How to be Good to Your Heart During the Holidays
Here comes the holidays! And while it’s normal to give in to unhealthy cravings a little, going overboard may have long-term effects on your heart health, especially if you have a pre-existing heart condition or if you are suffering from symptoms that may lead to heart disease.
Aside from the temptation to overeat unhealthy foods and drink too much alcohol, the holiday season may also increase your stress levels—think shopping for meal ingredients, gifts and decorations, planning activities for you and your loved ones and stressful family dynamics. That’s why we’re here to remind you of some ways to prepare your heart before the holidays as well as be good to your heart without feeling deprived.
8 Ways to be Good to Your Heart During the Holidays
The holiday season is meant to be fun, but it shouldn’t compromise your heart health. Here’s how you can be good to your heart during the holidays:
1. Cook for the heart.
Preparing heart-healthy meals for Christmas or New Year’s Eve is one of the best ways to prevent damaging your heart during the holidays. Filling your dining table with healthy foods, rather than foods that are high in sugar and cholesterol, can help you stay away from temptation. Some heart-healthy holiday recipes you can try are healthy twists to a traditional green bean casserole, baked sweet potatoes, roasted turkey with squash and asparagus, etc.
2. Grab healthy options first.
When you load up on fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains first, you can help reduce hunger and cravings for less healthy alternatives. Try the 80/20 principle wherein 80% of your caloric intake during the holidays will contain healthy food, while sweets, fatty food and the others may take up to 20% of your daily caloric intake only. This way, you can maintain a balance on the quality of the food you intake, and also prevent any damage that less healthy foods may cause.
3. Avoid alcohol as much as possible.
Binge drinking may trigger high blood pressure and lead to irregular heartbeat which may also increase your risk for stroke and heart attack. We don’t recommend drinking alcohol if you have a heart condition, but if you really want to, please consult with your doctor to prevent complications.
4. Eat a healthy snack before your large holiday meal.
Don’t go on your large holiday meal with an empty stomach. Munching on a healthy snack before mealtime can help you prevent overeating and can also give you a sense of control. Some excellent pre-meal snacks include apple with peanut butter, banana and a protein bar. Drinking a vegetable smoothie may also be a good option.
5. Keep moving.
Some people skip their workouts because of the holidays which later on leads to the infamous ‘holiday weight gain.’ This doesn’t need to be the case as staying active can also keep your cardiovascular health in top shape. In fact, this is the best time to invite your family to stay active with you. Even walking to the nearest park would be a step in the right direction.
6. Aim to get eight hours of sleep per night.
Infection, fever and viruses can put a strain on your heart. These things may also arise during the holidays, so be sure to get enough sleep to help strengthen your immune system.
7. Don’t skip your medicines, if any.
People often go out of town during the holidays. If you have a heart condition and you’re planning to travel somewhere, please don’t forget to bring your medicines or supplements, and still religiously follow the schedule of intake prescribed by your doctor.
8. Focus on what matters most.
Food and drinks may be integral parts of the holiday season, but what matters most is how we spend our time with our loved ones. We encourage you to laugh, sing, dance around, give and do things that will bring you peace and happiness because staying happy and stress-free can also help you keep your heart healthy.
Happy holidays! Stay healthy!
The Heart Foundation
Harvard Health Publishing