Heightened stress during the holidays can lead to heart problems — especially for women.

Often, women find themselves under duress this time of year as they struggle to complete tasks such as cooking, hosting family gatherings and buying gifts.

“Women are likely under more stress than men overall during the holiday time,” said Dr. Anil Poulose, a cardiologist at the Minneapolis Heart Institute-Abbott Northwestern Hospital. “Most of the preparations, culturally, fall upon the women.”

That added pressure can contribute to a phenomenon known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy. The condition, which resembles a small heart attack, is most common in women in their late 50s to 70s.

It happens when women endure high stress for a short period of time. It’s not just seasonal. It also can be coupled with a traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one or losing a job, Poulose explained.

He offered these tips for relieving stress:

• Set reasonable expectations and avoid putting pressure on yourself to create perfect holiday memories.

• Don’t do it all yourself. Divide tasks among more people.

• Take time to exercise, meditate or do other activities to help reduce stress.

• Don’t overindulge on holiday treats and alcohol.

• If you or someone you know feels chest pains, shortness of breath or otherwise feels ill, seek medical attention right away instead of waiting until after the holidays.

 

“To Your Health” offers quick doses of health news several times a week.