The holidays are one of the best times of the year, but also the most dangerous! That fact was brought to my attention and, I mean, it makes sense: the holidays can be super stressful, we eat and drink differently, but I wanted to know more. What makes this time of year so dangerous when it comes to our heart health? Eugene Chung, MD, from The Christ Hospital Physicians - Heart & Vascular, came in to chat all about it on my Pound This podcast.
I asked Dr. Chung about what days in particular this time of year are bad, and why. Dr. Chung says "The highest number of deaths due to heart attack occur on Dec. 25, 26, and Jan. 1. A big reason is diet. Most people tend to eat differently during the holidays, whether it's a whole meal, or just picking up a cookie in the office. But generally the more festive a time is, the more allowances we give ourselves to say we should, you know, go have that piece of cake or whatever your weakness is. So, the dietary indiscretion is clearly a part of it. Secondly, people tend to go off their usual routine, so they work harder, they're under more stress, they have to go shopping, then they had to do a lot of things that they might not normally do, there's more things to do typically around the holidays.
Also I think most people don't pay as much attention to symptoms. They don't want to be in a hospital over Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. And we see patients coming in late all the time, you know, two days after Christmas, but their pain's been an issue for three days. So ignoring symptoms and waiting too long."
What's kind of crazy is that Dr. Chung informed me that the risk of heart attack is up 30% during the holidays compared to the summer months! Makes you want to rethink that extra cookie, cocktail, and fighting over the parking space at the mall.
I asked Dr. Chung his best advice for prevention this time of year, and he said "Knowing, I think, is the most important. So knowing the fact that the number of heart attacks and deaths related to heart attacks are the greatest. And in December, January and February, there are 30% more heart attacks than over the summer. Those are real numbers. Those are real facts. And really significant facts. So knowing that and knowing what are the things that contribute to that like the stress of the holidays, which largely I think we put on ourselves, the abnormal amounts of eating and drinking, the running around in the cold weather, seeing too many people, not having had shots to protect you. I think once you know that information, then you can carve out for yourself some of the things that can reduce those risk factors."
Dr. Chung and I also discussed the different symptoms for heart events for men and women and more. If you'd like to learn more, you can listen to the podcast here.
The Christ Hospital Heart & Vascular experts are here to help you maintain a healthy heart throughout the holidays and all year long. Schedule an appointment online today!