Avoiding the holiday heart attack this season

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BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. (WDTV) -- Sitting around the Thanksgiving dinner table sparks conversations, creates memories, and fills our bellies.

Patients exercise as part of UHC's cardiac and pulmonary rehab program. The American Heart Association says heart attacks are more common around the holiday season than any other time of year. (WDTV Photo).

But it's also a time when simple health habits can go on the back burner.

"The holidays are stressful for people, so we see an increase in heart attacks this time of year," said Cheryl Farley, the nurse manager of cardiac and pulmonary rehab at United Hospital Center.

They rehab and educate patients after various heart events, including heart attacks.

The American Heart Association says heart attacks are more common around the holiday season than any other time of year.

While it's unclear exactly why that's the case, experts say stress plays a factor.

While you may not eliminate stress during the holiday season, cardiologists say to try and manage it to the best of your ability.

"If you know certain situations or activities could increase stress level, try to avoid that," said UHC Cardiologist Dean Wolz. "Adequate sleep and regular exercise are effective in combating stress as well."

CDC figures show West Virginia ranks tenth in the country in heart disease mortality rate.

That's why it's more important this time of year to keep tabs on your heart health.

"We see that people sometimes delay getting going to the doctor or getting checked out during the holidays," Wolz said. "If you see symptoms come up, don't delay checking with your doctor and medical team to evaluate that."

And when you are presented with the holiday feasts and treats, try your best to consume in moderation.

If you really want to control your calories at the dinner table -

"Have a glass of water," Farley said. "Drink a big glass of water before you're ready to eat your meal. This makes you fill a little more full so you tend to eat less."

And of course, doctors say don't use the weather as an excuse to not exercise.