This time of year can be hard on the heart. The United States has more heart attack deaths between Christmas and New Year’s Day than at any other time of year, so the American Heart Association (AHA) offers some holiday health tips.
“The holidays are a busy, often stressful, time for most of us,” Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, volunteer president of the AHA says.
“Routines are disrupted; we may tend to eat and drink more and exercise and relax less. We also may not be listening to our bodies or paying attention to warning signs, thinking it can wait until after the new year. All of these can be contributors to increasing the risk for heart attack at this time of the year.”
This may be even greater for folks who didn’t get to be with family and friends last year due to COVID-19 restrictions, he notes in an association news release.
“It’s incredibly important to be aware of these risks,” Lloyd-Jones, who is also head of preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago adds.
“Take a few simple steps that can help keep your heart healthy with much to celebrate in the new year.”
What are the risk factors for heart attack?
Several health conditions, your lifestyle, and your age and family history can increase your risk for heart disease and heart attack.
According to the CDC, about half of all Americans have at least one of the three key risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and smoking.
Although some risk factors for heart attack cannot be controlled (such as your age or family history), you can take steps to lower your risk by changing the factors you can control.
How to protect your heart
Lloyd-Jones offers these ideas to stay safer:
Know the warning signs: It’s important to know the signs of a heart attack — they vary in men and women — and to call 911 immediately. The sooner a person starts receiving treatment, the better the chances of survival and preventing heart damage.
Practice moderation: During the holidays, eat and drink in moderation, try to choose healthy foods and watch your sodium intake.
Look after yourself: Aim to reduce stress from family interactions, financial struggles, hectic schedules, travel and other challenges during the holidays.
Be sure to exercise: Find creative ways to be active, such as going for a family walk or another fun activity you can do with your loved ones.
Stick to your medications: Busy holidays can lead to skipping medications, forgetting them when away from home, or not getting refills in a timely manner. It’s also important to keep tabs on your blood pressure numbers.
Your heart is one of the most important parts of your body, so it is important that you take good care of it. Luckily, it’s something that you can work on with small gradual steps every day. (Source: BlackDoctor.org by Jessica Daniels)