Tuesday, July 17 , 2018, 11:51 pm | Fair 65º

Your Health
A Noozhawk partnership with Cottage Health

Keeping a Healthy Holiday Heart at This Time of the Year

(Cottage Health photo)

Christmas and Thanksgiving may have passed, but we’re still in the holiday season. Feared by some, but enjoyed by many. It is a time of family gatherings, celebration, indulgence and decadence. Alcohol, sugar, calories, and salt are found at every corner, and willpower is left in the other pant pocket.

This season is also filled with tremendous amounts of stress, be it financial, failing health, family disagreements or travel.

During this otherwise joyous time of the year, ER visits, hospitalizations, and many heart problems all become more frequent.

Holiday Heart

Holiday Heart Syndrome was first described by a French physician, Dr. Philip Ettinger, in 1978. He noted that increased alcohol consumption during holidays, even in otherwise healthy individuals without any history of heart or rhythm problems, was associated with a high risk of heart rhythm disorders.

The most common of these abnormal rhythms was atrial fibrillation (AF).

“In AF, the top chambers of the heart — the atria — are fibrillating, or, as I like to describe it, they are shaking like an earthquake,” said Dr. Vishal Goyal, a cardiologist affiliated with the Cottage Heart and Vascular Center.

“It can cause the feeling that the heart is racing, the heartbeat is irregular or fluttering, lightheadedness or fainting, shortness of breath or chest pain. It can also cause no symptoms at all, despite still increasing the risk of stroke significantly.”

More recent data has shown that heart attacks and heart failure are also more frequent during the winter. All of those stressful things add up to increased stress hormones. This can be driven even further by alcohol, caffeine and sleep deprivation and result in a heart attack.

Heart attacks are associated with a variety of symptoms, from crushing chest pain, to a sense of doom, to just mild neck or back pain. In patients with known heart disease, decadent meals, overeating, binge drinking and similar activities can also lead to swelling, difficulty breathing and congestive heart failure flare ups.

What You Can Do

You can limit your risk for heart problems this season with a few simple measures:

» Stick to your diet and make healthy food choices

» Avoid overindulgence

» Avoid binge drinking

» Steer clear of things (or people!) that you know will only cause you grief and stress

» If you exercise regularly, try to stick to your routine during the holidays

Most important, please remember that atrial fibrillation, heart attacks and heart failure can all happen with vague symptoms but severe consequences. Do not delay seeking medical care if you think you are having a heart problem.

Click here to find out your heart’s age by taking our free online heart health assessment.

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