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.
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.
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.
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
. If you would like to schedule an appointment with a cardiologist, the
North Oaks Cardiology Clinic
in Hammond and
North Oaks Multispecialty Group
in Livingston are available to help.