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Give Your Heart the Gift of a Stress-Free Holiday

SATURDAY, Dec. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Holiday stress can increase some people's risk for heart problems, including heart attack, according to an expert.

"Stress and its many forms -- be it emotional, financial or physical -- can put undue pressure on your heart during a time that should be happy and joyous," Dr. Nasser Lakkis, chief of cardiology at Ben Taub Hospital in Houston, said in a Harris Health System news release.

"People don't always understand that stress can be in anything you do," said Lakkis, who also is a professor at Baylor College of Medicine. "It's all in how you deal with things. If you know that a family gathering is going to be stressful, just say no to the conflict. Holidays should be fun and enjoyable. Family disputes or disagreements should be put off for later when the time is right."

There are many things you can do to reduce and control holiday stress, he noted, including:

  • Try to enjoy family get-togethers and take them in stride.
  • If you're alone, contact friends or offer to do volunteer work.
  • If finances are an issue, set and stick to a budget.
  • Feel free to say no to things you just can't do.
  • Keep your holiday expectations realistic to avoid disappointment.
  • Plan some activities but don't dwell on things that go wrong.
  • Limit your alcohol and tobacco consumption.

In addition to stress, the holidays also are a time when many people become complacent about their health, Lakkis noted. They stop following healthy habits such as getting regular exercise and eating well, and might skip taking prescription medicines. Some people may even delay seeing a doctor even if they have signs of medical problems.

"Don't," Lakkis warned. "The greatest gift you could give your family and yourself is a healthy you, but it involves being responsible for yourself."

More information

The American Heart Association has more about managing holiday stress.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Harris Health System, news release, Nov. 29, 2012

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