"Ask the Expert" - Heart Attacks & Holidays | Ascension

"Ask the Expert" - Heart Attacks & Holidays

Research shows that heart attacks occur more often during the holiday months. Some of the key contributing factors to this increased risk are related to changes in diet, exercise, and overall lifestyle.

It’s important to be mindful of your own health and well-being during this time and be aware of how the following seasonal changes can impact your heart health:

  • The holidays tend to be a time where overeating and drinking becomes common, causing potential weight gain which in turn makes your heart work harder. Many holiday food options also have higher amounts of sodium, which can lead to a spike in blood pressure.
  • Cold weather and busy schedules can make exercising a lower priority. However, the New Year dieting pressure can lead to drastic increases in exercise. Both of these situations can have a negative impact on your heart health.
  • Stress is a major part of the holidays. The increase in family interactions, or the lack thereof, impacts emotional well-being. Financial stress from gifts, travel and entertaining loved ones can also contribute to elevated cardiac risk in the winter season.

Taking preventive measures will help not only during the holidays, but also during your lifetime. Making simple lifestyle adjustments can help your heart, such as:

  • Reducing stress and/or asking for help when you’re overwhelmed
  • Controlling portion sizes
  • Getting quality sleep
  • Exercising regularly

There are many ways to take care of yourself during this time, but the most important thing is to not put off seeking medical attention. Don’t delay. Go to the emergency room if you or a loved one is having heart attack symptoms such as the following:

  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Profuse sweating
  • Lightheadedness
  • Pain in other areas of the body (jaw, arm, shoulder)
  • Shortness of breath

To learn more about heart attack prevention and other ways to keep your heart healthy, visit heart.org/ascension.