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16 Dec 2021

Tis the season to be heart healthy

Tips to maintain your heart health during the holiday season

As the holiday season approaches and our calendars begin to fill up, we all have a tendency to let heart-healthy habits slip. It can be hard to continue to make heart-healthy decisions during this time with busy calendars and an abundance of indulgences available to us.

To help you out during this time, we spoke to GenesisCare Cardiologist Dr Jason Kaplan about his top tips for a heart-healthy holiday season.

Keep your body moving

Try your best to maintain at least 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise. This doesn’t mean that you need to plan your day around making that awkwardly scheduled gym class in the middle of the day, it is about being conscious to incorporate movement into your daily routine, however that may look for you.

  • Go for a brisk walk – an easy activity to incorporate into holiday plans no matter where you are. -Grab your family, friends and the dog after you have recovered from your delicious lunch and discover some new spots, instead of resorting straight to the couch to nurse full stomachs.
  • Stream an online yoga class – good for the body and mind. An activity that you can do no matter where you are with just a little bit of floor space.
  • Near some water? Consider going for a swim. Not only will you be able to cool down from a hot summer day, but it is a low impact activity to keep your muscles moving.
  • Incorporate “active” activities into your plans. Hire a kayak, a bike, or a stand-up paddle board instead of going to sit inside the cinema.

Think of what you are putting on your plate

This is a tough one, we all reach for that extra piece of chocolate, that slice of cake we know we shouldn’t have, however there are small things you can do that won’t leave you feeling like you are missing out.

  • Moderation is key – that extra piece of chocolate is okay every now and then, but try every other time reaching for a handful of nuts such as walnuts or almonds instead. Can’t resist the chocolate? Try eating dark chocolate to satisfy the craving. A great way to keep your snacking in check is to also use a plate, as grabbing a handful of snacks here and there can end up making you too full to enjoy your meal.
  • Use herbs and spices to flavour foods instead of salt. Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease.¹  Replacing salts with herbs and spices instead will not only reduce your salt intake, but is also a delicious way to take basic meals to new levels.
  • Incorporate leafy green vegetables such as spinach into your meals. A handful of greens is easy to throw into any meal, full of nutrients, and pairs well with almost anything!
  • Choose wholegrains over refined grains – Not much beats a fresh bread roll, but consider reaching for the wholegrain over the white roll.

Wash it all down with a big glass of water

  • Keeping hydrated is key to overall health and wellbeing. Without enough water, your heart has to work even harder to pump blood throughout your body. Aim to drink 8-10 glasses of water a day, and stay away from sugary drinks as much as possible.
  • Watch your alcohol intake. It can be so easy to get carried away when having a drink with your loved ones, but be sure to keep an eye on your intake and don’t over-indulge

Maintain healthy sleeping patterns

Sleep fatigue is a thing! It is important to make an effort to maintain healthy sleeping habits during this time. We all fall victim to the afternoon snooze on the couch, but if that afternoon snooze is disrupting your evening sleep, try going for a light walk to wake yourself up.  Similarly, it is important to ensure that you are getting enough sleep to avoid being tired and run down.

Take time out for you

This one is a tough one. You may be thinking “But holiday season is all about family and friends right?” – while for most that is quite true, it is important to make efforts to take a break from the craziness and have time for you. Holiday periods can increase stress levels, so taking a peaceful moment can help to bring those back down and maintain a healthy balance.

  • Start your morning with a guided meditation to focus you for the day
  • Find a quite corner and read a book, listen to music, or engage in other quiet activities you enjoy
  • Go for a light walk on your own. Take in the peace and quiet for just a short amount of time, and get your body moving too.

We all take on a lot during the holiday season and can easily move off course from our usual habits. This holiday season, make it your mission to make some heart-healthy decisions, and encourage those around you to also do the same.

Disclaimer: this is general advice for individuals with no known health issues. If you have any existing health concerns or issues, please consult your GP for specific advice related to your condition.

Reference: 1. Grillo A, et al. Nutrients. 2019;11(9):1970. Published 2019 Aug 21. doi:10.3390/nu11091970