No matter what winter holiday traditions you celebrate, you probably won’t find “think about blood pressure” on your to-do list, even after checking it twice.
But that would be a nice idea for your heart’s sake, experts say.
High blood pressure is a leading risk factor for heart attack, stroke and heart failure, according to Dr. Angela L. Brown, director of the hypertension clinic at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Studies have shown that cardiovascular problems rise after Thanksgiving and peak in the new year.
People often put their health on the back burner this time of year, Brown shares. But they shouldn’t. “The holiday season is a time for enjoyment,” she adds. “You want to enter the holidays healthy, and you want to leave the holiday season healthy.”
With that goal in mind, here’s advice on keeping your blood pressure under control during the holidays.
Think before you feast
“All of us enjoy a good party,” Brown says. “But if you have high blood pressure, in particular, you have to be conscious about what you’re eating.”
So if you’re stepping out, consider having a healthy meal at home first, she suggests, so you’re less likely to overdo it.
Similarly, Dr. Karen Griffin, a nephrologist at Loyola Medicine in Maywood, Illinois, suggests scouting before snacking at a family gathering.
“Do a little bit of groundwork, and look around the room and see what’s on that buffet Aunt Sally prepared,” says Griffin, who also works at the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in Hines, Illinois.
A vegetable tray, she says, can be a good place to fill up on something healthy. But watch the dip and use just a bit. “A lot of people think, ‘Well, if I’m eating vegetables, I’m in the clear.’ But they load it up so there’s more dip than vegetables.”
When you sit down for the big meal, go ahead and eat your fill, Griffin adds. You don’t want to walk away hungry, then