Cardiology

8 Tips to Keep Your Heart Healthy During the Holidays




Every year, approximately 647,000 people die in the United States from heart disease.

Many people know that heart disease is the #1 cause of death for both men and women.  We all try to combat this statistic by exercising daily, watching what we eat, and keeping our stress levels low.

Yet many people are shocked to learn that during December and January, when we indulge the most and our stress levels are at an all-time high, 33% more deaths due to heart attacks occur.

The reason for the “holiday heart attack” is unknown but doctors have many theories.

It is common for people to attribute the spike in heart attacks during the holidays to cold weather. However, holiday heart attacks are consistently greater across the country, even in warmer climates.

One study found that in a 12-year period, one-third more coronary artery disease deaths happen in December and January than in June through September in Los Angeles County.

Another theory is that the added stress that comes with the holidays may be enough to send a weakened heart over the edge.

Or even the abundance of high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar foods. Not to mention, alcohol.

But the progression of heart disease does not happen in a matter of weeks like the numbers may suggest. The rise in cardiac deaths during the holiday season could be due to a culmination of heart disease risk factors packed into a short amount of time.

After all, stress, overindulgence, and less motivation to work out are the 3 major ingredients that make up the holiday season.

HERE ARE 8 WAYS TO KEEP YOUR HEART HEALTHY DURING THE HOLIDAYS:

  • Make it a potluck! Ask your friends and family to pitch in!  Have everyone bring a dish so that the workload doesn’t all fall on one person.  Want to take it to the next level?  Challenge yourself and your loved ones to create dishes rich in colorful veggies, fruits, and whole grains!
  • Watch your alcohol intake. Over time, excessive drinking can raise your blood pressure.  Binge drinking can actually lead to an irregular heartbeat known as arterial fibrillation, which increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Stay warm! Cold temperatures are hard on the heart!  They cause blood vessels to constrict, which raises blood pressure.  Lower temperatures also mean that blood clots more easily.  Avoid exposure to frigid temperatures and layer up!
  • Catch some Zzzz… One of the easiest ways to strengthen your immune system is to get an adequate amount of sleep!  Infection and fever put extra strain on the heart so keep your immune system functioning properly!
  • Get some fresh air. The crackling of a wood burning fire might put you in the holiday mood, but the tiny particles released by burning wood are detrimental to your heart health.  Keep your distance from burning wood and stay inside during any air pollution alerts.
  • Get moving! Take a walk around your neighborhood to look at lights!  Find a quick workout video on YouTube!  Turn your activity into quality family time and ask your loved ones to join you!  Exercising works wonders on your heart and relieves stress!
  • Say NO! Stay away from high stress situations.  The first step?  Paring down your “to do” list!  You are not a superhero—no one expects you to be! Having too much on your plate can lead to exhaustion, anger, and emotional stress—all which cause strain on the heart!
  • Pay attention. Many people ignore their health during the holidays.  Don’t forget to take your medications and pay attention to how you’re feeling.  If you feel like something might be wrong, don’t blame it on stress, worry about being an inconvenience, or brush it off.  Many people confuse heart attacks with panic attacks.  It’s better to be safe than sorry!  Don’t put off discomfort or pain because you are traveling.  Seek medical attention right away.

No matter what season it is, always aim for BALANCE in your lifestyle choices.

Stay focused on your goals.

Stay honest with your journey.

Stay conscious of your body.

The holidays are about spending time with the people that you love. We all want more of that, right?

References:

American College of Cardiology: https://www.acc.org/latest-in-cardiology/ten-points-to-remember/2019/02/15/14/39/aha-2019-heart-disease-and-stroke-statistics

American Heart Association: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/StressManagement/FightStressWithHealthyHabits/Holiday-Stress-Try-These-5-Tips-for-a-Heart-Healthy-Holiday-Season_UCM_433252_Article.jsp?appName=MobileApp

American Heart Association: https://newsroom.heart.org/news/avoiding-the-deadly-holiday-heart-attack

Circulation: https://ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/01.cir.100.15.1630

Harvard Health Publishing: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system

The post 8 Tips to Keep Your Heart Healthy During the Holidays appeared first on The Heart Foundation.

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