It’s a yearly occurrence that turns the season of merriment into mourning. All too often is our holiday dampened by tragic news on the untimely demise of a friend, relative or neighbor. This health invader is breaching the walls of our community and fast infecting the country and the world, with fatal results.
The condition is called Merry coronary Christmas, and Happy New heart attack. Statistically, more people suffer from heart attacks and strokes at Christmastime.
Worse, sufferers are more likely to die during the holidays than any other time of the year. Why is that so?
Cold weather is not the only cause of the spiking of cardiovascular cases. There are culprits responsible for this malady: holiday stress, pollution and, most of all, food and alcohol bingeing.
Let’s look at a typically harassed holiday. Shoppers are unusually stressed inside crowded malls and bazaar halls, heavy traffic contributes to more toxic air pollution, holiday makers in the mood to celebrate tend to over-eat and attend drinking sprees, and suffer lack of sleep due to repeated late nights out.
The result: a quick trip to the emergency room for palpitations and light-headedness. This is normally considered the holiday heart syndrome.
Moreover, the cold weather is a contributory factor, especially in the northern hemisphere. Doctors have known for some time now that cold weather is hard on the heart; blood vessels tend to constrict, which then raises blood pressure.
Also, blood clots more easily. Certainly there is a strain on the heart during frigid temperatures. But as you must know, more than the cold, it’s really the holiday lifestyle.
According to the circulation study: “The number of cardiac deaths is higher on Dec. 25 than on any other day of the year, second highest on Dec. 26, and third highest on Jan. 1.” This was a phenomenon observed in the US. But according to Dr. Tony Leachon, a cardiologist from the Manila Doctors Hospital, there is also a trend in the Philippines and many parts of the world.
In a 2004 study, researchers at the University of California, San Diego and Tufts University School of Medicine examined 53 million US death certificates from 1973-2001. The discovery? An overall increase of five percent more heart related deaths during the holiday season.
Imagine if all the emergency rooms of hospitals could combine and analyze their findings over the holidays. What would they find in common? The terrible truth is, there is a trend, and it’s not a good one.
Beginning Thanksgiving all the way to the first week of January is the red-alert period in North America. In the Philippines, it begins mid-December, the start of Simbang Gabi, until New Year’s, jumping toward Valentine’s and Chinese New Year.
This is the time when priority is given to partying and socializing while neglecting medical appointments, skipping medications, forgetting exercises, and postponing medical treatments. All these lead to lethal combinations.
In a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, sociologist Dr. David Phillips found increases in hospital admissions for cardiac and non-cardiac causes.
1. Keep warm. If you happen to be in a cold country during the holidays, dress warmly. It’s better to be warm than cold. Avoid exposure to very cold temperature.
2. Unburden yourself. Stay away from heart stressors like extreme physical exertion, emotional stress, and anger.
3. Choose health. Wherever you are overcome by hunger, choose healthy, nutritious food. Avoid excess salt and alcohol as a rule. Binge drinking, for example, can lead to atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heart rhythm where disorganized electrical signals cause the heart to contract irregularly.
4. Boost your immunity. Take supplements to fortify your system, like Vitamin C and CoQ10 for your heart booster. Exercise to get your strength and stamina up.
5. Breathe clean air. Go to the forest, the mountains, or the sea. Give yourself a break from polluted air. Breathing in clean air will lessen the load on your respiratory system. This is the best detoxifying gift you can grant yourself.
6. Get help. If, for any reason you feel chest pains, irregular heartbeats, or shallow breathing, see your doctor immediately. Do not postpone your doctor’s visit simply because you refuse to interrupt the holiday merrymaking. It’s not worth it, really, to be merry today but sorry tomorrow.
Today’s affirmation: “I claim for myself better than the best.”