BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - More people have heart attacks in December and January than any other time of the year due to excessive alcohol consumption, lack of exercise, and food over-consumption.
The holidays are also accompanied by higher levels of stress and depression, which can lead to an increased risk of cardiac events. To help reduce stress and improve mood, taking a walk or jog can be a good way to prevent health issues.
According to Dr. Doug Mendoza, a cardiologist at Ochsner Medical Center in Baton Rouge, it's important to remember to eat, drink, and be merry, but in moderation. While moderate alcohol consumption appears to protect the heart, repeated overindulgence poses a direct and immediate risk to the heart. Also, high fat and salty foods not only raise long-term risks for obesity and high blood pressure, but can also increase the immediate likelihood of having a heart attack.
Dr. Mendoza says one of the biggest risks of all is when chest discomfort is associated with indigestion and that missed trip to the hospital becomes fatal. He suggests learning the signs of a heart attack. Call 911 if you or someone you know has one or more of the following symptoms:
- Chest, arm, neck, or jaw pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Profuse sweating
Women often have little or no chest pain associated with a heart attack, but instead tend to experience unusual fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and shortness of breath that can precede a heart attack by as much as a month.
Increased fluid retention can occur with the consumption of food with high salt content and can lead to shortness of breath. Those traveling out-of-town can be reluctant to visit an unfamiliar doctor or hospital when symptoms occur, but should seek medical attention if they do.
To stay on track during the holidays, here are some tips to stay heart healthy:
- Eat and drink moderately
- Don't let minor things stress you out
- Think calmly and rationally and seek help if need be
- Exercise during the holidays. Regular exercise reduces the risk of heart disease, depression, and psychological stress.
- If you become depressed, tell someone and seek help
- Don't ignore the symptoms of a heart attack. Hospitals would rather have false alarms than fatalities.
Visit www.ochsner.org/batonrouge for more information.