Have a happy holiday, not a heart attack

December 14, 2016 Swedish Blogger

It’s official: The Starbucks red cups are out and the holidays are upon us.  A time to gather with friends and family, enjoy the sights and sounds of the season and relax … WRONG!  You have to shop for 50 people, cook for 20 and take that annual family photo (why are dad’s eyes always closed?) 

By the time Christmas rolls around, you’re stressed, exhausted and you feel completely justified in eating a ginormous meal and drinking a big glass of wine, or maybe a bottle.  Or, you’ll eat five small meals because that’s how you battle the bulge, but in three hours!

Holiday heart syndrome – it’s real

This behavior is a recipe for disaster, not a reward for all of your hard work.  Why?  Because of a little thing called holiday heart syndrome and a bigger thing called a heart attack.  It’s science.  
Holiday heart syndrome is a type of irregular heart beat called atrial fibrillation brought on by too much alcohol. Here are some tips on how to avoid it and other heart problems:
  • Instead of that martini, opt for a club soda. 
  • Give portion control a serious try. 
  • Substitute healthier options for high-fat, high-salt meals. 

Watch those heavy meals 

Studies have shown that a heavy meal can trigger a heart attack within 26 hours of consumption. Researchers have also found that eating raises levels of the hormone norepinephrine, which can increase blood pressure and heart rate, resulting in a heart attack.

John Mignone, M.D., medical director of the John L. Locke Jr. Advanced Cardiac Support Program at Swedish Heart & Vascular Institute, has this important advice for patients:

“While we want our patients to enjoy the holiday season, with all the festivities, it is important to remember that poor dietary choices are responsible for 15 to 20 percent of heart failure hospitalizations.  Please remember to follow weight and dietary recommendations from your provider, so you can enjoy a happy and healthy holiday season.  Be sure to contact your doctor’s office with any significant weight changes or worsened shortness of breath.”

Don’t let overeating make you sick

Studies also show a nationwide increase in cardiac deaths by almost 5 percent on Christmas Day, the day after Christmas and New Year’s Day.  All that overeating and stress typically associated with the holiday season could exacerbate existing conditions.

So, make a few tweaks to your traditions this holiday season. Be kinder to yourself.  If the holiday cards don’t make it out or you don’t have time to bake 16 dozen cookies because you’ve decided to take a walk or go to a yoga class, that’s just fine.

If you decide to play a board game with your family instead of strategically placing 100 strings of lights around your home, good for you! We encourage you to take it all in with moderation and we look forward to seeing you at your next well check. 

Happy holidays from the Swedish Heart and Vascular Institute.

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