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Written by: Katherine Elphick

Avoid the holiday heart syndrome

         The hustle and bustle of the holidays can take a toll on your ticker. From heightened stress levels to added festive calories packed on courtesy of extra alcohol or seasonal treats — it can be hard to stay heart healthy. 
“There’s a notable jump at the end of December in the number of patients showing up in emergency rooms with the holiday heart syndrome — heart rhythm problems caused by overindulging in alcohol,” says Dr. Brad Dibble, a cardiologist with PACE Cardiology and the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie. 
“In some cases, festive binge drinking can put your heart into atrial fibrillation (an abnormal heart rhythm characterized by rapid and irregular beating),” he explains. Furthermore, holiday excesses can lead to weigh gain, which can also be hard on your heart. 
With that in mind, here are some heart heathy holiday tips courtesy of Dr. Dibble:  
1. Limit Alcohol 
Holiday cheer can be a huge source of calories, and potentially hard on your heart. Cut back with low calorie non-alcoholic choices.
2. Don’t overextend yourself
A fully booked schedule can be stressful on your heart and mind. Remember that it’s okay to say no once in a while.
3. Have a game plan.
Eat a healthy snack before you go out, so you won’t be ravenous at the party and make the wrong choices. 
4. Watch the party “highs” 
The holidays are a time of indulgence with plates loaded with helpings of delicious holiday “highs” — high-fat, high-calorie, high-sodium, high-cholesterol and high-sugar foods. Avoid the “highs” and choose healthier options.
5. Get your Zzzzs 
Sleep is a big part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, especially during the holidays.
6. Stay active 
Make fitness a priority to counteract the extra holiday calories and stress. Consult your doctor before starting an exercise program if you’re not usually active. 
With over 30 cardiologists on staff, PACE Cardiology offers internationally acclaimed cardiac expertise in diagnostic imaging and individualized care for patients in Barrie, Newmarket and Orillia (echo lab only). For information call 1-888-662-0680, or visit www.pace-cardiology.com.