As the holiday season approaches and the year comes to a close, hospitals see a sharp increase in heart attacks—sometimes as high as a 40% increase!
In fact, Christmas, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Day have the highest rates of heart attacks and cardiac mortality, more than any other days of the year.
Here are a few tips to reduce the risks associated with the potential causes of “holiday heart attacks.”
Managing Stress in Healthy Ways
During the holiday season, it is common to feel more stress due to increased responsibilities and expectations. From shopping and cooking to hosting guests and attending events, the to-do list can seem endless.
To reduce the risk of a heart attack due to stress during the holidays, try the following:
● Plan ahead and prioritize tasks to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
● Set realistic goals and expectations for yourself and others.
● Take breaks and make time for relaxation and self-care
● Seek support from friends and family.
● Don’t be afraid to say no to extra commitments if they are causing undue stress.
● Practice stress management techniques such as creative art, exercise, meditation, and deep breathing to help manage holiday stress.
Avoiding Excessive Overindulgence
The holiday season is a time for celebrating with friends and family, and often involves indulging in rich foods and beverages. While it is okay to treat ourselves occasionally, it is important to be mindful of how much we consume. Excessive consumption of unhealthy foods and alcohol can increase the risk of a heart attack.
To reduce the risk of a heart attack due to overindulging during the holidays, try the following:
● Drink alcohol in moderation: Stick to one or two drinks per day and make sure to drink plenty of water in between.
● Eat smaller portions of rich, unhealthy foods: It’s okay to indulge in your favorite holiday treats, but be mindful of portion sizes. Try to balance out your meals with healthier options as well.
● Incorporate healthier options into your meals: Bring a dish to holiday gatherings that is healthier, or choose healthier options when eating out.
● Stay hydrated: Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated and flush out any toxins.
Maintaining Your Health and Self-Care Routines
The end of the year often involves changes in routines and schedules, which can make it difficult to maintain healthy habits. However, it is important to continue taking care of your physical and mental health during the holiday season to reduce the risk of a heart attack.
● Continue to exercise regularly: Exercise has numerous benefits for heart health, including improving blood flow and reducing stress. Try to make time for physical activity, even if your schedule is hectic.
● Get enough sleep: Lack of sleep can increase the risk of a heart attack. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night to help reduce this risk.
● Monitor your blood pressure: High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attacks. Make sure to check your blood pressure regularly, and talk to your doctor if you notice any changes.
● Take medications as prescribed: If you are taking medications to manage a chronic condition, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, it is important to take them as prescribed. Don’t skip doses or change your dosage without consulting your doctor.
Don’t Delay Getting Medical Attention
One of the biggest risks associated with heart attacks is delaying treatment. Symptoms of a heart attack can often be overlooked or dismissed as something less serious, especially during the holidays. You may be tempted to ignore symptoms or wait until after the festivities to seek medical attention, but this may be a life-threatening mistake.
Be aware of the common symptoms of heart attacks, including:
● Chest pain or discomfort
● Pain or discomfort in nearby parts of the body, such as the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
● Shortness of breath
● Cold sweat
If you or a loved one are experiencing some of these symptoms, don’t wait. Get medical attention right away. The sooner you receive treatment, the better your chances of a full recovery.