4 Holiday Heart Dangers to Dodge

Dec. 16, 2019

Holiday season is here, and so is an increased heart attack risk. More people die from heart attacks during November, December and January than any other time of year, according to Duke University researchers.

Don't let the holiday season take a toll on your heart.

Avoid eating too much food and exercising too little. “A little indulgence on special occasions is okay, but don’t entirely abandon your healthy lifestyle,” says Dr. Nadia Fida, cardiologist at Houston Methodist. Substitute lowfat or nonfat yogurt for mayonnaise in dips and dressings. Replace some bread in your stuffing recipe with chopped vegetables. Put on your sneakers and head to the mall for some holiday speed-shopping.

Limit alcohol consumption and smoke exposure. Too much alcohol can raise the level of some fats in the blood and increase risk of high blood pressure, alcoholism, obesity, stroke, suicide and accidents. More parties during the holidays may mean more exposure to secondhand smoke, which has been linked to cardiovascular-related death and disability.

Reduce stress and anxiety. Family conflicts, traveling, shopping, cooking and parties can make it hard to relax, as well as worrying about holiday costs. “Acute and chronic stress may contribute to high blood pressure, so it’s important to head it off,” Dr. Fida says. “Relaxation techniques like deep breathing or a yoga class may help.” Accept your limits.

Prevent illness. Crowded malls, school plays, indoor parties and visiting relatives — it's easy to understand why respiratory infections like colds and flu are more common during the winter months. People with heart disease have increased risk of dying from flu complications, so get a flu shot. Cut your risk by washing your hands frequently, getting enough sleep and making sure other family members are current on their vaccinations. Also, be cautious if you have high blood pressure and take cold medicines, as decongestants can raise your blood pressure.

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