Handling the Holidays with Heart Failure

Holidays can be hard on the heart. The top days for heart attacks throughout the year are Dec. 25, 26 and Jan. 1. Americans also have a tendency to eat and drink too much this time of year, triggering “Holiday Heart Syndrome.” For heart failure patients, the holidays can be an especially tricky time. Limiting fluid and salt intake is essential every day of the year for those living with heart failure. The holidays present certain challenges and considerations that can be overcome if you are prepared.

Traveling? If your holiday travels are taking you to the skies, be sure to consult with your doctor ahead of time. Seated for a lengthy period of time, dehydration and lower oxygen levels inside the cabin can put added stress on your heart. Talk with your doctor about the best way to manage air travel and make sure to have all your medications with you, avoid alcohol during the flight, stay hydrated, and take breaks from sitting when possible during the flight.

Skip Processed Meats. Ham, bacon and sausage all taste great, but are high in sodium. Substitute processed meats with fresh selections like turkey, chicken or fish.

Salt Hidden in the Sides. Did you know a one cup serving of a traditional recipe for stuffing contains as many as 1,000mg of sodium? That could easily be half of the daily allowance of sodium intake for heart failure patients. Be aware of how much sodium is on your plate and eat traditional sides like stuffing, b broccoli and cheese casserole and green bean casserole in moderation.

Don’t Go Back for Seconds. As tempting as it may be, the holidays are not the time to make excuses for seconds. Let friends and family take home any leftovers.

Stay on Medications as Directed. Taking your heart failure medications as prescribed is one of the best things you can do to manage your heart failure. That means there are no breaks during the holidays.

Watch Your Weight. Your weight is a great indicator of excess fluid retention. Make sure to weigh yourself every morning. If you have gained 3 pounds or more overnight two days in a row or 5 pounds in 5 days, contact your doctor or health care provider. They will determine if you need any changes in medication or other therapies.