6 Ways to Prevent a Holiday Heart Attack

The holiday season is filled with hidden heart-attack dangers. Here’s your guide to staying healthy.

6 Ways to Prevent a Holiday Heart Attack

The songs of the season paint a romantic picture this time of year. But the reality is that the holidays, with their inevitable stresses, piles of rich food, and glasses of eggnog, can be very bad for your heart. Studies have shown that heart disease related deaths jump 5% this time of year; that’s almost 1,500 deaths each day. In fact, Americans have the most heart attacks on Christmas Day, the day after, and New Year’s. Here’s how to keep you or your loved ones from becoming one of them.

1. Give Peace a Chance

What can go wrong: Planning, shopping, wrapping, cleaning, cooking, hosting -- your to-do list balloons at the holidays. Add high expectations that the big day goes well, and your stress level can soar. Rising stress hormones elevate your blood pressure and heart rate, setting the stage for a heart attack.

What you can do: Bring a little peace back to the process -- arrange a 1 to 1 gift exchange so you have fewer folks to shop for, pick up a few premade options for the big meal from a local supermarket, take 5 minutes each day to breathe and remind yourself that everything will get done (and you might even have fun doing it!) If you feel depressed at the holidays, as many people do, talk to a good friend or a professional to ease the burden.

2. Get in the Spirit With Fewer Spirits

What can go wrong: The chemicals in alcohol can be toxic and irritating to heart muscle. And drinking alcohol in excess can trigger atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that increases your risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart failure.

What you can do: Enjoy low-fat eggnog without the rum, opt for mulled cider instead of mulled wine, stick to one glass of wine with dinner, enjoy sparkling water and conversation instead of champagne.

3. Pare Down That Platter

What can go wrong: Research has shown that eating one high fat meal can render your arteries less effective at pumping blood for up to 12 hours. Fat can cause the lining of your arteries to spasm, reducing the space for blood to flow. At the holidays when one big meal follows another, your arteries have few chances to recover from the damage.

What you can do: Treat this time of year like an eating marathon and not a sprint. Fill your plate with vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains at meals, saving a little bit of room for richer treats.


4. Beware the Open Fire

What can go wrong: Chestnuts aren’t the only things that roast by an open fire. The particles in wood smoke contain toxins that are damaging to your arteries and can cause respiratory conditions such as asthma to flare, all of which leaves you more susceptible to a heart attack.

What you can do: Make sure your fireplace is well ventilated, light it at just a few special times, such as Christmas Eve, and don’t sit right beside it.

5. Stay on Track

What can go wrong: Experts think one reason heart attacks rise during the holidays is that people often miss medications and skip their regular exercise with everything else that is going on.

What you can do: Remember to bring your medications when you travel, don’t skip doctors’ appointments, and keep up your usual activity level (invite the family along for your daily walk). But remember that when temperatures drop, blood vessels start to restrict, raising blood pressure. So begin any outdoor activity slowly and, if you have any risk factors for heart disease, leave the snow shoveling to others.

6. Know When to Get Help

What can go wrong: Scientists suspect that death rates from heart attacks increase at the holidays because people wait too long to get help. Some may attribute their discomfort (which is often mild in the beginning) to indigestion; others may not want to be a bother on the big day.

What you can do: If you, or someone you are with, are experiencing any symptoms of a heart attack, don’t wait to see if it passes, call 911 and get to the nearest emergency room. 

Heart attack symptoms:

  • Pain or discomfort in the center of the chest that may feel like pressure, squeezing or fullness
  • Pain in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating and exhaustion
  • Nausea and dizziness

Women especially should be on the lookout for the last 3 symptoms. Women often don’t experience the classic center chest pain and therefore may not get the fast treatment they need.

7 Essential Items to Have for a Pandemic Date, According to a Relationship Expert

Celebrity divorce attorney and relationship expert Vikki Ziegler says you should treat COVID-19 like an STD.

Just when we thought relationships and dating could not get any more complicated, the pandemic took this matter to a whole new level. Celebrity divorce attorney and relationship expert, Vikki Ziegler receives an abundance of questions about this exact topic, every single day. Her fans and followers message her via her social media channels, in the hopes of finding the right way to safely date during these times. So, if this topic has crossed your mind, rest assured you are not alone.

For those who used to "swipe left and right," on the regular, Vikki recommends slowing down for the time being, no matter what type of antibacterial wipes are being used between your swipes. Serial dating during COVID-19 can be dangerous and also very selfish at the same time. This might be a good time to either take a break from dating altogether, or invest more time in one relationship and being monogamous, at least for right now. "Everyone should treat COVID-19 as they do an STD, while dating and practice safe EVERYTHING, even beyond just intimacy," says Ziegler. "This will simplify the process and make the do's and don'ts much less complex."

She recommends that new partners keep the dating virtual prior to both being tested and or having the vaccine. "Screendating" can still be both fun and safe at the same time. She suggests that you still wear your favorite new dress, get that fresh haircut or blowout and act as though you are still going out, even if the date is happening in the privacy of your own home. She has suggested some ideas such as virtual movie nights, happy hours, cooking classes, and the most obvious, the at-home and virtual dining date. This would entail both partners ordering food to each of their respective homes, but using the same menu as if they were dining in person.

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