Salt Lake City, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 12/14/2021 --The holidays can be a busy time with family gatherings, parties, shopping, traveling, and other extra events and activities that can add stress. And all those things can make it difficult to eat healthy. Parties often include indulgent, fatty, salty, and sugary foods and alcoholic drinks, so it can be hard to eat or drink in moderation or get enough sleep.
Busy schedules, winter weather and being away from home can make it harder to get regular exercise or get to the doctor for either a check-up or to seek care for subtle medical symptoms, according to Eileen Jackson, MD, a family medicine physician with the Intermountain Healthcare Medical Group.
So, it's not surprising that doctors report seeing an increase in "holiday heart syndrome" with patients coming into the emergency room with heart symptoms around the holidays, or that studies show, heart attacks peak in December and January.
Heart attacks occur when one or more of the coronary arteries becomes blocked. And one of the causes of heart attacks is high blood pressure.
Here is information from Intermountain Healthcare:
High blood pressure is very common
According to the Centers for Disease Control about half of Americans have high blood pressure. And about 9 out of 10 Americans will develop high blood pressure during their lifetime. And many of them may not know it. That's why it's known as the silent killer. If individuals have high blood pressure, they need to know, so steps can be taken to manage it.
Get high blood pressure checked regularly
Many people have put off preventive care during the pandemic. Healthcare experts encourage individuals to get annual check-ups even if patients feel they are healthy. And if they have high blood pressure, individuals should get it checked annually to help stay healthy during the holidays and year-round. Annual check-ups can help identify high blood pressure or other medical conditions in their early stages.
If patients are doing some of their appointments virtually, there are ways to have blood pressure checked remotely. Doctors may need to do in-person visits more frequently if their patients have high blood pressure. And it is important to take prescribed medication for high-blood pressure. The holidays may disrupt usual routines.
The definition of high blood pressure – and what numbers indicate it
High blood pressure or hypertension is when the force of blood pushing against the walls of blood vessels is consistently too high. People with high blood pressure have systolic blood pressure greater than 140 mm Hg or a diastolic blood pressure greater than 90 mm Hg or are taking medication for hypertension.
Over time, high blood pressure causes the coronary arteries serving the heart to slowly become narrowed from a buildup of fat, cholesterol, and other substances that together are called plaque. This slow process of hardening the arteries is known as atherosclerosis.
As arteries harden with plaque, blood clots become more likely to form. When an artery becomes blocked by plaque or a blood clot, the flow of blood through the heart muscle is interrupted, starving the muscle of oxygen and nutrients. The damage or death of part of the heart muscle that occurs as a result is called a heart attack (myocardial infarction).
Modifiable risk factors for high blood pressure
- Being overweight or obese
- Unhealthy diet that's high in sodium
- High cholesterol
- Decreased physical activity
- Drinking alcohol
- Smoking or vaping
- Sleep apnea
Other risk factors include a family history of high blood pressure. High blood pressure is more common in older adults, men and black Americans. But, super-fit people, women, young adults and children can have hypertension too.
Symptoms of hypertension
The reason hypertension is known as the silent killer is because many people have no symptoms at all. Worsening hypertension can cause headaches, blurry vision, or floaters in the eyes. In severe cases people may experience shortness of breath or chest pain, or abdominal right upper quadrant or epigastric pain.
Diet and exercise may help reduce your risk for hypertension
Diet and exercise are important for overall health and are somewhat helpful in controlling regular hypertension. It's recommended to stay active and eat a well-balanced diet. Medication can be an important way to control high blood pressure.
At Intermountain clinics, patients who have high blood pressure are contacted proactively by phone by caregivers from Castell – an Intermountain subsidiary that focuses on value-based care and population health – to help remind them to get their blood pressure checked regularly, take their medication and inform them about free LiVeWell classes that help teach them about living with chronic conditions. Classes are offered online, in-person or by telephone. Classes are held once a week for six weeks and last from one to two and a half hours, depending on the format.
For more information about the classes visit intermountainhealthcare.org.
Marry Ramirez has had hypertension, and she also has Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and psoriatic arthritis, an autoimmune disease. She also has a family history of diabetes, stroke, hypertension and heart disease.
Knowing Ramirez's history, Dr. Jackson helped her know about the importance of managing her high blood pressure. Ramirez was initially taking blood pressure medication.
"My blood pressure goes up and down, and it's definitely affected by stress, like when I had to have shoulder surgery, it went up. I've learned to manage my blood pressure and don't need to take medication for it now," said Ramirez.
"I do yoga, which helps me with stress. I want to stay healthy, so I can enjoy traveling and spending time with my grandkids," she added.
Ramirez works as a care coordinator for Castell. She helps other patients to improve their social determinants of health by connecting them with community and pharmaceutical resources and programs, so they can live healthy lives too.
About Intermountain Healthcare
Located in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada, Intermountain Healthcare is a nonprofit system of 25 hospitals, 225 clinics, the Intermountain Medical Group with some 2,700 employed physicians and advanced care practitioners, a health plans division called SelectHealth, Homecare, and other health services. Helping people live the healthiest lives possible, Intermountain is committed to improving community health and is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes at sustainable costs. For updates, see https://intermountainhealthcare.org/news.