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Holiday season is a peak time for heart attacks. Here's how to stay healthy

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SALT LAKE CITY – The holiday season can lead to an unwanted health risk. Heart attacks peak in December and January.

A Central Utah doctor said there are simple ways to stay healthy.

If your jingle-jangle is all in a tangle, less trimming the tree, more places to be, you're not alone.

"The stores are crazy. You're trying to find, you know, the perfect gift for family members," said Marry Ramirez, who lives in Moroni, Sanpete County. "Everybody wants to get together to have family dinner."

Ramirez was diagnosed with high blood pressure and it worsens during the holidays. "I tend to get more headaches, which is a sign of my blood pressure rising," Ramirez said.

Over time, high blood pressure can cause coronary arteries to narrow, increasing the risk of heart attack, doctors say.

Being overweight and sedentary are risk factors, but super-fit people and young adults and children can have high blood pressure, too.

Often, there are no symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure. Many people don't even know they have it. That's why it's so important to get your blood pressure checked, so if you do have it you can manage it.

"Stress has an amazing impact," said Dr. Eileen Jackson, with Intermountain Healthcare Medical Group. "That is often the big driver for hypertension."

Jackson recommended managing other conditions like diabetes. Reduce salt intake, and eat a healthy diet.

"How many fruits and vegetables are you eating now? What would it take to add one more serving?" she said.

Also, exercise regularly. Get your blood pressure checked every year if you're over 40.

Find healthy ways to reduce stress. For Ramirez, yoga does the trick. "It just really helps relieve that stress. It gives me that half-hour, 45 minutes to just take time out of my day, just for me," she said.

Jackson said, "For someone else, it might just be going out and walking around the yard. I mean, there are just different ways to – some people just like a long hot shower."

The important thing is to take a few minutes to unwind each day.

Ramirez said, "I tend to be one of those people that just wants to take care of everything. And I've had to learn over the last couple of years that I need to delegate more."

To make the holidays less harried, and more merry, Intermountain Healthcare, in partnership with the Utah Department of Health, offers Living Well workshops to learn how to manage stress.

The classes are free and anyone can participate.

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Heather Simonsen
Heather Simonsen is a five-time Emmy Award-winning enterprise reporter for KSL-TV. Her expertise is in health and medicine, drug addiction, science and research, family, human interest and social issues. She is the host and producer of KSL-TV’s Positively 50+ initiative.


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