I’d like you to do me a favor. I want you to be extra kind to yourself for the rest of the holidays. Give yourself a break. You deserve it. And it could help save your life.
Things are, well, different this holiday season. Because of the pandemic, many of us aren’t spending them the way we usually do.
There weren’t the usual Christmas parties. Shopping was done online. And perhaps, like me, your typically loud and boisterous Christmas Day is going to be replaced by a video call this year.
But there’s one “tradition” that we all are going to WANT to avoid. Because despite the coronavirus, THIS threat might still try to come-a-caroling between Christmas and New Year’s.
And that’s the yearly spike in heart attacks.
According to a study published in the journal Circulation, December 24th, December 25th, and January 1st are the top three days for heart attacks.
Heart attacks SPIKE during the holiday season.
If you have a paramedic, EMT, nurse, or doctor in your life, you might have even heard this time of year referred to as “heart attack season.”
Experts say they aren’t ENTIRELY sure why it happens. Every year between Christmas and New Year’s Day, heart attack cases shoot through the roof.
But honestly, it’s not hard to guess why. Because even if Christmas is your favorite holiday, there’s no denying it can also be a tough time of year.
You can start with the strain the holiday puts on your finances. Sprinkle in some overindulging. Toss in the family tensions that tend to bubble up. And finish the recipe off with the fact that we can’t help but think about the folks we love who are no longer with us to celebrate. (Cold temps can play a role too, but that’s a subject for another day.)
It’s all… as the kids say these days… a LOT.
This year brings its own set of challenges to the mix, putting even more strain on us… and our hearts. We’re battling fears about the virus. Being separated from family and friends can make us feel lonely and anxious. And if you’ve let your ordinarily healthy habits slip a bit during the pandemic, let’s just say you aren’t alone.
So it’s no surprise that doctors are now reporting a surge in stress cardiomyopathy. This dangerous condition, which can feel like an awful lot like a heart attack, has jumped by up to five times since the pandemic began.
Anxiety levels are at an all-time high right now. And when you add in the holiday stress, that could make your heart more vulnerable than ever. So it’s time to do something about it.
STOP the stress to save your HEART
Start by stepping AWAY from the news and social media. Use that time to do something you enjoy, like reading, doing crossword puzzles, puttering around the garage, crafting, playing video games on your phone, or watching an episode of your favorite TV show.
It’s not the activity that matters, just that you engage your brain with something OTHER than the things stressing you out. But don’t stop there. Consider trying some stress-relieving deep breathing or meditation. Don’t worry, you don’t have to chant or light incense or anything weird.
Studies show calm, focused breathing can ease anxiety, reduce our circulating stress hormones, and even lower blood pressure. In other words, it could help reduce the strain right now when you need it the most… during “heart attack season.”
One of my favorite techniques is called box breathing. You can do it anytime, anywhere.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth for four seconds.
- Hold your lungs empty for a count of four.
- Inhale through your nose slowly for four seconds.
- Hold your breath for four more. Repeat until you feel calmer.
You can Google “deep breathing exercises” for more options. Or download a free breathing or guided meditation app to your phone that can walk you through them if you prefer.
Calming nutrients such as chamomile, valerian root, lemon balm, and ashwagandha can help you relax and reduce the strain on your heart. Plus, ashwagandha can do double duty by helping you get some critical rest too.
I wrote about the herb’s ability to tackle insomnia recently here. And it, along with melatonin, could help you get the heart-protecting sleep you desperately need not only now during the holiday season but all year around.
I’d like to take a moment on this Christmas Eve to wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy, HEALTHY, and Peaceful Holidays from the crew here at Healthier Talk.
It’s going to be a different one for sure. But I hope you find some time to connect with family and friends using the wonders of technology. And remember, this is temporary.