It’s no secret that the holidays are a time of stress for many people. Too much rushing around, dealing with congestion in the stores and on the streets can leave you feeling a little out of breath.
Unfortunately, your heart can suffer the consequences of an overloaded schedule, packed full with too many errands and obligations.
To help keep you heart working at a normal, balanced pace over the holidays, here are five strategies you can use to lower your blood pressure. The last thing you want to do is put yourself at risk for a heart event while you’re supposed to be celebrating. No one wants to end up in the hospital instead of visiting friends and loved ones.
1. Eat Olive Oil.
Make sure your diet comprises healthy fats which can help keep your blood pressure at normal levels. The trick is not to try to cut out fat altogether—your body and brain need fats for energy and normal functioning—but to become conscientious about reaching for healthy sources of fat such as olive oil. You can use olive oil for cooking and for salads. You can also use olive oil on bread instead of butter or margarine. Do what the Mediterraneans do and use olive oil as an all-purpose condiment.
2. Get Your Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for Calcium, Magnesium, and Potassium.
These three minerals have key roles to play in the functioning of the heart. You can make sure you eat foods high in calcium, magnesium, and potassium, or you may want to boost levels by taking a supplement. Get some advice from your health-care provider. If you take cortisone or high blood pressure medication, you may need to pay particular attention to your potassium levels. These medications can trigger a deficiency in potassium. The key with all three minerals is not to let your levels dip below established guidelines: for calcium, the RDI for adults over 51 years is 1,000 mg; for magnesium, the RDA for women 31 years plus is 320 mg/day, and for men over 31 it is 400 mg/day. Because potassium is found in many different foods, there is no RDA for potassium.
3. Avoid Eating Too Many Salty Chips, Nuts, and Condiments.
Too much salt, as you likely know, is not good for your blood pressure. There is a tendency to overeat salty foods during the holidays. Resist eating these foods in excess. It’s surprising how quickly your salt intake can jump when you eat lots of foods you wouldn’t normally, simply because they have been put out in a bowl in front of you! When making your own meals over the holidays, take the opportunity to use salt-free seasonings to help offset the extra salt in holiday treats.
4. Grab a Fresh Vegetable Juice.
Vegetable and fruit juices such as beet, carrot, celery, cranberry, and spinach are good for the heart and regulating blood pressure.
5. Take a Breather.
Even though you’re on holiday and busy visiting relatives, excuse yourself or grab a friend or loved one and go for a 30-minute walk every day. Walk briskly and allow your arms to swing. Don’t overexert yourself, just get your legs moving, and keep up a steady pace. Keep this routine up straight through until all the overeating and rushing around is done!
Kozak, N., “Taking the pressure off high blood pressure: Dr. Roizen and Dr. Oz,” The Toronto Star web site; http://www.thestar.com/life/health_wellness/2013/11/28/taking_the_pressure_off_high_blood_pressure_dr_roizen_and_dr_oz.html, last accessed Dec. 18, 2013.
Toledo, E., et al., “Effect of the Mediterranean diet on blood pressure in the PREDIMED trial: results from a randomized controlled trial,” BMC Med. September 19, 2013; 11: 207.