Christmas is just 5 days away and I guess most of you are very excited already. But did you know that December and January are the months posing the highest risk for heart disease, and many of the delights of the season are in fact great dangers for people with coronary artery disease (CAD).
You may think that this information does not concern you, but think again if you are over 45 years, have sugar diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or have had heart attacks in the family. Many people with coronary artery disease are not aware of their condition. It is important to know that heart attack strikes even without previous symptoms.
A heart attack can strike at any time in a person with coronary artery disease but heart attacks are more likely during the festive season and especially between the Christmas and New Year period because of the change in diet and lifestyle around the holidays.
The holiday season is associated with joy, relaxation and positive emotions but it can get tough on the heart. Physical, mental or even emotional stress causes the heart to beat faster and the blood pressure to rise. And all these factors are present during Christmas time – holiday activities, increased amount of family matters, financial hardships associated with the period – they all combine and add up strain on the heart.
Increased intake of salt, sugar, candy, baked goods and saturated fats can also contribute to heart attack during the Christmas period of overeating. Be extremely carefuk with fatty foods which have are a major cause for the build up of plaques on the wall of the arteries over longer periods of time. But high fat and overeating can put strain on the heart in the short term as well and increase the chance of a clot forming. Even if the damage is not immediate, the effects can be felt within a few weeks or months.
Alcohol in moderation is considered heart-healthy. But the high amounts of alcohol that are flowing during Christmas make your heart pump harder to get blood to peripheral arteries, like the legs. Even worse is the holiday heart sindrome, where alcohol can irritate the heart tissue and causes an irregular heartbeat. It may disrupt normal blood flow and even lead to a stroke.
People quite often forget to take their medications during the holiday season. If chronic medication is not taken regularly, as prescribed, the risk of a heart attack in the short term is increased greatly.
How to prevent a heart attack
While preventing a heart attack is to be considered a life-long work, it is not entirely in your hands after the age of 45. Having a healthy and balanced lifestyle, together with adequate medications is the most important. But going off plan even for a short period might turn into a disaster. Don’t overlook any chest tension or pain that you feel and seek medical attention immediately even if that means that you are going to disrupt a holiday gathering. It may just be something minor but it is better to be safe than sorry.
Have a safe and hearty Christmas and don’t forget that moderation is key!