination of lifestyle changes and medications, such as those to control your blood pressure or cholesterol levels, if necessary. How often you need to follow up with your physician depends on your risk factors and overall health.
If you haven’t visited your doctor for a cardiovascular screening yet, make an appointment today. Learn more about our Cardiovascular Institute services at AdventHealth.