Tips to Keep Your Heart Healthy this Holiday Season

November 21, 2018

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Brett Sealove, M.D., FACC, RPVI contributes to topics such as Cardiac/Heart Health.

The holidays can be killer, and not always in a good way.

“The day after Thanksgiving, you’ll see more heart failure than most other days, there’s no comparison,” shares Brett Sealove, M.D., FACC, RPVI, a cardiologist affiliated with Jersey Shore University Medical Center.  “Similar to the day after New Year’s, from excess alcohol you’ll see more irregular heart rhythms from atrial fibrillation – this can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, along with other heart-related issues.”

Between poor eating habits and food choices, excess alcohol intake, and of course, the stress that comes along with busy schedules, the holidays can be a difficult time for all both mentally and physically. To help make this season a little more merry and whole lot safer on your heart, Dr. Sealove shared some quick tips to keep in mind this holiday season.

Don’t binge – this includes alcohol and food.

“The holidays are often a highlight of people’s years, spending time with friends and family, and cardiologists alike, we agree that everyone should live life and have fun! However, it’s important to be aware of how much you are both eating and drinking,” said Dr. Sealove.

Try to limit your alcohol intake – the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends one-to-two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Along with adding on excess calories to your meal, drinking more alcohol can raise the levels of fat in the blood, lead to high blood pressure, and even heart failure. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance use disorders, here you can find expert advice on how to stay safe this holiday.

As for eating, try to have smaller meals and space them out. A study from the AHA found that an unusually heavy meal may increase the risk of heart attack by about four times within two hours after eating. For those with existing heart conditions, like heart disease, an overindulgent meal is not worth the risk.

Thoughtfully fill your plate.

“I tell my patients it’s all about portion control and food selection. Try to minimize animal fat, sugar, simple carbohydrates, and salt intake. Also, rethink the cholesterol-rich foods you’re probably used to, like egg nog, turkey, or ham, and try to keep them to a minimum, or even better, eliminate them. More plant-based products are a great alternative,” noted Dr. Sealove.

Pack healthy snacks if you are traveling or leaving the house, and try to preplan your meals to incorporate a healthy recipe, blessed by a registered dietician.

“The holidays can become a dangerous excuse to overeat or drink, especially for those who have heart disease,” says Dr. Sealove. “But being mindful about what you are eating and drinking doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself, it just means that you need to practice moderation.”

To learn more about heart health or to make an appointment with one of our cardiologists, visit HackensackMeridianHealth.org/Cardiovascular.

The material provided through Health Hub is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.