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Have Heart Healthy Winter Holidays

8/10/2012


Winter holidays bring about lots of wonderful things – time with family and friends, festivities and, of course, relief from summer heat! But studies have shown that winter and the holidays also bring an increase in heart disease-related deaths.

Here are a few of the reasons that researchers think may be to blame for the higher rate of heart attacks in the winter, as well as ways to help you combat them.

Colder Temperatures

Frigid air causes blood vessels to constrict as the body tries to prevent heat loss, which raises blood pressure and can reduce oxygen flow to the heart. This is a natural response that also can put people with heart conditions and those involved in strenuous exercise at greater risk of having a heart attack.

Keep your body warm, particularly by covering your head, hands and feet; these are the areas of the body that lose heat first.

 
Alcohol Consumption

Drinking too much alcohol may raise the levels of some fats in the blood. It also may lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, increased calorie intake and contribute to abnormal heart rhythms. Excessive drinking and binge drinking also may lead to stroke.

If you do choose to drink alcohol during the holidays, limit yourself to one drink (i.e., one beer, one glass of wine, mixed drink).

 
Changes in Diet

People tend to gain weight during the holiday season and take in more salt and fat, which can put additional stress on a weakened heart. 
  • Foods high in insoluble fiber are heart healthy. Try adding some of these to your holiday menu: whole-wheat breads, cabbage, beets, carrots, Brussels sprouts, turnips or cauliflower. 
  • To prevent overeating at a party or family dinner, have a small healthy snack, such as a handful of unsalted almonds or a piece of whole grain toast before heading out the door.
  • Continue to be physically active. By exercising as little as 30 minutes a day, you can reduce your risk of heart disease.
  • Excessive salt intake increases blood pressure and causes retention of fluids  which may lead to the worsening of heart failure.

Emotional Stress

During the holiday season, people may feel stress as their to-do list swells with additional activities like shopping, wrapping, writing cards and cooking. Add that to having to absorb financial pressures, such as purchasing gifts, travel expenses and entertaining, and it’s easy to see why these factors can take a toll on the body.
  • Try budget-friendly gift-giving. Arrange a gift exchange with family or friends where everyone involved draws one person’s name for whom to purchase a gift. You also can set monetary limits so you don’t feel pressured to spend more than you can afford.
  • Be sure to get enough rest. Sleep for 7 to 8 hours each day.

For more information about ways to live a heart-healthy lifestyle, visit the American Heart Association website at www.heart.org. If you would like to schedule an appointment with a cardiologist, the physicians of North Oaks Cardiology Clinic in Hammond and North Oaks Multispecialty Group in Livingston are available to help. 

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