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During the holidays, a lot of time is usually spent running around and scrambling making last minute holiday preparations.  This can be physically and emotionally stressful, so it is important that you make sure your heart is in proper shape to deal with these potential stressors. While the holidays are traditionally a time to relax, rejoice, and enjoy time with loved ones, it is wise to remember to make healthy choices. Follow the tips below to stay off the naughty list this holiday season.


Heart Health and Happiness During the Holidays

1. Make a Plan

Planning a routine and specific action steps before the holidays begin will make you more likely to stick to a schedule and follow through with your goals. Be aware of which foods and drinks can worsen pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes, and choose to make better choices at family gatherings and holiday parties. If you do your research and stay informed about cardiovascular disease, causes, and symptoms ahead of time, it will make it easier to stay on track during the holiday season. There is no substitution for a healthy combination of preparation and knowledge.


2. Prepare Balanced Meals

Food is clearly a huge part of holiday celebrations, and you do not have to eat fried food full of unhealthy processed carbohydrates to take part. You can choose healthy recipes and smarter alternatives while still making the dishes taste just like grandma used to make. Use vegetable oil instead of butter. Bake, grill, or steam vegetables instead of frying, and substitute low-fat or fat-free milk in place of whole milk or heavy cream. Also ensure that there is a dish from every food group on the dinner table – starting with a salad will fill you up and keep you from overloading on too many potatoes, rolls, and pies.


3. Increase Physical Activity

The American Heart Association recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderately vigorous physical activity, and even more to avoid adding extra pounds to our waistlines. Developing a routine and making 30 to 40 minutes in a day to get active will combat extra calories and stress, lower blood pressure and risk of heart disease, and improve your cholesterol. Activities can include a walk with the family, playing outside with your kids, or going to the gym once a day.  Plus, exercise releases endorphins that improve your mood and can help combat the occasional holiday “blues”.


4. Attempt to Minimize Stress

As you scramble to put together the perfect dinner or wrap last minute presents, it is easy to get caught up in the stress of it all. To avoid straining your heart and raising your blood pressure, plan ahead to help organize your tasks and manage your time – although we all are guilty of it on occasion, procrastination around the holidays can be a major stressor. Try to focus on the positives in your life and appreciate the joy of the season.


5. Drink Wisely

Holiday festivities usually involve alcoholic drinks, and the good news is most people do not need to avoid alcohol completely to stay healthy. Choose red wine or club soda with lemon or lime over sugary cocktails. Red wine contains many antioxidants that can lower the risk of heart attack and stroke; club soda has minerals and keeps the body from bloating because of its low sodium content, while helping to curb your appetite. Excessive alcohol intake can raise your blood pressure, result in over eating, and even be a direct cause of a heart arrhythmia (atrial fibrillation) known as “holiday heart syndrome”.  Try to limit your intake to no more than 1-2 drinks at an event.


6. Get Enough Sleep

Sleepless nights, whether they are from excitement or stress, happen to everyone from time to time. It is essential for your overall physical and mental health that you get enough sleep (six to eight hours for adults). Especially during the holidays, get into bed early to give yourself time to wind down after a long and hectic day. The more time you take to relax before bed, the more quickly and soundly you will sleep.


Heart Health in New York

Your heart will thank you for looking out for it even in the busiest and most frantic holiday conditions, such as when family members overstay their welcome. Paying attention to these tips can result in lower risks of heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. You have the power to keep your heart strong during the holidays, and year round. At Preventive Cardiology of New York, we specialize in Preventive Cardiology, taking a PROACTIVE, personalized, integrative approach to cardiovascular disease. Contact us today for more information about heart health and to schedule an appointment.