10 Tips to Protect Your Heart This Thanksgiving

November 26, 2013
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Categories: Heart Health

Many people throw caution to the wind, and eat with abandon on Thanksgiving – after all, it only comes once a year, right?  Well, it might be time to rethink that – because overindulging can not only set us up for a pattern of holiday weight gain, it could have far worse consequences.  According to a study presented at an American Heart Association meeting, an unusually large meal quadruples the chance of a heart attack.  Add into the mix the higher levels of stress during the holidays, and it is no wonder that Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the heart attack season.

10 Tips to Make Thanksgiving Healthier for the Heart:

  1. Have breakfast: people often skip breakfast to “save up” for the big meal.  But this can backfire, because you could be more likely to overeat later.  Eggs are a good choice – because they are high in protein, so they will fill you up, and won’t cause the spikes and drops in blood sugar which cause us to be so hungry. Another great choice for breakfast or a pre-meal snack is chia pudding.  Chia seeds are filling, low in calories, high in protein, fiber, and omega 3 fatty acids.  They will stick with you all morning, boost your energy and mood, and will even slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.
  2. Skip the seconds – serving yourself smaller portions and not going back for seconds will reduce the total amount of food that your body needs to digest, and can lessen the load on your heart.
  3. Take a digestive enzyme – overwhelming the body with so many different kinds of foods means energy is being diverted from the heart for digestion for a longer period.  Give your digestion and heart a boost by taking digestive enzymes.
  4. Serve sardines for an appetizer.  Studies show that healthy omega 3 fats reduce inflammation and the risk of heart attack.  Not a fan of sardines, you could take your fish oil supplement before the Thanksgiving meal (read: How Fish Oil Supports Heart Health).
  5. Load up on the veggies (unless they are drowned in sugary syrup), they will fill you up, provide fiber, and important vitamins and minerals.
  6. Take a turkey trot – starting the day with a walk is a great way to get the metabolism going and improve insulin sensitivity. Studies suggest that exercising within 12 hours before a meal can lower the post-meal spike in triglycerides and insulin.
  7. Help with the dishes – not only will your hostess appreciate it, research shows that the person who regularly does the dishes in the house tends to be less likely to gain weight.  Anything is better for your digestion than laying down on the couch!
  8. Focus on family and friends and gratitude and leave conflicts at the door – focusing on the meal alone misses the point of Thanksgiving, which is to give thanks.  Scientists have found that “habitually focusing on and appreciating the positive aspects of life is associated with well-being.” And it also helps us to focus on something besides all the food.  But arguing increases stress levels, and reduces the body’s  digestion, so leave conflicts at the door for this holiday.
  9. Limit alcohol or choose red wine – According to the American Heart Association, alcoholic beverages raise our triglycerides, blood pressure and risk of heart failure. If you do want to enjoy a drink with the meal, choose a glass of red wine, which offers heart benefits. But don’t overdo it, stick with 1 glass for women and no more than 2 for men to keep risk low.  (read: Alcohol and Heart Disease – AHA)
  10. Skip dessert, or improve it: Even if you didn’t go overboard on dinner, Thanksgiving dessert can really send you off the deep end. Studies show that after meal blood sugar spikes can raise the risk of a heart attack, and the risk more than doubles at levels considered “pre-diabetic.”  Don’t want to skip it? Make healthier versions of your traditional favorites, such as this delicious Dark Chocolate Pecan Tart .

It is extremely important to know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack or stroke because it is extremely important to get them to the hospital immediately.  Getting treatment early can save lives.  According to the CDC, at least 200,000 deaths from heart attack and stroke could be prevented each year.

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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