This common habit can throw your heart off track
Time to put away the Halloween decorations, toss the leftover trick-or-treating candy, and start planning for Thanksgiving, which is just three weeks from today.
Yes, it's that time of year.
And by "planning," I don't just mean figuring out which side dishes to serve with that bird.
You've got to get yourself ready to handle all the temptation that's coming your way as the festive season kicks into gear.
There are all the delicious foods, of course, as well as the drinking -- and, for many people, far TOO MUCH drinking, as they overdo it at parties, gatherings, family meals, and more.
"Why not?" they figure, as they hoist the glass. "It's the holidays!"
But new research shows exactly "why not," whether it's the holidays or any other time of year.
It reveals how a booze habit can slowly throw your heart out of rhythm.
Over time, that can set the stage for a dangerous and potentially deadly heartbeat condition called atrial fibrillation that can increase your risk of a stroke.
It's the most common irregular heartbeat condition among older Americans. Roughly 1 in 10 seniors already have a-fib, and up to 25 percent of those who don't are at risk for developing it.
You could be one of them -- but new research shows how you can bring that risk back down by quitting the booze.
Simply put, the longer you drink, the higher your risk. On the flipside, the longer you go without, the more that risk drops.
If you can avoid -- or mostly avoid -- booze for 10 years, your risk of developing an irregular heartbeat condition drops by a fifth.
That might sound like a long time, but you know how fast the years can go by.
And while the study looked at the long-term effects -- of periods up to 25 years -- it's pretty likely you'll get at least SOME benefit shortly after your "last call."
On the other hand, a long-time drinking habit will do just the opposite, especially if you keep at it.
Every decade spent on the sauce -- and I don't mean the cranberry kind -- will up your odds by 13 percent, with each additional drink per day boosting the risk by another 4 percent.
That's not a risk you want to face.
Along with giving you a good scare whenever your heart starts skipping around, a-fib often means a lifetime supply of blood thinners. They're supposed to help prevent a stroke, but they could also lead to serious bleeding problems.
It's the worst of all worlds, but it's a world you can avoid.
As the holidays roll around, do your heart a favor. Raise a glass of sparkling grape instead of champagne.
And if you really want to have a toast to celebrate a holiday, limit it to just one and on actual holidays -- not any and every day in the "holiday season."