Doing Life Together

christmas-background-3846456_1920Here is a gift you don’t want to receive this holiday season–a Merry Christmas Coronary! Take it off your list! Unfortunately, naughty or nice, you may be at risk.

According to researchers who published in the Journal, Circulation, Christmas and the New Year are peak periods for increased cardiac deaths. The researchers discuss several factors as to why this might be the case.

First, most of us experience changes in diet and alcohol consumption. And those changes are not in the direction of health! During the holidays, people tend to gain weight while consuming more fatty meals and take in more salt–both factors that can stress an already weakened heart.

In looking at death certificates during the holiday season, the researchers also suspect that increased emotional stress plays a role as well. The holidays often force us to interact with family and relatives we may not want to be with normally. Stress levels rise along with family conflict. Too much stress can damage your heart.

Financial pressures also heighten during the holidays. There are gifts to buy, travel to book, entertainment and decorating costs.  All of this can tax your budget and your heart. When those bills show up in January, it can be a bit of a shock.

While we love the image of the roaring fireplace, burning wood may also play a role in heart problems. Burning  wood can prompt respiratory issues due to the release of toxic material into the air. Furthermore, airborne pollutants have been associated with an increase in cardiac events and blood pressures increases.

To add to all these concerns, if  you have a cardiac event,  your regular doctors might be on vacation and care will be provided by those less familiar with your on-going health needs. And even if your doctor works the holiday shifts, many of us are hesitant to see a doctor during the holidays because we think we can power through warning signs and put off medical attention until after all the celebrations.

Finally, colder weather can lead to increased vascular resistance, coronary spasm, hemostasis and clot formation. Throw into the mix decreased hours of daylight and you have additional problems with mood and stress.

Since we don’t know exactly what causes this rise in coronary problems this time of year, it makes sense to do a few things to possibly prevent a Merry Christmas Coronary.

  1. If you have cardiac symptoms, don’t delay and go for help.
  2. Know the triggers for cardiac events such as too much physical exertion from shoveling snow.
  3. Watch your diet to avoid  excess salt and alcohol and overeating. Alcohol can bring on arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation often referred to as the “holiday heart syndrome.”
  4. Avoid inhaling smoke from wood burning fire places.
  5. Manage your emotional stress and take time-outs to clear your head and set healthy expectations.

Let’s not add a Merry Christmas Coronary to our gift list!

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