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Heart Attacks Spike During Holiday Season – How Can You Minimize Your Risk?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Lowell H. Steen, Jr., M.D. Interventional Cardiologist Loyola University Medical Center

Dr. Steen

Dr. Lowell H. Steen, Jr., M.D.
Interventional Cardiologist
Loyola University Medical Center

Dr. Steen discusses how holiday treats & stress can increase the risk of heart attack.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main factors that are linked to an increase in heart related adverse events during the Christmas holiday season? Who is most at risk? 

Response: The increase in holiday season heart-related hospitalizations and deaths are due to a variety of behaviors such as putting off seeking medical help until after the holidays, overeating rich foods, strenuous travel, excessive alcohol consumption and stressful family interactions. These factors can all trigger heart issues.

Factors such as age, diabetes, high cholesterol and smoking all increase heart risk. Additionally, those with high blood pressure, which is a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke, are exceptionally at risk and should celebrate the hectic holiday season with caution. 

MedicalResearch.com: What impact does cold weather/snow shoveling etc. play in the increase in seasonal heart attacks?

Response: Cold weather can be strenuous on the heart. Colder temperatures require the heart to work harder to keep the body warm, so that combined with a physical activity such as snow shoveling can be problematic for some, particularly those who rarely exercise or have a coronary disease. Ultimately, the physical exercise from snow shoveling drastically raises your blood pressure, this plus the cold weather may increase blood clotting and thus heart attacks.

MedicalResearch.com: Do infections i.e. the flu/pneumonia aggravate the risk? 

Response: The flu and pneumonia both elevate the risk of heart attacks and strokes since these conditions impact the lungs, reducing the amount of oxygen the body receives. These conditions are especially dangerous to those with chronic heart problems. And, of course, during the winter, the risk of contracting the flu or pneumonia is also heightened.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers do to limit this increased tendency for themselves or their loved ones?

Response: Particularly during the holiday season, health awareness is critical. Do not delay seeking medical attention when you experience symptoms, be educated on the risk factors and avoid over indulgence.

Those with hypertension should be extra cautious during the holidays. Whether it’s taking a prescription medication, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly or eating nitrate-rich foods, it’s critical to ensure you’re proactively managing your blood pressure levels. I’ve noticed for some of my patients, it’s easy to forget to manage their blood pressure during the busy holiday season, but a patient of mine recently developed a daily beverage called 120/Life, which combines natural ingredients shown to promote normal blood pressure, which I now recommend to many of my other patients. Consult with your doctor and find a solution that works for you year-round.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add? Any disclosures?

Response: Ultimately, those with high blood pressure have the highest heart risk, especially over the holidays. However, hypertension is symptomless, and of the 100 million American adults with high blood pressure only half have their condition under control. With that, my biggest piece of heart health holiday advice is having regular check-ups with your doctor. This is key to catching hypertension early and managing it effectively, allowing you to enjoy the holidays to the fullest. 

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Last Updated on December 5, 2018 by Marie Benz MD FAAD