Prevent holiday heart attack

5 easy steps to remember for a happy, healthy holiday

Manila Bulletin published December 16, 2014

We have seen an increase in the incidence of heart attacks occurring during this time of the year. Unfortunately it peaks around Christmas and the New Year’s when everyone is enjoying the festivities over rich, sumptuous, and delicious dishes.

And what do these yummy, fatty foods have in common? You got it—cholesterol!

There are two types of cholesterol—HDL (good) and LDL (bad). The good one has more proteins attached to it and helps carry cholesterol to the liver where it is broken down and removed. On the other hand, bad cholesterol can clog arteries and block blood flow while increasing risk for heart diseases.eat1

A heart attack happens when blood flow is impeded causing the heart muscle to get damaged or worst, die. Blockage of the arteries where the blood flows is caused by the buildup of cholesterol. This condition is known as atherosclerosis.

Here are some tips on how to prevent the holiday heart attack.

Practice portion control. Now is not the time to go on a strict diet. Depriving oneself is a sure way to ruin the holiday season. However, it is also important not to indulge on too much food. As the saying goes, too much of anything is not good. Eat slowly and chew your food well. Take small bites while engaging in table conversations. Drink water while eating. If you have to, taste small portions of foods prepared with fat and sugar occasionally. Don’t devour a plateful of high fat, high sugar, and high caloric foods in every meal.

Easy on the fat. Watch out for foods that contain saturated fats and cholesterol like thick sauces, gravies, dressings, processed foods, casseroles, baked goodies, desserts, egg yolks, and our noche buena staples hamon, lechon, and leche flan. Have small portions of these and balance intake with high fiber foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains as well as foods that contain omega 3 like fatty fishes (tuna, salmon) and walnuts.

Limit salt intake. Sodium in salt affects the blood pressure. Hypertension is a risk factor for heart attack. Since dishes are usually seasoned with salt and other herbs and spices while cooking, there is no need to add more table salt and condiments that contain sodium such as soy sauce, fish sauce (patis), bagoong, and the like while eating. Consume potassium-rich foods like bananas and sayote.

Keep track of your sugar level. Diabetes is also a risk factor for heart attack. It is important to monitor the blood glucose level if you are diabetic. Avoid sweetened beverages. Eat well-balanced meals with lots of fiber and observe proper meal timing every four to six hours to have a consistent and normal supply of glucose in the body. Drastic changes in blood sugar level (highs and lows) may cause serious medical conditions.

Do not overdo exercise to compensate for guilt feelings after overeating. Be physically active without exhausting your heart to increase your metabolism. This will surely help control your weight and keep cholesterol and blood sugar levels down. Incorporate at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Gradually increase the duration, frequency, and intensity of your exercise as you build strength and stamina. If you have been sedentary for a long time, don’t lift heavy weights or hop on the treadmill for 60 minutes the first time you decided to be physically active. You might just pass out and do more harm to your heart. Start with light activities on short duration only. For example, 10 minutes of walking three times a day on most days of the week.