Holiday Tips for Better Heart Health

November is National Diabetes Month. According to the American Diabetes Association, nearly 30 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes, while another 86 million Americans have pre-diabetes and are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If left undiagnosed or untreated, diabetes can result in serious health problems, such as kidney failure, vision loss and stroke.

A significant risk for people with diabetes is their heart health; people with diabetes are nearly twice as likely to be hospitalized for a heart attack or stroke.

Denise Piepoli, RN, BS, CDE, a staff nurse and diabetes educator for Allied Services Home Health recommends a proactive approach to heart health, especially during the holidays. “Whether you have diabetes or not, the holidays can easily take a toll on your waistline and heart health” comments Piepoli. “With colder weather, limited daylight and the added temptations of holiday meals and treats, it can be easy to allow yourself to stray from a healthy lifestyle.”

“However, staying active, maintaining a healthy weight, making healthy food choices and stopping smoking are the most powerful ways that you can minimize the risk of heart disease” cautions Piepoli.

She recommends following these six tips, courtesy of the American Diabetes Association, for managing diabetes and heart health throughout the holidays.

1. Focus on Friends and Family
Remember, the holidays are a time to slow down and catch up with your loved ones. Focus on friends and family, not food. Play games, volunteer, or spend time outdoors enjoying the weather together.

2. It’s a Party, But Don’t Overdo It
Eat slowly, and really enjoy the foods that you may only have once a year. If the meal will be served near your usual meal time, try to eat the same amount of carbohydrate that you normally would for a meal. If you plan to have a portion of dessert, cut back on another carbohydrate food during the main course. Make sure your portions are reasonable and resist going back for second helpings.

3. Bring What You Like
Try not to worry about what will be served. Offer to bring your favorite dish to share. If you count carbohydrates, check your recipe’s nutrition facts so you know how many carbohydrates are in one serving and the size of a serving.

4. Drink in Moderation
If you drink alcohol, remember to eat something beforehand to prevent low blood glucose levels later. Whether it’s a glass of red wine or a beer, holiday drinks can add a significant amount of calories to your holiday intake. Keep it to no more than 1 drink for women and 2 drinks for men.  Avoid drinks that have high calorie mixers like regular soda, tonic, juice or margarita mix that are all packed with carbohydrate and calories.  Opt for sugar free mixes instead.

5. Stay Active
One reason that we have problems managing diabetes and weight during the holidays is our lack of physical activity. Sure, the holidays are busy, but plan time into each day for exercise and don’t break your routine. Make the holidays an active time!

6. Overindulged? Get Back on Track
If you eat more carbs or food than you planned for, don’t think you have failed. Stop eating for the night and focus on spending the rest of your time with the people around you. Include extra exercise, monitor your blood glucose levels, and get back on track with your usual eating habits the next day.

For help with holiday meal planning, managing sweet treats during the holidays and more on diabetes visit diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/.