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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The season of holiday cheer is here. But according to some doctors, it could also bring possible heart troubles.

Studies suggest heart attacks and strokes can increase this time of year, especially for the 80 million Americans with high blood pressure.

Ilan Arboleda suffers from high blood pressure.

“I’ve taken the medication, but exercise and diet hasn’t been great. So it’s my responsibility to get that going,” Arboleda said.

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke.

The American Heart Association reminds patients like Arboleda to be cautious during the holiday season.

Heart attack-related deaths are five percent more likely around Christmas and New Year’s.

“People are eating more, drinking more, they’re not exercising,” said Dr. Tara Narula.

Narula, who works at Lenox Hill Hospital, says people who have risk factors for heart disease are at highest risk, but moderation is good for everyone.

“Certainly anyone could be at risk if they’re consuming a lot of alcohol, or eating a ton of salt, or under a lot of stress,” Narula said.

Cold weather can also be hard on the heart, causing the blood vessels to constrict,  which could make someone more prone to heart attack or stroke.

People with high blood pressure also need to remember that decongestants can raise blood pressure, so be careful with the over the counter medicines.

And all heart patients should be sure to take their usual medications on time.

Arboleda says he is keeping all these things in mind this holiday season.

“Portion control is a major thing for me,” he said. “And making sure I keep moving, that I don’t just sit on the couch and watch football, maybe actually go play football, or go for a run or a walk.”

Experts say don’t ignore the signs of a heart attack, which can include shortness of breath, dizziness, or pain in your chest, arm or neck.


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