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Care A Little Extra For Your Heart This Holiday

December 23, 2019

The holidays are an exciting time of year for many, but they also can be filled with stress, overeating and too much alcohol. For all the merriment the holidays bring, studies indicate the period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day also brings increased risks for heart-related conditions.

Holiday Heart Syndrome

Nearly 40 years ago, doctors identified Holiday Heart Syndrome, a condition characterized by irregular heart rhythms, which was linked to increased alcohol consumption during the holidays.

Several studies have indicated that drinking more alcohol adversely affects the heart and increases the risk of cardiomyopathy, a disease that enlarges and thickens the heart muscle, which can lead to heart failure. Increased alcohol consumption also has been linked to atrial fibrillation (AFib), a condition characterized by rapid, irregular heartbeats, which cause blood to accumulate in the heart’s two upper chambers and can increase a person’s risk of stroke, heart failure and blood clots if it isn’t properly treated.

Cardiac Deaths Increase over Christmas

One study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, which examined more than 222,000 death records, found cardiac deaths were 33 percent higher in December and January compared to the summer. This number also peaked from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. Another study published in 2010 found there were more deaths over a 25-year time span during the two-week period beginning with Christmas. A review of more than 53 million death records over 26 years also found that cardiac deaths spiked on Christmas Day, the day after Christmas and also on New Year’s Day.

On top of this, ER visits and hospitalizations for short-term illnesses often increase during the holidays. Cardiac and non-cardiac related deaths also spike during this time of year, research has shown.

Resist Temptations to Overindulge

Between parties and family gatherings, the drinks tend to flow more readily from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. We also indulge in more calorie-filled, sugar and fat-filled foods (such as eggnog, holiday cookies and pies). All of this leads to less mindful eating at the same time we usually encounter increased stress. Between holiday shopping, hosting family for the holidays or organizing a holiday celebration, many people have a lot going on during the holidays. We already know stress isn’t good for the heart. Add in unhealthy eating and drinking more alcohol, and the heart may be too taxed during this time of year.

Heart health is important year-round, but take extra steps during this time to remain healthy. Avoid overeating, stay physically active and try not to overindulge in holiday cocktails, caffeine and sugar. We often think that we can compensate for unhealthy habits during the holiday season by ramping up exercise and making better food choices after Jan. 1, but as these studies show, following this practice may come at the expense of your heart health.

Choose to Take Control of Your Heart Health

We’re dedicated to keeping your heart healthy throughout all the stages of your life. Learn more about how to prevent heart disease as well as treatment options available to you. 

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