Cardiologist offers tips for maintaining healthy heart during holiday season

The recent death of actress Carrie Fisher, who suffered a heart attack on a plane while on her way home earlier this month, is a tragic reminder that more people suffer heart-related fatalities during the holiday season than any other time of year.

One reason for the statistic, health experts say, is that many people don't want to interrupt their plans. They ignore symptoms and delay seeking care.

"If you're having pressure while you're going through the airport, or pain in the chest, you should definitely not get on that flight," said Dr. Lawrence O'Connor, an interventional cardiologist.

The flu also plays a role in contributing to heart attacks, the doctor said. White cells mobilized to fight the flu may also attack arteries, which leads to clots that block blood vessels. Flu shots reduce the chance of a heart attack by about 36 percent, according to O'Connor.

"I think it has a lot to do with the stress of the season and rushing to get things done," said the doctor, who recommended quitting smoking and following a Mediterranean diet.

He also suggested 30-minute cardiovascular workouts five days a week, which has been shown to lengthen lifespan by about four years.

As people prepare to return to their normal routines next month, O'Connor said his primary advice was: "Chill."

"It's not worth it," he said with a chuckle.
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