Know Your Heart Health Risks and Avoid the ER on Thanksgiving

Monday November 20, 2017

The holiday known for the turkey, the stuffing, the pies (are you hungry yet?), is unfortunately also known for meals that are chock full of fat, sugar, and sodium -- all things that are bad for your heart.
Doctors see up to a 30% spike in ER visits on Thanksgiving, largely due to shortness of breath, heart failure, and arrhythmias. Did you know that a Thanksgiving meal may contain as much as 2,000 milligrams of sodium? The problem? -- That's the recommended daily intake of sodium.
Avoid the ER and be thankful for your heart health this Thanksgiving by sharing these heart healthy tips from AliveCor Founder and Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Albert.
1. Don't Skip Out: Skipping breakfast to "save your appetite" for dinner can lead to binging later on and higher blood pressure. Keep your blood pressure in check with a healthy diet low in sodium and cholesterol and high in fruit and veggies: An ideal reading is 120/80.

AliveCor Founder and Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Albert recommends that you cut down on sodium by making a lot of things from scratch, when possible.

"A lot of the canned food that we use for Thanksgiving dinner has added salt," said Albert. "Think about other ways to season your food rather than adding extra salt. Onion, garlic, and lemon can all add great taste with no extra sodium."

You can also consider slightly modifying the recipes you use, suggested Dr. Albert -- instead of green bean casserole, make roasted green beans instead.

2. Stay Hydrated: Not drinking enough H2O could spark hunger pangs -- but that could just mean you're thirsty. And beware of too much booze -- a higher alcohol intake can raise your chances of getting atrial fibrillation (AFib).
3. Say Yes to Healthy: Pass on the heavier dishes and opt for recipes with less fat, sugar and calories. Whether you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner or bringing a few dishes to share, make your recipes healthier with less fat, sugar, and calories.

Said Dr. Albert, "Ditch the skin and dark meat! Stick to white turkey meat without the skin!"

He also recommends that you skip the added sugar and butter in candied yams, and serve roast sweet potatoes instead. You can create your own stuffing mix with whole grain bread cubes and instead of putting it in the turkey, cooking it on the side with low-sodium chicken broths instead.

Another tip? Reduce the fat in your gravy by freezing it and skimming fat off the top of your broth -- or use boxed chicken broth, instead.

4. Exercise Regularly: Aside from helping you lower blood pressure and lose weight, exercise on its own can reduce the risk of stroke. If your gym is closed, enjoy a brisk walk with family and friends. Obesity and related complications can increase the risk of stroke, and, in most cases, even losing a few pounds can improve your health. Aim for a BMI (body mass index of) 25 or lower.

Do those "Doorbuster" sales after dinner count as exercise?

"It depends on how aggressively you go after that TV that's 75% off! But generally, no," said Dr. Albert. "Think about adding an annual Turkey Trot 5K to your Thanksgiving Day tradition if you're looking to get some extra exercise in ahead of your Thanksgiving feast."

5. Identify and Treat AFib: Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is an abnormal heart rhythm that greatly increases risk of stroke. Make an appointment at the doctor's office to regularly get an EKG, or to save time and money, use an FDA-cleared smartphone device that reads your heart rhythm at home in seconds.

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