The holiday season begins with Thanksgiving and peaks with Christmas, but for many people, heart disease will impact a loved one or friend this year.
More prevalent than any other time of year, heart attacks, heart failure or arrhythmias are more likely to occur the day after Christmas than any other day of the year, according to the American Heart Association and a study performed by the University of California.
During the Christmas holiday, out of town guests, gift purchases, over eating or drinking and financial stress can cause an increase in “bad” stress.
Everyone experiences good and bad stress, according to Maureen Caron, Cardiac Catheterization Lab Director at Claremore Regional Hospital. Good stress produces adrenaline but bad stress can increase blood pressure, she said.
Combining increased “bad” stress, colder temperatures and the tendency that many people have ignore symptoms during the holidays, directly impacts the instances of heart related issues, according to Caron.
Caron has been working with patients of heart disease for more than 17 years in Claremore.
“Heart disease will not wait for your schedule,” Caron said, “Many people think you have to have chest pain to have a heart attack, it actually can be presented very differently.”
Males may present with symptoms of chest pain radiating to their shoulders or arms, many women present with back pain, associated with shortness of breath and fatigue, she said. Other symptoms may include throat pain, jaw pain, nausea, vomiting and people suffering from diabetes may not have symptoms at all, she said.
“Heart disease is non-discrimatory, it does not discriminate between race or sex at all,” Caron said, “We assumed years ago that is was older people, today’s statistics now indicate this is the first generation that will not out live their parents.”
Poor eating habits, sedentary lifestyles and obesity are just some factors that are impacting people.
“Heart disease is the number one killer worldwide,” she said.
Younger and younger patients are being treated in Claremore. It is no longer uncommon for younger patients to need treatment including bypass surgery. Heart disease never goes away and is a progressive disease that continues over time.
The holiday season is one time of year when people tend to not take the time to take care of their health. They feel the pressure of social and family commitments and expectations.
“More often then not we put those pressures on ourselves,” Caron said, “If you are tired, take a break. If you are overwhelmed step away from the situation.”
“Things do not have to be perfect,” she said.
Take a deep breath and try to limit the amount of food you take in. Limit consumption of alcohol. Caron also suggests eating smaller meals through out the day and slowing down to enjoy the food.
“Chew your food. Conversate during dinner to give your body time to feel full,’” she said.
If visiting family bring and take your medication. If you have high blood pressure make sure it is treated, she said. Most importantly seek medical attention if something is wrong, do not wait until the holiday is over. Call 911 if you have symptoms or feel you are having a heart attack. Claremore Regional Hospital has three cardiologists on staff and offers patients a variety of procedures. Cardiac catheterization, stents, angioplasty, stress tests, pacemakers and defibrillators are just some of the services offered locally.
Claremore Regional Hospital does not currently offer cardiac bypass surgery but works closely with Oklahoma Heart Institute, on the campus of Hillcrest Medical Center, and SouthCrest Hospital in Tulsa to ensure every patient has timely access to needed treatment.
Lifeflight and ground transportation is also available to patients in need of transfer.
“People come in and are embarrassed,” she said.
Caron urges people to seek medical attention and prevent becoming a statistic.
“I would rather keep someone for observation then have them needlessly pass away because they didn’t seek treatment,” Caron said.
Family members and friends are encouraged to watch out for each other. If someone is complaining of symptoms be aware, get help.
This holiday season making time to take care of your heart may be the best gift you can give to your family and friends, according to Caron.
To learn more about heart disease symptoms, prevention and Frequently Asked Questions visit www.OklahomaHeart.com .