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Maintaining heart health during the holidays

December 21, 2011 2:57:04 PM PST
Unhealthy food can be one reason that holiday deaths peak on Christmas day, the day after and New Year's Day. Now is the time of good will and holiday cheer, but the coming week also contains the three days of the year with the highest risk of death from heart attacks. One of those three heart risk days is this coming Sunday. It's not just the exertion of shoveling snow that can lead to a heart attack. Even on a day like today, there are features of the holiday season that increase your risk of heart problems. You know it's holiday time when soldiers go shopping. You don't need a cadence count to buy gifts during the day or to party at night. And all that food? It's enough to kill you. Seriously. "It can be very salty and high in fat, increase the stickiness of the blood and this is a set up for a heart attack," Dr. Jonathan Whiteson of NYU Langone Medical Center said.

So is stress. Stress of finishing the shopping, getting the party organized and the stress of family.

"People may say something that you're not comfortable with, but you've got to learn to just let it brush off," patient Frank Cuttita said.

Cuttita and others are rehabbing after heart procedures.

"At the holidays you go out of your way to make everyone feel the best that they can and that puts stress on you," Bob D'Emilia, another heart patient, said.

Even if you've never had heart trouble, there's always a first time.

There's so much shopping so many parties, holidays are great times to deny that chest pain is not a serious symptom of a heart attack.

No one wants to go to the doctor or the emergency room instead of having a good time. Just remember that heart attack rates go up between now and New Year's Day.

"I would say be cautious if you have pain or shortness of breath going up steps. I think if ever the adage made any sense better safe than sorry, this is the time," heart patient George Trotta said.

If you have heart problems, don't take a holiday from your medications. Missing just one daily dose of blood pressure pills or a cholesterol lowering drug can mean a surge in pressure or cholesterol that can have negative effects on the heart's blood circulation.

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