Don’t Become a Depressing Holiday Health Statistic This Year
The holidays are mostly a time of joy. Parties, family gatherings and a general feeling of good will are the order of the day. But the holidays have a sinister side, too.
Back in 1999, doctors in Los Angeles reviewed 12 years’ of medical records. They discovered something disturbing. Serious heart trouble is more common around the holidays than at any other time of year.
They found the rise starts around Thanksgiving and peaks on New Year’s Day.1 And this was in Los Angeles County, where nobody’s shoveling snow.
Since then, other studies have confirmed this trend – nationwide. A 2004 study found that Christmas and New Years are indeed the worst days for heart problems.2
There appear to be a number of reasons working together to cause this rise. So with the holidays fast approaching, here are some tips to help keep your heart out of trouble this holiday season.
Bundle up. When it’s cold, your blood vessels constrict. Your heart has to work harder to pump blood and your blood pressure goes up. Dressing for the weather can help take this extra burden off your heart.
Don’t overwork. You may save a few dollars shoveling your driveway yourself. But if you’re not in shape, it can easily be too much for your heart. If you absolutely have to clear snow yourself, take it easy. Take frequent breaks. And push the snow rather than lift it. Pushing is a lot easier on your heart.
On the other hand, keep up with your regular exercise routine. The holidays are no time to let your workouts slide. Regular exercise helps keep your heart strong and your immune system healthy.
Take it easy at the parties. Lots of rich food and alcohol are a recipe for disaster. Alcohol makes your heart work harder – especially if you drink enough to get tipsy. All that rich food raises your blood sugar, loads your blood vessels with cholesterol and quickly adds inches to your waist.
Don’t forget your medications. With all the traveling and holiday obligations, it’s easy to forget to take a pill. But if your doctor prescribed it, be sure you take it. Always carry whatever pills you need for the day with you. And if you’re traveling, don’t pack them in your checked luggage.
Get plenty of sleep. Your body does most of its repair work while you’re asleep. And this is the time of year you need it most. You don’t have to be the last one to leave the party (unless you’re hosting). Avoid overloading your schedule, so you’ll have plenty of time for rest.
Don’t let stress get you down. With all there is to do during the holidays, it’s easy to become over-stressed. And stress puts a big burden on your heart. Take time to relax, meditate, practice deep breathing, or to use any other stress-busters that work for you. This time of year is an especially good one to take nutritional supplements for stress.
Finally, don’t ignore warning signs. Some experts believe heart problems are so serious this time of year because people tend to ignore the warning signs. They’re far from home and their familiar doctor. They don’t want to “spoil the celebration.” Or they put down discomfort to indigestion – even if they haven’t eaten recently.
The holidays should be a time of joy and celebration. By using these simple heart-health tips, you can help ensure they stay that way for you and your family.
1 Kloner, R.A., “The ‘Merry Christmas Coronary’ and ‘Happy New Year Heart Attack’ Phenomenon,” Circulation. 2004; 110: 3744–3745.
2 Phillips, D.P., et al, “Cardiac Mortality Is Higher Around Christmas and New Year’s Than at Any Other Time: The Holidays as a Risk Factor for Death,” Circulation. 2004; 110: 3781-3788.