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Christmas season is also heart attack season

Written by Dr. Daliah Wachs
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Tis the season!! Unfortunately not for our hearts.  A study back in 2004 found a 5% increase in heart attacks during the Christmas season.  Then this month, a study published in the British Medical Journal found Christmas Eve to be especially risky for those who are prone to heart disease.  Let’s dissect why….

Baby it's cold outside ...

The cold has long been associated with heart stress.  Cold weather causes blood vessel constriction and this adds extra work for the heart. Moreover, it causes less oxygen to reach vital organs, including the heart.

Snow shoveling has been infamous for inciting heart attacks for this same reason.  The heart demands extra blood due to the increase in activity and the cold restricts blood flow.

Let’s toast ...

Alcohol, especially in excessive amounts, can put stress on the heart by increasing blood pressure, worsening diabetes, and causing abnormal heart rhythms.    Moreover, it interferes with the metabolisms of medications, hence many of these may not work at their best.   Which brings us to…..

Is there a doctor in the house?

Medical providers take vacation too.  And if a patient forgets to refill his medication he may go without during the two weeks of holiday season.  Moreover many forget to pack everything they need for a Holiday trip and without anticipating delays, one could be without crucial medication dosing.  The heart does not like this.

Stress …

Holiday travel is never easy.  Delays, long lines, the cold, traffic and then…..family.  We may love our family but prefer seeing them in small doses.  All the family at once can be a little overwhelming for some.  As for coping with the in-laws…..well a guide is available for you all here.

Preventing Heart Disease …

Firstly, we must know our risk factors. These include:

  • Family history of heart disease
  • Personal history of heart disease
  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Inactivity
  • Males over 40
  • Females who are postmenopausal
  • High stress
  • and even short stature has been cited as a potential risk factor.

As you can see, many of us can be at risk for heart disease.  Therefore secondly, we should be evaluated with an EKG, echocardiogram and any other exams our medical provider and/or cardiologist deem necessary.

Thirdly, reduce your risk by the following:

  • Maintain a normal blood pressure
  • Maintain normal blood sugar
  • Maintain normal cholesterol and lipid levels
  • Reduce stress
  • Maintain a balanced diet, rich in potassium-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables
  • Quit smoking
  • Stay active
  • Maintain a healthy weight

So how to prevent to the “Christmas Coronary?”

Plan ahead by doing the following:

  • If you are running low on your prescriptions contact your medical provider early on.
  • Pack prescriptions in two different bottles, so you can take some medication on your carry on in case the flight gets delayed or a suitcase gets lost.
  • Avoid getting sick, by getting your flu shot, washing your hands, avoiding sick contacts.
  • For tips on how to avoid getting sick on a plane visit here.

Holiday time should be a happy time. Let’s make it a healthy one!!!

 

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Daliah Wachs is a guest contributor to GCN news, her views and opinions, medical or otherwise, if expressed, are her own. Doctor Wachs is an MD,  FAAFP and a Board Certified Family Physician.  The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.

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