The holidays are a time for celebrating with family and friends, but sometimes stress can turn us into a holiday Grinch. During the season of giving, we often feel burdened with a long to-do list and packed schedules. And this can mean we forget about our health.
Recent research published by the American Heart Association showed that heart-related deaths spike during Christmas. The research suggested a few possible factors, including emotional stress, changes in diet and alcohol consumption, less staff at medical facilities and changes in physical environment (i.e. visiting relatives).
Instead of getting your tinsel in a tangle this holiday season, take steps to reduce stress and stay healthy.
The American Heart Association offers these tips to ensure a happy, healthy holiday:
- Maintain healthy habits. Even though our schedules change during the holidays because of travel and events, it’s important to maintain regular healthy habits. For instance, eating healthy, balanced meals, moving more every day, and getting at least seven hours of sleep each night.
- Beware of party perils. Special holiday events could mean extra helpings of not-so-healthy meals. Try eating a healthy snack, such as a big salad or vegetable soup, before a party to avoid overindulging later. If you’re hosting or bringing a dish, offer healthier options using American Heart Association recipes and cooking tips.
- Give yourself the gift of peace. It’s okay to say no to invitations when you have too much going on. If you start to feel overwhelmed, recharge by doing something that relaxes you, such as yoga, meditation or going for a brisk walk.
- Make a plan for the New Year. When all the parties are over, the winter blues set in. Instead of feeling down, challenge yourself with realistic, sustainable goals for a healthy, happy New Year! For example, start a walking routine and sign up for your local Heart Walk to stick to your goals.
Avoiding stress and making good choices can help prevent heart disease and stroke, the nation’s No. 1 and No. 5 killers. But it’s still important to know what to do if you or a loved one experiences the signs and symptoms of heart attack, stroke or cardiac arrest. Research suggests patients hold back in seeking medical care during the holiday season, which could also explain the spike in deaths.
If you or a loved one experiences the warning signs of heart attack, stroke or cardiac arrest, don’t delay, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Heart Attack Warning Signs:
- Discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body, including pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs may include breaking out into a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
- Call 9-1-1 immediately if experiencing any of these symptoms.
Stroke Warning Signs:
- Face Drooping. Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.
- Arm Weakness. Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
- Speech Difficulty. Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “the sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
- Time to Call 9-1-1. If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately.
Cardiac Arrest Warning Signs:
- Sudden loss of responsiveness. The person does not respond to tapping on shoulders.
- No normal breathing. The victim does not take a normal breath when you tilt the head up and check for at least five second.
- Call 9-1-1 immediately and start hands-only CPR by pressing hard and fast in the center of the chest.
Stay happy and healthy this holiday season! For more information on the American Heart Association, visit www.heart.org.
Our mission is to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. For nearly 100 years, we’ve been fighting heart disease and stroke, striving to save and improve lives. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer worldwide, and stroke ranks second globally. Even when those conditions don’t result in death, they cause disability and diminish quality of life. We want to see a world free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.