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‘Tis the season for many things ... oh yes, heart attacks, too

Published:Wednesday | December 30, 2020 | 12:11 AMKeisha Hill/Gleaner Writer

It is the season for many things – thanksgiving, celebration, fellowship, and good cheer. Oh yes, and heart attacks. The holiday season stretches into New Year’s Day and beyond, can also be a lonely time or a stressful one, or a season of eating, drinking, or spending too much. These downsides, along with other factors, contribute to the spike in heart-disease deaths that occur during the holidays.

Striking a balance between celebration and health can be a challenge for anyone. Heart disease complicates matters a bit. With some advance planning, you and your heart can come out the other side of the holidays even better.

DIET, ALCOHOL INTAKE

Food and drink are the centrepieces of many holiday gatherings, one reason why so many people gain weight between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Although adding a few pounds isn’t immediately hazardous, it can certainly tilt you in the wrong direction.

Salty snacks and foods are a common reason for heart failure flare-ups during the holidays. Eating too much or too fast can generate heartburn, which can feel like a heart attack and which sends many people to the emergency room each season.

At the same time, many people delay going to the hospital with chest pain because they think it’s heartburn. Alcohol is a double-edged sword over the long run. A drink a day can reduce cardiac risk, but binge drinking can lead to high blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythms.

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can also throw medication schedules out of whack. Missing a dose or two of most medications isn’t a big deal; taking an extended medication holiday can be trouble, especially for people with diabetes, heart rhythm problems, or heart failure.

In a survey of more than 1,000 people with high blood pressure, 62 per cent said they ate more than usual during the holidays, 37 per cent gained weight, and 29 per cent exercised less or quit exercising altogether.

Sometimes indulgence is just what the doctor ordered for the soul and the psyche, if not for the body. But taking care of yourself is important, too.

Having a simple plan can give you the best of both worlds. It can be as straightforward as, enjoy everything in moderation, make time for exercise, and don’t hesitate to call for help when you need to.

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com