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Holidays Are Peak Time for Heart Attacks

woman touches heart

Without a doubt, the holidays are filled with indulgences. Families and friends gather to enjoy special treats and drinks along with memorable time together. People spend little time thinking about their health, and certainly they don’t want to break up a party if they’re not feeling well.

“People often ignore if they’re having discomfort, lightheadedness, cold sweat or shortness of breath, and put off seeking medical treatment,” said Calvin Madrigal, M.D., cardiologist at Liberty Cardiovascular Specialists. “But that is the worst thing they can do.”

The American Heart Association reports that peak times for heart attacks in the U.S. are Christmas Day through January 7. This spike, known as “Holiday Heart Attacks,” has been attributed to over-indulgence in food and alcohol, increased stress, cold weather and delayed treatment.

“Most of the food choices at holiday parties are high in saturated fats, which closes off the blood vessels in those with existing blockage, and alcohol can change blood pressure and heart rate. Add stress and strain, and it’s a very risky combination,” Dr. Madrigal said.

But people don’t need to spend the holiday in an emergency room if they take precautions, such as:

  • Following an alcoholic beverage with a glass of water
  • Bringing and eating a healthy food option to a holiday party, such as a vegetable tray or fruit salad
  • Eating a healthy meal or snack before a party and then minimizing salty, fatty foods

Dr. Madrigal suggests being aware of stress and minimizing it during the holidays with exercise or quiet time, as well as making stress-relieving activities a priority. On particularly cold days, he recommends avoiding outdoor or strenuous activities.

“This year consider having a neighbor retrieve mail or remove the snow,” said Dr. Madrigal.

Most importantly, don’t delay treatment. If you’re having symptoms at any time, seek help immediately by calling 9-1-1. Seeking help quickly can make all the difference to ensure you are able to enjoy many holidays to come.

For more information about your heart health, visit www.libertyhospital.org/heart.

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