Holidays wreak havoc on hearts health experts say

Holidays wreak havoc on hearts health experts say (Image 1)

Doctors warn people to watch what they eat and not skip exercise during the holiday season because they see a spike in fatal heart attacks and strokes during this time of year.

Christmas Day and New Year's Day tend to have the biggest spikes.

“During the holiday season because people get very busy, they tend to ignore symptoms,” Dr. Keith Churchwell said. “Symptoms they may have been having for the last couple of weeks like new chest pain, shortness of breath or change in their exercise pattern may go unreported to their doctors.”

Dr. Churchwell is the chief medical officer and executive director of the Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute.

He said in addition to ignoring symptoms, people tend to break their diets during the holidays.

“During the holiday season you tend to liberalize your diet,” Dr. Churchwell said. “So a bit more salt in your diet can lead to more problems with congestion and blockage.”

People also can easily forget to take their medication or decide not to immediately refill a prescription when they run out.

Doctors said to limit alcohol intake and to stick with your work out regime.

“Stay on path with your diet and if you have a change in your body you should contact your physician or physicians,” he said.  “I know it is cold outside but staying on an exercise program is extremely important whether it be in the house, in the [YMCA] or in the mall staying on an exercise pattern is a good idea.”

If you have guests, Dr. Churchwell said, to find out if any of your guests are on a special diet or have medical conditions that can be aggravated by certain foods.

He suggested modifying dishes when necessary to keep your guest from breaking their diets.

Also knowing the warning signs of a heart attack and getting help as soon as possible is also important

“Time lost is muscle lost,” Dr. Churchwell said. “The more time that passes during a cardiac episode the less muscle we can save.”

In men symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Chest discomfort
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness

In women the symptoms of a heart attack are the same as men, but women are more likely to have shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

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