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5 Sneaky Heart Health Problems That Occur Around the Holidays

You likely know these rules already, but they’re especially important to follow during the holiday season for the sake of your ticker. Here’s why:

1. You’re eating too many salty meals.

Just one heavy, high-sodium meal can elevate blood pressure. To enjoy the spread without hurting your heart, pile your plate with salad and vegetables first, and stick to two bite-size spoonfuls of stuffing and other less virtuous dishes.

2. You haven’t scheduled enough “me” time.

Even a little extra anxiety (hello, mall traffic!) can harm your health, as those who feel stressed have a 27 percent increased risk of heart disease, according to research from Columbia University. Set aside 15 minutes each day to do something relaxing, such as easy stretches.

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3. You didn’t bundle up.

When skin is exposed to the cold, your blood vessels constrict to keep you warm. This can cause blood pressure to spike, potentially leading to a stroke. Dress for the weather and avoid excess time outdoors if you already have high blood pressure and the mercury dips below zero.

4. You didn’t get your flu shot.

The vaccine lowers your chance of heart attack and stroke (when you’re sick, your blood becomes thicker and is more likely to clot).

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5. In the case of an emergency or heart scare, you need to know exactly what to do.

If you think it’s a stroke, look for these signs: Numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, staggering, difficulty seeing, or speaking or an uneven smile may point to a stroke. And if you’re there when it happens, call 911 immediately. The faster help arrives, the better the chances of recovery. Some ambulances are even equipped to start stroke treatment curbside. You can also help ou the paramedics by jotting down the time. You have 4½ hours for the clot-busting drug tPA to work. Let medics know when symptoms first appeared so they can best administer care.

If you think it’s a heart attack, don’t overlook these symptoms: It’s easy to blame nausea on overeating, but along with shortness of breath, dizziness, and jaw or chest pain, it could indicate heart trouble. And always dial for quick help—don’t drive yourself to the hospital. It delays how long it takes to get treatment, which could maximize any damage that’s been done to the heart. Once help arrives, ask about aspirin. Chewing an adult aspirin, or four baby ones, helps thin the blood to keep it flowing. (Avoid if you’re allergic or can’t take for any reason.)

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