How to Avoid the Holiday Heart Attack

The holidays are supposed to be a time of togetherness and gratitude, but they can be a double-edged sword for many of us. For what might be multiple reasons, an abnormally high number of people die from heart attacks during the holiday season nearly every year. We have a breakdown of the possible culprits so you can avoid them. We'd like to see you stick around for next year.

Only Shovel Snow If You’re Physically Fit

Many of us are dreaming of a snowy holiday season, but it can be dangerous. The cold can put incredible amounts of stress on our cardiovascular systems. Researchers have found a correlation between short-term bursts of extremely cold weather and increases in ischemic heart attacks. 

Shoveling snow is definitely a factor in some cases. Many of us must face this strenuous activity each winter, but it can significantly affect heart rate. To reduce the chances of overexertion, take it slow and pace yourself. Dress in layers and remove accordingly to avoid overheating. Another option is to consider hiring someone to clear the driveway or asking a neighbor to help with the walk. 

Some call shoveling the number one cause of the holiday heart attack but it's probably a combination of factors. Just remember to let the healthy youngsters get out and tackle the white fluffy stuff while you enjoy the view from the window if you're not at your fittest this year.

Address Stress and Holiday Depression

Emotional stress can create physical stress on the body — yes, even stress strong enough to kill. Stress increases blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol levels, increasing blood clotting and vein constriction. Keep holiday stress levels down by staying organized, avoiding procrastination and refusing to engage in any family disputes.

Depression can also be hard on the body. According to University of Iowa Healthcare, the physical stress of suffering from depression may increase the risks of coronary artery disease. People who have a challenging time during the holidays may want to see about getting professional support before the holidays arrive. Medication and coping tools save lives and the time to set these up is long before the holidays arrive but the second-best time is now. Don't wait to reach out.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline can help people in immediate crisis at 800-273-8255.

Check Unhealthy Behaviors

We might be more apt to overindulge during the holidays, but excessive food and alcohol, along with reduced exercise and other unhealthy behaviors, can take their toll. Remember, this time of year is already likely adding to the body’s stress levels, so try to be kind to yourself and make healthy choices. And don’t put off seeing a doctor over a new or worsening issue just because it’s the holidays; sometimes, no matter what special day it is, the problem can’t wait until tomorrow. 

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a 24-hour hotline at 1-800-662-4357. 

Heart attacks can strike anytime, but the holidays have the perfect storm of causes and as a result, many of us lose loved ones at this time of year. We can reduce our chances of leaving our loved ones in mourning by addressing both physical and emotional stressors and making healthy choices. And if you have elderly or those who are struggling in your family now is a good time to reach out and offer some extra support to help them through.

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12/23/2022 5:00:00 AM
Wellness Editor
Written by Wellness Editor
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