Tips for having a heart-healthy holiday

December 21, 2012 by Veronica Mcguire, McMaster University

(Medical Xpress)—It's the season of joy, peace and goodwill, but it's also the time of year that brings a spike in heart attacks with most occurring on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day.

Dubbed by heart researchers as the "Merry Christmas Coronary," it can be triggered by or other risk factors, says Dr. Greg Curnew, an associate clinical professor of medicine of McMaster's Michael G. School of Medicine, on staff at Hamilton Health Sciences.

A heart attack – caused by a rupture of plaque in the wall of a coronary artery - strikes when you least suspect it, says Curnew. "It's like a volcano erupting."

Most heart deaths occur out of hospital, with one in four of those dying within one hour of their first-ever symptoms. He outlines heart attack signs as:

  • Chest pain that lasts for at least 10 minutes – coming on suddenly or slowly – and feeling like heaviness or a steel band tightening around the chest.
  • Chest discomfort that spreads to the neck, throat, jaw and shoulder, the back, arms and even the hands.
  • For those who don't experience chest pain, be aware of discomfort in upper parts of the body.
  • A choking feeling in the throat, or arms that feel heavy or useless.
  • Breathlessness, nausea or vomiting, a cold sweat, light-headedness.
"If you think you are having a , this is not the time to call telemedicine or your family doctor. Get straight to the hospital," says Curnew.

He recommends chewing two baby Aspirins or taking one or two nitroglycerine tables three to five minutes apart – but not if you are on medication for , such as Viagra – and call 911 immediately.

While it's the time of year for overindulging in rich, , Curnew warns that eating just one fatty meal constricts blood flow in arteries for the next three to four hours.

He advises anyone taking to not stop taking their prescribed dosage.

Curnew offers potential New Year's resolutions for consideration:

  • Learn basic life support skills and how to use an external defibrillator.
  • Become an active participant in your health with your doctor and develop a health binder that you constantly update.
  • Join the Good Food Box program; a non-profit fresh fruit and vegetable distribution program which makes fresh, high quality produce affordable and accessible to everyone.
  • If you want to lose weight, join a group or find a health buddy.
"For me, this is a time of year to celebrate and to feel lucky to be here for the holidays, and with a wish to be here next year, too," says Curnew.

Explore further: Many women having a heart attack don't have chest pain

Related Stories

Many women having a heart attack don't have chest pain

February 21, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Two out of five women having a heart attack do not experience chest pain, according to a new study.

Is there really such a thing as a broken heart?

February 8, 2012
On Valentine's Day, people who have been unlucky in love are sometimes said to suffering from a "broken heart."

Emotional grief could lead to heart attack

February 2, 2012
In the past, suffering from a broken heart was simply a way to describe the emotional pain one felt when dealing with a personal misfortune—a breakup or even the death of a loved one.  

Recommended for you

A nanoparticle inhalant for treating heart disease

January 18, 2018
A team of researchers from Italy and Germany has developed a nanoparticle inhalant for treating people suffering from heart disease. In their paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the group describes ...

Starting periods before age of 12 linked to heightened risk of heart disease and stroke

January 15, 2018
Starting periods early—before the age of 12—is linked to a heightened risk of heart disease and stroke in later life, suggests an analysis of data from the UK Biobank study, published online in the journal Heart.

'Decorated' stem cells could offer targeted heart repair

January 10, 2018
Although cardiac stem cell therapy is a promising treatment for heart attack patients, directing the cells to the site of an injury - and getting them to stay there - remains challenging. In a new pilot study using an animal ...

Two simple tests could help to pinpoint cause of stroke

January 10, 2018
Detecting the cause of the deadliest form of stroke could be improved by a simple blood test added alongside a routine brain scan, research suggests.

Exercise is good for the heart, high blood pressure is bad—researchers find out why

January 10, 2018
When the heart is put under stress during exercise, it is considered healthy. Yet stress due to high blood pressure is bad for the heart. Why? And is this always the case? Researchers of the German Centre for Cardiovascular ...

Heart-muscle patches made with human cells improve heart attack recovery

January 10, 2018
Large, human cardiac-muscle patches created in the lab have been tested, for the first time, on large animals in a heart attack model. This clinically relevant approach showed that the patches significantly improved recovery ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.