Have Yourself a Heart-healthy Holiday

Decadent desserts, sweet treats and calorie-packed sides, oh my! Maintaining health goals during the holidays is no easy task.

If you have a packed winter season (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?), give the first gift to yourself – the gift of heart health. The heart and vascular specialists at Indiana University Health West Hospital recommend these tips for having a heart-healthy holiday season.

Incorporate small changes.
Focus on small modifications in habits, and avoid changing too much too soon.

“I encourage people to incorporate more movement and small changes in food selections,” says Joni Fiscus, registered dietician at IU Health West Hospital. “Instead of eliminating snacking altogether, switch up current snacks for healthy snacks. Make a goal to incorporate walking into your daily lifestyle – whether it’s before work or after a meal. Encourage your family to tag along.”

Fiscus also suggests substituting one snack per day with a serving of fruit, putting away the salt shaker, eating oatmeal for breakfast to help you stay full longer and setting aside three dessert-free days per week.

Stay active.
It’s easy to stay active when it’s warm outside, but don’t fall into a sedentary trap when the temperature drops.

“Maintaining a healthy lifestyle year-round improves heart health, physical conditioning and body weight,” says Dr. Ziad Jaradat, cardiologist at IU Health West Hospital. “Whether you choose in-home workouts, a new gym membership or a daily walk at the mall, do what works for you.”

Walking is an easy way to maintain activity levels. Set a step goal to ensure you’re moving, and make it part of your regular routine.

Be conscious of food habits.
Whether you’re spending time with friends or family, festive social gatherings can be fun. Don’t devoid yourself of these once-a-year treats. Instead, be conscious of what’s on your plate.

As you plan get-togethers, be sure to include nutritional variety – proteins, vegetables, carbs and fats. Fill up your first-round plate with protein and veggies. This gives you a good base, and you’ll be less likely to overeat on those calorie-packed sides and desserts. When it comes to your favorite treats, limit yourself to two servings.

Fiscus also suggests filling up on fiber. Fiber helps with digestion and satiety, while also lowering cholesterol and decreasing your risk of heart disease.

“When planning a meal, look for recipes that include berries, broccoli, beans, oatmeal, whole grains, nuts or seeds,” Fiscus says.

Be aware of heart disease.
The heart is the center of the cardiovascular system and is responsible for just about everything the body needs — ranging from blood circulation, transportation of oxygen and the success of your immune system. However, food choices and activity levels can drastically affect heart health.
“Cardiovascular disease remains the number one cause of death in men and women nationwide,” Dr. Jaradat says. “Maintain regular appointments with your primary care provider to stay on top of blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol screenings. Discuss your risk of heart disease with your primary care provider and learn what you can do to decrease your risks of developing heart disease.”

The highly skilled experts at IU Health West Hospital offer heart and vascular scans to eligible patients. To learn more about these convenient, simple screenings, visit iuhealth.org/heart-scan or call 317.217.3070.

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