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Some Holiday Traditions Have Health Consequences: Expert

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Huge meals and unhealthy foods, heavy drinking and stress can increase the risk of heart problems and stroke over the holidays, an expert warns.

For example, the average Thanksgiving meal has 3,000 calories and 229 grams of fat, according to the American Council on Exercise.

"Overindulging, traveling, and the stress of entertaining has health consequences," Dr. Niten Singh, a member of the Society for Vascular Surgery, said in a society news release. "After Thanksgiving dinner, hospital emergency rooms brim with overstuffed and over-served guests."

Drinking too much alcohol can lead to a condition known as Holiday Heart Syndrome. It's caused by an abnormal heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation, which increases the risk of stroke.

"We see a lot of stroke patients during the holiday season," Singh said.

A 2004 study in the journal Circulation found that heart-related deaths increase 5 percent during the holiday season, Singh noted in the news release.

People can lower their risk of heart problems and stroke by exercising daily, eating a healthy diet, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy body weight, the expert suggested.

"The holidays are a perfect time to announce to family and friends your decision to cut back on calories, alcohol and cigarettes," Singh said. "Then, invite them to join you on a new Thanksgiving tradition -- an after-dinner walk."

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers a guide to a healthy heart.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Society for Vascular Surgery, news release, Nov. 17, 2011

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