Tips for heart-healthy holidays

CHQ.250

Everyone expects the holidays to be a joyous time spent with family events, celebratory meals, and festive traditions. Keep in mind, though, that a combination of stress and merriment can mean a heightened risk for heart attacks and heart related deaths over the holiday season.

We want you enjoy this holiday season, and many more! The American Heart Association and the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute offer a variety of tips to maintaining a healthy routine throughout the holidays.

1. Eat in balance

Holiday parties present a spread of delicious food, including hors d’oeurves and dessert that may be easy to indulge on. When choosing appetizers, start by using a small plate to keep portions reasonable. Decorate (but don’t overfill!) your plate with a variety that includes lean proteins, whole grains and veggies. Prior to a holiday party, drink a large glass of water and consume healthier snacks throughout the day so you are less likely to overindulge at the event.

2. Drink plenty of water

It can be easy to consume too many sweet, calorie-loaded drinks and cocktails during the holidays. For cocktails, substitute sugary mixers like soda with fresh lemon juice and club soda. Balancing any alcoholic drinks with plenty of water should keep you hydrated and feeling better the next day. If you are hosting, offer a variety of unsweetened seltzers with some fresh fruit garnishes!

3. Keep your active routine

While you may find yourself busy with holiday errands and gatherings, maintaining a consistent physical activity routine is important. Winter offers many physical activity opportunities indoors, such as yoga, ice skating, or a local gym fitness class. Staying active outdoors may be as simple as a walk around your neighborhood. Some exercise is always better than none, so, as the saying goes: just do it!

4. Enjoy your down time

Holiday stress can greatly affect our health by raising blood pressure and levels of damaging stress hormones in our bodies. Take 20 minutes a day to focus on an activity you enjoy, such as reading or spending time with family. Maybe this is a time to practice a few minutes of gratitude, deep breathing, or other mindfulness techniques!

5. Know the signs

If you or someone you are with experience chest pain or pressure, shortness of breath, pain radiating down one or both arms, or jaw pain do not dismiss these as simple holiday stress symptoms. Call 9-1-1 because these are common heart attack symptoms. In addition, remember F.A.S.T. for strokes: Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulties, it’s Time to call 9-1-1. Finally, everyone should know how to perform “hands-only CPR!” If you have not been trained, search online for demonstrations of the technique. Hands-only CPR can double or even triple a person’s chances of survival following sudden cardiac arrest!

We wish you all joyful holidays and a happy, healthy New Year!

Chautauqua County has high rates of both heart attack and stroke, but an estimated 80 percent of heart attacks and strokes are preventable. CHQ250 is an initiative of the Chautauqua Health Action Team (CHAT), encouraging you to take action to be one of the least 250 strokes, heart attacks, or related deaths prevented in Chautauqua County in the coming year. This column is written by CHAT members to share information to help you to do your part to live a life free of stroke or heart disease; it is not intended to replace advice provided by your healthcare team. Please direct questions or comments to: activecounty@co.chautauqua.ny.us.

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