Ochsner – Baton Rouge Recommends Tips to Avoiding a Holiday Heart Attack

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By Ochsner Medical Center – Baton Rouge

More people have heart attacks in December and January than at any other time of the year due to excessive alcohol, lack of exercise and food overconsumption – all hallmarks of the holiday season.

The holidays are also accompanied by high levels of stress and depression, which can also lead to an increased risk of cardiac events. To help reduce stress and improve mood, as weather allows, exercise such as a morning walk or jog can be a good way to help prevent a health scare.

According to Dr. Doug Mendoza, Cardiologist, Ochsner Medical Center – Baton Rouge, it’s also important to remember to eat, drink and be merry – in moderation that is! While moderate alcohol intake appears to protect the heart, repeated overindulgence poses a direct and immediate threat to the heart. Plus, all those high-fat and salty foods not only raise the long-term dangers of obesity and high blood pressures, but can also increase the immediate likelihood of a heart attack.

Dr. Mendoza says one of the biggest risks of all is when an episode of chest discomfort is attributed to indigestion, and that missed trip to the hospital becomes fatal. Know the signs of a heart attack, and call 911 if you or someone you know has one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Heart attack symptoms include chest pain, arm, neck or jaw pain, difficulty breathing, anxiety, perfuse sweating and nausea.
  • Women often have little or no chest pain with a heart attack. Instead, they tend to experience unusual fatigue, difficulty sleeping and shortness of breath that may precede the heart attack by as long as a month.
  • Increased fluid retention can occur with higher salt content in holiday foods and this can lead to shortness of breath.
  • Out-of-towners can be especially reluctant to go to an unfamiliar hospital or doctor. Don’t delay!

To help you stay on track over the holidays, below are some simple tips to keep yourself heart-healthy:

  • Eat and drink moderately.
  • Don't let minor things stress you out.
  • Think calmly, rationally and seek help. Do not stress yourself out.
  • Continue to exercise during the holidays. Regular exercise reduces the risk of heart disease and depression/psychological stress. In good weather, outdoor exercise is always a great idea.
  • If you find yourself depressed, tell somebody and get help.
  • Don't ignore symptoms that may indicate a heart attack — hospitals appreciate false alarms over mortalities.

For patient appointments at any of our Ochsner – Baton Rouge region locations, call 225-761-5200 or visit Online appointments can be made through the MyOchsner patient portal or by clicking Online Appointments.