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Avoid a holiday heart attack

An older couple sharing a small bowl of salad.

Dec. 23, 2021— The holidays are a time of joy. But this time of year can be hard on your heart too. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), more people die of heart attacks between Dec. 25 and Jan. 1 than at any other time.

Why? Amid all the celebrations, there may also be some added risks.

Busy holiday schedules can be stressful. And it's easy to break from heart-healthy routines.

People may not want to ruin the moment. They may ignore or downplay heart symptoms and put off getting medical help.

The season itself may be part of the problem: Cold winter weather can affect blood flow, raising the risk of heart attack.

Have a heart-healthy holiday

You can take steps to protect your heart—now and for the future. Start with these tips from the AHA and other experts.

Eat a heart-healthy diet. Go for colorful fruits and vegetables, hearty whole grains, low-fat dairy products and proteins, nuts and legumes, and non-tropical vegetable oils. Plus, eat fewer sugary, fatty and salty foods.

Know the risks of drinking alcohol. Alcohol can cause increased blood pressure and heart attack risk. And it can trigger irregular heartbeats.

Avoid stress. Try to stay away from negative people, news and situations. If you do get stressed, try deep breathing to ease tension.

Take medications on time. Consider setting an alarm to keep you on track. If you're traveling, pack your meds in your carry-on luggage. And know whom to call if you need an emergency refill.

Stay warm when you work out. Staying active is great for your heart. But cold outdoor weather can make your arteries constrict, decrease blood flow and reduce the delivery of oxygen throughout your body. That's the triple whammy that's linked to heart attacks after shoveling snow. Consider indoor exercise when it's cold outside. If you do go out, make sure to bundle up.

Laugh it off. According to HelpGuide, laughing boosts immunity, reduces stress hormones, decreases pain and helps prevent heart disease. Humor lifts your spirits and connects you with others. After all, if today's debacle will be funny in the future, you might as well laugh now.

Know the signs of a heart attack. If you're having a heart attack, fast action can save your life. And a heart attack might not feel like you'd expect. Learn the signs, and call 911 right away if you think you or someone else might be having a heart attack.

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