How To Stay Healthy And Happy During The Holidays

AHA Blogger

From the American Heart Association




The holiday season may be filled with joy, but it can also be a time of stress, overeating, and sedentary behavior. Aim to maintain your health by watching your diet, physical activity, and some key numbers.


“At the same time, accept that a little holiday indulgence is OK,” said Robert Eckel, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and a past president of the American Heart Association.


“People need to enjoy the holidays,” Eckel comments. “Just be smart.”


Staying on track through the year-end holidays can minimize the physical and financial stress that can accompany overindulgence.


Minimize holiday weight gain

Party buffets and family feasts can take a toll on your weight, so have a plan.


“The goal should be no holiday weight gain,” Eckel said, adding that, “if you gain only a pound or two it’s then easier to shift back to a normal routine when the new year begins.”


When eating favorite holiday foods, select smaller portions. Go easy on the gravy, and watch out for calorie-laden appetizers and snacks. Also, try to limit salty foods. Staying active during the season can also help keep weight under control.


Measuring blood pressure

“Blood pressure may go up amid holiday stress or because of too much salt or alcohol. Be aware of those factors, especially if you have elevated or high blood pressure,” Eckel warns.


A normal blood pressure range is considered to be below 120 over 80, according to the American Heart Association.


“Consult with your healthcare provider so you’ll know what your blood pressure numbers should be,” Eckel states.


But blood pressure isn’t the only thing that can increase this time of year. Stress can creep into even the most cheerful holiday season. To ease financial stress, make a holiday budget and focus on meaningful activities that don’t revolve around spending.


“Try to relax and keep the ‘big picture’ in perspective,” Eckel remarks, adding that, “stress can also impact blood glucose and cholesterol levels.”


Blood sugar and the holidays

If you have diabetes or prediabetes, you may be using a home monitor to measure your blood sugar under the guidance of your healthcare provider. Be sure to take your diabetes supplies with you during holiday travel and have a backup plan in case something gets lost or broken.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers tips for healthy holiday eating for those with diabetes. For example, try to eat close to your usual times, avoid or limit alcohol, and start a meal with vegetables as a healthy way to help curb your appetite.


Cholesterol and looking ahead

Knowing your cholesterol numbers and keeping your LDL or “bad cholesterol” number at an acceptable level is important throughout the year. Keeping that number less than 100 mg/dL is desirable.


“Cholesterol levels may trend upward during the holiday season, but that rise is likely to fall rapidly afterward,” Eckel comments.


Even with all of these health precautions, it’s important to remember to still enjoy the season. Taking a few healthier approaches during the holidays makes it easier to get back onto a regular healthy path in January.


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This article was prepared by the American Heart Association (AHA). Transamerica is not affiliated with the AHA and does not control, guarantee, or endorse the information. This information does not constitute the practice of medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always talk to your healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment, including your specific medical needs. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified healthcare professional immediately. If you are in the United States and experiencing a medical emergency, call 911, or call for emergency medical help immediately.