12/16/2013 9:33 AM
By Christy Sillman
My January heart checkups are historically the worst. At first I thought it was just a strange coincidence, but now I’m starting realize how the fall/holiday season really takes a toll on me. This year I’m trying something new – I’m trying to be more heart healthy and conscious of my usual pitfalls.
It’s a lot easier to convince yourself not to work out when it’s freezing cold outside or your to-do list seems impossibly long.
Here is my December “game plan” for keeping my heart healthy:
- Get enough sleep. My goal is at least six hours every night.
- Schedule rest/relaxation time to combat holiday stress. Ten minutes of meditation in a warm bath can make all the difference in the world.
- Drink no more than one alcoholic drink at a party – alcohol is a cardiotoxic substance. My goal is to abstain for the rest of the month – I met my quota for drinks at karaoke last weekend.
- Keep track of my exercise. I use an app for my phone that helps me see at a quick glance how often I’m exercising – that way I’m held accountable. My weekly goal is 30 minutes of cardio three to four days a week.
- Wash the heck out of my hands. Nothing sidetracks a game plan worse than a cold or flu.
- Drink enough water, but not too much. Just enough water can give me the energy I need to get me through the day.
- Stay away from caffeine. My heart and caffeine are not friends, but it’s so hard to resist a hot cup of coffee when your hands are freezing – I’ve discovered decaf coffee/mochas/lattes are the way to go! There’s still a little caffeine in there but not enough to irritate my heart.
- Avoid the salty goodness. There is so much good food being served it can seem impossible to avoid overdoing it on the sodium. I’m someone who battles many food intolerances and must eat a specialized diet. I’ve found that pre-eating before a party makes all the difference in the world. I have to go into a situation prepared to say “no,” and that won’t happen if I’m starving. I also carry a snack bar in my purse at all times.
- Shop online. No lines, no crowds, no parking spot fights. Online shopping is the best thing since sliced bread.
- Focus on what the holidays are really about. I’ve decided that my son will only get a few gifts this year. Instead we’re spending every night doing something special together. Last night we made paper snowflakes and hung them from the light above our dining table. Simplicity sometimes breeds the best memories.
Halfway into the month of December, I’m doing fairly well with the plan. I definitely could improve upon my exercise goal, and I haven’t finished all my shopping, but I hope that with this game plan my January checkup will look more like my July checkup.
What strategies do you use to help stay healthy during the holiday season?
Christy Sillman was born with tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia. She is a wife, mother, writer, and the nurse coordinator of the Stanford University ACHD program. Christy also co-coordinates a pilot ACHD support group through Mended Little Hearts called Surviving CHD. She is passionate about educating, advocating, and advancing the field of adult congenital heart care.
Copyright ©2013 ACHA
1 comment(s) so far...
By christine on
12/17/2013 8:32 AM
Re: My December Game Plan
I always have face masks with me.
You never know. Just today I had to run a few errands and people were coughing like crazy. I put my mask right on. And I wear them to the movies, always on a plane, anywhere there are going to be a lot of people. I also wash, wash my hands. I have wet wipes in my car and I have the individual sizes with me at all times. Clean my grocery cart before I touch it. And I never touch my face if I haven't just washed my hands. Gargle, hot shower when I get home from work/being out and about. And I wash all my clothes from the day, coats and pocketbooks too.
Good Luck to everyone on staying healthy this season.
-I hate germs.