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Cardiologist shares tips for having a stress-free holiday

UPMC Susquehanna Heart and Vascular Institute Cardiologist Michael Desiderio warns about stress during the holiday season with tips on how to lessen the stress during the holidays. He added that stress can affect the heart at any time, but especially during hectic times like holidays.

“Stress can really take its toll on the heart, so it’s important to learn to manage your stress levels not just over the holidays, but year-round. While this season is meant to bring feelings of love and cheer, it can also be one of the most stressful times, putting added strain on your heart,” he said.

Desiderio suggests looking into healthy eating with substituting foods, limiting alcohol and including exercise over holiday breaks.

“Moderation is key. Remember, you don’t have to sample everything,” he said.

There are always many options at family gatherings but he warns folks to choose what they are eating carefully and to eat fruits and vegetables to gain energy.

He added it’s important to enjoy the holiday but to take drinking seriously, as it can cause issues with sleep patterns, stomach issues and can even increase depression symptoms. It’s important to note that, with more people enjoying alcohol means that more people need to be careful with travel and to ensure they have a safe ride to a destination after enjoying a beverage.

Desiderio also adds that exercise during this busy season is a great tool to use not only for stress but for sleep.

“Regular exercise is a great stress-reducing tool and outlet for the body. Additionally, it helps you sleep better at night, keeps the blood flowing and heart pumping, and encourages the body to release endorphins – the feel-good chemical in our bodies,” he said.

In another matter, he suggests substituting indulging in cakes and sweets with self-care, listening to your body, not overcommitting and getting enough sleep.

For times of stress when you want to take a cookie to eat, Desidero suggests lighting a candle, taking a hot bath or gathering with family to watch movies to reduce stress instead of indulging in sugar.

Taking the time to listen and know what your body needs is important to Desidero. He said that people should pay attention to possible signals that their body needs more attention.

“Recognizing the signals your body is sending you will allow you to take the steps to slow down and evaluate your health and wellness, helping avoid a potential health issue,” he said.

He added that sleep is a factor of many health issues.

“Sleep is your body’s way to recharge, and people who don’t sleep enough are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease — regardless of age, weight, smoking, and exercise habits,” he said.

Desidero also wants locals to know that if they need help managing such stressors in life to reach out to their doctors or providers to discuss a plan.

“If you’re looking for help, talk to your provider who can help you develop an effective stress-reduction plan tailored to your lifestyle and needs,” he said.

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