More deaths from heart attacks occur during the holidays than any other time of the year, peaking on December 25 and January 1. While the cold weather can contribute to the higher death by causing respiratory and cardiac stress, an increase in heart attacks even occurs in warmer climates.
Because of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, we tend to neglect our health, especially diet and exercise. The delicious meals and alcoholic beverages can have a serious affect on health, causing us to gain an average of two pounds over the holiday season. Due to the cold weather, we are also less active than during the warmer months.
In addition, during the holidays we suffer emotional and financial stress under the pressure to give generously and throw big celebrations. We also deal with more traffic and crowds, which can elevate blood pressure.
You can help yourself stay healthier by watching what you eat at parties and finding time to stay active, whether it is walking during your lunch break or just taking the stairs more often.
You can also reduce stress by shopping online and staying away from crowds and traffic. Plan for the holidays by setting a budget. Create family holiday traditions that don’t revolve around food or drinking, such as going on a walk to look at all the Christmas lights in the neighborhood or watching a favorite holiday movie together.
If you or a loved one does experience sudden chest pain, severe shortness of breath, profound weakness or a fainting spell, any of which might be a sign of a heart attack, call 911 immediately. Don’t delay your treatment because of a social engagement, and don’t drive to the hospital as the ambulance will be able to get you there more quickly and safely through holiday traffic.
Take care of your heart by planning ahead, finding new meaningful traditions and taking time out for your health. I wish you the happiest and healthiest of holidays.
-by Dr. Edward Skillen
About Dr. Skillen – Dr. Skillen is a clinical cardiologist who has been practicing in the Tidewater area for over 30 years. He graduated from Barrington College, Rhode Island, and earned his Doctor of Osteopathy degree from Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, Missouri. He completed his internship in Internal Medicine at the United States Public Health Service Hospital at Staten Island, New York. He completed his medical residency at the Youngstown Hospital Association’s South Side Hospital in Youngstown, Ohio where he was also Chief Medical Resident and his Cardiology fellowship at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA. He is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology.