Overdoing it on the turkey and mashed potatoes might actually do more damage than popping your pants button.
One study even found that eating an unusually heavy and rich meal may quadruple an individual’s risk of having a heart attack, provided they already have other risk factors like high blood pressure and cholesterol.
“Yes, very big, very rich meals (like a holiday or Thanksgiving meal) have been known to precipitate heart events,” confirmed Dr. Scott Kahan, director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington, D.C.
Of course, don’t go cancelling your Thanksgiving dinner plans just yet. Experts say this risk is probably slim-to-none for most people, but it’s a good reminder not to really overdo it at the table.
Stress, higher amounts of alcohol consumption and already having poor heart health also likely play a big role in cases of meal-provoked heart attack, Kahan said. In other words, eating a big meal may be a potential heart attack trigger for those at risk, similar to extreme physical exertion or outbursts of anger.
Why eating too much stresses your body out
While researchers don’t know exactly how an overindulgent meal might trigger heart attack, there are a couple of theories. Primarily, eating a lot in one sitting causes an increased release of adrenaline.
“Eating a large meal is a type of physiologic stress,” Kahan said, at least as far as your body is concerned. And like any other physiologically stressful event, the body responds by releasing adrenaline, which causes blood pressure to spike and heart rate to increase.