10 Tips on What to Avoid During the Holidays to Protect Your Heart

Health Professional
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Heart-related deaths increase during the holidays with 33 percent more deaths occurring in December and January.

Avoid these 10 activities to protect your heart this holiday:

1. Stress

While the holidays are often happy times spent with family, it’s also a time of increased stress as you prepare for the festivities. The busyness is not going to ebb. You need to make relaxation a priority by scheduling breaks into your calendar. Use this scheduled time for whatever relaxation method works best for you… meditation, exercise, deep breathing, a nap. Don’t underestimate the importance of managing stress.

2. Sleep deprivation

Ongoing sleep deprivation is connected to increased risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. To get better sleep during and after the holidays, go to bed and get up at the same time each day, stop eating three hours before bedtime, avoid fluids two hours before bedtime, and make your bedroom as dark as possible.

3. Inactivity

Exercise is not only good for your heart muscle, it also improves your mood and alleviates stress. Maintain your exercise routine during the holidays.

4. Excess alcohol consumption

Too much alcohol raises blood pressure and may trigger atrial fibrillation, which is an irregular heartbeat causing weakness, dizziness, and chest pain. Moderate alcohol consumption is no more than two drinks daily for men and one drink daily for women.

5. Isolation

While the holidays for many are all about family, don’t succumb to loneliness if it’s just you this holiday. Being isolated and feeling lonely is connected to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke. Turn to your friends for support and find ways to support others. Volunteer for holiday programs and events… select-a-gift programs, toy drives, homeless shelter meals… there are many people and programs that need you as much as you need them.

6. Missed medications

If you take medication to manage your heart health, the holidays are not a vacation from your medication routine. It’s important to take your medication at your regular times. If you are busy and tend to forget, set an alarm to remind yourself. Use a pill organizer to prepare your medications in advance so you don’t risk an incorrect dosage due to having “too much on your mind.”

7. Overeating

Blood flow is diverted away from the heart to aid digestion, which can result in angina. Don’t mistakenly diagnose chest pain or early signs of a heart attack as heartburn. When in doubt, contact your doctor.

8. Lack of heart-healthy foods

Don’t limit your diet to desserts and fat laden dishes during the holidays. Your body still needs heart healthy fruits and vegetables… not covered in a rich sauce. If you are hosting, include heart healthy options on the menu to balance out all the rich dishes. If you are traveling and a guest, fill your plate wisely.

9. Cold temperatures

Cold temperatures lead to constriction of blood vessels and the release of hormones that may increase heart attack risk. Bundle up and stay warm.

10. Delay treatment

The increased risk of heart attacks during the holidays is often connected to patients delaying treatment until after the holiday season. If you display heart-related symptoms or just don’t feel right, seek treatment now versus later.

Knowing the steps you need to take to promote heart health is just one piece of the journey. Now you must implement the necessary changes. Click here to access my free guide How to Make Heart Healthy Changes into Lifelong Habits.


Lisa Nelson is a dietitian/nutritionist with a genetic predisposition for high cholesterol and heart disease. She guides clients to lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels through practical diet and lifestyle changes. Learn more and sign up to receive How to Make Heart Healthy Changes into Lifelong Habits at http://lisanelsonrd.com.