Festive Season and Holiday Health Risks in the Elderly
Festive Season and Holiday Health Risks in the Elderly
December 22, 2011 Health

Festive Season and Holiday Health Risks in the ElderlyThe holiday season is a time of fun and festivity. However, there are some health risks that are associated with these times of the year. This is not isolated only to the Christmas and New Year period but may apply to any major holiday. Many of these health problems may occur irrespective of a person’s age. These are mainly associated with sporting injuries, falls, and car accidents which increases during the holiday time. However, for older age groups there are added risks linked to underlying chronic diseases. Throughout the world, it is known that there is an increase of major and life threatening health problems during certain times of the year like shortly after Christmas day. It is in these times when a person is more likely to have a heart attack, stroke or a serious complications related to heart failure.

Holiday Heart Syndrome

This phenomenon is known as the holiday heart syndrome and the most significant of these is a heart attack. It is more likely to occur in a person with known risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, irregular heartbeat, diabetes mellitus and obesity. In these conditions the heart is already under strain. Changes in diet and lifestyle which is more extreme during the holiday season and often associated with overindulgence then strains the heart even further thereby leading to a heart attack. Most of these risk factors are prevalent in the elderly.

Reasons for Holiday Heart Attacks

Food and Alcohol

One of the main factors during this period of time that may lead to additional strain on the heart is overindulgence both in food and alcohol. Weight gain during the festive season can occur within days due to massive calorie overload in festive foods. Furthermore eating a fatty meal may cause an increase in the blood cholesterol even within hours. This increases the build up of fatty plaques on the walls of the blood vessels thereby further worsening the restricted blood flow to the heart. Alcohol also irritates the heart which may result in irregular heartbeats and the changes that alcohol causes in the body like increasing the blood pressure means that the heart has to work faster.

Stress and Physical Activity

The holiday time is often thought to be a time of rest and relaxation but stress may intensify during these times. Sometimes it is associated with spending more than one can afford (financial stress) or with issues in interpersonal relationships that may often becomes more complicated during the holiday period (emotional stress). It is also common to exert oneself beyond one’s physical ability all in the name of fun and the holiday spirit. In this regard, a time of the year which should be restful can be quite the opposite and strain the heart.


A common problem, especially in the elderly, during the holiday time is missing on out on scheduled medication time. A person may also forget their medication and travel to a holiday destination thinking that they will be fine for a few days without the prescribed drugs. It is almost always unintentional but these mistakes can be life threatening. The situation may be worsened when a person been then tries to take a double dose of medication to make up for shortfalls which can adversely affect the body.

Ignoring Warning Signs

Nobody likes to be a spoil sport or party pooper and all too often a person ignores the warning signs of a health problem. Chest pain may be passed off as indigestion or heartburn which is common with the big holiday meals. Dizziness may be mistaken for fatigue associated with the increased activity during the holiday time. However ,many of the symptoms are a warning sign of an impending heart attack or even a minor heart attack. It can soon be followed by a major and often fatal cardiac event. It is therefore best to take the festive season in its stride and practice moderation with food, alcohol, activities and socializing which in the end may make the difference between life and death.

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