Winter is a time to enjoy the holidays with family and friends. Just ensure that you’re not ignoring your physical and mental health while doing so. In fact, protecting your heart health is more important than ever during this time of year.
The risk of heart attack and other complications from cardiovascular disease rises during the winter months, especially around the holidays. But by being aware and taking precautions, you can reduce your risk and help protect your heart.
Why Is Heart Health a Concern in Winter?
The most deaths from heart attacks occur every year between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Risk is also higher throughout the rest of the season, than during the rest of the year. There are several reasons for this uptick in cardiac events during the winter months:
- Lack of physical activity: Regular exercise is important for your health. But exercise routines can easily be forgotten during the winter, due to rainy weather, traveling, the holidays and other factors.
- Poor diet: It’s easy to indulge in sweet treats around the holidays. But unhealthy food choices can contribute to poor heart health.
- Stress: We all know that the holidays can be stressful. Stress can lead to high blood pressure and a higher risk for heart attack and stroke. Stress may cause sleep difficulties, overeating and other unhealthy habits that are hard on your heart.
While ignoring healthy habits during the winter is not good for anyone, people who already have risk factors for heart disease are at even higher risk. People at greater risk of cardiac issues during the holidays:
- Are overweight or obese
- Have conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes
How to Protect Your Heart Health
Fortunately, there are many ways to help prevent heart disease, regardless of the season:
- Be aware. Knowing the symptoms of a heart attack and taking action quickly can minimize damage to your heart and greatly improve chances for recovery.
- De-stress. Make time to relax every day.
- Eat healthy food. While you don’t have to completely deprive yourself of treats, look for ways to follow a heart-healthy diet. Limit added sugars, salt and saturated fats, and eat plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean proteins. Also, drink alcohol in moderation. For men, that means two drinks per day or less and, for women, one drink per day or less.
- Move more. Aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week.