Keeping up With Healthy Routines During the Holidays Is a Gift to the Heart

October 28, 2022

Grandmother and granddaughter making dinnerApproximately 697,000 people in the United States die from heart disease each year, and heart disease remains the leading cause of death for both men and women.* Our habits during the holidays have been found to heighten the dangers to our heart health.

According to research outlined in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association, cardiac deaths are higher during the holidays than at any other time of the year. For those who might think the increase is due to colder weather, the trend has even been found in warm-climate regions. The research suggests that abruptly changing how we eat, drink and exercise over the holidays can impact cardiac mortality. Although the progression of heart disease does not happen in a matter of weeks, high-sugar foods and alcoholic beverages can be enough to put the heart at greater risk, especially for those who may already have health conditions.**

Follow These Tips to Help You Stay on Track


  • Plan meals that are rich with vegetables, fruits and whole grains. If you’re hosting, aim for a colorful, nutritious spread – ask your guests to bring their most delicious, healthy side dishes.
  • Replace salt with herbs and spices, when possible. Lemon juice, citrus zest or hot chilies can add extra flavor without the sodium.
  • Use vegetable oil or unsweetened applesauce instead of butter. Use non-fat plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream for baked treats.
  • Try alternatives to alcoholic beverages: add seasoned fruit to water, or infused cranberries, pomegranate arils or orange slices to sparkling water. Club soda and a splash of orange juice is also a refreshing alternative.
  • Keep moving. Maintain your regular exercise routines and enjoy all the beauty of the season by taking a walk around your neighborhood with loved ones to look at the decorative lights.


  • Skip out on a full night’s sleep. Make sure you’re getting at least six to eight hours of rest each evening.
  • Overly indulge in sweets or alcohol.  Keep yourself in check by eating mostly low-sodium, low-fat meals and snacks. It’s OK to occasionally indulge, just try to stay balanced. If you wish to drink alcohol, dietary guidelines include limiting daily intake to two drinks or less for men and one drink or less for women.*** Consult with your healthcare provider for healthy eating tips and recommendations on alcohol intake.
  • Forget to take care of yourself. Allow for some time at the end of the day to decompress by doing something you love, like spending time with a pet or reading a book. ****

Curb Stress

Increased stress around the holidays can also keep us from taking proper care of ourselves. Some tips from the American Institute of Stress include continuing with self-care activities that help us to relax, such as yoga, tai chi or meditation. Additionally, with so many extra tasks to accomplish over the holidays, time-management practices can also help. Set aside manageable blocks of time to fit in baking, shopping, cleaning and social events.

Remember, the holiday season is about gathering, giving and getting ready for the year ahead. Your heart will thank you all year long if you take extra special care of it, even as you celebrate.  

Aiken Regional Medical Centers wishes you and your loved ones the very best of health and happiness this holiday season. As a certified Primary Heart Attack Center by The Joint Commission and American Heart Association (AHA), we’re proud to offer the community nationally recognized heart care.