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Holiday Hang-Up: Why The Elderly Need To Be Aware And Prepared For Hidden Health Concerns

Updated on December 22, 2015

Delicious Holiday Horrors Gives Your Body Nothing To Celebrate

The meat is cookin', the taters are whippin', and the pie is bakin'-- but amidst all the sweet aromas, tasty bites, and satisfied tummies lurks one (or more!) silent killers you do not want to meet this holiday season.

Though the holiday season is certainly a time of festive family fun, the truth of the matter is that there are some legitimate health risks that are associated with pigging out on the delicious holiday treats-- regardless of your age. But despite this, the elderly are at a more significant risk for incurring chronic diseases during the festive holiday fun, as there is an increase of major health problems among seniors during this time of year.

Take a peek below at some of the biggest health concerns associated with the holiday season-- and why the price of overindulging now could still cost you years later.

To Indulge vs. Not To Indulge: Is It Worth The Resistance?

"Mom-- can I try it?"

The words still reverberate in my mind years later as they tumbled forth from my mouth then. The "it" referenced, of course, was a fresh, gooey cinnamon roll with waves of steam billowing from its surface like escaped tufts of smoke puffing out of a chimney top come Christmas morning.

It was Christmas morning then-- and it will be in a few days as of this writing-- and my punctual and assertive request seemed to catch my health-bound mother off guard as she reveled in my cheery face.

"Well, umm...sure, sweety."

'Twas and 'tis the season to be jolly, after all. As I soaked my tender teeth into the soft, sweet deliciousness of the dough-laden treat, I felt a rush come over me that felt so worth it-- of course, one cannot truly know if something is worth anything without applying and understanding a long-term paradigm to that its' current reality; perhaps it wasn't worth much at all aside from the short-term firing of pleasure receptors in my brain that then transpired, as I could not yet discern the lasting price of weight gain that would befall me following that slippery slope of rising weight that later came with each so worth it nibble.

Indeed, fast forward to my teens and early adulthood: I was overweight and my mom was, too. We were unhappy and unhealthy, remaining in the pleasure-filled atmosphere of eating because we didn't know any other way. Besides, the vulnerability of living a different lifestyle to produce difficult changes for greater pleasures later was too scary-- even though it didn't feel broke, was our current food pleasure cycle really worth "fixing" for a more enjoyable (and by default, more "fixed") reality of pleasure and personal pride months or even years down the road? The sacrifice was too much to bear, especially with the next eclair staring down our throats...

What Holiday Treat Is Hardest To Resist?

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The Slippery Slope Of Holiday Indulgence

With doctors and scientists in agreement that the risk for diabetes is reaching younger and younger people than ever before, it's not easy to pinpoint the precise root for such a noteworthy development in our nation's falling nutritional health. It's the school cafeterias. It's the fast-food restaurants at every corner-- and everywhere in between. It's not having enough time to prepare a homemade meal for the whole family day after day after day, so that fending for ourselves has become the norm-- and eating the cheapest and easiest thing that catches the eye is the most logical option so that our already busy schedule isn't complicated further.

Regardless of all the factors involved in our nation's rising obesity rates, there is one thing we should all agree on: anybody who can resist the over-indulgence temptation, should.

What Is Holiday Heart Syndrome?

The holidays have grown so infamous for their association to weight gain and weight-related diseases that there's even a health condition named after the festive time of year: Holiday Heart Syndrome. This phenomenon is most often manifested through an unsuspecting heart attack right around the time of a big feast, and is more likely to occur in a person with known risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, irregular heartbeat, diabetes, and obesity. Extreme alterations in diet and lifestyle that's often characterized by overindulgence is the primary cause to Holiday Heart Syndrome-- which, unsurprisingly, is a prevalent problem during the holiday season more than any other time of the year. Most of the risk factors associated with the disease strike the elderly more severely, and is particularly virulent in those with a high diabetes risk.

Treating Your Taste Buds: How Much Is Just Enough?

 
 
Men
 
 
 
Women
 
 
Sugar
Salt
Fat
 
Sugar
Salt
Fat
Cals/day
150
N/A
2,000-3,000
Cals/day
100
N/A
1,600-2,400
Grams/day
37.5
3.75
222-333
Grams/day
25
3.75
178-267

3 Keys To A Safer And More Satisfying Holiday

  1. Cut Down On Alcohol. Whether it's festive company celebrations or ugly sweater parties as the culprit, drinking too much is a staple during the holidays for far too many of us already. Weight gain and a rising blood cholesterol can begin to occur within mere hours of such festive fun, which increases the build up of fatty plaques on the walls of blood vessels that restricts healthy blood flow to the heart. Alcohol further irritates the heart by increasing blood pressure that forces it to have to work harder.
  2. Increase Physical Activity And Reduce Stress. While most of us see the holidays as a time of rest and relaxation, don't go overboard-- our bodies don't need nearly as much "rest" as many Americans claim their bodies need today. If by "rest," you mean pigging out to delicious Christmas treats on the sofa all day, you more than likely need to redefine the term altogether. Instead, cut down on the financial and emotional stresses of the holiday season with a different kind of rest-- that is, one that doesn't include overindulging on the next sugar-stuffed pastry that catches your eye. It may surprise you how much going for a holiday run or simply taking a walk each evening before bedtime will "rest" and relax you-- it sure beats the extra stress you may be putting on your heart during the food-filled, other kind of "rest" many Americans have grown accustomed to.
  3. Don't Ignore Warning Signs. You don't have to be a holiday party pooper or a Debbie Downer to pick up on potential warning signs and make according life changes because of them-- regardless of the season you may be in. Chest pain, dizziness, fatigue, and sweating are symptoms that should never be looked over as "part of the busy season"-- such symptoms are often signs of a looming health disaster that can be as severe as a heart attack, stroke, and/or death.


Tread carefully during the festive season and practice moderation with food, alcohol, activities, and socializing, because even if the slippery slope of too-tasty food feels worth the ballooning weight now-- as I thought it was for my mother and me those many holidays ago-- resisting all the decadent treats instead could save your life when looking ahead.

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    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 17 months ago from the short journey

      An important read for seniors and their families. Linking to my Solve It: Senior Citizens board.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 17 months ago from North America

      A very useful Hub, so thank you!

      From my experience, I've also had a few clients that became depressed for a few days before suffering a holiday-season heart attack, so I always pay attention if a friend acts or says he/she is depressed.

      I think another important matter is being careful of holiday foods that can harm the teeth, especially aging teeth that are becoming brittle, or even bridgework and crowns - hard candies, some nuts, caramel and toffee, peanut brittle, anything hard or really very sticky.

      Merry Christmas to all and good health!

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