By Sylvia Anderson, IH Editor — Published: November 15, 2010

Thanksgiving. It’s a day to gather with family, watch some football, and dive face-first into that big, yummy bird (or vegan spaghetti if that’s your preference!).

But it could also be a day where your risk of heart attack has more spikes than the Saints/Cowboys game.

Turns out the months of December and January are the deadliest months for heart disease, and that “season” is kicked off with none other than the Turkey-Day holiday.

Why the increase? A few things are to blame, including rich meals, tons of alcohol, and just a bit of added stress.

But the biggest factor may be denial.

Denial Factor #1: The common symptoms of heart attack can mimic signs of indigestion . . . which, let’s face it, come front and center on holidays that revolve around food.

Denial Factor #2: People are less likely to disrupt a holiday celebration to go to the ER, even if they’re feeling a little under the weather.

Other Factors at Play

Skipping Meds or Supplements: If you’re traveling to a celebration far away from home, or even just so busy planning your own holiday party, you may neglect (or just plain forget) to take your meds or daily supplements.

Heavy Meals: You may say, “But it’s the holidays! I deserve a little cheat.” OK, well you should know that a particularly heavy meal – especially one high in fat – stresses your heart upon digestion. Your blood pressure and heart rate increase, and the lining of your arteries become temporarily more clot-prone.

Salt: Oh yes, the salty goodness of turkey, ham, stuffing, gravy, and all the other holiday goodies causes fluid retention, which in turn makes your heart have to work harder.

Alcohol: A little imbibing is good for you. But too many holiday cocktails can also cause your heart to have to work harder to get blood to your arteries. Not only that, but alcohol can actually irritate the heart muscle and trigger an irregular heartbeat.

No Excuses!

Yes, it’s the holidays. Yes, you want to stuff your face until you literally have to be rolled into the living room. And yes, you want to be able to see your favorite team kick some serious tail on the field. But think of your health.

First off, don’t stuff your face – eat (and drink) responsibly. Second, if you’re having symptoms, don’t wait until the fourth quarter – get to the ER ASAP! And finally, don’t use the holidays as an excuse to go hog-wild and neglect your health. As cool as the afterlife might be, no one knows if it has turkey. Or football.

Get Strong! Stay Strong! (and live another day!)

Chris

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