Posted on

Holiday Stressors

Six Holiday Habits That Cause Heart Attacks  

Some traditions make for merriment and fun – but these six can literally stop your heart. 


“Christmas Coronary.” It sounds festive, doesn’t it? Like something you’d hear in a holiday movie. Unfortunately … no. The term was coined by doctors who noticed a disturbing patternHeart attacks and heart-related problems peaking every year over the winter holiday season — specifically on Christmas, the day after Christmas and on New Year’s Day.  Of course, health emergencies at this time of year seem to stick out more in our minds — the dad who had a heart attack just after the family dinner or the grandfather who experienced severe chest pain after shoveling snow. But it’s more than just anecdotal. Studies show that the number of heart attacks increases by over 30% in the winter. This number holds true for all ages (young people can manifest as having dangerous heart rhythms) and genders.

What’s behind this increase? These six stressors specifically surrounding the holidays put us at greater risk: 

  1. Cold temperatures. Cold weather causes your blood vessels to constrict in your arms and legs, making your heart work harder. It can also cause the blood vessels to your heart to spasm, temporarily depriving the heart of oxygen.
  2. Overexertion. Even those who are sedentary during the rest of the year may increase their physical activity over the holidays — shoveling snow, trudging through snowdrifts or going sledding with the kids. Suddenly becoming active in the cold weather causes a spike in demand on your heart. In addition, the mere act of lifting a heavy snow shovel increases your blood pressure, which makes someone with heart disease even more at risk of having a heart attack. 
  3. Nonstop food feasts.A study from Switzerland showed that in the winter, people had higher blood pressure and cholesterol — the very factors that drive a heart attack.
  • What to do: I know—the parties, family gatherings and treats are half the fun! And we all need a little fun. You can still enjoy the festivities, albeit with some caveats. Give yourself some boundaries—for example, you’ll only eat two pieces of mom’s special fudge or one piece of apple pie. Or maybe you’ll allow yourself to indulge at one party, but not the other. I try to keep my nutrition in check on weekdays and then allow myself to cheat a little on the weekend. That works for me, but everyone is different so try some strategies to see what works for you. 
  1. Alcohol. Holiday spirits can lead to “Holiday Heart Syndrome” if you’re not careful. I remember last holiday season taking care of a 34-year-old guy who had come home for the holidays, gone out with his friends and noticed that his heart was suddenly racing. His heart rate was 180 when EMS brought him in. It took hydration and medications to stabilize his heart rate.
  2. Ignoring symptoms. It’s a common excuse: “All the family is here right now” or “I don’t want to spend Christmas Eve in the ER” or “I have 30 guests coming this evening.” Health problems never come at convenient times, and the holidays make those surprises seem even more inconvenient.
  3. Catching a bug.‘Tisthe season for gifts, family — and the flu. A disease like the flu can put excess pressure on your heart — especially if you already have heart problems — increasing the risk of a heart attack. 

With a little extra caution, you can enjoy the holidays while staying your healthiest.  


May you keep the holiday spirit in your heart year ‘round, avoid “Holiday Heart Syndrome” and always and forever remain young at heart. 


This week’s newsletter is excerpted from an article that can be read in its entirety at 


Let’s commit to a good food strategy that is heart healthy this holiday season.  


your farmer and health activist


  • 1/4 cup lime juice 
  • 1 Tbsp. agave nectar or honey 
  • 1 tsp. sea salt 
  • 1/2 cup olive oil 
  • 1 tsp. white vinegar 
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley 
  • 3 cups cooked quinoa 
  • 2 fresh pears, cut into chunks 
  • 1/2 cup dried wild blueberries (optional) 
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped 
  • 1/2 cup shaved carrots 
  • 1/2 cup diced cucumber 
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red pepper 
  • 1/4 cup red onions, diced 

DIRECTIONS: Mix lime juice, honey, salt, olive oil, and vinegar in a bowl; set aside. 

  1. In large bowl, mix together quinoa, fruit, vegetables, nuts, dried blueberry, then pour over dressing. 
  1. Place in refrigerator to chill, then serve cold! (Optional to serve with chicken.) 

All images and text ©Sandy Coughlin for Reluctant Entertainer. 

Recipe Permalink: 




Posted on

Falling in Color

A few years back my mother made a comment I never thought of before. She was visiting from Peru, where I was born and raised and where we only have two very distinct seasons: summer and winter. In Peru we don’t get to experience the transition between winter and spring or summer and fall like we do in the Pacific Northwest. She said, “I remember growing up and watching my mother paint landscapes. She would always include full color trees: orange, red, and pink. I never knew they really existed. Seeing them is like being in one of her paintings.”

After I heard that, I never looked at fall the same way. The beauty of nature never ceases to amaze me. Fall colors are bright and soothing and the air is crisp and fresh. But fall brings so much more than a feast for the eyes: squash, apples, dark leafy greens. Farms are bursting with new varieties of produce, so I make a resolution to try them all!

Butternut squash is my favorite – naturally sweet, versatile, and very “meaty.” Many people assume the only use for butternut squash is in soups, but I like to roast it and keep it in the refrigerator in three different forms: mashed, sliced, and cubed.


  • Add a tablespoon to your morning smoothie with dates and cinnamon for a fall twist
  • Add it to your pancake batter
  • Make pumpkin bread
  • Great with creamy sauces, such as mac n’ cheese


  • Phenomenal for lasagnas; layer it with béchamel sauce, spinach, and mozzarella for one of the best vegetarian lasagnas you’ve ever had
  • Or top it with olive oil, walnuts, and breadcrumbs and broil it for a great side dish
  • Use it as a pizza topping


  • Include it in stews, curries, soups, and salads
  • Glaze it with maple syrup, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt for a sweet and savory side dish
  • Toss it with olive oil, pasta, kale, and bacon, with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese for a hearty supper

As you can see there are many ways to add butternut squash to your fall menu. I hope this is a good start!

In recent years I have learned to appreciate the small things in life. Even though my excitement for butternut squash can be cliché to many, it really does make a big difference when we stop and appreciate nature’s gifts. Countless times a year I say to my family and friends, “Isn’t it amazing that this came out of nature? How good does this taste?!” It’s in the little things that we find contentment and appreciation for the abundance we have. Happy falling!
Sara Balcazar-Greene (aka. Peruvian Chick)
Peruvian Food Ambassador