The holidays will soon be upon us and this year, they promise to be bittersweet for many of us. The COVID pandemic has forced us to rethink how we will celebrate with family and friends, and some of us will sit down to holiday tables that are missing those we love because of COVID.
Under the best of conditions, many people view the holidays as a reason to over-imbibe. But 2020 may tempt many to raise one-too-many glasses in an attempt to drown out the difficulties of the past year.
But like most things in life, alcohol is best consumed in moderation—especially during the holidays.
Avoid the Heartache: Moderation is Best
Some studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption, such as the occasional glass of red wine, can have heart benefits, especially since red wine contains antioxidants that may help protect the lining of blood vessels in the heart. But too much alcohol consumption can create heartache, in more ways than one.
Heavy drinkers are at higher risk for high blood pressure, stroke or cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle that makes it harder for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body.
A study by the University of California-San Francisco revealed that alcohol abuse may increase the risk of heart attacks and other cardiac problems even in people who don’t have a family history of heart disease or other known risk factors. The study revealed that:
- Alcohol abuse was associated with a 40 percent higher risk of heart attack.
- Excessive drinking was tied to a two-fold greater risk of atrial fibrillation, or an irregular rapid heartbeat.
- Heavy drinking resulted in a 2.3-fold increased risk of congestive heart failure.
The Centers for Disease Control define moderate drinking as an average of one drink per day for women and one or two for men, although those with certain heart rhythm abnormalities or heart failure should avoid alcohol all together.
Make a Toast to Good Health
You can still make your holiday’s special and celebratory without over-doing it on the alcohol. There are many ways to add healthy elements to your festivities such as:
Consider non-alcoholic options: After offering an initial glass of wine or bubbly to your guests, switch to non-alcoholic options as the party continues. Spritzers made with seltzer and pomegranate juice can be as festive as champagne, while hot mulled cider offers the benefits of apples with traditional spices that smell—and taste—like the holidays.
Add exercise to your holiday traditions: If you are looking for a natural high, take a brisk walk after dinner or rustle up a game of flag football. Moving the body helps in digestion and also raises the body’s levels of the natural “feel good” chemicals known as endorphins.
Mix heart-healthy foods into your holiday recipes: Add walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts to your stuffing, salad or dessert recipes. Put pumpkin’s health benefits to work in more than just pie by stirring it into breads and muffins. Incorporate the heart-healthy benefits of salmon into a rich and creamy appetizer spread.
It’s safe to say that we’re all ready to say goodbye to 2020, but let’s make sure that as we toast to better health and happiness in 2021, we do so wisely, safely and with healthy hearts in mind.