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How can I survive the holidays and be “heart smart” at the same time?

The holidays are a time of celebration, but they can also make it tougher to take care of ourselves. Stress, weight gain, depression, and other common holiday problems can contribute to cardiovascular disease. You can help protect your heart over the holidays by avoiding some of the following health risks:

  • Don’t drink and drive. This one is not heart-healthy specific, but it’s important enough for everyone that it bears mentioning.
  • Focus on moderation in your holiday diet. It’s okay to indulge a little over the holidays, but not a lot! Obesity is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and even modest weight gain can affect your blood pressure. Additionally, overindulgence in holiday foods could introduce more saturated fats, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar into your diet.
  • Weigh yourself daily. Tracking your weight will make you aware of the impact of your food and drink choices at holiday parties.
  • Don't burn the candle at both ends. You may be busy over the holidays, but getting enough sleep is important. Poor sleep can contribute to cardiovascular disease.
  • Exercise. It can be easy to get out of your routine over the holidays. However, exercise can help improve your cardiovascular health and may reduce stress or depression.
  • Manage stress. Set realistic goals for yourself; everything does not need to be perfect! It is ok to say no, and your heart health may benefit. Stress can increase your risk of a heart attack and angina (chest pain), among other cardiovascular problems.
  • Depression. Many people experience depression over the holidays. If you think you may have depression, do not be embarrassed to seek help from a qualified medical professional if you have not already done so. Not only is seeking treatment important for your mental health - depression can increase your risk of heart disease or a heart attack.
Making smart choices with food options such as choosing fruits and vegetables instead of foods with high caloric amounts can be beneficial to your heart and overall health. Substituting ingredients that are healthier in your favorite recipes can also make a difference. Daily exercise of walking, aerobic activity or lifting weights are heart smart ideas that will help you survive the holidays and decrease the impact if you choose to splurge during a holiday event.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.