5 Tips for Heart Health During the Holidays

Manage stress, practice calmness, prevent loneliness and more

Two middle-aged women smile while enjoying some time outdoors. SD Health Magazine

Manage stress, practice calmness, prevent loneliness and more

Ever heard of the “Christmas holiday effect?” Your cardiologist has. The term refers to the annual uptick in cardiovascular deaths in late December and early January. 

“Although the holidays are a cheerful time, they’re often a stressful time, even for somebody without heart issues,” says Poulina Uddin, MD, a cardiologist at Scripps Clinic Anderson Medical Pavilion in La Jolla.

“Stress is known to increase your blood pressure, increase your heart rate, and for people who are more prone to arrhythmias, it can actually trigger and provoke more arrhythmias. There’s also an increased risk of heart attack associated with stress and major stressful events.” 

The reasons for the increased risk are many. In addition to stress, they include:

  • Issues with fluid management
  • Poorly controlled blood pressure
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Delays in seeing the doctor or going to the hospital

Overindulging can play a role for those with a history of heart failure or cardiomyopathy. Even deviating from your normal routine may be significant enough to impact heart health. 

Advanced heart care at Scripps

Scripps cardiologists use the most advanced technology to diagnose, treat and manage all types of cardiovascular conditions — from the common to the complex — and underlying health challenges tied to the heart and vascular system. 

They can also help you keep your heart healthy through the holidays and beyond. Here are Dr. Uddin’s recommendations:  

1. Healthy new year

Get a jump on your New Year’s resolutions and begin a healthy eating and exercise program before the holidays. “It doesn't mean you have to miss out on the holiday fun, but there’s no reason to wait till January to get into shape,” she says. 

2. Practice calmness

If you tend to get overwhelmed around the holidays, prioritizing the most important tasks can help keep your stress level in check. Give yourself boundaries and guidelines. 

3. Healthy travel

If you’re traveling, check in with your doctor first and refill prescriptions before you leave. Also, stay hydrated and get up to stretch occasionally during long flights to prevent blood clots

4. Manage stress

Stress less. Avoid the hustle and bustle without guilt if you find yourself getting easily overwhelmed. If anxiety strikes while you’re out and about, take a few minutes to practice deep breathing, yoga or whatever helps you de-stress. 

5. Reach out

Also, check in on older friends and family members who may be spending the holidays alone. Studies show that social isolation and loneliness can increase the risk of death from heart failure. 

San Diego Health Magazine Winter 2023 Cover

This content appeared in San Diego Health, a publication in partnership between Scripps and San Diego Magazine that celebrates the healthy spirit of San Diego.

Related tags: