There’s never a time when you shouldn’t be thinking about heart health. During the holidays, though, you might want to pay a little more attention.
With shopping, cooking, traveling, hosting, and partying taking the bulk of your time during the holidays, it can be pretty easy to overlook a little bit of back pain, chest pain, nausea, or stomach pain. But these signs of a heart attack cannot be ignored.
Heart attack risk goes up during the holidays. The stress of the season, along with unhealthy changes in diet—like too much alcohol—can boost the risk for a heart attack more than any other time of year. Having a plan in place to reduce the strain on your heart over the holidays can help keep you healthy and safe.
- Offload responsibilities: Everyone is busy over the holidays, I get it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ask friends and family for help. Maybe this year your daughter can host Thanksgiving, your son can help decorate your house, or your sister can come over to help cook. Making family fests a potluck-style can also help—and don’t be afraid to pass down the family recipes. It’s about time they learn!
- Watch the drinking: People drink for different reasons over the holidays: some do it to partake in the festive spirit, while others use it as a coping mechanism to deal with what can be an emotionally difficult time of year. In both cases, drinking too much is common. Take it easy on your heart by limiting alcohol to one or two drinks per day and finding alternative ways to feel good. A brisk walk around the neighborhood, having tea or coffee with close friends, or other social activities can help. If depression is creeping up, seeking help from a specialist is recommended.
- Find ways to fit in activity: There’s a lot of running around to do this time of year, but stress-free exercise is where you’ll want to focus at least some of your time. Try and carve out at least a half-hour per day to get away from it all with a walk, swim, workout, or personal dance party.
Acknowledging the symptoms of heart attack is also important over the holidays. They can be easy to ignore because there is so much to do and you may be away from home, but it could be a matter of life and death. If you feel the following, alert a healthcare professional immediately:
- Back or chest pain.
- Chest pressure
- Pain in the stomach, jaw, arms, or neck
- Nausea, shortness of breath
- Squeezing in the chest (men)
- Cold sweat
Men and women experience different heart attack symptoms. Women are more likely to ignore symptoms because they don’t necessarily occur in the chest. Back pain, jaw pain, shortness of breath, and nausea are more common for women.
Stay healthy this holiday season and remember to prioritize heart health!