People With High Blood Pressure Eat, Drink, Smoke More During Holidays

'Tis the season to be too jolly?

A new poll suggests this may be the case for a whopping 81 percent of the 65 million people with high blood pressure who eat, drink, and smoke to their heart's (dis)content from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day.

"So many individuals with high blood pressure appear to drop their guard at a time when they should be more mindful of the increased danger," says Karol Watson, MD, co-director of the UCLA program in preventative cardiology and director of the UCLA center for cholesterol and hypertension management, in a news release.

Previous research has shown that more heart attacks occur during winter than any other season due to factors including an increased prevalence of respiratory infections, eating more fatty and salty foods, drinking more eggnog and alcoholic beverages, and holiday stress.

Specifically, the poll of 1,017 adults with high blood pressure found that between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day:

—62 percent of adults with hypertension eat more than usual.

—48 percent experience heightened stress levels.

—37 percent gain weight.

—29 percent exercise less or quit exercising altogether.

The researchers say that all these come into play to increase the risk of heart attacks during the holiday season.To ensure a festive, healthful holiday season, Watson suggests that revelers try to eat healthier, make time for exercise, and shop ahead and online.

In the poll, 75 percent of people reported feeling some degree of stress during the winter holidays, and about half reported feeling more stressed compared with the rest of the year. When asked why, most participants cited winter holiday expenses and winter holiday preparations.

The poll also revealed that most people with high blood pressure (64 percent) were unaware or unsure that the winter months are when they are most at risk for a heart attack.

The new Harris Interactive survey was commissioned by Biovail Pharmaceuticals Inc. It included 1,017 people with high blood pressure, of whom 883 currently take medication and 214 smoke every day or occasionally.

By Denise Mann, reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

SOURCE: Harris Interactive survey, commissioned by Biovail Pharmaceuticals Inc.