Christmas feasting a heart attack risk

We all like to over indulge at Christmas and most of us can get away with feasting on delicious turkey, mince pies, brandy cream and champagne. The average person eats around a whopping 5,240 calories on Christmas Day, including a lot of fat. Most of us can get away with it.

But overeating is dangerous for people who have chronic coronary heart disease, or high cholesterol. Their overall risk is higher from the start. The number of deaths from heart attacks is higher on December 25th than on any other day of the year, the runner up is December 26th and the third highest on January 1st.

The number of deaths from heart attacks is higher on December 25th than on any other day of the year, the runner up is December 26th and the third highest on January 1st.

Writing for Consumer Reports, Marvin Lipman, clinical professor emeritus at New York Medical College warns that feasting on this whopping amount of calories can quadruple a heart attack patient’s risk of another event. His study involved 2,000 heart attack patients. The fatty Christmas meal increases the triglycerides in peoples’ blood. Although this won’t harm the healthy – it can cause inflammation in the blood vessels of patients with heart disease which can lead to a heart attack. Oodles of fat also affects the function of the endothelium, the inner layer of the arteries.

Christmas lunch should be considered a heart attack trigger, in a similar way to extreme anger, stress, drugs and sex.

Eating and drinking too much, combined with stress and lack of sleep can also cause a fatal abnormal heart rhythm, as well as lesser health problems such as piling on the pounds, heart burn, acid reflux and feeling sluggish and a bit depressed and irritable. Huge meals increase blood levels of hormones that raise blood pressure and heart rate and also insulin levels.

Many people don’t realise they are having a heart attack and confuse the signs such as chest pains and breathing difficulties with heart burn or indigestion. Studies show that they sooner they present at hospital for treatment, the better their outcome.

Many people don’t realise they are having a heart attack and confuse the signs such as chest pains and breathing difficulties with heart burn or indigestion. Studies show that they sooner they present at hospital for treatment, the better their outcome.

Doctors need to advise their patients with coronary disease to be careful not to overindulge with huge meals and to watch their alcohol and salt intake.

Although it’s traditionally the season to come together to Eat, Drink and be Merry – with diets thrown out of the window until gloomy January – everyone can benefit from keeping healthy during the holidays.

Dr Thomas Stuttaford

Dr Thomas Stuttaford

Dr Thomas Stuttaford is vice president of The Prostate Cancer Charity and patron of the Prostate Cancer Support Federation. Born in Norfolk in 1931 and educated at Oxford. After National Service in The 10th Hussars, Dr Stuttaford qualified as a doctor. He has combined careers in medicine, politics and journalism, having his first piece accepted in the national press at the age of 19. After 20 years as a freelance journalist, he became the medical correspondent and columnist at The Times for 27 years. He is The Oldie’s health columnist and writes their monthly health letters page.
Dr Thomas Stuttaford

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