Mardi Gras is the culmination of the season of fun known as Carnival, which spans from the Christian feast day of the Epiphany on January 6thuntil the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. In places like New Orleans that actively celebrate the Carnival season and Mardi Gras, this is a celebratory time of year. Traditionally, Mardi Gras often involves enjoying rich and decadent foods and alcohol while participating in balls, parades, and other community gatherings.
The excitement surrounding Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday’ as it translates in French, can cause people to forget about both old-fashioned restraint as well as dietary guidelines and the scheduled medical prescription dosages they are supposed to follow. While you may think cheating on a diet occasionally or accidentally skipping a pill or two won’t really add up, it can especially if you are on a low-sodium diet.
High Blood Pressure
If you have high blood pressure or heart-related issues, this is a reminder that you do need to be a bit more cautious with your Fat Tuesday celebrations. For patients with heart disease or high blood pressure, excessive consumption can potentially lead to more serious problems. It’s not so much the extra calories that are an issue — it’s the salt.
Mardi Gras cuisine is by nature heavy, hearty, and not always healthy. Fried chicken, potato chips and trays of mini muffulettas are found at parade parties up and down the route. For patients who have already been diagnosed with high blood pressure, those extra chicken wings or handfuls of chips leads to an increased consumption of salt, which causes high blood pressure. If these patients forget to take their blood pressure pills because they are running late for a parade, their blood pressure will run even higher. All of these factors combined can lead to a dangerous situation.
According to the American Heart Association, over 33% of New Orleans adults have high blood pressure and over 39% have high cholesterol. With statistics like that, it’s important for all of us to be aware of what we’re eating during Mardi Gars in order to minimize health risks, even if we haven’t been diagnosed with a potential heart condition.
How Healthy Is Your Heart? Learn more at Ochsner.org/HeartMonth
Heart Failure or Weakened Heart
Mardi Gras season can be just as bad for those with a history of congestive heart failure or a weakened heart. Like those with blood pressure issues, this goes back to salt intake.
Those with a weakened heart have difficulty regulating fluid in their body. The more salt they consume, the more fluid they retain. Those with heart failure or weakened hearts will hold on to even more water and will develop more edema or swelling of the legs. If the extra fluid starts building up in the lungs, these patients can become very short of breath.
Know Before You Go
Like most outdoor or public activities, the best preparation one can make for Mardi Gras is to plan ahead. Take a little extra time, pack some healthier snacks along with your seasonal favorites, and make sure you have your medicine with you.
If you are a caretaker and are in charge of watching out for your loved ones, ensure that they are taking any medications according to their prescriptions. If someone in your group seems lethargic or out of breath, reach out to a local first responder on the parade route for assistance.
The Carnival season and Mardi Gras Day should be a celebration. Taking a few preventative and cautionary steps ahead of the fun will help you to ensure that your season is both safe and memorable.