Christmas can give you a heart attack

Colette Sexton, news correspondent at The Sunday Business Post, on why you should take it easy this Christmas for the sake of your health.


Nearly one million turkeys are cooked on Christmas Day in Ireland, but unfortunately, not everyone’s dinner is gobbled up. Some 15 per cent of Irish people have had issues with either undercooking or overcooking their turkey, according to Safe Food. A further 7 per cent have forgotten to turn on the oven, and another 4 per cent do not remember to take the turkey out of the freezer so it is defrosted on time for Christmas dinner.  

All of these mistakes are easily avoidable, but maybe the key is to look at why they happen in the first place. In your house this Christmas, who is ensuring the festive season runs like clockwork? Who remembers to reserve the turkey, to buy the presents, to make three kinds of potatoes so everyone’s favourite is catered for? Is it all the same person juggling all of the work? And is that person female? According to several studies, it is likely that a woman in the family takes on the majority of the work at Christmas time.

British women spend 33 hours each on Christmas prep, according to investment company Scottish Widows. That is nearly a full working week. In 92 per cent of Australian households, women are in charge of Christmas shopping, research from Beyond Bank found. A YouGov poll from 2013 found that 69 per cent of women send out the Christmas cards in Britain, compared with 12 per cent of men; 61 per cent of women buy the presents, with only 8 per cent of men doing the same; 54 per cent of women do the food shopping, compared to 13 per cent of men; and 51 per cent of women cook the Christmas dinner, compared to 17 per cent of men.

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In Ireland, women are stuck with the most housework all year round - not just at Christmas. The housework gender gap here hasn’t changed since 2005, with almost 90 per cent of Irish women doing housework compared to less than 50 per cent of men. No wonder we’re wrecked!

We are constantly told that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but contrary to some beliefs, this does not happen by magic. It takes hard work and a lot of stress. One American study went so far as to link the stress of Christmas with an increased risk of heart attacks. It found that from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, there was a peak in cardiac deaths that might result from the emotional stress of the holidays, overindulgence during the holiday season, or both.

So take it a bit easy on yourself this year. The table setting does not need to be perfect. Not every house needs a pesky Elf on the Shelf. No-one will be eating their dinner off the toilet so it does not have to be spotless. And hey, if you forget to defrost the turkey, it will ensure an unforgettable Christmas that gives you laughs for years to come.

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