Keeping Your Holidays Healthy
Although the holidays are often seen as a joyous and memorable time with family and friends, for those in charge of tasks like cooking, buying presents, and organizing family gatherings, it can also be stressful and potentially put women at risk for heart problems.
“We have seen more than a few cases of stress-induced cardiomyopathy around the holidays,” said Abhimanyu Beri, MD, Medical Director of Electrophysiology, Lakeland Health. “This occurs especially in women when they are under great amounts of stress for a short period of time and that stress is compounded with another traumatic event, such as a death in the family, a car accident, loss of money, etc. If it is ignored, it can be fatal.”
Stress-induced cardiomyopathy occurs when stress hormones weaken the left ventricle, the heart’s main pumping chamber. The condition is most common among women in their late 50s to mid-70s.
“Someone experiencing this condition might develop chest pain or shortness of breath after severe stress, either emotional or physical,” said Dr. Beri. “In most cases it can be treated with medication, but it’s important to talk with your doctor as soon as possible if you are experiencing any symptoms.”
During the holidays, many women may experience a spike in blood pressure, which puts them at increased risk for chest pain, heart palpitations, or even a stroke. Women with a history of high blood pressure require close monitoring when under stress.
Make Holiday Time a Happy Time
While you need a certain level of stress to function optimally, too much stress can take a toll on both your physical and emotional well-being. In order to successfully manage your stress load during the upcoming holiday season, try these simple tips from Marcia Wiinamaki, PsyD, Director of Christian Counseling and Psychological Services at Southwestern Medical Clinic:
- Set more realistic expectations for yourself – keep in mind there is no such thing as the “perfect” holiday gathering.
- Make sure to sleep more and build in some down time for yourself.
- Start shopping, wrapping, cooking, baking, or decorating earlier in the season to decrease last minute overload.
- Exercise – either walking or running, yoga, meditation, a nice stroll with a loved one, whatever it takes, make it happen.
- When you’re facing a stressor, pause for a moment. Then take a deep breath and slowly breathe out as you count to 10.
- Remember, no one can do it all alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.