Diet, Exercise and More Tips to Take Care of High Blood Pressure at Christmas Time
Taking care of high blood pressure at Christmas is no easy task. However, it’s not an impossible mission, either.
It’s true that the December holidays tend to be days of less dietary caution. It’s also common to postpone exercise and even experience stressful situations linked to the hustle and bustle of meetings, gift buying, and work pressures at the end of the year.
Understanding that you can take care of hypertension at Christmas is key for people living with this disease. Therefore, in this article, you will find simple tips to follow that will help you. Don’t miss them!
We think you may be interested in reading this, too: An Exercise Routine for People with High Blood Pressure
1. Check your blood pressure
People living with high blood pressure are usually trained to measure their blood pressure values correctly. However, this is not always the case, and errors in your technique may occur.
Especially at Christmas and New Year, there’s the possibility of being laxer with your measurements. Perhaps you don’t even perform them because you’re busy with other tasks.
You should know that you cannot neglect this aspect. The control of blood pressure values helps to have a concrete picture of the state of the disease and its imbalances.
Although it’s not necessary to become obsessed, it’s advisable to set times and moments to calmly take a measurement at home. It’s not necessary to do it every day, but December can be a month to set aside and schedule daily moments for the task.
Frequent errors to avoid when taking your blood pressure
If you want to take care of your hypertension this Christmas, it’s best to take into account some circumstances that can hinder the measurement. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), these situations affect the registry:
- Talking: Up to 10 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) can be added to the measurement if you’re talking while taking the measurement.
- Adjusting the measuring cuff over your clothing: If the clothing is too thick due to the cold, this also increases the reading.
- Not resting your feet on the floor: Having your feet in the air add 6 mm Hg.
- Crossing your legs: This can increase the pressure up to 8 mm Hg.
- Holding urine: A full bladder, with a desire to go to the bathroom, adds 10 mm Hg.
2. Don’t overdo it with the salt
It’s very common to have salt excesses in Christmas and New Year’s meals. The ingredient can also appear in many holiday dinners at work.
The events accumulate at this time and it’s easy to opt for the typical December meals, with sausages, highly seasoned red meat, and pickled preparations, for example. Another issue that happens is that, with such a full schedule, we tend to eat ultra-processed or fast food in the evening when we arrive home exhausted.
According to a recent study published in Nutrients, reducing dietary sodium translates into fewer deaths in the group of people living with high blood pressure. And this does not only involve the sodium we add in the form of salt. You should also consider the type of sodium that’s naturally present in the food you consume.
Since 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) has established that more than 5 grams of sodium per day is considered excess. To exceed that barrier is to increase your risk of hypertension and complications in patients who already have the diagnosis.
Therefore, Christmas cannot be an excuse. A single salty dinner is enough to alter the mechanism the body uses to defend itself against sodium.
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3. Limit your alcohol to take care of high blood pressure at Christmas
A recent analysis, published in 2019, clarified that alcohol increases blood pressure. This means that no small amount is acceptable in patients living with hypertension.
This seems to go against the famous myth about red wine and heart care. The truth is that, increasingly, cardiologists are recommending that alcohol intake in any form be suspended.
In fact, it would be advisable for professionals to draw up a register of alcohol consumption in people with hypertension. This would make it possible to anticipate possible abuses while increasing preventive measures so that the drinks don’t affect the treatment of the disease.
It’s estimated that those who drink 10 alcoholic beverages a week are at greater risk of developing arterial hypertension. Likewise, those who exceed 14 drinks a week could increase that risk up to 3 times.
Taking care of hypertension at Christmas, then, will also involve avoiding substances containing alcohol. It is, perhaps, a difficult attitude to bear in December, but it is very healthy. There are several alternatives in “mocktail” fruit cocktail recipes that avoid alcohol.
4. Maintain your exercise routines
This type of physical activity increases endurance, produces vasodilation, improves tissue oxygenation, and reduces resting heart rate. Therefore, it’s all that’s needed to keep blood pressure values at bay.
