Winter is a time for family celebrations, warm cocoa, and holiday cheer. Unfortunately, the season can also intensify heart problems and lead to heart attacks. Heart-related mortality rates increase 5 percent during the holidays, particularly around Christmas and New Year’s Day. Take care of your heart by taking the proper precautions.
With all the festivities, places to be, and people to see, those with heart issues may tend to put off seeking medical attention when something is not right. The stress of family obligations and other commitments can cause negative reactions that take a toll on your heart. On top of that, unhealthy food and exercise habits can take over during the holidays. Increased consumption of alcohol and fatty, salt-heavy foods can wreak havoc on your blood pressure and heart. The lack of physical activity adds even more danger.
One surprising factor that doesn’t contribute to increased cardiac distress? The weather. Studies conducted in Los Angeles, where the temperature doesn’t change too drastically, and New Zealand, where they experience summer weather during Christmas and New Year celebrations, showed that there was still an uptick in the mortality rate. So while there are many factors contributing to the increased rate of heart disease deaths around the holiday season, the cold isn’t one of them.
Managing Stress & Blood Pressure
The good news is, there are some simple steps you can take to manage your blood pressure and stress levels.
High blood pressure forces your heart to work harder and can lead to a heart attack. Manage your blood pressure by eating healthy foods in proper portions. Don’t forget to exercise; get some physical activity indoors, or layer up and head outside for a quick walk around the block. Aim to exercise at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Follow your doctor’s orders and recommendations to keep your blood pressure in check.
Stress is a natural occurrence in life that can increase your risk of heart disease due to its effect on blood pressure, plaque buildup, blood clotting, and other factors. But how your body responds to it is up to you. In order to control your response to stress, first identify its primary causes in your life. Then you can take steps to manage it. Great ways to take control of stress include getting plenty of exercise, building a support system, treating depression or anxiety, and maintaining a good work-life balance.
Make sure you’re aware of the symptoms of a heart attack. If you feel like something’s not right with your heart, don’t delay seeking medical treatment. Call 911 or visit your nearest St. Luke’s Health emergency department for quick, expert care when time is critical.
Journal of the American Heart Association | Cardiac Mortality Is Higher Around Christmas and New Year’s Than at Any Other Time
Time | Why Heart Attacks Spike at Christmas
Journal of the American Heart Association | The “Merry Christmas Coronary” and “Happy New Year Heart Attack” Phenomenon