SSM Health Medical Minute: Steps to protect your heart as temperatures drop and stress goes up

Medical Minute

The holiday season is a time of excitement and anticipation, but the colder weather, change in routine, and increase in stress can also increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. In fact, recent studies show an increase in death rates from heart attack and stroke during the holidays, specifically on Christmas Day, Dec. 26, and New Year’s Day.

Dr. Jorge Ramirez, an interventional cardiologist with SSM Health Medical Group and SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond Heights, says that activities like shoveling snow, eating different foods, the change in routines with family, work, and holidays can increase stress to the heart.

“We need to keep a healthy heart before, during and after the holidays,” he said. “And we have to remember that cardiovascular disease is the #1 cause of death in the U.S. and globally.”

He suggests these steps to keeping the heart healthy:

  1. Know Your Risk: if you are between 40 and 75, you can calculate your risk of heart attack or stroke online
  2. Eat Healthy: focus on fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, whole-wheat items
  3. Be Active: 150 minutes of activity per week
  4. Monitor Your Weight: Keep your BMI between 18% – 25%
  5. Avoid Tobacco Products: stay away from smoking, vaping, and second-hand smoke
  6. Take Your Medications: Make sure to follow doctor’s instructions for your meds
  7. Follow Instructions of Your Doctor: If your doctor has prescribed something for you, or given instructions for better health, please follow what they say

So why the increased heart attacks and stroke during winter? Dr. Ramirez says during the holidays, there is just more indulgence with sugar, salts, alcohol consumption. With the increased risk of infections and viruses during the winter, those at risk are vulnerable to heart attack or stroke.

“Know your limit on tasks that are a strain for you, such as shoveling snow and ice,” he said.

Ramirez says to ask for help if you need it rather than try and do it yourself if you are at risk.

Take your heart health risk assessment here from SSM Health.

The SSM Health Medical Minute airs Wednesdays on News 11 at 7 p.m. and FOX 2 News at 9 p.m.

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Medical Minute

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