General Health Friday December 19, 2014

How Seasonal Stress Affects Your Blood Pressure

The holiday season should be a relaxing and joyous time, spent with your friends and family. However, depending on your circumstances and your mindset, celebrating Christmas or any other festivity can be a super stressful experience – especially in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas Day itself.

In a 2004 study, Researchers from The University of California discovered there was a 5% overall increase in heart attacks during the holiday season from 1973 to 2001, after examining 53 million U.S based death certificates. Bearing this in mind, it’s good to be aware of how seasonal stress can impact your blood pressure.

Be careful in the colder weather

One of the reasons for this could be that, during the winter months, blood pressure tends to be higher generally. This is because the colder weather and lower temperatures cause blood vessels to narrow, resulting in increased blood pressure.

This increase in blood pressure may place more strain on the heart. Any form of physical exertion can worsen this condition, potentially triggering a heart attack.

Watch the festive cheer

The excesses of the holiday, such as the tendency for people to overindulge in food and alcohol, can also be a contributing factor in various health problems, especially if you already have an underlying condition. It’s unlikely that you will fit in much exercise during this period either – a combination which isn’t exactly heart healthy.

Couple this with the notion that many of the foods you may eat during the festive season are high in sugar, salt and fat and you have the perfect recipe for creating high blood pressure.

Simple steps to reduce blood pressure

If you have a history of medical problems, or have recently been experiencing any kind of health issues, it would be wise to seek out medical help before the holiday season begins. This is to avoid encountering any troubles during the Christmas period when medical care may be harder to come by.

To avoid poor health during the festive season, remember to go easy on yourself – avoid stressful situations where possible, along with too much physical exertion that may place excess pressure on the heart.

It’s wise to make sensible choices – yes you can still enjoy yourself, but remember to take it easy with the sausage rolls and crisps! Going for a walk can help you to relax and breathe more easily, reducing your stress and blood pressure levels, while having a flu vaccination can help you to avoid infections and any extra strain this may put on the heart.

Preparation is key

Buying presents, decorating the house or preparing Christmas dinner; especially if you’re the head of the household, a parent or the person saddled with all of the above responsibilities, can be challenging. It’s easy to see how all of these can accumulate into a stressful experience.

To minimise any feelings of stress, it’s wise to make some preparations in advance so you’re not rushing around last minute trying to get hold of gifts that might be out of stock. For your own peace of mind, it’s also a good idea to stock up on festive essentials such as cards and wrapping paper, ribbon and sellotape before the Christmas week begins.

For more information about managing your blood pressure, take a look at our information page.

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