Preparing for the holidays often involves plenty of shopping on Fifth Avenue, planning meticulous menus, and decorating your home. But you should also prepare your heart for the busyness of the holiday season. Holiday heart syndrome is a real condition that highlights the stress that the holiday season puts on your heart. Not only is there an uptick in holiday heart syndrome during the holiday season, but there’s also an increase in heart attacks from November to January.
In this article, Dr. Henock Saint-Jaques and his experienced team of cardiologists at Harlem Cardiology in East Harlem, New York, want to share five tips for protecting your heart during the holidays.
1. Manage holiday stress by planning ahead
Stress takes a toll on your heart, and unfortunately, the holidays can be very stressful. You can help protect your heart by managing stress or at least reducing stress in areas that are within your control. You can reduce stress by:
- Setting up your holiday dinners potluck-style to reduce the burden on just one person
- Creating a holiday spending budget and then sticking to it (to reduce financial stress)
- Planning your shopping trips and factoring in extra travel time during peak shopping times
- Making lists to prepare for parties
Be prepared to say “no” if you just can’t manage any additional responsibilities. Paring down your busy schedule can help alleviate additional emotional and physical stress.
2. Monitor your alcohol intake
The increase in alcohol is one of the factors for holiday heart syndrome. That’s because alcohol can increase your blood pressure and increase your risk of developing an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation). Over time, this can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
In other words, drinking in moderation can help protect your heart, but you don’t need to miss out on the festive drinks. Festive, nonalcoholic drinks include hot apple cider, cinnamon tea, peppermint tea, tea lattes, cherry ale (cherry juice and ginger ale), and hot cocoa.
3. Bundle up
Shoveling snow is a known trigger for heart attacks, but the cold temperatures are just as dangerous. Cold temperatures can:
- Cause your blood vessels to constrict
- Increase your blood pressure
- Make your blood more likely to form clots
Whether you’re shoveling snow or spending a day shopping, wear lots of layers and bundle up if the temperatures dip too low.
4. Don’t skimp on sleep
Skipping out on sleep doesn’t just leave you feeling exhausted; it can impact your health in many ways. A chronic lack of sleep can weaken your immune system, increase feelings of anxiety and depression, and decrease your work performance. A chronic lack of sleep can also strain your heart and increase your blood pressure.
Adults should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Remember, sleep isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity.
5. Exercise regularly
Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do to promote a healthy heart. Exercise not only improves your circulation, but it also helps relieve stress. Aim for 150 minutes of exercise each week.
Be on the lookout for signs of heart issues
Regardless of whether it’s a busy holiday season or a mundane Tuesday afternoon, monitor for the signs of any heart issues. This includes:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Palpitations, including pounding heart, racing heart, or the sensation that you skipped a beat
To learn more about heart health or to address concerning symptoms, call our Madison Avenue location at 646-381-2181 to make an appointment. Alternatively, request an appointment online.