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Warning signs that holiday hustle and bustle is affecting your heart

HOUSTON – The holiday season can be very stressful. Even if you don't realize it, you're making lists, meeting deadlines, not sleeping or eating right and even though you think you can handle it, your body may be giving you signs that you cannot.

Isabel Valdez, physician assistant with Baylor College of Medicine, said the majority of appointments made after a holiday are related to overeating and drinking.

“The big ones you want to be careful of are any foods that are high in salt,” Valdez said.

She said if your legs feel stiff, swollen or uncomfortable, it could be a sign that salty foods are increasing your blood pressure.

“They'll notice more fatigue, maybe some sluggishness, and that could be a quick sign that their heart is struggling to keep them energetic and their heart might be working harder because their blood pressure might be rising,” Valdez said.

Drinking water and taking walks might help the swelling.

It's also important to be able to recognize atrial fibrillation, or a-fib. It can be brought on from excessive binge drinking. The most common symptom is intense heart palpitations. 

A-fib can cause your heart to beat out of rhythm, it can cause a blood clot and lead to a stroke. 

“Any time that you're having blood pressure problems that's not well controlled and you start to have problems where you can't speak, your face is not moving symmetrically, you can't move your arms or you feel a weakness in your legs, someone around you might have to call 911  immediately because you could be having a stroke,” Valdez said.

The acronym FAST tells you all the signs of a stroke:

  • face drooping
  • arm weakness
  • speech trouble
  • time to call 911

Everyone should be mindful during the holiday season to do everything in moderation. 

It's also the perfect time to get a flu shot, if you haven’t already. If you'll be around elderly people or someone with a chronic illness, flu complications can kill them. Help protect them by getting vaccinated and washing your hands.