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Healthy Hearts Never Take a Holiday

Expert suggests giving yourself a present by watching alcohol and food intake year-round

SATURDAY, Dec. 23, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- This holiday season, give yourself the gift of a healthier heart.

Limiting your alcohol consumption is one important step, said Dr. Ajit Raisinghani, director of the non-invasive cardiac lab at the University of California, San Diego.

He said that every year during the holidays, emergency rooms at hospitals across the United States see patients with heart palpitations and light headedness. Many of these patients have an abnormal heart rhythm caused by drinking too much alcohol -- a condition called "Holiday Heart."

"Usually the patient experiences palpitations accompanied by a sensation of light-headedness. When the patients come into the ER, we learn they've usually spent the weekend drinking. Most often, they're college kids who are otherwise healthy," Raisinghani said.

The condition usually resolves itself within 24 hours. However, some patients will be admitted to hospital and given medication to slow down their heart rate until it returns to its normal rhythm.

Raisinghani offered some other tips for keeping your heart healthy during the holidays and the rest of the year:

  • Get regular exercise -- 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week can significantly reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
  • Limit your salt intake. Too much salt contributes to high blood pressure, a leading cause of heart failure and stroke. People who have heart disease need to be especially careful about their salt intake.
  • Make an effort not to gain weight over the holidays.
  • Avoid saturated fats, which stimulate the production of LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase blood cholesterol levels.
  • Learn how to effectively cope with stress, which can be caused by trying to do too much during the holidays. Tension, frustration and sadness can trigger or worsen heart irregularities. Exercise is a good way to relieve stress.
  • Schedule time for rest and relaxation during the holidays.
  • Nurture friendly, caring relationships in order to counter loneliness, which can have negative effects on the heart.
  • Make time to do activities that make you happy and make you laugh.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about heart health.

SOURCE: University of California, San Diego, news release, December 2006
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