He’s a mean one, alright. If the Grinch has stolen your health this holiday, check out these tips from Richard Stein, professor of medicine and cardiology at the New York University School of Medicine in New York City and a spokesman for the American Heart Association.
- Go in with a plan.
For example, make a pact with yourself during the holidays and beyond: “For these three weeks I will get at least 30 minutes of activity per day, I’ll have a reasonably healthy breakfast and lunch and limit the sweets. And I’ll leave my meds out on the dresser so I won’t leave the house without having taken them.” Then return to your usual heart-healthy routine (if you have one) once the holidays are over. Check out the American Heart Association’s Recommendation for Physical Activity in Adults.
- Beware of party perils.
Special holiday events often serve up extra helpings of high-fat foods. Too many sugary or salty treats can be a concern for those with high blood pressure or hypertension, secondhand smoke is a concern for everyone and events that run late into the night mean that you won’t be too enthusiastic about exercising. If you’re a guest, plan on eating a healthy snack before you go and consciously choose to eat less at the event. If you’re the host, challenge yourself to whip up a delicious and heart-healthy menu. Your guests will probably thank you!
- Stay active — even in the hustle and bustle of the season.
Sprinkle in some healthy behaviors with your daily activities. For example, if the weather isn’t too frightful, get off the bus several blocks early and walk to work or school. If dinner is going to be a feast, opt for a light lunch, then take a vigorous walk. And pick up the pace on family activities. When the kids are home from school, squeeze in some active chores and trips to the park.
- But not too active.
Give yourself the gift of peace. When the invitations pile up, if you can’t say no, it’s not fun — cardiovascularly, cognitively or socially. Hold your own schedule and don’t overbook yourself.
- Lay out a plan for January, February and beyond.
Your poinsettia’s pooped and the eggnog’s gone. Now what? It’s great that you want to start doing healthy things — like exercising 30 minutes a day or making an appointment to get your blood pressure checked — but don’t go dashing through your to-do list too fast or you might not stick to your plan. Lay out realistic steps for the months ahead. For example, instead of joining a gym, you might want to start a vigorous walking program first. It’s free, and it’s a great way to fit in more physical activity.