Juggling multiple commitments during the holidays might bring out the best in you. Or it might leave you feeling stressed, anxious or depressed. These feelings go well beyond your mental health. They can have short-term and long-term effects on your whole body, especially your heart.
Boaz Rosen, MD, a cardiologist at Anne Arundel Medical Center, says it is important to find ways to manage the emotions the holidays bring out. “Stress and anxiety can affect the heart in a variety of ways, such as increasing blood pressure,” he explains.
More importantly, Dr. Rosen says, people may try to use food, smoking or alcohol to relieve stress, anxiety or depression. Weight gain from overeating can affect blood pressure and contribute to an increased risk of diabetes. Tobacco use has well-known short- and long-term effects on the heart and lungs. And while moderate intake of red wine (not more than one glass a day) can be beneficial, excessive alcohol use can affect heart, brain and liver function.
Dr. Rosen also warns that it’s important to know the signs of a heart attack and to take any symptoms seriously. “A lot of people will ignore chest pain symptoms thinking it’s indigestion,” he says. “They describe a gassy feeling of pressure or discomfort in the chest. If there is any concern or if antacids don’t take care of that discomfort in minutes, think ‘heart’ and call 911. Even if it turns out to be indigestion, it’s better to be safe than sorry. On a positive note, I wish you and your family a happy, healthy holiday season!”