SSM Health Medical Minute – Holiday heart health: Avoiding Christmas coronaries and holiday heart

Medical Minute
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ST. LOUIS - Dr. William Wright, a cardiologist at SSM Health St. Clare Hospital in Fenton, says increased stress comes with the holidays.

“There’s a condition called 'holiday heart,' which is an irregular heart rhythm that is associated with drinking. Either while you are drinking or after you have stopped," Wright said. "While the booze runs out of your system, your heart gets irregular and you go into atrial fibrillation.”

“There’s another one called Christmas coronaries. Heart attacks happen with increased stress as well as with cold weather.”

Dr. Wright warns that one of the worst activities you can do that brings on heart attacks is snow shoveling.

Dr. Wright says people underestimate how heavy the snow is and you add in the cold temperatures while you’re working, and those are increased stresses on your heart that can bring on a heart attack or artery blockage. Holiday heart can happen at any time, but increased drinking does put additional stress on your heart.

The cold weather also contributes to stress on the heart. Heart attacks happen when a blockage that isn’t causing symptoms gets a blood clot and causes a heart attack. Persons who have known heart issues should avoid excess drinking and heavy outdoor activities during the holiday season.

Symptoms of irregular heartbeat (holiday heart) are lightheadedness, dizziness, or excessive sweating. Heart attack symptoms typically include acute pain in the center of your chest. More mild symptoms might be a pain in your arm.

Dr. Wright says to avoid holiday heart you should try and maintain your normal schedule. Try not to overschedule. Make sure you balance your diet and eat the holiday foods in moderation. Be sure to exercise to produce endorphins. Cardiologists see an increase of 10-20 percent admittance to hospitals between the week of Christmas and New Year, much of it related to stress.

Take the heart risk assessment to find out if you’re at risk!

To learn more about Heart & Vascular care from SSM Health, click here.

The SSM Health Medical Minute airs every Wednesday at 7 PM on KPLR News 11 and at 9 PM on KTVI Fox 2 News.​

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