Why You Need to Be Holiday Heart Smart

“I only eat like this around the holidays.”

“I don’t drink very often, but there are so many social functions this time of year.”

“I thought it was just heartburn. I didn’t want to make a fuss and ruin everyone’s good time.”

Any of these sound familiar? They do to virtually every ER doc in the United States, some of whom coined the term “Christmas coronary” to describe the more than 30% increase in heart attacks and heart-related problems that occur in the winter — specifically on Christmas, the day after Christmas and on New Year’s Day. Another name doctors use for this trend is holiday heart.

That’s because many Americans celebrate the holidays with sudden binges of alcohol and food that puts added stress on weakened hearts. To make matters worse, they’re more inclined at this time of year to ignore or mistake the warning signs of heart attack.


Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Someone has a heart attack every 43 seconds. And holiday heart doesn’t discriminate — the increase in heart incidents holds true across all ages and genders and can manifest in young people as dangerous heart rhythms. Left untreated, it can lead to more serious conditions, including atrial fibrillation (AFIB), stroke and diabetes.

6 stressors associated with holiday heart attacks:

  • Overindulging in alcoholic beverages, rich foods and higher salt consumption increases blood pressure and water retention, putting additional strain on the heart. So does the 1- 2 pounds (on average) Americans gain during the holidays.
  • Cold weather strains the heart by constricting blood vessels and increasing blood pressure and making blood clot more easily.
  • Sudden strenuous outdoor activity in extremely cold weather, such as shoveling ice and snow, trudging through snow drifts or sledding with the kids, causes a spike in demand on the heart.
  • Skipping or not taking medications on time can have dire consequences for people taking insulin or other medications for chronic conditions. Entertaining, social functions and travel can disrupt regular exercise and medication routines.
  • Greater emotional stress and disrupted sleep during the holidays can weaken the immune system, making you more susceptible to colds and flu. Serious infections and fever can damage the heart muscle.
  • Delaying treatment for symptoms of a heart attack so as not to disrupt holiday activities is never a good idea. Every second counts to save a life and prevent damage to heart tissue.


To reduce the risk of holiday heart attacks:

  • Keep calm. Manage emotional stress and avoid anger.
  • Stay well. Get a flu shot and wash hands frequently to prevent cold and flu.
  • Eat right. Avoid food and alcohol binges, and select healthier food choices to reduce sodium. Drink plenty of water.
  • Keep moving. Continue normal exercise routines to maintain cardiovascular health and ward off weight gain. When engaging in outdoor activities, dress warmly, go slowly, rest often and listen to any warning signs your body is providing.
  • Mind the time. Stay on schedule with prescription medications, and if traveling, be sure to carry enough for the trip (in original prescription bottles) plus a few extra in case of delays.
  • Stay warm. Dress in layers for the weather and avoid heavy physical exertion in the cold.

Know the symptoms of a heart attack and call 911 immediately if you experience:

  • Pain or discomfort in the chest, arms or shoulders.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Feeling lightheaded, weak or faint.
  • Heartburn, nausea or vomiting.
  • Unusual fatigue.

The best thing about the holidays is being healthy to enjoy them. So have fun, enjoy time with friends and family and stay heart smart.

If you or someone in your family experiences chest pain, one of our many Medical City Healthcare emergency locations or Accredited Chest Pain Centers has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City Healthcare ER near you or call our free 24/7 Ask-A-Nurse hotline.

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How to Play with Knives and Fire and Not Cook Your Goose on Turkey Day

We know why you guys like the fall holiday season. Besides feasting and football, there are legitimate reasons to play with fire and knives. Fair enough. So here’s what you need to know to prevent and treat burns and cuts.

Last year, we told you that real men wear mitts to prevent burns (and burning down the house) while cooking Thanksgiving dinner — specifically, deep-fried turkey. But did you listen? Maybe some of you did. But from others we heard the all-too-familiar, “Relax, we’ve done this a million times.” Famous last words if there ever were any.


So, okay, we won’t nag you about combustible turkeys again, even though Texas led the nation in deep-fried turkey fires eight years in a row. However, we’d like to remind you that cooking fires are the leading cause of home fires and home injuries in Texas and that on Thanksgiving Day, the number of cooking fires is triple that of an average day.

Which makes this a great time for a quick refresher course on fire and burn safety. Ready? Here it is:

Top 5 rules of cooking fire safety:

Follow these hard and fast rules at all times and you’ll be on your way to a safe supper.

  1. Man your pan, man: never leave your cooking unattended
  2. Wear oven mitts and roll up long sleeves
  3. Keep small children and pets away from all flammable heat sources
  4. Grills, fire pits and yes — fryers — should be used outdoors only and away from flammable structures and trees
  5. Keep pot lids close by to smother flames and have at least one fire extinguisher in your home and know how to use it

Sometimes you’re doing everything right and disaster still strikes. That’s what happened to Prestonwood Baptist Church Pastor Chris Kouba, who was engulfed in the flames of a grease fire while cooking on his stovetop. Thankfully, Prosper EMS took him straight to Medical City Plano’s Burn & Reconstructive Center, which offers advanced burn care to patients from Texas and surrounding states.

