Protecting your heart during Carnival season

Heart of the Gulf during Mardi Gras season

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) - Mardi Gras is all about fun and celebration.  Thousands of people come together to eat, party, and parade, but it's also a time that can be bad for your heart.

"It definitely concerns me for a couple of reasons.  One is the lifestyle choices that get presented to our patients.  High fatty foods, salty foods, can tip these patients over into heart failure and raise their blood pressure which can lead to heart attack and stroke risk," said Dr. Michael Rihner of Rihner, Gupta, & Grosz Cardiology, P.C. in Mobile.

Cardiologists warn excessive alcohol consumption can lead to making bad choices, like not keeping a new year's resolution to quit smoking.  Plus, germs spread quickly among revelers.

"When you put large crowds of people together, especially at the balls when you're eating in a buffet out of the same serving trays, the spread of diseases like flu which are so easily spread.  Person to person can be very difficult to contain," said Dr. Rihner.

The flu poses special risks for heart patients like Mike Thorn.  Fever and breathing difficulties can inflame underlying cardiovascular conditions.

 "I take flu shots every year.....try to stay clear of people who have the flu who have bad colds and so forth," said Horn.

He doesn't attend Mardi Gras celebrations, but for those who do, Dr. Rihner has this advice,   "Drink plenty of water when you're out there.  Try to moderate the alcohol intake..try to eat something before you go out, something healthy so you're not tempted to overindulge into too much salty foods and fatty foods...and make sure you take your medicines and get some adequate rest because for Mardi Gras.  A lot of patients it's a marathon..not a sprint.   So you gotta pace yourself."

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