The Holiday Season is Also Heart Attack Season
For most people, the holiday season is full of tradition. It’s a time to reflect, a time to connect, and often a time to stress over gifts and guests, with too much to do in too little time.
But stress isn't the only added factor. The holidays are also a time of indulgence, of feasting with family and friends. We happily load up our plates – and arteries – with those delectable holiday “highs”: high-fat, high-calorie, high-cholesterol and high-sugar foods. Yet, many are surprised to hear that heart attacks peak on Christmas and New Year’s Day.
A normal human heart is just a little larger than a fist, but it pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood every single day, and during a 70-year lifespan it will beat more than 2.5 billion times.
To carry out this huge responsibility, the heart requires tender care. Unhealthy lifestyle choices – smoking, stress, poor diet or lack of exercise – may place unnecessary burdens on your heart and compromise its ability to function properly.
According to the American Heart Association, an estimated 80 percent of heart attacks can be avoided by making even small lifestyle changes and controlling diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and diabetes – all of which contribute to heart disease.
Being Heart Smart
Regardless of age, all men and women may be at risk. This is why it’s important to know the individual risk factors that can lead to debilitating heart disease or even a heart attack.
At the MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center, patients are offered a complete continuum of cardiac care from screening, to diagnostics and treatment, as well as a dedicated Women’s Comprehensive Cardiac Health Program. For just $85, patients can receive a cardiac risk assessment that includes a 12-lead electrocardiogram (EKG), plus an array of additional tests, measurements and evaluations that focus exclusively on the health of a woman’s cardiovascular system.
After the screening, participants consult with a nurse practitioner who thoroughly explains the results, and develops a customized plan for each patient to help lower the risk of heart disease.
“People still see heart disease as a man’s health issue,” says Lynn Redwater, executive director of Cardiovascular / Pulmonary / Emergency Department Services at Orange Coast Medical Center. “But it’s now the number one killer of both men and women in the United States. Screening is the best tool available for prevention.”
No physician referral or insurance approval is needed to be screened. To schedule your appointment with one of our heart specialists, please call (714) 378-7234 or Request an Appointment Online now.
Preparing For Stress-Free Holidays
Every holiday season, there is a five percent increase in heart-related deaths. To take charge of your heart health during this chaotic time, practice these simple tips.
- Plan for leftovers – Overeating and the so-called “food coma” sometimes comes at a high price. A big, high-fat meal diverts blood from the heart to the digestive system and can actually trigger a heart attack, angina or heart-related chest pain. Instead, invite friends over the following day for leftover brunch.
- Serve healthy foods – Fill your holiday table with heart-healthy sides, such as cauliflower mash and colorful vegetable sides.
- Make it a potluck – Have friends and family contribute to the evening by bringing one of their favorite dishes. This division of labor will allow for everyone to feel involved, and lessen the workload for the hosts.
- Limit your alcohol – Aside from a headache, too much alcohol can, in the long term, raise your blood pressure and, in the short term, trigger atrial fibrillation – an irregular heartbeat that increases your risk of stroke.
- Stay active – Walking the shopping mall is one way to stay active, but if you can’t get through the crowds, put on a jacket and take a walk around the block or play a game of tag football in the backyard with family members. Thirty minutes of moving can be the best part of your day, and help burn some of those calories!
- Reduce stress – Remember that the holidays are about spending time with loved ones. So even if everything isn't perfect, it’s still a time to gather and reminisce.
- Don’t ignore unusual pain or discomfort – If you experience chest pain or pressure, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, jaw or back pain, don’t assume it will go away. These are all symptoms of a potential heart attack and require prompt medical attention.