Six Holiday Habits That Cause Heart Attacks
Some traditions make for merriment and fun – but these six can literally stop your heart.
“Christmas Coronary.” It sounds festive, doesn’t it? Like something you’d hear in a holiday movie. Unfortunately … no. The term was coined by doctors who noticed a disturbing pattern: Heart attacks and heart-related problems peaking every year over the winter holiday season — specifically on Christmas, the day after Christmas and on New Year’s Day. Of course, health emergencies at this time of year seem to stick out more in our minds — the dad who had a heart attack just after the family dinner or the grandfather who experienced severe chest pain after shoveling snow. But it’s more than just anecdotal. Studies show that the number of heart attacks increases by over 30% in the winter. This number holds true for all ages (young people can manifest as having dangerous heart rhythms) and genders.
What’s behind this increase? These six stressors specifically surrounding the holidays put us at greater risk:
- Cold temperatures. Cold weather causes your blood vessels to constrict in your arms and legs, making your heart work harder. It can also cause the blood vessels to your heart to spasm, temporarily depriving the heart of oxygen.
- Overexertion. Even those who are sedentary during the rest of the year may increase their physical activity over the holidays — shoveling snow, trudging through snowdrifts or going sledding with the kids. Suddenly becoming active in the cold weather causes a spike in demand on your heart. In addition, the mere act of lifting a heavy snow shovel increases your blood pressure, which makes someone with heart disease even more at risk of having a heart attack.
- Nonstop food feasts.A study from Switzerland showed that in the winter, people had higher blood pressure and cholesterol — the very factors that drive a heart attack.
- What to do: I know—the parties, family gatherings and treats are half the fun! And we all need a little fun. You can still enjoy the festivities, albeit with some caveats. Give yourself some boundaries—for example, you’ll only eat two pieces of mom’s special fudge or one piece of apple pie. Or maybe you’ll allow yourself to indulge at one party, but not the other. I try to keep my nutrition in check on weekdays and then allow myself to cheat a little on the weekend. That works for me, but everyone is different so try some strategies to see what works for you.
- Alcohol. Holiday spirits can lead to “Holiday Heart Syndrome” if you’re not careful. I remember last holiday season taking care of a 34-year-old guy who had come home for the holidays, gone out with his friends and noticed that his heart was suddenly racing. His heart rate was 180 when EMS brought him in. It took hydration and medications to stabilize his heart rate.
- Ignoring symptoms. It’s a common excuse: “All the family is here right now” or “I don’t want to spend Christmas Eve in the ER” or “I have 30 guests coming this evening.” Health problems never come at convenient times, and the holidays make those surprises seem even more inconvenient.
- Catching a bug.‘Tisthe season for gifts, family — and the flu. A disease like the flu can put excess pressure on your heart — especially if you already have heart problems — increasing the risk of a heart attack.
With a little extra caution, you can enjoy the holidays while staying your healthiest.
May you keep the holiday spirit in your heart year ‘round, avoid “Holiday Heart Syndrome” and always and forever remain young at heart.
This week’s newsletter is excerpted from an article that can be read in its entirety at https://www.sharecare.com/health/heart-attack/article/6-holiday-habits-that-cause-heart-attacks
Let’s commit to a good food strategy that is heart healthy this holiday season.
your farmer and health activist
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1 Tbsp. agave nectar or honey
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 tsp. white vinegar
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 3 cups cooked quinoa
- 2 fresh pears, cut into chunks
- 1/2 cup dried wild blueberries (optional)
- 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
- 1/2 cup shaved carrots
- 1/2 cup diced cucumber
- 1/2 cup finely diced red pepper
- 1/4 cup red onions, diced
DIRECTIONS: Mix lime juice, honey, salt, olive oil, and vinegar in a bowl; set aside.
- In large bowl, mix together quinoa, fruit, vegetables, nuts, dried blueberry, then pour over dressing.
- Place in refrigerator to chill, then serve cold! (Optional to serve with chicken.)
All images and text ©Sandy Coughlin for Reluctant Entertainer.
Recipe Permalink: https://reluctantentertainer.com/pear-quinoa-salad/