Watch health with holiday gorging

Talk about a killjoy. A story making its rounds in daily newspapers around the country and on the Internet is that gorging over the holidays may do more than make you feel bad.

It even may increase the risk of heart attack by as much as four times within two hours following consumption. The finding is based on a study presented shortly before Thanksgiving at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2000. Bad things do follow overeating, the study found.

For starters, blood clots more easily and quickly after a big meal. Likewise, the fat levels in the blood increase, along with blood pressure.

But how serious is this threat? Probably not that serious for healthy people. But it’s a different case for obese and sedentary people with a risk of heart disease.

The blood clotting and elevated blood pressure could be just enough to push some over the edge. Take stock of these risks. You still can enjoy the feasting, but just go easy on the calories. Instead of pigging out, limit your intake to moderate, reasonable amounts of food. Also, consider these safeguards:

u First, eat slowly. It’s no guarantee against overeating, but it can help slow down the number of calories you consume.

u Second, back away from the table and go do something else. If you want more hours later, consume a smaller portion.

u Third, exercise. Walking is arguably one of the most effective safeguards against holiday weight gain, largely because it often proves to be the most convenient form of exercise over the holidays. Walking also is useful in getting away from food. But even more important, walking can counteract some of the physiological effects associated with overeating.

Adequate intakes of vitamin E and omega 3 fatty acids, readily available in fish, also can safeguard against blood clogging. So, can a daily dose of baby aspirin. But caution remains the most effective safeguard. If you’re at risk of heart disease, shy away from extra calories, no matter how tempting.