How to Keep Your Heart Safe During the Holidays

It’s important to take care of our heart health every day but we need to be even more aware and safe during the holiday season because it’s a time when we see a surge in heart attacks. There are a lot of factors that contribute to this phenomenon of heart attacks during the holiday season – whether it’s an increase in stressors or people ignoring warning signs because they’re traveling or celebrating. Here are some reasons why there is a correlation between an uptick in heart attacks and how to keep your heart safe during the holidays.

Excessive Eating and Drinking

We tend to overeat more during holiday celebrations and many times indulge in food that is not part of our regular meal plan. Many of these food choices tend to have increased sodium, which pulls into your blood vessels, increasing the blood volume inside them. With more blood flowing through your blood vessels, blood pressure rises.

Emotional Stresses

It’s no secret that the holidays can be stressful for a slew of reasons from financial burdens to uncomfortable social situations. Many of these stressors trigger anxiety and depression which can lead to increased stress hormones or cortisol. Studies suggest high cortisol levels can increase blood cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and blood pressure. These are common risk factors for heart disease.

An Increase in Respiratory Diseases

This year we’ve seen a very active flu and cold season. Respiratory infections are known to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke by causing inflammation, which can lead to blood clots developing.

Drop in Temperature

The cold weather causes our blood vessels to contract, which can increase blood pressure, which in turn raises the risk of heart attack and stroke. Angina, or chest pain due to coronary heart disease, can also worsen in winter when coronary arteries constrict in the cold.

Skipping Medications

Between traveling and celebrating, it can be easy to forget to take your regular medications. If you’ve forgotten them at home or didn’t get refills on time, there are a lot of situations that contribute to getting off schedule with these important therapies.

Tips to Keep Your Heart Safe

When you prioritize your heart health you are taking the best steps possible to avoid or reduce the risk of heart issues. Here are a few tips to prevent cardiac disease, especially during the holidays.

  • Keep your routine: Take your medicines as you normally would.  If you travel, take your blood pressure cuff and diabetes monitor.
  • Stay active: Keep up your routine of moving your body as you are accustomed. Find ways to work exercise into your schedule even if you’re traveling – take a walk around the neighborhood or go for a bike ride with friends or family.
  • Be mindful of the menu: Pay attention to the amount of salt your using if you’re preparing food. Eat in moderation, despite the abundance of all types of holiday foods, especially carbohydrates. Drink water before and during meals, making you less prone to overeat.
  • Prioritize self-care: If the holidays are a trigger for your, take steps to prevent stress and depression. It’s hard to stop and regroup when stress is at its peak. Make time to take care of yourself. Practice these relaxation techniques to relieve stress:
    • Deep-breathing exercises
    • Meditation
    • Yoga
  • Get plenty of sleep: When we’re with family or friends it’s easy to get caught up in conversation and lose track of time. Make sure to prioritize sleep. You will enjoy the holidays more if you can protect your sleep time — and you may actually get more done if you aren’t tired and inefficient from sleep deprivation.

Know the Heart Attack Signs and Symptoms

Knowing the signs and symptoms of a heart attack is critical. Time is of the essence when a heart attack happens and you need to know when to take action. Heart attack signs vary in men and women, and it’s essential to catch them early and call 9-1-1 for help. The sooner medical treatment begins, the better the chances of survival and preventing heart damage.

Pardee’s is one of only two designated PCI-receiving hospitals in WNC, meaning our Emergency Department is equipped to handle heart attacks around-the-clock. With our team of interventional cardiologists and our on-site cardiac catheterization lab, we can open blocked arteries within minutes and minimize damage to your heart muscles. To learn more about our 24/7 heart care program, visit


Vincent Gacad, MD, FACC

Board-Certified Interventional Cardiologist
Pardee Cardiology Associates

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