Don't let hypertension be the holiday grinch

Willpower tends to take a back seat during the holidays, but for people with hypertension, the damage of unhealthy eating can have particularly negative consequences.

About one in four Americans has hypertension, a disease that elevates blood pressure and can lead to a host of serious problems, including heart attacks and strokes.

“I tell patients to allow themselves one special meal for a holiday, but not to continue unhealthy eating habits for several days or weeks,” says Dr. Shawna Nesbitt, a hypertension specialist at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “Leftovers are what sabotage people.”

Generally speaking, people with hypertension should eat no more than about 1,500 milligrams of salt each day and also need to take prescribed medication throughout the holidays.

“Holidays are a time of tradeoffs. If you know you’re going to have an ample dinner with a lot of salt, you need to have a very low-sodium breakfast and lunch,” Dr. Nesbitt says. “And be sure you don’t go over your daily salt limit.”

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services for heart, lung and vascular conditions, including hypertension.

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December 2009 News Tips