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Holiday Food Overload and How It Affects Your Heart

The holidays are a time of joy… and a lot of food. Binging on sugar, fat, and salt can send you into “holiday food overload.” While indulging in rich meals, cookies, candies, and the occasional eggnog seems delectable at the time, overeating during the holidays can have negative consequences on your heart and on your overall health.

Holiday meals tend to be very high in calories. There are more than 3,000 calories in the typical Thanksgiving turkey meal, according to the Calorie Control Council. That’s more calories in just one meal than the average man or woman should consume in an entire day to maintain their weight. Eat several of these high-calorie meals over the holiday season, and you could gain several pounds.

These holiday meals also provide more than twice as much fat as you should consume in an entire day. Eating fatty foods can increase your “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, which the American Heart Association says can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. Cholesterol can build up inside the walls of your blood vessels to constrict how much blood flows through them.

Holiday meals and treats often contain large amounts of sugar. Excessive levels of sugar in the body, even for short periods, can have a toxic effect on the body. High sugar levels are especially harmful to the cells lining the blood vessels. Elevated blood sugar levels can raise blood pressure and increase inflammation. High blood pressure and inflammation increase your risk for heart disease because your heart has to work harder to pump blood through your blood vessels.

Salt is another holiday staple that can be hard on your heart. Sodium hides in nearly all holiday foods, from pretzels and crackers to nuts and packaged foods. Eating salty foods increases blood pressure to increase the risk of heart disease.

Eating too much food and indulging in alcohol can cause “holiday heart syndrome.” In this condition, people who drink alcohol and eat too much or consume too much salt experience an irregular heartbeat. This abnormal heart rhythm, known as atrial fibrillation, can be quite dangerous.

For more information on holiday food overload and for tips on how to avoid it, talk with a healthcare professional. Schedule an appointment with Virtual Imaging today by calling 770.730.0119 to ensure your health is in good shape.