We are approaching the holiday season filled with festivities and homecomings. Unfortunately it is also a time when people experience heart failure, and that is not a good thing.
Do you know that your heart sits in the center of your chest, and points slightly to the left, and is about the size of a large fist; a man’s heart weighs about 10 to 12 ounces while a woman’s heart weighs about 8 to 10 ounces; your heart pumps approximately 6 quarts of blood throughout the body, and in a single lifetime the heart will beat approximately 3 billion times, this equates to about 100,000 times per day; and leaving an adult heart beating 60-80 time each minute.
Your heart is a fantastic pump, but it does wear out. Heart disease, the buildup of plaque in the heart’s arteries, is the 2nd leading cause of death in Canada and the 1st in the United States. Here is some data to think about, according to 2017-2018 data from the Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System (CCDSS)(1)
The good news is that the death rate per 1,000 individuals with a known heart disease has decreased by 21% in 2000-2001 to 2017-2018.
But the Christmas Season is particularly important…
According to a study conducted between 1998-2013 the risk of a heart attack was 15% higher on Christmas Day and 37% higher on Christmas Eve when researchers analyzed data two weeks before and after Christmas. According to one study, “The number of cardiac deaths is higher on Dec. 25 than on any other day of the year, second highest on Dec. 26, and third highest on Jan.1st. (2)
The message here is to take it easy during the holiday season. This is a time for joy, peace and goodwill, not a time for overdoing it with too much drinking and eating. However, since the holiday season is when most heart attacks occur, watch for these common warning signs of a heart attack:
Don’t wait for the holiday season, or a heart attack, to make changes to your lifestyle. Start now. You can reduce your risk of heart disease by following these five simple preventive measures today:
You can do more to help your heart stay healthy by including the following trusted suggestions into your daily lives.
1.Shrink your belly—research into the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has connected excess belly fat to an unhealthy blood lipid level and higher blood pressure. If you are carrying extra fat around your belly, it is time to trim down. Exercising and eating fewer calories can make a huge difference. If this describes you, don’t add to your problem during holiday seasons. (8)
2.Let music move you—whether you prefer a two-step tune or a rumba beat, social dancing makes your heart better. Like other forms of exercise, it increases your heart rate and gets your legs going. It also burns up to 200 calories per hour, according to the Mayo Clinic. Now dancing is a healthy exercise, but if you don’t do it regularly then don’t kick up a storm on New Year's Eve, particularly if you are combining it with heavy drinking. (9)
3.Eat fish—eat a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids can also reduce heart disease. Many types of fish, such as herring, sardines, tuna, salmon, and halibut are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Try to eat fish at least twice a week, suggests the American Heart Association. If you’re worried about mercury in fish, you may be excited to learn that the heart benefits of fish tend to outweigh its risks.
4.Laugh aloud—don’t just laugh aloud in Facebook posts or in emails. Laugh aloud in your daily life. Whether you like cracking jokes with your friends, watching funny movies, or cracking jokes with your loved ones, laughter can decrease the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, decreasing inflammation in your coronary arteries and can increase your levels of HDL (high-density lipoproteins, also known as “good cholesterol.” (I have dedicated a whole section to laughter in the training program ‘Stressology’ (6))
5.Stretch your muscles— try yoga. Yoga can help you improve your flexibility, strength, and balance. It can help you relieve stress and relax. Moreover, yoga has the ability to improve your heart health. According to scientific research published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, yoga has the potential to reduce your risk of heart disease. And the NCCIH (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health) points out that since yoga helps reduce stress it might also help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. (3)
6.Skip the salt—If the entire North American population reduced its mean salt intake to just a half teaspoon per day, it would significantly decrease the number of people who develop heart artery disease each year. Scientists have confirmed this at the New England Journal of Medicine. The researchers suggest that salt is one of the leading causes of increased health care costs in the US. Processed foods tend to be particularly high in salt. Therefore, you need to think twice before eating a lot of fast food. Consider using some kind of salt substitute, such as potassium hydroxide. Also consider the DASH-style diet to lower blood pressure. (4) (5)
7.Exercise regularly—although mentioned above as one of the five simple preventive measures exercise is mentioned again here because of an increasing number of people who are slaves to their desk. Now it doesn’t matter how much you weigh, sitting for long periods of time could decrease your lifespan. People who live desk jockey lifestyles or are couch potatoes suffer from unhealthy effects on blood sugar and blood fats. If you work at a desk, take regular breaks and move around a bit. Take a walk on your lunch breaks and eat your lunch at a resting place during your walk.
8.Keep track of your numbers—keeping track of your blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol, and blood sugar can help you maintain a healthy heart. Learn the optimal levels for your age group and sex. Take steps to maintain those levels, your doctor can tell you how. Remember to schedule regular checkups with your physician to stay on top of the numbers and get regular checkups.
9.Eat nuts—if you eat walnuts, almonds and other tree nuts, you will get a lot of fiber, protein, and fats. Including them in your diet can help decrease your risk of heart disease. Remember that the serving size is small, suggests the American Heart Association. While nuts are full of heart-healthy stuff, they also have a lot of calories in them.
10.Reduce unhealthy fat intake —slicing your saturated fat to less than 7% of your daily calories can decrease your risk of heart disease, according to the USDA. If you don’t read nutrition labels, consider starting today. Take stock of what you are eating and stay away from foods that are high in fat, particularly saturated fat.
In conclusion. Be heart conscious this Christmas but remember the suggestions and recommendations scattered throughout this article are not just for the holiday season. They are identified for you to take your heart health seriously and to apply them throughout the year. Looking after your heart is not a onetime event, but an on-going lifestyle choice. So enjoy your holiday season but be heart-wise. (6) (7)
As always folks, stay safe, keep healthy and continue becoming the best version of yourself.
(2) https://www.webmd.com/heart/features/the-truth-behind-more-holiday-heart-attacks) .
(6) Stressology: https://www.fontaniemagazine.com/stressology-stress-care-for-today/stressology-stress-care-for-today
(7) Also join FORTIS. Included in your membership are 20 videos on heart health: https://www.fontaniemagazine.com/stressology-stress-care-for-today/stressology-stress-care-for-today
(8) https://www.acc.org/about-acc/press-releases/2016/09/26/15/13/study-shows-more-reasons-why-belly-fat-is-dangerous-for-the heart#:~:text=Increasing%20stomach%20fat%20%E2%80%93%20especially%20the%20%E2%80%9Chidden%20fat%E2%80%9D,the%20Journal%20of%20the%20American%20College%20of%20Cardiology.