Last Updated: Saturday, 6 January 2007, 00:00 GMT
Avoiding the New Year coronary
By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News
Avoiding the heart attack triggers
With the start of January millions have made their New Year’s resolutions for 2007.
As the bells chimed midnight on 31 December, many will have pledged to lose weight, give up smoking and do more exercise.
But by the end of the first week of the New Year many of those good intentions have already turned to dust.
Experts say that shrugging your shoulders, and slipping back into your old bad habits so soon could be very bad news indeed.
It is well known that cold weather increases the risk of a heart attack, but it is likely that the delay in seeking medical assistance over the holidays may lead to more deaths
British Heart Foundation
Far from being empty gestures, New Year pledges could indeed prove to be life-savers.
The British Heart Foundation said research has shown that there is an increase in heart attack deaths over Christmas and the New Year.
This may be attributed to people ignoring symptoms and delaying seeking help because of the inconvenience. Others who are travelling may take longer to find the right medical help.
In the UK there are around 4,300 more deaths from coronary heart disease (CHD) in December and January than in June and July.
Ellen Mason, cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said: “It is well known that cold weather increases the risk of a heart attack, but it is likely that the delay in seeking medical assistance over the holidays may lead to more deaths.
SMALL STEPS TO TAKEGive up smoking: After quitting for eight hours nicotine and carbon monoxide levels reduced by halfGet physical: Cut 30 minutes exercise into manageable slots of two 15 minutes, or three 10 minutesSlim down: Start eating more low fat foodStep up: Count your daily steps and increase by 10% until you reach 10,000Reduce fat: Swap full fat milk for semi-skimmedIncrease fruit intake: Start having fresh fruit juiceCut salt: Reduce blood pressureWalk off stress: Where possible walk rather than take bus, carIncrease omega three levels: Eat two portions of oily fish a weekCut calories: Just cutting out one alcoholic drink will save 100 empty calories
“New Years resolutions can often be boom and bust, so try to make small changes that can be sustained throughout the year, and this time next year your heart will thank you for it!”
Men’s health expert and GP Dr Mike Ingram warns that, for men in particular, the festive period can be a dangerous one – with the risk of heart attack significantly increased.
And he blames the ‘Merry Christmas Coronary’ phenomenon on increased seasonal colds and flus causing increased respiratory problems, excessive physical exertion, overeating, cold weather, lack of sleep, emotional stress, excess salt and alcohol.
“Families should be aware of this ‘Merry Christmas Coronary’ phenomenon, watching for signs and offering persistent and persuasive advice, particularly to Dad to encourage more moderate behaviour.
“The biggest killer of men is heart disease and too many men are dying from this condition by failing to tackle their risks,” said Dr Ingram.
Statistics show that all men over 55 have a 10-15% chance of a heart attack within a decade, along with men who are 45 and over who smoke, are obese, have a family history of heart attack or are of South Asian origin – an estimated 8.8 million in the UK.
But Dr Ingram said men could be their own worst enemies, adding that men needed to give themselves a gift this New Year.
“If a man wants to enjoy a long and active life he needs to focus more on reducing his heart attack risk factors.
“Partners should help him to stop smoking, drink in moderation, cut out the heavy fatty food, exercise regularly and watch the blood pressure – start by cutting out salt,”
BHF offer tips for healthy heart
Hairdresser Peter Sewell, from Penicuik, near Edinburgh, who is 50 in February, admits he has not taken his health seriously enough.
Mr Sewell, who recently had testicular cancer, said he has never had a cholesterol check despite having a family history of heart disease.
But he has pledged this will all change this year.
“I am coming up to 50 so I am going to have a health MOT this year and get my cholesterol checked.
“I am not really worried about my cholesterol levels as I do not really eat cakes, sweets or fast foods, but we do have a drinks machine in the salon and I do drink a lot of soft drinks.
But I do intend to do more exercise this year. I already play golf and do exercise, but I intend to do more swimming.”