The hustle and bustle of the holidays can bring unexpected medical concerns, including a syndrome known as holiday heart. Several studies have shown that the incidence of heart attack and stroke increase in December and January, particularly on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
It’s the time of year when we often find ourselves at holiday parties where plenty of alcohol and high-fat foods are offered. Overindulging in spiked eggnog and rich buttery cookies can lead to more than indigestion; it can lead to holiday heart syndrome, when overeating and overindulging in alcohol leads to an irregular heartbeat. And it’s not just one meal or one party, but a round of eating, drinking and being merry that is sets this time of year apart from the rest of the year.
To minimize the risk of an unexpected visit to the emergency room, Kevin Barrett, M.D., vascular neurologist at Mayo Clinic in Florida and co-director of the Mayo Clinic Primary Stroke Center, offers these tips:
- Reduce stress.
- Eat and drink in moderation. Have a small snack or meal before a gathering to help avoid overindulgence.
- Be vigilant with medication.
- Exercise—and get rest.
- Know the symptoms for heart attack (which may include the common chest pain, but also more subtle signs, such as unusual fatigue; shortness of breath; and neck, back or shoulder pain, especially in women) and stroke, and don’t delay in seeking medical attention.
Taking time to be mindful of stress and the triggers of heart attack and stroke can hopefully help safeguard an enjoyable and pleasant holiday season.