Holiday Heart Health
We don’t want to dampen your holiday spirit, but we at RehabCare do want you to be safe this holiday season. The holidays are notorious for coronary trouble, and it is critical to be vigilant about heart health and self-care in December. According to the American Red Cross, the likeliest time of the year for heart attacks to occur is the holidays. A 2004 study in the journal Circulation even found that there are more heart attacks on December 25 than any other day of the year.
Why can the season of merrymaking be dangerous? Experts offer several reasons for the increased risk as well as strategies to minimize the hazards:
- Travel: Patients cannot let travel disrupt medicine schedules, cautions Dr. Sharonne N. Hayes from the Cardiovascular Diseases department at the Mayo Clinic. Be sure to stay on track with your medications if you spend the holidays away from home. Set up reminders or enlist others to help you remember.
- Emotional stress: Financial expenses and time spent with family can contribute to increased stress. Keep seasonal stress in check. Know when to give yourself a break, and keep expectations reasonable.
- Postponement of medical treatment: There is a tendency to delay treatment at this time of year. “People just tend to put off seeking medical help during the holidays. They tend to wait till afterwards, which I think is a mistake,” says Dr. Robert Kloner of the Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles. If you experience symptoms during a gathering, seek help and do not worry about disrupting an event, advises Dr. Hayes of the Mayo Clinic.
- Inclement weather: Frigid temperatures may pose dangers to your heart. “Breathing cold air can constrict the blood vessels and therefore increase the pressure, causing clots to form,” says the American Red Cross. Avoid extreme cold temperatures and dress warmly. Be smart about shoveling snow, which can cause undue strain on the heart. For those who live in snow-prone areas, Chicago-based Advocate Health Care created this video about snow shoveling safety.
- Overindulgence: Excessive caloric intake can lead to greater stress on your heart. Enjoy the specialties of the season, but eat normal portion sizes and watch alcohol consumption. It is especially important for individuals with heart failure to be mindful of sodium intake. Ask the cook about salt content if you dine out or eat in someone else’s home. Avoid sauces and gravies. Finally, don’t ditch your exercise routine.
RehabCare wishes everyone a safe and happy holiday season!
- Katherine Kam: The Truth Behind More Holiday Heart Attacks. WebMD. September 28, 2011. Accessed from http://www.webmd.com/heart/features/the-truth-behind-more-holiday-heart-attacks on December 17, 2013.
- The Mayo Clinic Medical Edge Newspaper Column. “Self-care Steps Can Keep Your Heart Healthy During the Holidays.” Accessed from http://www.mayoclinic.org/medical-edge-newspaper-2012/nov-30b.html on December 17, 2013.