Though we love this time of year, it can be pretty stressful. Crazy schedules. Financial strain. Traffic. Less time for exercise. Complicated family dynamics. Studies have shown that cardiac events such as heart attacks and strokes peak during the holiday season.
A number of factors are thought to be responsible, but a major one is that normal routines are disrupted during the holidays, leading to a significant increase in stress. Since we know that’s not on your wish list, here are a few things to think about:
GET SOME REST AND UNPLUG.
If you have time off, use it to really be off. Put the phone down. Try having a silent night a few times a week. Spend time with loved ones. Pray. Reflect on this season of miracles. Also: It’s absolutely essential to get enough sleep.
Quality sleep helps to protect your heart and keep your stress levels down. Practice good sleep hygiene, that means no smart phones in bed. In fact, charge your devices away from your bed. If your phone has a blue light filter turn it on because this type of light generated from the screen can negatively affect your melatonin levels, an important sleep hormone. Anyone might be tired from all the hustle and bustle of holiday prep, but if you’re waking up feeling like you never went to bed in the first place, there may be a bigger problem. Ask yourself how long it’s been going on, and talk to your doctor about the possibility of sleep apnea. This very common, treatable disorder is linked to hypertension, irregular heart rhythm, heart attack and coronary artery disease.
EAT, DRINK, BUT BE HEALTHY.
Tis the Season. For eating. Everything. Let’s face it, the mountains of treats in the office breakroom, your mom’s specialty dishes (secret ingredient: extra butter), and the spicy meatballs at the neighborhood parties… you can overdo it before you realize what’s happened. The key to limiting the stress on your heart is to keep things simple. Eat the freshest foods possible and, if you’re cooking, make substitutions that will reduce fat, salt and sugar in your dishes. They’ll still be delicious, don’t worry.
When it’s time to eat, whether you’re sitting down for a meal or at a party, rein in your portions. Be sure you can see space between the foods on your plate. If you’re still hungry, by all means, go back for seconds, but starting small will help you stay aware of what you’re consuming. This won’t be your last chance to eat treats! The same goes for holiday beverages – be mindful of the sugar or alcohol content and take it slow. Try to enjoy the festivities more than the food. If you’ve ditched your usual exercise routine during this busy season, ask friends or family to take a walk around the block after meals. The dishes can wait, and it’s a great way to catch up while keeping your heart pumping.
DON’T IGNORE SYMPTOMS.
If you feel unwell, don’t delay seeking medical attention, no matter the time of year or what you may have scheduled. Your continued good health is your family’s most treasured gift, so speak up right away if you’re experiencing changes in your normal health. Symptoms include chest pain or discomfort; shortness of breath; dizziness or passing out; nausea or vomiting; extreme fatigue; lightheadedness; pain in the jaw, neck or back; or pain in the shoulder or arm. Women should additionally be aware of pain in the abdomen, swelling in the hands, and cold sweats.
The important thing to remember: if you’re unsure, get it checked out.
It sounds simple, but it’s so easy to forget when you’re looking at that plate full of cheesy mashed potatoes with a side of chocolate cake, or you’ve received another invitation for which you really don’t have the capacity: you can say no. You don’t have to go to every party, eat every treat, or buy every gift. Overindulging, no matter how you do it, is a fast track to stress and it’s bad for your heart. Protect your schedule, your budget and your heart by pacing yourself and staying in control.
About AdventHealth Medical Group
AdventHealth Medical Group is Central Florida’s most comprehensive multi-specialty medical group practice. With nearly 600 board-certified physicians, the group provides patients with a broad range of medical and surgical services across more than 40 medical specialties.
For more information or to make an appointment, call 866-997-3627 or visit AdventHealthMedicalGroup.com/Polk-County.