How to avoid the E.R. on Thanksgiving Day

November 23, 2011 2:55:58 PM PST
Thanksgiving is the perfect family holiday. It's the time to spend catching up but if you're not careful, you could end up being carried out, and on your way to the emergency room as the result of the holiday meal.

While the copious amounts of food and drink are the most awaited elements of the holiday, they can have a very dark side.

To start, too much alcohol is a reason for holiday heart.

"In large doses, alcohol can affect the heart, and cause arrhythmias, or an irregular heartbeat," says Dr. Anil Hingorani of Brooklyn's Maimonedes Medical Center.

Holiday heart can also come from overeating. Normal meal portions add up to about 800 calories but you may eat as many as 3000 calories on Turkey Day. That digestion strains the heart. If you smoke or have other risk factors, the result can be heart-related chest pain, even a heart attack. The risk goes up as much as seven fold on the holidays.

So be careful to include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your thanksgiving feast menu and watch the salty and fatty foods. The first can make the heart work harder, and the latter slow digestion. They can keep the stomach full for up to 12 hours instead of the normal two hours.

"That can allow some of the stomach contents to go up into the esophagus and can cause pain in the chest," Hingorani says.

That's how you end up making another visit to the E.R. The condition might not be life-threatening, but don't make that decision yourself and go get thoroughly checked up.

"If you're having chest pain, come to the E.R have and EkG and let a M.D evaluate you to make sure it's an acid problem and not a frank heart attack," says Dr. John Marshall of the Maimonedes Medical Center.

And in the spirit of the holidays, keep a watchful eye on older relatives who spend most of the day alone that you haven't seen in a while. Dr. Marshall suggests that if they don't appear to be quite themselves, it's appropriate to bring them to the E.R. for an evaluation.

Just be sure to have a designated driver if you've overindulged in the bubbly.