Heart disease related deaths jump 5 percent this time of year; that’s almost 1,500 deaths each day. In fact, Americans have the most heart attacks on Christmas Day, the day after and New Year’s Day. Find out if you’re at risk for heart disease and take the following steps to prevent a holiday heart attack:
- Stay warm. When temperatures drop, blood vessels constrict, raising your blood pressure. Avoid exposure to very cold temperatures. Dress warmly. Also, think twice before you decide to shovel your stoop or take a hike in bitter weather. Strenuous physical activity can leave you clutching your chest.
- Don’t overeat or drink too much. Eating a large meal, especially a high-fat one, can trigger a heart attack. Consuming too many alcoholic drinks can also be bad for your heart. Having too many drinks can raise your blood pressure and trigger atrial fibrillation (an abnormal heart rhythm). Atrial fibrillation raises your risk of stroke, heart attack and heart failure.
- Fight the flu. The flu season peaks between the months of December and March. Flu is potentially dangerous for everyone, but people with heart disease are especially vulnerable. Infection and fever put extra stress on your heart. An annual flu shot is your best protection. It can cut your heart attack risk in half.
- Stress less. The holiday season for many people is a very stressful time, causing anxiety, loneliness and depression, which are also linked to heart attacks. Take action to lessen holiday stress. Learn to say no and don’t overbook your social calendar.
- Resolve to take it easy. Every Jan. 1, millions of people start exercise programs as part of their New Year’s resolution to get in shape, and many may overexert themselves too soon. If you have a heart condition or risk factors for heart disease, talk to your doctor about what may be appropriate for you.
- Get help. If you feel chest pain or other symptoms, call 911 for emergency help. Don’t postpone treatment because you don’t want to spoil holiday celebrations.