Last week a peer-reviewed study from Sweden revealed that over a 16-year period some 283,014 heart attacks were reported based around a peak time of 10:00PM on Christmas Eve. This amounted to a 15% increase compared to other days throughout the year.
The study went further to discover that New Year's Day also saw a dramatic increase heart attacks than other holidays such as Easter or even major sporting events. The study cited that anger, anxiety, sadness, grief, and stress increases the risk of heart attack and thus possibly explains the higher risk observed during the holiday sample period.
"We also observed a 20% higher risk of myocardial infarction [heart attack] on New Year’s Day. This could be due to the effects of excess alcohol and food consumption, exposure to cold temperatures at night, or sleep deprivation on New Year’s Eve." - The BMJ
Sometimes the holidays can be less than relaxing, so it's important (seemingly more than ever) to do our best to keep calm, reduce our stress and do more to promote good blood flow and fit in a little physical activity during Christmas.
The study cited a whole array of risk factors that we can generally associate with the holiday season. The stress from traveling, combined with the exhaustion experienced from trying to pack in too many activities (not to mention the sheer financial cost of it all) can make for a hazardous holiday recipe. Other factors include feelings of anger or sadness - perhaps from squabbles with friends or family, or yet another delay for that flight home. Unsurprisingly the biggest red flags are overeating, over-drinking and limited physical activity.
You probably already know that each of these can put our hearts at risk, and the holidays can be ripe with stressors that affect our cardiovascular health. Here's some key things to remember this year to reduce your chance of becoming a statistic on Christmas Eve.
Holiday Heart-Healthy Techniques To Remember
1. Meditation / Relaxation / Stress Reduction
Spending even a short time using the correct meditation technique has the ability to restore inner peace and calm, and reduce stress and help lower associated blood pressure.
- Sit or lie comfortably. You may even want to invest in a meditation chair or cushion.
- Close your eyes.
- Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.
- Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation.
2. The Perfect Holiday Diet
Enjoying food and drink is a huge part of the holiday season, but overdoing it has obvious consequences for our bodies. One way to reduce your risk of heart attack this Christmas is certainly moderation. Try to limit your indulgences to just one day through the holidays and stick to your normal, balanced diet over the rest of the break.
If you're going to imbibe during your celebrations, try choosing only a serving or two of red wine over that rum and eggnog. The skins from grapes (as well as blueberries, cranberries among others) contain a compound called Resveratrol which gives red wine the ability to help protect against certain cancers, improve mental health and lower the risk of heart disease. Red wine also appears to boost levels of omega-3 fatty acids in red blood cells which is also believed to protect against heart disease.
Other common holiday foods that are great for circulation include carrots, squash, and other root vegetables. Switch out butter for olive oil (on bread or in cooking your turkey), keep the cranberry sauce sugar-free, have greek yoghurt with your Christmas cake instead of dousing it in cream - and remember moderation!
3. Know The Warning Signs
Myocardial infarction - better know as 'heart attack' is a frightening experience, and it usually comes with a series of warning signs. Remember not everyone will have the same symptoms or have the same severity of symptoms. Some people have mild pain; others have more severe pain. Some people have no symptoms.
- Pressure, tightness, pain, or an aching sensation in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back.
- Nausea, indigestion, heartburn or abdominal pain.
- Shortness of breath.
- Cold sweat.
- Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness.
4. Be Thankful, Laugh and Remember... Happiness Saves Lives!
Gift giving and receiving can be a big part of the holidays, and taking time to feel thankful and express gratitude can keep the positive forces in our mind & body flowing. Here’s more on the power of thankfulness from the American Heart Association and how it can be good for our hearts (literally!)
5. Navigate Holiday Travel Woes Like A Pro
Flying over the holidays can be a stressful proposition no matter how you stack it. As we age there are other things to consider when staying seated in cramped quarters for more than 4 hours. Such factors can increase the risk of DVT (deep vein thrombosis) or worse, Arterial Thrombosis (which can increase risk of heart attack.) Here are some easy strategies to keep good circulation while on a plane:
- Choose the aisle seat and take a walk around the cabin.
- wear compression stockings.
- stay hydrated.
- Take ginger or turmeric root supplements.
- wear baggy or comfortable clothes.
Everyone is different, and our health is personal to each of us. As the years go by we are seeing more and more health and wellness care designed for the individual available. Start understanding what your body can tell you in the here and now. Start tracking a proven marker of your cardiovascular health with iHeart Internal Age™ and how this revolutionary device and app can be your ally in improving overall health—it could help save your life.
Start 2019 off with by equipping yourself with more knowledge about your health, and have a happy and healthy holiday from all of us at iHeart.
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