Taking care of hypertension at Christmas involves sustaining exercise routines. Do you go for a daily walk? Don’t put it on hold for the holidays. Do you ride a bike? Try to take it with you if you take a few days off by car.
No excuses here, either! Christmas is not the time to stop exercising to gorge yourself on food.
Although it’s not advisable to become obsessive about exercising, a good habit is built day by day. Stopping for two weeks can translate into not resuming exercise.
As the Australian medical guidelines point out, sometimes sport is almost the only approach for a patient with the disease. If it’s early and in the early stages, it may be eevn possible to reverse it with diet, exercise, and some lifestyle modifications.
Thus, what can be done to sustain movement becomes more important. Suspending it would be equivalent to stopping taking your medication.
5. Manage your stress to take care of high blood pressure at Christmas
Taking care of hypertension at Christmas also means staying away from stress. It seems like everyone is running around in a hurry, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Almost any year-end activity could wait a little longer. Gifts can be planned ahead of time, some meetings are dispensable, and work reports won’t change if they’re due the first week of January.
Modify your schedule so you’re not stressed, so you don’t arrive on edge or foster anxiety. And if things pile up, learn relaxation techniques to take down your stress levels.
According to the organization Go Red for Women, simple tasks you can implement to manage anxiety are as follows:
- Don’t over-commit and say “no” when necessary.
- Map out a path of activities to deal with stressful moments beforehand.
- Visualize calm scenes and set aside 15 minutes a day to do so.
- Practice gratitude by focusing on the positive in life.
6. Don’t forget your medication
Many scientific studies agree that total non-adherence to treatment for hypertension is around 30%. This means that one-third of patients who should be taking antihypertensive drugs do not take them, even though they have a doctor’s prescription.
However, there’s also a partial lack of adherence that can reach more than 50%. This is defined as forgetting more than 20% of the doses that should be taken in a week.
If you have a professional’s indication to take medication, one way to take care of hypertension at Christmas is not to suspend them or relax with your schedules. The effect is sustained with continued and conscientious use.
Also, if you don’t take your medications during the December holidays and consume salt, drink alcohol, and reduce your physical activity, then you run a real risk of a heart attack. A 16-year follow-up showed that heart attacks are more frequent at Christmas and during vacations that begin after the holidays.
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Take care of your high blood pressure at Christmas to live better
It’s not about being a party pooper. You take care of your body because you want to live longer and better. Christmas doesn’t have to be a time to suspend good habits.
Follow these simple tips to spend a healthy December, with blood pressure under control and reducing the risk of cardiac events. You will still have fun and you will still be able to get together with your loved ones. However, the very best gift will be your well-being.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
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- Grillo, Andrea, et al. “Sodium intake and hypertension.” Nutrients 11.9 (2019): 1970.
- Hameed, Mohammed Awais, and Indranil Dasgupta. “Medication adherence and treatment-resistant hypertension: a review.” Drugs in context 8 (2019).
- Istiana, Mira, and Yeni Yeni. “The Effect of Psychosocial Stress on the Incidence of Hypertension in Rural and Urban Communities.” Media Kesehatan Masyarakat Indonesia 15.4 (2019): 408-417.
- Mohammad, Moman A., et al. “Christmas, national holidays, sport events, and time factors as triggers of acute myocardial infarction: SWEDEHEART observational study 1998-2013.” bmj 363 (2018).
- Ponte Márquez, Paola Helena, et al. “Benefits of mindfulness meditation in reducing blood pressure and stress in patients with arterial hypertension.” Journal of human hypertension 33.3 (2019): 237-247.
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- Sharman, James E., et al. “Exercise and sport science australia position stand update on exercise and hypertension.” Journal of human hypertension 33.12 (2019): 837-843.
- World Health Organization. Guideline: Sodium intake for adults and children. World Health Organization, 2012.