Sticking to a heart-healthy lifestyle can be challenging during the holidays. However, balancing treats with sensible eating and lifestyle choices can help you get through the season’s festivities. Here are some holiday tips for your heart:
- To decrease stress during the holidays, keep yourself on the calendar by continuing to do the good things you’re doing for yourself. Write in that daily walk/exercise, your quiet/meditation time, and be sure to sleep 7-8 hours/night.
- Keep it Simple: the KIS principle is a GREAT thing to employ during the holidays. When having people over, ask folks to bring some of the food and suggest simple, healthy options. Yes, mixed nuts are options and organic veggie trays are a bright, colorful addition to your table.
- Did you know that eating chestnuts (and other tree nuts such as almonds, cashews, pecans, and walnuts) not just during the holidays, but on a regular basis is associated with a 15-23% lower risk of coronary heart disease?1 So, if you’re going to go nuts during the holidays, do it by eating a variety of nuts!
- Add music to the mix. Choose music that calms and lifts your spirit while you’re at home decorating and wrapping gifts, etc.
- The holidays are NOT the time to try to lose weight. Not gaining is the holiday goal. Here’s how to maintain your current weight:
- Watch it…seriously. Weigh yourself every day before you dress. Your weight will fluctuate a few pounds but it should not go up and trend upwards. Many of the most successful people avoid weight gain by stepping on the scales very frequently (daily is ideal). It’s a small habit with a big health benefit.
- Drink non-caloric drinks (decaffeinated teas and/or coffee or water without added sugar) as much as possible during the holidays.
- If the situation calls for you to show the host/hostess that you like what’s being prepared, just take a small portion initially and then RAVE to the cook about how good it is as you go back for another (small) portion. YUM!
- Don’t skip meals. Trying to save up now before heading to that holiday event/party usually doesn’t work. If you’re overly hungry, you’re likely to over eat. A small meal or snack, such as a hard-boiled egg, before the holiday gathering will help you feel full and less hungry so that you’re less likely to over indulge.
And last but not least, remember to listen to your body. One of the reasons that cardiac death rates skyrocket during the holidays may be because people ignore heart attack warning signs. Be alert to the signs of heart attack and CALL 911 if you or a loved one is experiencing any of these classic signs:
Chest pain or pressure, pain or discomfort in one of both arms, the back, jaw, neck, shoulders, or upper part of the stomach (you may think it’s indigestion), sweating, nausea and/or vomiting and shortness of breath. Women sometimes feel unusually fatigued, and many don’t have chest pain.
It’s very common for people to deny signs of a heart attack and think that it could be a false alarm. Despite these potentially “killer” thoughts, remember that YOU are more important than any holiday festivities and that your friends and family would much rather spend some time with you this year in the emergency room rather than another holiday without you around.
Lynn Cofer-Chase, MSN, CLS, FAHA, FPCNA, FNLA is a Clinical Lipid Specialist/National Educator for Cleveland HeartLab and part of the Egg Nutrition Center Health Professional Advisory Board.
- Guash-Feere’ M, Liu X, Malik VS, et al. Nut consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2017;70 DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2017.09.035