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The Holiday Heart Attack – Tips to Maintaining Healthy Habits Over the Holiday Season

Christmas dinner table

The festive season is a time for friends, family and spreading joy and holiday cheer! We begin to see holiday parties ramp up, which also means copious amounts of food and drink. But the festive season isn’t just about eating and celebrating, it’s also about the cold winter weather! Winter, not to mention holiday stress, can wreak havoc on both our physical and emotional health. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, mortality rates during the colder months average ten per cent higher than during the spring or summer. For seniors, the risk is even higher as the cold weather can increase blood pressure, which in turn, increases the risk of heart disease and/or stroke.

Below are some helpful tips to staying healthy during the festive season:

Eat Smart

We all know how tempting the festive season can be when it comes to food and drink! Christmas Ham and PotatoesParty after party, family gatherings – it all adds up! But knowing your limits is key to preventing a holiday heart attack! Research shows that individuals already at risk of coronary heart disease will increase their chances of a holiday heart attack even more during the festive season, due to overeating and binge drinking. Did you know a big Christmas dinner can easily reach up to 5,000 calories?! That’s more than double or even triple what a person should eat in a day. Eating smart is all part of staying healthy during the festive season.

Several studies suggest that one single act of overeating and binge drinking can quadruple the chance of having a same-day heart attack! Eating an enormous meal can lead to triglyceride levels to shoot up, causing inflammation and increasing chances of a holiday heart attack.

Helpful tip: Don’t go to a holiday party on an empty stomach – this will only lead to overindulgence! Eat a small, healthy snack before the party starts, so that you are less likely too famished when you arrive to the party.

Cook Smart

If you love to host holiday parties, why not encourage staying healthy during the festive season by cooking healthier foods? It can be small adjustments, which make a huge difference. Cut back on sodium, cut back on butter, cut back on fats and cook less red meat, instead opting to serve more turkey, fish or vegetables.

If you’re not a big cook, have your party catered and request for healthier food options. Don’t contribute to a holiday heart attack, choose to cook or serve healthier meals when hosting parties.

Limit Sodium Intake

We all know eating too much salt is unhealthy, but did you know that sodium can cause spilt salt shakerfluid buildup in your legs, stomach and lungs, which force your heart to work harder? Individuals with heart conditions increase their chances of a holiday heart attack when they consume too many salty foods. Salt also can increase the amount of blood in your arteries, which in turn raises the blood pressure, thus increasing your chances of heart attack and stroke.

Lowering your sodium intake each day reduces your blood pressure, and consequently reducing your risk of a holiday heart attack! Put the salt shaker down – be kind to your heart!

Limit Alcohol Intake

champagne glassesThe festive season is a time to raise your glass and celebrate friends and family. But it’s the time of year when over-consumption of alcohol can easily happen. Heavy drinking increases risk of high blood pressure and binge-drinking can lead to a holiday heart attack! Binge drinking is particularly dangerous as one of the cardiovascular side effects is irregular heart rate. Consuming a lot of alcohol at once can force blood pressure to rise quickly, triggering a heart attack in a person with an underlying heart problem. Staying health during the holiday season includes drinking responsibly and within reason.

Helpful tip: For men, try limiting alcohol intake to three drinks per day, to a weekly maximum of 15. Women should limit themselves to two drinks per day, to a weekly maximum of 10. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of spirits.

Stay Indoors During Extreme Cold Weather
If you are already at risk for heart disease, take every precaution when venturing outdoors during the winter season. Frigid temperatures cause your blood vessels to constrict and also increases your chance of a blood clot and high blood pressure. Extreme cold weather can also lead to hypothermia, which causes issues with your heart. When your body’s temperature falls below 35 degrees Celsius, hypothermia sets in. This is the point at which your body cannot produce enough energy to maintain your internal body temperature. Heart failure is the number one cause of death from hypothermia.

 Shoveling Can Be Dangerous

It’s a by-law to keep walkways and sidewalks free and clear of snow and ice, to prevent man shovellingfalling. But shoveling is considered a unique form of exertion, and this vigorous form of physical activity can be challenging for the heart. When combined with the cold weather, shoveling could lead to a cardiac event, for many people with known or hidden heart disease. If you suffer from heart disease or are at risk of developing heart disease, it may be worth hiring someone to shovel your snow.

This is the time of year to be happy, AND healthy! Have fun, enjoy the sights and smells of the festive season, and make smart choices. Staying healthy during the festive season doesn’t mean you have to give up eating and drinking, it simply means doing it in moderation. It’s important to be aware of what behaviours and/or activities can increase the chances of having a holiday heart attack!