The holidays can be a challenging time for those who have been previously diagnosed with heart disease or for those who are concerned about blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Ironically, the medical community has a name for this holiday phenomena called the Christmas Holiday Effect. Research shows that the risk for cardiovascular mortality increases around the holiday season between December 25th and January 7th . Fortunately, there are simple steps to take to have an enjoyable and healthy holiday season.
1) Practice Mindful Indulgence
Have a plan to indulge with intention! Meals and snacks around the holidays are often in the company of others, and it’s easy to overeat in the presence of abundance. Instead of reaching for any dessert or drink, choose an indulgence that matters the most and enjoy the moment fully for 15 to 20 minutes. Not only will this feel more satisfying in the long run, it will also help to control cholesterol levels around the holidays. A study looked at over 25,000 individuals in Copenhagen, Denmark and found that total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels tend to rise around the holidays between December and January compared to May and June. The study further recommended that practitioners not diagnosis patients with high cholesterol during the holiday season, and instead wait to retest lipid blood chemistry after the new year .
2) Monitor Alcohol Intake
Another phenomena around the holidays documented in the medical literature is Holiday Heart Syndrome. This phenomena describes the appearance of cardiac arrhythmias around the holidays after a period of excessive alcohol consumption. In a study by Jain et al., Holiday Heart Syndrome was even observed in those who rarely consumed alcohol but engaged in a brief period of binge drinking around the holidays . Again, have a plan to indulge with intention! Enjoy a glass of wine with dinner and follow that glass with a glass of water. After two alcoholic drinks, switch to a non-alcoholic beverage of choice such as hot chocolate or hot apple cider. And as always, wait to drive home after consuming alcohol or arrange a ride!
3) Get in Some Extra Steps
With all the extra work and personal commitments around the holidays, it can be hard to continue a regular exercise regimen. Finding ways to remain active during the holidays is possible with some creativity. Get in extra steps by parking further from your destination, or taking a quick 10 to 15 minute walk on a lunch break. Getting in some form of physical activity around the holidays has been shown to prevent holiday weight gain as well as lower health risks such as high blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol .
Remember, you do not need to wait until the New Year to begin your journey to better health. Book a free 15 minute meet and greet to get started before the holidays!
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Author: Dr. Kellyann Tomko, ND
Knight J, Schilling C, Barnett A, Jackson R, Clarke P. Revisiting the "Christmas Holiday Effect" in the Southern Hemisphere. J Am Heart Assoc. 2016 Dec 22;5(12):e005098. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.116.005098. PMID: 28007743; PMCID: PMC5210403.
Vedel-Krogh S, Kobylecki CJ, Nordestgaard BG, Langsted A. The Christmas holidays are immediately followed by a period of hypercholesterolemia. Atherosclerosis. 2019 Feb;281:121-127. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2018.12.011. Epub 2018 Dec 19. PMID: 30658187.
Jain A, Yelamanchili VS, Brown KN, Goel A. Holiday Heart Syndrome. 2023 May 7. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan–. PMID: 30725870.
Ramirez-Jimenez M, Morales-Palomo F, Ortega JF, Moreno-Cabañas A, Guio de Prada V, Alvarez-Jimenez L, Mora-Rodriguez R. Effects of Exercise Training during Christmas on Body Weight and Cardiometabolic Health in Overweight Individuals. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Jul 1;17(13):4732. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17134732. PMID: 32630214; PMCID: PMC7369896.
This information is generalized and intended for educational purposes only. Due to potential individual contraindications, please see your primary care provider before implementing any strategies in these posts.