We call the holidays the most wonderful time of the year for good reason: the chance to see our families, celebrate togetherness, and create a little magic in our lives. Unfortunately, the holidays can also be a time of stress and unhealthy habits that strain our bodies, especially when it comes to our heart health.
We’ve long known that the rate of heart attacks spikes around this time of the year. Stress, excess drinking, and higher intake of salty foods can all impact our cardiac health—and of course, we tend to indulge in December and January. These risks can be especially high for women, who may not have the same heart disease symptoms doctors expect to see in men.
Fortunately, with a few simple, achievable interventions, you can enjoy the reason for the season while protecting your heart and overall health!
Festive Food: Hearty Eating
Our winter holidays tend to be food-based, which can be hard for those of us trying to be heart-conscious. However, with a little consideration, you can enjoy your favorite festive foods and stay on track.
First, always watch your portion sizes to avoid overindulging. If you’re in charge of leftovers, make sure to put them away quickly to ward off bored snacking and grazing later.
There are also plenty of heart-healthy foods you can enjoy at this time of year. Focus on diversifying your plate with a healthy mix of lean meats and sides such as:
- Cranberries, rich in antioxidants and vitamin C
- Stuffing with multigrain bread and low-sodium flavor boosters like rosemary and sage
- Fiber, vitamin, and mineral-rich veggies like carrots and brussels sprouts (but skip the high-fat dressings!)
The American Heart Association also has a wonderful database of heart-healthy holiday recipes at your disposal!
A Cup of Good Cheer: Drinking Responsibly
Many of us drink more during the holidays as traditions (and stresses) may inspire a heavier pour. However, consuming alcohol, especially to the point of intoxication or over a prolonged time, has been linked to a heart condition called atrial fibrillation. Some doctors call these bouts of rapid, irregular heart rhythms “holiday heart” because the incidence increases so much during this time of the year.
The most important thing is to drink in moderation. You can also choose your drink wisely. Certain enzymes and antioxidants in red and white wines have shown promise as “cardioprotective” ingredients. Resveratrol, the active therapeutic ingredient in wines like Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir may also prevent memory loss and Alzheimer’s Disease.
A glass of wine is a great choice, especially compared to sugar-heavy drinks like spiked eggnog—but only if you enjoy it responsibly!
Travel Stress: Reduce Wear & Tear with Meditation
Whether you’re traveling by plane, train, or automobile, this time of the year can be a major stress and anxiety trigger. Even if your travel plans only extend as far as the living room, taking the time to give yourself the gift of meditation and self-reflection can do wonders.
Research shows that what’s good for the mind is good for the heart. People who meditate tend to have a lower prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors and heart disease. Make time for yourself to decompress wherever you can find it. Just 10 minutes per day of deep breathing and quiet time can help you reap the rewards of mind-body wellbeing.
Sleep Tight to Repair & Restore
Though we may associate the holidays with rest and relaxation (and many hours spent on the couch), getting good quality sleep is key to maintaining cardiac health. Good quality sleep begins with keeping active through the day, whether that’s taking a walk, dancing to your favorite Christmas song, or lifting weights.
Whatever your style, get moving for at least 30 minutes three times per week. Exercising during the day gives your body the chance to regulate blood pressure, process blood sugar, and otherwise maintain a healthy heart at night!
Have a Heart Healthy Holiday
The holidays are a time for joy and togetherness. That’s why it’s especially important to take care of yourself. With a few smart choices and thoughtful habits, you can have a happy, healthy holiday this year and for many more to come.
If you’re not sure where to begin with a meditation routine, need support for eating well during the holidays, or are simply feeling concerned about your cardiac health, NitzaMD is here to help. Join our growing community today for guidance, education, and support, or call us at 352-717-0220 for more information.
NitzaMD: Helping Women Live Longer and Healthier Lives
NitzaMD offers comprehensive cardiac screening and heart-health programs to women in Central Florida and beyond. Dr. Alvarez is passionately committed to helping women live longer and healthier lives through preventative medicine.