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Don’t cause your heart to fail on the 4th

By Veita Bland, M.D. / July 1, 2016

The 4th of July is just around the corner. That usually means hot sun, fun and lots of food and drink. But it can also mean a heart attack is coming.

In a recent study, researchers looked to see if there was any notable increase in heart failure incidents during the holiday, immediately after the holiday, or during the rest of the month.

The study, done by Dr. Mahek Shah and colleagues, reviewed data from 2003 through 2013 from the Lehigh Valley Hospital Network in Pennsylvania. (Their research was published in the May 2016 issue of Clinical Research in Cardiology.) They looked for patients who were admitted to the hospital with heart failure.

Heart failure is a chronic condition where the heart does not work as well as it should. This will result in fluid build- up in the feet, ankles, legs and lungs. This in turn causes people to feel fatigue, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.

The study showed that hospitalizations for heart failure increased on the days right after the holiday and this continued to escalate throughout the month. This could indicate that the holiday was the trigger for the failure.

Most of those who were admitted in this study were African American and female. In addition to heart failure, these patients also had some or all of the following diseases: hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and coronary artery disease.

Holidays bring stress, change in routine, excessive eating and drinking. These all can add to an increased possibility of having a heart failure event.

What to do? Watch what you eat.

It is a known fact that eating foods that are high in salt is bad for the heart. Also, the fluid accumulation from the salt ingestion contributes to weight gain with an increase in the symptoms of shortness of breath and fluid accumulation in feet and legs. It was noted that symptoms such as weight gain and shortness of breath can worsen within 24 to 48 hours of ingestion of a high salt diet.

Dr. Maria Mountis, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, noted, “For people with heart failure, the American Heart Association recommends eating 1,500 to 2000 mg sodium per day. Eating a single hot dog could have up to 1,000 mg of sodium so eating in moderation is important.”

What else can one do? Watch what you drink.

Alcohol and sun don’t mix. And remember, the most important drink is water. Sun and heat dehydrate. Drink plenty of water. You may have to remind the children and the elderly to drink water but make sure they remain hydrated. Keep pitchers of water handy. A reusable non BPA container is a good container for the environment and the pocketbook. But regardless of the container, find one and use it. Fill it up in the morning and several times during the day. Place it where others can see it as a reminder.

Dr. Mountis said, she does not want people to deny themselves the enjoyment of the food of the holidays but they should be extra cautious in monitoring their food intake.

Veita Bland is a board certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Email Dr. Bland at


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