We can all get a bit carried away at this time of year, with the hectic preparations to be made in time for Christmas. As a result, looking after our health can take a backseat.
If you have heart disease, it's wise to keep a check on your health year-round. Simply taking time to notice if you just don't feel right really pays off.
Remember, early intervention could save your life.
Your Annual Heart Health Checklist
To make things easier for you at this busy time of year, we've put together a checklist of questions you may need to ask yourself, before the start of the New Year.
1. What Is My Cholesterol Level?
While it's fine to allow yourself a few treats at this time of year, knowing exactly what your cholesterol levels are before the overindulgence at Christmas, could be invaluable.
If you are over 45 years old, you should have your cholesterol levels checked annually.
If your cholesterol is found to be high, you need to reduce your intake of foods high in saturated fat, and avoid all trans fats completely.
2. What Is My Blood Pressure Level?
Christmas can be a stressful time of year, which may cause your blood pressure to spike temporarily. And, because high blood pressure typically shows no symptoms, it's a good idea to get it checked out regularly.
Normal blood pressure is considered to be 120/80 mmHg.
3. What Is My Heart Rate?
Checking your heart rate regularly is a simple way to flag up any underlying issue with your health.
A normal resting heart rate ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute. An unusually high or low heart rate (for you personally) may indicate if there is a problem. Get in touch with your doctor if your resting heart rate is consistently above 100 beats per minute.
Measure your heart rate with your palm facing upward, then place two fingers on the thumb side of your wrist. When you feel your pulse, count the number of beats in one minute, using a watch to keep time.
4. What Is My Vitamin D Level?
Vitamin D may not be something you've thought much about. However, as I mentioned in an article some months ago, studies suggest that maintaining adequate vitamin D levels may help reduce your risk of coronary heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, and stroke.
If you cannot get sun exposure year round, because of where you live, consider taking an oil-based vitamin D3 supplement, and remember to have your levels tested regularly. Find out more in this article.
5. Am I Exercising?
As little as 20 minutes of exercise, most days of the week, can help you maintain a healthier weight, reduce your stress levels, and keep your heart healthy.
It has also been shown to help increase your good cholesterol levels, and lower high blood pressure.
Try finding an activity you enjoy — this is the secret to maintaining a consistent, long-term workout routine.
6. What Is My Weight?
If you are carrying too much weight, it could be contributing to high blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol levels. It also places you at a greater risk of conditions like diabetes and stroke.
However, even a modest weight loss of 10 pounds can help with lowering these risk factors.
Rather than gaining weight this holiday season, try to at least maintain your weight at it's current level. Then, you can begin to think about slimming down after the holidays.
As well as monitoring your weight on the weighing scales, you may also like to measure waist circumference. Your health risks are increased if you have a waist size greater than 35 inches for women, or greater than 40 inches for men.
To measure your waist circumference, place a tape measure around the narrowest part of your waist, breathe out, and measure the circumference at this point.
7. How Healthy Is My Diet?
It's normal to indulge a little at this time of year. However, there are some practices you should try to maintain year-round.
This includes eating lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, moderate amounts of olive oil and lean meats, and making sure you get two portions of fish into your diet every week.
I also recommend avoiding high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, too much sugar, and foods that contain trans fatty acids, as much as possible.
Melanie Thomassian is a registered dietitian, health writer, busy wife, and mum. Her goal is to promote good health and better lifestyles in the online community. For more healthy eating tips, check out her blog.