Here’s how the holidays may affect your health in unexpected ways.
There are many reasons to look forward to the holiday season, from gathering with friends and family to gift giving and decorating. But while these activities certainly seem harmless, you may be surprised by how some holiday habits can affect your health, especially your heart.
Although heart health is often the furthest thing from many people’s minds during the busy holiday season, it’s important to take steps to help keep your heart healthier. Unchecked seasonal activities may affect your heart health in subtle ways, such as contributing to high blood pressure or heart disease, or they may result in something more serious, such as a heart attack. Research shows that more people suffer from heart attacks during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day than at any other time of the year.
Here are some ways seasonal fun can affect your heart:
- Excessive Eating. Holiday parties and meals tend to feature foods high in fat, salt, sugar and calories. Eating too much of these foods may increase your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, which can take a toll on your heart. Instead of tossing your diet out the window in December, try to keep eating under control. If you have a party at night, eat a lighter breakfast and lunch. Can’t resist trying everything on the food table? Take a small taste of each, but don’t go back for seconds. Avoid overeating and stop before you feel stuffed.
- Excessive Drinking. Attending numerous social gatherings around the holidays can lead to drinking more alcohol than usual. While it may seem harmless to have a few extra drinks during one month out of the year, drinking too much can contribute to heart problems, including heart arrhythmias and cardiomyopathy. Try drinking a glass of water between each glass of alcohol. This will cut down on how much alcohol you drink, and will also help alleviate hangover symptoms. Another trick to try: add extra ice to your drinks so you consume less.
- Excessive Stress. One major heart health hazard around the holidays is stress. The pressure to have the best holiday ever, coupled with a long to-do list, family tension, a busy calendar and even budgetary constraints, can be a strain on the heart. Give your heart a break by taking at least 15 minutes each day to decompress. Meditate, take a warm bath or watch a favorite holiday film. If your to-do list keeps growing or you find stress getting the best of you, learn how to say no and cut back on everyone’s expectations, including your own.
Don’t Ignore the Signs
People tend to ignore signs of health problems around the holidays because they don’t want to miss out on any of the fun. But if you notice signs of a health issue, especially as it relates to your heart, you shouldn’t put off getting it checked out. After all, keeping your heart healthy makes it more likely you’ll be around to celebrate future holidays with those you love.
If you experience chest pain or pressure, heart palpitations, weakness, faintness or shortness of breath, these are signs that your heart is in danger. Have someone take you to a hospital right away or call 911.
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Date Last Reviewed: October 17, 2022
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD