The Deadliest Days

The Deadliest Days

by Brenda Myers, RN, BSN
Divisional Director of the Center for Heart Disease at Medical Center Hospital

 

Each year around the holidays, the media contacts the local cardiac experts about “Holiday Heart Attacks.”  It’s easy to dismiss the story as, “well, it must be a slow news day,” and perhaps it is a slow news day … but the reality is that around the holidays, there is a spike in heart attacks and heart problems. In fact, Christmas Day, the day after Christmas and January 1 are identified as the deadliest days of the year for heart disease. There are fifty percent (50%) more heart attacks in the winter months than in the summer months. Cold weather is hard on your heart and arteries … and when those arteries constrict the chance of having a heart attack increases. Stress, disruption in our normal routines and overeating and overdrinking all pre-dispose us to coronary events – and we do all of those things during the holidays. Many people do not seek treatment right away because they attribute their symptoms to indigestion or don’t want to be a bother. In the cardiac world, we have a saying – “time is muscle”. The longer a patient waits to seek treatment, the worse the outcome.

In addition to heart attacks, otherwise normal patients can develop abnormal fast heart rhythms after indulging in too much alcohol. And more recent studies also name marijuana as a contributor to fast heart rhythms. All of this creates an environment where anyone can end up in the hospital …and nobody really wants to spend the holidays in the hospital.

A few key things to avoiding the hospital:

Keep your heart healthy all year, not just during the holidays. Exercise at least thirty (30) minutes three to five times a week—and don’t miss just because it’s the holidays.

Don’t forget your medications. If you travel during the holidays, make sure you have your medications before you head out.

Eat and drink in moderation. Focus on spending time with friends and family, not on food and drink. All of the holiday foods that we love are high in fats, sugar and salt.  It’s the perfect storm for a heart event. No one expects that you won’t have a piece of fudge, but there’s a big difference between a piece of fudge and a plate of fudge.

Don’t stress out. We overload our plates literally (with food) and figuratively (with activities) during the holiday season. Set a schedule and stick to it. Don’t spend more or do more than you can during the holiday season.

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Consider getting your Heart Health Checkup. For only $75 you will receive the following screenings so you will know your numbers!

  • Calcium Score, a fast, non-invasive, CT screen of your heart
  • Blood Pressure
  • Weight
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cholesterol and Triglycerides

No physician’s order required for this test and no insurance will be filed.

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