Saturday, December 24, 2011

When a Holiday Heart Isn’t a Good Thing

During the holidays, news abounds about those generous people who have holiday hearts and give away donations to complete strangers. Secret Santas pop up all over the place, and we hear heartwarming stories about them giving away $100 bills.

I witnessed a Secret Santa type of moment at Cracker Barrel a few weeks ago. An elderly gentleman tried to pay for his dinner and the waitress said, “You don’t owe anything.”

“What?” he said. “Where’s my bill?”

“It’s already paid,” she said loudly as she leaned closer so he could hear. “The couple sitting at that table,” she pointed to show him, “paid for your meal. They are already gone.”

The elderly man seemed a little puzzled, but he sat and leisurely drank another cup of coffee. I thought he might have taken the extra time to assure himself that he really didn’t owe anything. The couple that paid for his meals had holiday hearts—the good kind.

I would like to alert caregivers to a different type of holiday heart that physicians nationwide are talking about on television. It seems that a combination of overeating, the stress of the holidays, and partying can create havoc with your heart.

People who don’t normally drink tend to overindulge during the holidays. My son refers to New Year’s Eve as “amateur night” in reference to people who don’t know their alcohol consumption limit.

After the chaos of planning and pulling off a holiday party, it may seem like the perfect way to relax and enjoy. For some, the consequences can be frightening and life threatening.

The symptoms of holiday heart syndrome:
  • You feel lightheaded and dizzy.
  • You are short of breath.
  • Your heart beats faster than normal and you have an irregular heartbeat.
If you experience these symptoms, cardiac specialists recommend that you stop drinking alcohol and drink cold water to rehydrate yourself. Coughing also helps to reset the heart’s rhythm.

If these symptoms don’t go away within ten to fifteen minutes, it is time to call 911. You may think this seems overdramatic for a little drinking and overeating, but the holidays are primetime for a heart attack. Five percent more people die from heart-related deaths during the holidays especially on Christmas Day, the day after Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Drinking is not the only problem. Overeating causes its own set of heart threatening risk factors for those who may have underlying heart disease. An increase in fat and sodium can put a strain on the heart that can lead to a heart attack.

Moderation in food and drink will keep your holidays merrier, not to mention healthier. It will also make that New Year’s resolution to lose weight more attainable if you don’t gain that extra five or ten pounds during the holiday season.

Here’s a non-alcoholic toast that your holiday heart is healthy and filled with joy and generosity.

Copyright © L. S. Fisher


Linda said...

Thanks for the reminders, but we don't drink, and it will be just us so we probably won't over party, or over eat either.

Have a wonderful, Merry Christmas, Linda. I appreciate your postings. Today would have been my mom's 90th birthday. She died from the ravages of Alzheimer's in '02. Still miss her.

L S Fisher said...


With my ulcers and hiatial hernia I can't drink or overeat. Made it through okay.