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There’s a dark side to the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. I’m not trying to persuade you to abandon it. But here are the facts so you can make an informed decision for yourself, your family and perhaps your clients.
Risk of heart attack
Thanksgiving is typically the time when you are surrounded by loved ones. It’s most certainly not your intention to do them harm, yet the traditional Thanksgiving feast is fraught with health issues, some of which can be fatal.
Mortality rates in the United States spike every year around Thanksgiving.
While there are many reasons, heart attacks are a contributor. There’s evidence that an unusually heavy meal can increase the risk of a heart attack by around four times within two hours after eating.
Consuming alcohol with your big Thanksgiving dinner can increase the chances of a heart attack. According to cardiologist Shaista Malik, “[A]lcohol can be toxic to the heart – it can weaken the heart muscle. And it, too, can predispose a person to arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation.”
Would you consider consuming eight glazed cholate doughnuts in one sitting?
That’s the calorie equivalent of the average Thanksgiving dinner which “packs in more than 3,000 calories and 150 grams of fat.”
This amount of overeating – if it doesn’t kill you – will cause unwelcome weight gain that has an ominous list of health-related issues. These include:
- Increased mortality risk;
- High blood pressure;
- Adverse cholesterol issues;
- Type 2 diabetes;
- Coronary heart disease;
- Gallbladder disease;
- Sleep apnea and breathing problems; and
Many types of cancer.
I’m not suggesting overeating at one meal will trigger these consequences, but we all know how difficult it is lose weight once we gain it. Why should Thanksgiving be the beginning of a slippery slope?
Avoid unhealthy foods
Healthline has put together a list of unhealthy foods commonly served at Thanksgiving. They include:
- Sweet potato souffle;
- Green bean casserole;
- Pecan pie; and
- Mashed potatoes (if they include cream and butter).
Even the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving feast – the turkey – can be turned into an unhealthy choice if you eat too large a portion, consume the skin, prepare the turkey with seasonings and marinades that add unhealthy levels of sodium or deep fry the turkey.
Engage in healthy activities
MD Anderson has the following suggestions for making Thanksgiving healthier:
- Take a long walk. Go to the gym. Participate in a turkey trot.
- Play a friendly game of football or another sport. Anything to get you moving.
- Go for a hike or bike ride.
- Add some healthy favorites to the more traditional dishes.
A final suggestion
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We are aware of the staggering health care costs retirees confront in retirement. We also know the cost of custodial care will continue to rise, placing your carefully crafted retirement plans at risk.
Yet few advisors understand the impact of diet and exercise on these costs.
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, the foods you eat can lower your risk for cancer.
Exercising at least 30 minutes a day reduces the risk of breast, endometrial, colorectal and possibly other cancers.
According to John Medina, in his book, Brain Rules, one of the greatest predictors of successful aging is whether you live a sedentary lifestyle. Seniors who exercised had higher levels of long-term memory, reasoning, attention, problem-solving skill and “fluid intelligence tasks” (which test the ability to reason quickly and improvise).
Instead of hosting an event at a fancy restaurant, consider a healthier venue and feature a cardiologist or dietician who discusses how to make changes likely to improve your quality of life.
I wish you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.
Dan trains executives and employees in the lessons based on the research on his latest book, Ask: How to Relate to Anyone. His online course, Ask: Increase Your Sales. Deepen Your Relationships, is currently available.
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