If you are involved in a fire:

  • Don’t panic
  • Remove yourself from whatever is burning; stop, drop and roll
  • Check closed doors with the back of your hand; if hot, don’t open
  • Stay low to the ground and follow your escape plan
  • Call 911 and seek treatment for burns

Matthew Carrick, MD, trauma medical director at Medical City Plano, explains what to do in a burn emergency.

Put that down, you’ll cut yourself.

In addition to burn injuries, many people accidentally cut themselves over the Thanksgiving holiday. Know how we know? We asked Tim Hartman, DO, an emergency medicine physician at Medical City ER Stonebridge.

“Last year, we saw a lot of cuts in the ER,” said Dr. Hartman. “The first 6 patients we had on Thanksgiving were all hand lacerations, ranging from a fellow with a hunting knife working on a deer to mothers working on turkeys in the kitchen and opening cans.”

Dr. Hartman says people are often unsure how to tell when a cut is severe enough to go to their local emergency room.

“First of all, if the wound is dirty, such as from a hunting knife, you’re probably going to want to go to the ER and let us wash it out thoroughly,” Dr. Hartman said. “Secondly, if you’re not able to stop the bleeding at home, you need to come in to the ER.”

Watch Dr. Hartman’s video for these tips and more, including when it’s a good idea to use tissue glue on your kids’ cuts and when it’s not.

Safe knife handling tips.

Most cooking lacerations can be avoided by following these cutting safety tips:

  • Always use the correct knife (size and blade) and a cutting board
  • Use sharp knives; dull blades cause more accidents
  • Pay attention to what you’re doing; don’t multitask
  • Don’t attempt to catch a falling knife
  • Don’t leave knives in the sink; wash them immediately and put them away

BurnInfographicFINALWe wish you and your family a very safe and happy Thanksgiving, but if famous last words leave you in need of expert emergency care, one of our many Medical City Healthcare emergency locations has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City Healthcare ER near you or call our free 24/7 Ask a Nurse hotline.

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Revised 11/21/2017

When Things Heat Up in the Kitchen This Thanksgiving, Make Sure You Wear Protection

This Thanksgiving it’s safety first, then seconds.

That’s right: Real men wear mitts. And we’re talking actual oven mitts, not the dirty dishtowel you grabbed off the sink, a paper towel or — say it ain’t so — the front of your shirt. Yeah, we know … we’ve seen you do it.

And it’s not (only) because we just washed that shirt that we tell you this. It’s because we care about you and we know the stats: According to the Red Cross, cooking fires are the leading cause of home fires and home injuries in Texas. But on Thanksgiving Day, the number of home cooking fires rises three times higher than average. So what can you do to make sure your holiday meal is praiseworthy and not blaze worthy?


Deep Fried Turkey Tips

First, let’s talk turkey. Texas has the dubious honor of leading the nation in deep-fried turkey fires during the seven years (2005-2012) that State Farm conducted the study. Incendiary turkeys were becoming such a problem that the insurance company famously partnered with William Shatner and other celebrities to teach deep-fried turkey safety through a series of amusing commercials and videos. They’re fun and educational to watch, but the fact remains: Tossing a turkey in a tub of sizzling grease is basically mixing oil and water, especially if the bird isn’t thawed completely. Not good.

What is good is technology that has advanced so quickly that just a couple of years later we can satisfy our craving for a moister bird with an oil-less electric turkey fryer. The units use infrared heat instead of oil for a heathier-cooked bird with all the flavor, juiciness, and crispy outside of the oil-saturated version. If the five-star reviews on many popular retail sites are any indication, people are raving about the results. We like that they’re safer to use — eliminating the splash, spill and flame hazards of cooking in a vat of hot oil — but they also make cleanup easier. With a stomach full of turkey and taters and the kickoff about to start, that’s yet another reason to be thankful.

If you must deep fry your dinner, follow these seven safety measures:

  • Always use your fryer outdoors, a safe distance from buildings and any other flammable materials.
  • Never use a fryer in your garage, on a wooden deck or other flammable surfaces.
  • Make sure the fryer stands on a flat surface, to reduce accidental tipping.
  • Keep small children, pets, and roughhousing away from the fryer, as even a slight bump can be disastrous.
  • Most units don’t have thermostat controls. If you use an oil-filled fryer and don’t watch it carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
  • Wear oven mitts and keep the pot lid handy to smother any flames — don’t throw water on them.
  • Never leave the fryer unattended.

We’ve highlighted that last one because nearly half of all fire injuries occur as a result of unattended cooking. Sound familiar? Most of us have walked away from a pot that just wouldn’t boil until we become engrossed in our favorite show. And while scald burns are the most common burn-related injury in young children, a grease fire has the potential to be even more harmful. So roll up your sleeves, put on your mitts, and man your cooking station at all times.

And remember, this Thanksgiving it’s safety first, then seconds. #RealMenWearMitts


When it gets a little too hot in the kitchen, one of our many Medical City Healthcare emergency locations has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City Healthcare ER near you or call our free 24/7 Ask-A-Nurse hotline.

Sign Up for the LifeSigns E-Newsletter

Revised 11/21/2017