Heart Health During the Holidays  

Don’t let the busy holiday season impact your heart

Heart health should always be a priority, but it’s especially important during the busy holiday season.

Brittany Murray, a Registered Dietitian at the St. Elizabeth Physicians Weight Management Center, sees patients with a variety of different diseases, including congestive heart failure, hypertension and high cholesterol.

“Some of the biggest hurdles our patients face is trying to get healthy in the midst of busy schedules,” says Brittany. “This is true especially during the holidays, when people typically have increased amounts of stress and holiday festivities that can mean overindulging with both food and alcohol.”

Heart healthy foods

There are certain foods that can help prevent heart disease by lowering the risk factors associated with heart disease such as high cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes. Check out the suggestions below and incorporate them into your next grocery shopping trip:

  • Lower your cholesterol – foods containing dietary fiber such as whole grains, oatmeal, fruits, vegetables and kidney beans can help regulate your blood sugars and lower your LDL, the “bad” cholesterol.
  • Reduce your blood pressure – foods high in omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce your blood pressure. Additional benefits include lowering the risk of developing blood clots and lowering the risk of heart attacks. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include fish such as mackerel, albacore tuna, salmon and halibut.
  • Strengthen your blood vessels – most nuts such as almonds, walnuts, peanuts and pecans are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which helps strengthen blood vessels. A handful (about 1.5 ounces) of unsalted or uncoated nuts is recommended each day – anything more than a handful can cause weight gain.

Get creative in the kitchen

In addition to foods that can help prevent heart disease, it’s also important to lower the amount of saturated fat, trans fat and sodium in your diet. Try to get creative when cooking – whenever possible, substitute for low fat and low sodium options, use fresh or frozen vegetables versus canned, and try to make homemade soups and meals with healthy fats.

Quick tips for a heart healthy holiday

During the holidays, it’s more important than ever to stay focused on your health. Brittany offers the following quick tips for heart health and healthy eating during the holiday season:

  • Portion Control – stick to appropriate portion sizes and avoid going back for seconds.
  • Be mindful – avoid mindless eating, stay away from appetizer and snack tables and offer to bring fruit or veggies so you have a healthy snack to enjoy.
  • Food diary – write down everything you eat (or use an app!). This is a simple practice that helps to create awareness and prevent overeating.
  • Limit alcohol – drink a glass of water in between each alcohol beverage and avoid sugary holiday drinks and mixers.
  • Avoid stress – the combination of overindulging in food and alcohol during the holidays coupled with increased stress can put you at a much greater risk for heart disease. Find positive ways to de-stress each day to avoid emotional eating.

A Partner in weight management

The St. Elizabeth Physicians Weight Management Center in Florence sees patients with a variety of health issues associated with obesity, ranging from metabolic syndromes to diabetes and heart disease. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please call (859) 212-4625.