A dark wood table with a fork, knife, and white plate. A red heart is in the center of the plate

Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude, family, and delicious feasts. However, it can also be a challenging time for those concerned about their heart health, especially if they have high blood pressure or diabetes. The Cardiovascular Rehabilitation team at UAB UAB Medical West believes that the first line of defense for your health is education.

Today, we will explore the link between high blood pressure and diet and provide essential tips to stay heart-healthy during the holidays. We’ll also look at some options and alternatives for a healthy Thanksgiving meal. If you're looking for comprehensive heart health services, UAB UAB Medical West's Cardiovascular Health Center in Birmingham, Alabama, is here to support you. You can call us anytime at (205) 481-7557.

Understanding High Blood Pressure

Before diving into diets, let's clarify what high blood pressure is and what causes it. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition where the force of blood against the artery walls is consistently too high. Over time, this can lead to serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and kidney issues.

What Causes High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure can result from a combination of factors, including genetics, lifestyle, and underlying health conditions. Some common factors contributing to high blood pressure include:

Unhealthy Diet

Consuming too much salt, saturated fat, and processed foods can increase your risk of high blood pressure.

Lack of Physical Activity

A sedentary lifestyle or being physically inactive can lead to weight gain and higher blood pressure.

Smoking and Alcohol

Smoking tobacco and excessive alcohol intake can raise blood pressure.


Chronic stress from work or daily life can lead to elevated blood pressure levels.

Medical Conditions

Conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, and hormonal disorders can be underlying causes of hypertension.

Diet for High Blood Pressure and Diabetes

Now that we've covered what causes high blood pressure, let's focus on the crucial link between diet and hypertension management, especially if you have diabetes. Here are some helpful tips to follow:

Reduce Sodium Intake

High sodium levels can cause your body to retain water and increase blood pressure. Opt for low-sodium or salt-free alternatives when preparing your Thanksgiving meal.

Embrace a Balanced Plate

Fill your plate with vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Limit starchy sides and sugary desserts.

Limit Processed Foods

Highly processed foods are often packed with sodium and unhealthy fats. Choose whole, natural foods instead.

Monitor Carbohydrate Intake

If you have diabetes, be mindful of your carbohydrate consumption. Opt for whole grains and control portion sizes.

Healthy Fats

Include sources of healthy fats like avocados, nuts, and olive oil in your dishes. Try avoiding vegetable oils, heavy creams, and whole milk.

Healthy Thanksgiving Meal Alternatives

The link between high blood pressure and diet is undeniable. By adopting a heart-healthy eating plan, you can manage your blood pressure and reduce the risk of complications. If you're struggling to create a Thanksgiving menu that caters to your dietary needs, consider these healthier alternatives:

  • Turkey: Opt for a skinless, roasted turkey with herbs and spices instead of deep-fried or heavily seasoned options.
  • Mashed Potatoes: Use cauliflower as a lower-carb alternative, or make mashed sweet potatoes with a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg.
  • Gravy: Make a lower-sodium gravy with turkey drippings and cornstarch instead of flour.
  • Stuffing: Prepare whole-grain or gluten-free stuffing with plenty of vegetables and herbs.
  • Cranberry Sauce: Create a homemade cranberry sauce with less sugar, or use sugar substitutes.
  • Desserts: Offer fruit platters, yogurt parfaits, or sugar-free pies for a guilt-free dessert spread.
  • Beverages: Serve water, herbal tea, or unsweetened drinks, and limit alcohol.

Remember, you can still enjoy the flavors of Thanksgiving while prioritizing your health.

Comprehensive Heart Health Services at UAB UAB Medical West

At UAB UAB Medical West, we understand the importance of maintaining heart health, especially during the holiday season. Our Cardiovascular team in Birmingham, Alabama, is dedicated to providing you with the support and expertise you need to manage conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes. Our services include:

  • Cardiovascular Assessment: We offer comprehensive evaluations to assess your heart health.
  • Personalized Diet and Nutrition Plans: Our experts can create tailored dietary plans to manage high blood pressure and diabetes.
  • Exercise and Rehabilitation Programs: We provide exercise regimens tailored to your specific needs.
  • Stress Management: Learn techniques to manage stress and improve overall well-being.
  • Medication Management: If necessary, our team can assist with medication management to control high blood pressure and diabetes.

This Thanksgiving, you can have your turkey and eat it, too, all while prioritizing your heart health. By understanding the link between high blood pressure and diet, making thoughtful food choices, and considering healthier Thanksgiving alternatives, you can enjoy a delicious holiday meal without compromising your well-being.

If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or just want to improve your heart health, the experts at UAB UAB Medical West are here for you. Find a location near you to schedule an appointment and safeguard your heart health. This holiday season, let gratitude and health go hand in hand.

Take Control of Your Heart Health Today

Located in Birmingham, AL, The Cardiovascular Rehabilitation team at UAB UAB Medical West is here for you and your heart. Whether you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or just want to safeguard your health, give us a call at (205) 481-7000 or contact us online today.