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    Heart-Healthy Habits For The Holidays

    Heart-Healthy Habits For The Holidays

    From finishing some last-minute Christmas shopping, to hosting a top-notch holiday party, most Americans would agree that this time of year brings just as much stress as it does joy. The American Heart Association says heart attacks are more common around the winter holidays for a number of possible reasons – stress being one of them. Stress from increased financial spending, family interactions and extra traveling all contribute to the increase in cardiac events during the holiday season. The biggest contributing factor, however, stems from people’s unhealthy eating habits and enlarged consumption of caloric food and alcohol. Whether it is a feast on Christmas Day, or a dinner party the eve before, people tend to indulge on fatty, festive foods unlike any other time of year. Fortunately, there are many heart-healthy habits one can pick up and still have fun this holiday season.

    Best Practices For Portion Control

    An easy way to ensure a healthy eating habit is to maintain portion control. Using a smaller plate is one way to consume smaller portions because research has shown that once the plate is empty, people tend to think they are full even if they aren’t. This is an effective way to trick the brain into thinking the stomach is satisfied. Eating a small, protein-filled snack, especially vegetables, before attending a party is another way to ingest less fatty foods. Showing up to a dinner on an empty stomach is guaranteed to make a person leave with a few thousand more calories under their belt.

    There is no need to rush – eating slowly can aid in digestion and ultimately leads to fewer edibles being devoured. Research shows it takes the brain approximately 20 minutes to catch up to the stomach, so taking a break every half hour can make people realize they are already full and stop eating. Food is not the only delicacy being over consumed at dinner parties. Increased alcohol consumption is a big problem for some people during the holidays, and drinking in moderation is always a good practice. 

    Healthy Alternatives

    Almost every sweet or greasy food that fills up the dining room table has a healthier alternative that will help protect one’s heart. Instead of a turkey leg or other piece of fatty dark meat, choosing a piece of skinless, white meat boasts many benefits. Sodium is one of the leading causes of hypertension, so switching out the salt with a spicier option will still give the food a zesty flavor without the cardiac risks. Spices such as paprika or chili powder are popular choices and are recommended for those with high blood pressure.

    When baking a pie or gingerbread cookies, most recipes call for several cups of sugar, butter and some sort of cream or milk. By incorporating sweet spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg, one can reduce the amount of sugar and still have a delicious tasting pie. Also, substituting skim milk and margarine is a good habit to adopt as well. Even so, the best way to take care of one’s heart when it comes to dessert is by saying no to the baked goods altogether. Fruit is loaded with natural sugar, making it the perfect finish for a sweet tooth.

    Getting Active

    Developing hearty eating habits is crucial during the winter months, but there is another important factor one must consider in order to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle. Staying active and getting enough exercise is something many individuals struggle with due to busy schedules and lack of motivation. Studies from the CDC have shown that physical inactivity greatly increases risk of heart attack and coronary heart disease in adults. The AHA recommends a minimum of 90-150 minutes of exercise per week – doing more when possible.

    Instead of watching television or sitting around the dining room table after a big holiday meal, people should get their families together for a short run or pick-up game. The best way to get into the habit is by starting right away – not waiting for a New Year’s resolution.

    If you would like more information about how to take care of your heart this holiday season, please call us at 770-962-0399, or visit our website: www.cvgcares.com.

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