The stress that comes from trying to create the perfect holiday season can result in a dangerous type of heart problem in women, a cardiology expert warns.
“Many women put a lot pressure on themselves to make the holidays perfect for everyone. Everything from cooking to buying presents to organizing family gatherings can add a lot of unnecessary stress that can damage their hearts,” says Karla Kurrelmeyer, M.D., a cardiologist with the Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center.
Such a situation can result in stress-induced cardiomyopathy, which is a weakening of the left ventricle, the heart’s main pumping chamber. This condition is brought on by the release of stress hormones that shock the heart, causing changes in the heart muscles that then cause the left ventricle to not work properly.
If such short-term, but great stress, is compounded with another traumatic event, such a death in the family or a car accident, and the condition is ignored, it can even be fatal, Dr. Kurrelmeyer says.
Women who experience chest pain or shortness of breath during such stressful times should go to the hospital, where they can undergo cardiac testing and mediation administered if needed. Such stress can also cause a spike in blood pressure, which can result in heart palpitations or even a stroke if untreated, Dr. Kurrelmeyer notes.
She advises women to time for themselves during the holiday season and practice stress reducing techniques, like running, yoga or meditation.
“The holidays should be a joyous time spent with family and friends at home, not with doctors in an emergency room,” added Dr. Kurrelmeyer.
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