Family gatherings, celebrations, extravagant meals, and lavish desserts—the holiday season is full of indulgences that can be damaging to your
heart health. We asked William C. Maxted, MD, cardiologist and director of the Heart and Vascular Unit at Anne Arundel Medical Center, to share tips for maintaining a healthy heart while still enjoying all the holiday season has to offer. Here are four of his recommendations:
1. Enjoy Without Overindulging
The holidays and food go hand in hand. With food at the center of attention from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, it’s easy to overindulge at times.
It’s okay to eat the foods you enjoy, but it’s important to still be mindful of what you’re eating. Eat more slowly and visit the buffet with a smaller plate to help you to keep portions in control. And, a diet- and fitness-tracking app helps you keep an eye on how many calories you are really consuming. It’s best to avoid food with a lot of salt, especially if you have a history of high blood pressure.
Don’t overindulge on alcohol either, as it can affect your heart in many different ways, even causing heart rhythm disturbances. Moderate alcohol intake is best—ideally two drinks at most. Even if you don’t have a heart condition, excess alcohol should be avoided.
2. Remember to Relax
Pressure from hosting family and friends, travel, holiday shopping, and attending multiple parties can raise stress and anxiety levels. A high level of stress is never good for your heart. Planning ahead and setting limits is the best way to enjoy the holidays while avoiding additional stress and anxiety. Be realistic about what you can fit into your schedule and prioritize.
3. Exercise When You Can
It can be difficult to maintain an exercise routine during the hectic holiday season. Try incorporating exercise into your schedule of holiday activities.
4. Listen to Your Body
There is an increase in cardiac deaths during the holidays, possibly because people ignore symptoms to avoid disrupting the merriment. When symptoms arise that could be cardiac related, seek medical care immediately. A delay can end in a worse result than stopping the holiday party, and it’s not worth the risk.