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Holiday Stress Can Increase Chances of Catastrophic Health Events

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How to Reduce Holiday Stress and the Chance of a Heart Attack

By Dr. Agei Enoh MD, interventional cardiologist with Ascension Medical Group Wisconsin
Originally published on 12/16/2020 at 12:00 p.m.

The holiday season is meant to be a time of joy. Due to pressure, conflict and overwhelming expectations, this season can also be a time of significant stress for many. This year could be even worse.

Combined with much uncertainty and coronavirus, these typical stressors could lead to health problems.

What health problems can stress cause?

Stress causes several short-term and long-term effects on the body. It can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. With so many potential health issues, monitoring our stress levels and finding ways to manage stress are essential to living a healthy and fulfilled life.

Strategies for Managing Holiday Stress

Eat and drink in moderation

Plan ahead and choose healthy foods for your virtual holiday celebrations. Eat healthy meals and drink plenty of water during the day so you’re not so hungry when you log in to an evening event. Staying well hydrated also helps reduce your risk for cold and flu. If you choose to drink alcohol, the American Heart Association recommends no more than two alcoholic drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

Enjoy a glass of wine or your favorite mixed drink and then switch to water.

Stay physically active

It can be easy to lose sight of exercise when spending more time at home. Many have adapted a more sedentary lifestyle. Don’t let physical activity fall out of your routine.

Make a commitment to get moving for at least 75 minutes per week by incorporating small walks around the neighborhood, setting breaks to get up and move during a remote workday at home or commit to a virtual workout video two or three times a week.


Taking time each day to relax can help lower your stress levels and your blood pressure. Plus, when you’re relaxed, you’ll be less likely to overindulge in high-fat, high-cholesterol comfort food. 

Make a list of what you really want to get out of the holiday season to set realistic goals. Being less stressed allows quality time with family and friends.

Sleep is essential for a healthy heart. While holiday commitments on top of everyday life may seem overwhelming, remember there's always tomorrow.

Make it a point to get good, quality sleep every night. People who don’t sleep enough are at a much higher risk for cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease than those who get at least seven hours of sleep nightly.

Get your flu shot

According to a study from the Journal of the American Heart Association, heart attacks and strokes increase during times of high flu-like illness rates. Researchers found that if someone's going to have a heart attack it will occur within seven days of the flu-like illness. For stroke, they saw an increased risk seven to 15 days after, similar to heart attacks. There is an additional higher-risk period after 30 days.

Don’t ignore symptoms

Some studies show a rise in heart attacks and other cardiac events during the holidays. If you have symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or dizziness, do not ignore it. It’s always better to get checked out than to risk a life-threatening issue.

For people experiencing symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, a hospital emergency room is still the safest, most appropriate place to get care.

Continue these habits well beyond the holidays to keep your heart healthy all year long. On average, it takes 60-90 days to make something a habit. Good habits like eating well, exercising, relaxing and mindfulness can carry far beyond the holidays. 

If you’d like to find out more about your personal heart health, schedule an appointment with Dr. Enoh today.

For information on how your Network Health plan can help make the holiday season a great one, contact Network Health.

About the Author

Dr. Agei Enoh cares for adult patients of all ages at Ascension St. Elizabeth’s Heart, Lung & Vascular Center in Appleton. Specializing in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease, peripheral vascular disease and pulmonary embolism, Dr. Enoh is board-certified in cardiovascular diseases, echocardiography, vascular interpretation, and internal medicine.

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