Holiday pounds, even a few, can harm heart

By Shayna Brouker • Published: November 24th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

You pile your plate high with a heap of stuffing, slices of succulent roast turkey, creamy green bean casserole and a mountain of mashed potatoes ladled with gravy.

You go back for seconds… maybe even thirds. Swig some spiked eggnog or wash it down with a glass of wine. Finish the feast with a slice or two of pumpkin pie and you’ve done some serious damage to your diet, all in the name of celebrating the holidays. No big deal. That’s what New Year’s resolutions are for, right?

No one wants to be a stingy Scrooge and skip decorated sugar cookies or pigs in a blanket, but a research study from the Mayo Clinic suggests you might want to indulge in moderation. Scientists found that even modest weight gain from vacations, cruises and hedonistic college years… especially in the abdomen … can impair blood flow. The condition is called endothelial [en-do-THEE-lee-ul] cell dysfunction.

It may not sound as serious as coronary artery disease, but the condition has long been associated with heart disease and heart attacks. Endothelial cells line the inside of blood vessels and control their ability to expand and contract. Gaining as little as nine pounds can keep endothelial cells from doing their job.

But look past the body mass index, or B-M-I, say researchers. It’s important to note where those extra pounds settle. The dreaded “beer belly,” known as visceral fat, can incur worse side effects than a fleshy physique. Those who gain weight evenly on their bodies experience fewer blood flow complications.

The good news is that shedding that winter weight from your waist can restore healthy blood flow. So enjoy the holidays with food and family… just keep your heart in mind, too.