Chuck, I try to do my best to stay healthy, but I dread every December because of the overwhelming temptations to indulge in everything. I love Christmas and all the parties, but I need a little extra inspiration this year to start the season. Got a good word? – Persevering in Philadelphia
I have some health news that might even prompt Santa to buckle up and bust some belly fat.
A short time ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported how cardiovascular disease, which includes strokes and coronary artery disease (the most common types), remains the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S. (In 2008 alone, over 616,000 people died of heart disease – nearly one in every four adult deaths – and those who survived often ended up with major disabilities.)
Add to those stats the study cited by Dr. Keith Churchwell, associate director of the Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre in Nashville, Tenn., who reported that among the 53 million deaths occurring between 1973 and 2001, deaths from cardiovascular diseases peaked in December/January, with spikes on Christmas and New Year’s Day.
(Obviously, a combination of factors contributes to the heights of holiday heart trauma: food and alcohol binging, weight gain, increased stresses, changes in routine, frenzied festivity schedules, travel, exposure to bad weather, denial of physical symptoms, etc.)
If that hasn’t perked your yuletide awareness, consider the August 2012 study of 12,000 men and women in the U.S. that revealed that normal-weight people who have central obesity (excessive stomach fat) run a three times greater risk of dying from heart disease and two times greater risk of dying from any cause, according to U.S. News Health.
If it sounds to you like it’s high time for the St. Nicks of the world to make some abdominal adjustments as they spread their holiday cheer, you’re exactly right.
That’s the bad news.
Here’s the good news, and it came just this past week from the global community.
For five years, Canadian researchers followed the eating habits of nearly 32,000 people from 40 countries with an average age of 66.5 years who were being treated for cardiovascular disease or diabetes mellitus with end-organ damage.
Fox Health News reported that during that period “a total of 5,190 cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks or strokes, occurred. But people who had the healthiest diets fared the best. Those who ate a heart-healthy diet had a 35 percent reduction in their risk of death from cardiovascular disease; a 14 percent decrease in their risk for a new heart attack; a 28 percent decrease in their risk for congestive heart failure; and a 19 percent reduction in their risk for stroke.”
What the study proves is this: While the necessity of medications remains paramount to lower cholesterol levels or blood pressure, we should never assume that meds alone will prevent another stroke or heart attack.
The health news elaborated: “A diet was considered heart-healthy if people followed dietary recommendations and consumed more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts, and had a higher intake of fish relative to meat, poultry and eggs, according to the researchers. For example, Americans in the study who fared best ate four servings per day of fruits; five servings of vegetables; one serving of nuts or soy protein; and three or more servings of whole grains – amounts that are consistent with current American dietary guidelines.”
I’m not trying to be the Grinch of goodies this Christmas. I’m all for all-things-in-moderation, but during a month when moderation easily morphs to mostly overkill (literally), it’s time to call up the reserves.
Friends, whether your holiday diet needs an overhaul or a few slight detours, ’tis the season for all of us to reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease in ourselves and each other. And we can help by not loading holiday plates and dishes bloated with sweet treats bulging with saturated fats and refined sugars, rather than edibles straight from our Creator, organic sources and Mother Earth.
Santa might not prefer celery sticks with a little organic peanut butter when he whisks down your chimney, but I guarantee you it will do wonders for his heart, gut, energy and even jet (sled) lag. Studies even show that eating celery releases pheromones in men that might light a spark between Mrs. Claus and him, as their chestnuts roast on an open fire!
Naughty or nice, we all can live longer and enjoy many Christmas seasons to come by treating our bodies as the temples they are. That’s particularly true during the month of December.