The year 2020 is very memorable for all of us because of the Covid-19 pandemic. As the year draws to a close and the cases are at a more manageable number, people are starting to let loose and are eager to party. But let’s remember that we are still not out of the woods. The virus is still around us. Plus, let’s be heart smart. Let’s decide to make healthy lifestyle choices during the holidays.
The Incidence of Heart Attack and Stroke Peak During the Holidays
We Filipinos love to party, which is why we have reunions left and right during the holidays. There’s the homecoming in schools, the batch reunion, the barkada reunion, family reunion, even former colleagues reunion.
And since family members from far away usually come home during the two-week vacation, weddings and baptisms and other gatherings seem to be happening left and right.
With all these events are the rounds of feasts that usually include lots of rich and fatty foods. We also have the lechon (roast whole pig) or boneless lechon belly as the centerpiece. Oh how we love to eat and then drink alcohol afterward. We celebrate the bounties we have with gusto because we also hope for bigger and better things to come.
All of these bingeing on rich foods and alcohol and merriment, plus the lack of proper rest and exercise, is why heart attack incidents spike during the holidays. High blood pressure or hypertension as well as high blood sugar levels (diabetes) are also prevalent during this season.
Risk Factors for Heart Disease
There are numerous risk factors for heart disease and these include:
- high cholesterol
- high blood pressure
- tobacco use
- being obese
- too much alcohol consumption
- lack of physical activity
All of these risk factors are usually elevated during Christmas. Everything seems to be happening during the last two weeks of December until the first week of January that we tend to overextend commitments, go shopping endlessly, and eat and eat. (Source) With all that, we forget to be heart smart.
- Related: Snack on Healthy Food Items
In a 2018 study published in the British Medical Journal, Christmas was associated with a 15% increased risk of having a heart attack, as compared to the rest of the year. Would you believe that the highest risk is on Christmas Eve? This is particularly true for older individuals with diabetes as well as pre-existing heart conditions.
Here are health facts to chew on:
- Having hypertension appears to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- If you have type 2 diabetes, it increases the risk of hypertension.
Moreover, having one or both conditions increases the risk of various complications that includes heart attack or stroke.
Be Heart Smart and Make Your Health a Priority
In our family, it is my father who is hypertensive, which is the reason why he has maintenance medication.
He is nearing 80 so we are carefully watching his food intake. The whole family, including our stay-in cook, encourages him to eat more vegetables. We also remind him to drink more water.
Meanwhile, Mama almost never buys beef because beef fat cannot be separated from the lean meat. Instead, we buy choice lean pork from a trusted butcher shop. Moreover, we have our own meat grinder. So Mama would buy lean pork cuts and these are ground at home. She makes sure that the helper removes the excess fat and skin. At least we are sure that our ground meats are of good quality.
The good thing is, Papa is still very active at his age. He likes to go on long walks and still fixes stuff around the house. He also tends our store for six days every week.
Too bad though that the pandemic has limited his movement, which is why we watch his diet and medication.
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The condition called Hypertension can cause the hardening of the arteries, which leads to the decreased flow of blood and oxygen to the heart. Unfortunately, there are so many conditions related to hypertension.
Depending on how serious the condition is, hypertension can result in chest pain (angina), heart failure, and/or myocardial infarction (heart attack).
Meanwhile, hypertension can burst or lead to the blockage (occlusion) in arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the brain. When this occurs, this is the condition that we commonly refer to as a ‘stroke’. It can be fatal or can lead to serious disabilities in speech, movement, or function.
In other cases, hypertension can contribute to kidney disease. Research shows that 1 in 5 adults with hypertension also has chronic kidney disease.
If hypertension continues to be undiagnosed, it can contribute to asymptomatic organ damage. Sadly, this is usually discovered only when a serious medical complaint arises.
In short, hypertension is the underlying cause of many deaths around the world. It is a major contributing factor to deaths associated with heart failure, stroke, or renal disease.
Contributing Factors to Hypertension
There are many other factors associated with heart attacks during the holidays. These are backed by the American Heart Association (AHA) and American College of Cardiology (ACC).
Some of these factors area:
Stress. Daily activities like traveling, entertaining guests, or organizing events can lead to emotional and physical stress. There is also the financial pressure to cope with the festivities and gift giving. These can spike the levels of the stress hormone called cortisol in the body.
- Related: KEEP HAIR HEALTHY In Spite of STRESS
Skipping medications. Since people are busy during the holidays, they forget to take the medicines or get refills.
Weight gain. The extra pounds that we gain every year have detrimental effects on our bodies.
Improper exercise. No physical activity or too much exercise to shed weight fast are both bad for the health. These are not heart smart.
Overeating and drinking. Eating a heavy, high-fat and high-sugar meal causes blood pressure and heart rate to increase. These practices stress out the heart and digestive systems.
High sodium intake. The sodium that we ingest can have an immediate effect. It causes fluid retention that forces the heart to pump harder.
Minimize Heart Attack Risks
While we may think that Mama is too strict, she is just looking out after our health. Not only is it stressful for a family member to get sick, it also brings financial woes to the family. Being heart smart is watching our choices all-year round. Here are some risks to minimize the risk of hypertension, heart disease, or kidney problems.
- Don’t smoke or quit smoking.
- Become a social drinker who only drinks alcohol occasional and in moderate amounts.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet. Incorporate vegetables, fruits, and whole grains into your diet.
- Be more active. Get some physical activity for at least 30 minutes each day. Walking is good, especially for those who are elderly.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Get good quality sleep so that your body can heal itself.
How Filipino Families Can Help the Elderly be Heart Smart
A lot of health problems stem from the family’s lifestyle and practices. And if there is a problem, it is also the family that can help, give support, and encourage a patient when the situation becomes tough.
We should acknowledge that this holiday season is a time to appreciate as well as safeguard the gift of health. Healthy diet and exercise should be encouraged in order to be able to enjoy the season as well as the holidays for many years to come.
This should be the #PanataNgPamilya, or the commitment of the family to support each other to prevent or overcome chronic ailments.
With that, Sanofi encourages Filipino families to make it their commitment to fight Chronic Diseases.
What is Sanofi Doing help those who are affected by chronic diseases?
Part of Sanofi’s advocacy is disease awareness, underscoring Diabetes, Hypertension, and Chronic Kidney Disease. They are committed to bridge the gap between the common Filipino family and quality healthcare. With that, Sanofi has collaborated with doctors, patients, and healthcare providers through holistic solutions and innovations.
These are the programs that Sanofi has started to empower patients with chronic diseases.
Healthier PH Sessions. These are thoughtful discussions related to managing our family’s health with healthy habits.
WeHealth. This eHealth ecosystem aims to build a healthier Philippines by connecting patients and doctors especially in the new normal. It aims to bring holistic solutions and innovations for chronic diseases. Medical consultations may be availed anytime plus medicines may be delivered straight to your home.
Empower Patient Support Program. There is continuous care and medical education for Diabetes patients and they get up to one year of coverage.
Online Patient Education with Diabetes Educators (DEs). The Des will stay in constant touch and do weekly check-ins with patients.
With all these efforts, it is the sincere hope of Sanofi to achieve a Healthier Philippines.
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