High-Profile Heart Attacks Get Our Blood Pumping

More evidence that stress during the holidays can't be taken lightly

The end of the year often brings health “events” for many of us or our family members. We’re also told repeatedly to take care of our hearts over the holidays. And then comes news of a death that makes an impact.

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After suffering a massive heart attack on Dec. 23, actress Carrie Fischer, 60, died Tuesday. Singer George Michael, 53, died Christmas Day of a heart attack. Actor Alan Thicke, 69, also passed away recently after suffering a massive heart attack while ice skating with his son.

The mortality of such high-profile individuals often has us taking a good look in the mirror.

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“People are increasingly jaded,” said Dr. Ramin Oskoui, a cardiologist in the Washington, D.C., area. He is also CEO of Foxhall Cardiology PC and a regular contributor to LifeZette. “They don’t think it will happen to them. However, if a friend or coworker their age or in their social circle develops heart disease or cancer — that usually triggers an evaluation.”

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He said any loss, especially over the holidays, is a key reminder that life is short — and that we need to take better care of ourselves.

“Return to the basics: See your primary care doctor; make sure your cancer screenings are up to date; make sure your blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol are well controlled; cut out carbs,” Oskoui told LifeZette. “Most of us can afford to lose 10 pounds and diet alone is enough for that. But,get started and see your primary care provider for other areas that need to be more proactively addressed.”

Non-stop stress can be especially harmful to one’s health, said Andrea Lackman, a nurse practitioner in the Department of Cardiovascular Disease at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Related: The Worst Thing for Your Heart

She offers the following heart-care advice:

Manage Stress
Common stressors may be related to personal or family relationships, financial concerns, work factors or the demands of keeping up with household responsibilities. Identify personal triggers to see what you can control and work on developing strategies to deal with them.

If you have a large number of responsibilities, delegate some of the tasks; consider that others may not be worth the extra stress. Get enough sleep, exercise daily, and eat right, as these things also protect against the effects of stress. Meditation, yoga, and massage are also beneficial.

Regular exercise is one of the most beneficial things anyone can do. At least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise is recommended — 30 minutes five times per week makes a big difference and all types of physical activity, including walking, are beneficial. Don’t feel you need to take a special exercise class or exercise program for it to be worthwhile.

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Watch Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most significant risk factors for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death worldwide. Sodium can cause or worsen hypertension by pulling additional fluid into your blood vessels; that causes increased pressure and can damage the vessels.

Table salt contains a high concentration of sodium — just 1/4 teaspoon contains about 575 mg. A low-sodium diet can also reduce the risk of stroke, kidney disease, osteoporosis, stomach cancer, and headaches.

A low sodium diet is healthy for kids and can help to protect them from early onset heart disease.

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