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Take the Holiday Stress Test: Protect your heart and your sanity this season

November 29, 2017

The holiday season can be filled with fun! But when you’re decorating, shopping for gifts, and traveling over the river, and through the woods, the stress of the season can quickly become overwhelming.

Take a moment to test your level of holiday stress with the quiz on the right.

‘Tis the season to be… stressed? 

While some level of stress at the holidays is expected and normal, too much can get your tinsel in a tangle and have negative effects on your head and your heart.

“As cardiologists, we see an increase in heart disease and heart attacks over the holiday season,” said Vijai Tivakaran, DO, invasive cardiologist with Kettering Health Network’s Heart and Vascular Care. “For many people, the holidays can be a very overwhelming time of year, and women seem to be even more affected.”

In addition to being stressful, the holidays are also the time of year when we tend to give ourselves a reprieve from “healthy behavior.” We eat things we normally wouldn’t and eat more than we should -- all in the name of being festive, or to soothe the stress we’re feeling.

“The holidays are also the beginning of the flu season and winter -- a time when people tend to be more sedentary,” explained Dr. Tivakaran. “It’s common to put off exercising, eating healthier, or getting a physical or health screening until after the holidays.”

Do you know the signs of a heart attack?

According to Dr. Tivakaran, the sudden onset of the following symptoms should cue a call to 9-1-1:

  • Chest heaviness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Left shoulder pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea

“The thing NOT to do is to go lie down, thinking it will just pass,” warned Dr. Tivakaran. “It’s better to err on the side of caution.”

Dr. Tivakaran says that heart attack symptoms in women can be a bit more subtle, and include things like nausea and left shoulder pain. Again, when in doubt, have a doctor check it out.

“We also see an increased risk of heart issues in diabetics, smokers and those with high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure,” said Dr. Tivakaran.

Being aware of things that can increase one’s risk of heart disease and attack can go a long way toward preventing stress from reaching dangerous levels.

Points to remember this holiday season:

  1. Avoid indulgence with food and alcohol
  2. Get a flu shot
  3. Unless you participate in a routine exercise regimen, you should not shovel snow
  4. If you have a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, and start exercising, don’t wait, and START TODAY!

Take this free Heart Risk Quiz – click here.

Are you at risk?

Kettering Health Network’s Heart and Vascular Care offers 30-minute, non-invasive heart screenings that could save your life. Click here to request a 30-minute heart screening.