Holidays risky time for heart patients

December 16, 2008 4:26:10 PM PST
December and January are known as the deadliest times of the year for heart attacks. Doctors say it's often because people ignore warning signs, and don't get to the hospital when they should.

Unhealthy eating habits can make matters worse. And those can be avoided.

Steve Steinly, of Sellersville, Bucks County, admits, "My cholesterol is terrible ..really bad," he says, chuckling.

Steinly tries to stay healthy. He's lost 16 pounds this fall, but his cholesterol is still on the borderline for medication. And he admits the holidays are a challenge.

"I'm historically a big pastry eater. At Thanksgiving, I had a small piece of my mother's pecan pie, because....ooohhh, she makes great "

But he's getting some tips from Kim Wolf, a dietitian with St. Mary Medical Center. She says to avoid common food traps.

Kim Wolf, R.D., says first, look at portion sizes. She explain the difference between servings of party mix, versus air-popped popcorn. "This serving size is only 2/3 of a cup, which is portioned out here.. This is 3 cups of popcorn.

Wolf also says party crackers can be especially deceiving...

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So check portion sizes, and aim for low-fat, high fiber crackers.

"The more fiber the better - it can keep you fuller longer, and fiber can help lower your total cholesterol," she says.

And lowering your salt intake can help keep your blood pressure under control.

1 teaspoon is the daily limit for both what's IN your food and added to it.

In his "Cooking with the Cardiologist" sessions, Dr. Rakesh Shah, also of St. Mary, also stresses portion control, for both food and drinks.

Dr. Shah says, "Little bits of soda here & there add up to a lot of calories."

And so does alcohol. He says limiting your alcohol can help keep both your waistline and your heart healthy.

"Alcohol can be a direct irritant to the heart muscle, so in excessive quantities, it can bring on abnormal heart rhythms," he says.

Dr. Shah has 2 other tips - don't forget exercise, and keep a food diary. Even if you only do it for a few days, it will give you a good idea on what your eating patterns REALLY are.


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