Don’t Eat Your Heart Out: Understanding the ‘Holiday Heart Syndrome’
This year, we have been faced with an unprecedented pandemic which has taught us never to take our health for granted. But as we near its end and gear up for the holidays, there are still plenty of things to watch out for when it comes to our health.
“That is because while the holidays are a time for merriment and indulgence, it has also been linked to a high incidence of heart attacks, stroke, and rising blood pressure, leading to the phenomenon called ‘Holiday Heart Syndrome,” said Dr. Amal Makhloufi Benchouk, The Country Lead of Sanofi Philippines.
But what is it about the most joyous time of the year that causes this unfortunate spike in cardiovascular-related health concerns and how do we avoid it?
“During the holiday season, many of us tend to overindulge or consume food excessively. Unfortunately, a significant amount of these may be high in sodium content,” Amal forewarns.
Why is this a problem? For some people, eating too much salty food may cause their blood pressure to rise. However, this shouldn’t deter you from indulging during the holidays, but just learning to be mindful of what you eat and avoiding excess salt can help minimize the risk for heart problems.
With holiday get-togethers come frequent social drinking. Just like the overindulgence of food, the festive season is often marked by the consumption of copious amounts of alcohol.
“The danger of binge-drinking as frequently as we do during the holidays is that it can lead to atrial fibrillation which is characterized by an abnormal heart rhythm that may increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart failure,” she warns.
The holidays bring with it added excitement and fatigue. For some, this can mean going from one party to another, night after night, until the wee hours of the day, leading to very little sleep which adds extra stress on their hearts. Combined with binge-drinking and overindulging, and one can be very susceptible to an unhealthy mix of triggering factors. “That is why moderation is key, especially when it comes to indulging in salty foods, alcoholic beverages, or knowing when to call it a night,” the Sanofi country lead explains.
Know the risks
Going into the holidays, it is definitely crucial to be aware of any potential risk factors or pre-existing conditions that can affect your health. If you are currently overweight and/or a heavy smoker or have a history with conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease then you or your family may be at a higher risk of experiencing heart problems, so it is best to be mindful of your health and keep watch of your holiday activities.
When should you get help
In the event that you start feeling symptoms such as chest pains, you should already start calling for help. Don’t forgo treatment just because you don’t want to spoil the holiday mood. It’s always better to be on the safe side when it comes to your health.
“The greatest gift that you can give to your family is the gift of health so we must encourage everyone to live a healthy and active lifestyle,” Amal intimated. “This is why we continue to educate Filipino families to have a better understanding of the disease, beyond the medicine, to empower every single person for self-monitoring and the improvement of their lifestyle. This is our commitment to building a healthier Philippines.”