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4 Tips to Avoid Holiday Heart Attacks

With holiday stress bursting like Santa’s sleigh and diet goals drowning in eggnog, it is little wonder that more people die from heart attacks during the last week of December than at any other time of the year.

“With routines disrupted, people tend to eat and drink more and exercise and sleep less. Coupled with the stresses of travel, family issues that may surface and feelings of social isolation and loneliness, this can be a deadly time of year,” said Kevin Kheder, M.D., interventional cardiologist. “More heart attacks occur on Christmas Day than on any other time of year. The number two and three dates are Dec. 26 and Jan. 1.”

But Dr. Kheder said just knowing about this phenomenon is the first step toward avoiding becoming a gloomy December statistic. Armed with this knowledge, you can be on the lookout for symptoms of a heart attack, and ways to protect your heart health.

Recognize the Symptoms

Heart attack symptoms include:

  • Chest discomfort or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body, such as one or both arms.

Women may also experience additional or alternative symptoms, including:

  • Neck, jaw or back pain
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat.
  • Nausea or lightheadedness.

If you or someone near you appears to be having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately and seek help. The sooner a person receives medical attention, the better their chances are of survival.

Skip the Salt

It is not always easy to adhere to a healthy diet during the holidays but scope out the buffet table for ways to keep portions small, healthy and as low in salt as possible.

Find Ways to Decompress

Racing through airports, biting your tongue around in-laws, and straining your pocketbook can make for a season of sustained high stress. Take time for yourself to meditate, stretch, breathe intentionally and unwind. It is your holiday season, too. Take some time to relax.

Don’t take a Vacation from Exercise

The recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week include that last week in December. If you have to bring the family along for a hike or organize a game of flag football, go for it. The point is to keep moving. It’s good for your heart and your mood.