With heart attack deaths spiking during the holiday season, doctors are urging people to make sure they “take good care of themselves” and to be alert for heart attack warning signs.
More people die from heart attacks during the last week of December than at any other time of the year, according to the American Heart Association.
Christmas Day has the most cardiac deaths than on any other day of the year, researchers found in a study published in Circulation, the American Heart Association’s flagship journal. The second highest number of cardiac deaths happens on Dec. 26, and the third largest tally occurs on New Year’s Day.
“Generally around the holidays, we do see more heart attacks,” Ron Blankstein, a senior physician of preventive cardiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, told the Herald this week.
He cited the various potential reasons that snowball and lead to this alarming holiday trend, including: More stress around the holidays, overeating, drinking more alcohol, frigid wintry weather, and not sleeping as much amid family gatherings.
“So what should people do, knowing that there are more heart attack events this time of year? People need to make sure they take good care of themselves during the holidays,” Blankstein said.
“Try not to overeat, don’t overdo it with alcohol, and make sure to get sleep,” he added.
People need to be aware of heart attack warning signs and to not ignore symptoms, Blankstein emphasized. Those symptoms include being short of breath and having chest discomfort.
A lot of people will want to ignore symptoms during the holidays because they want to celebrate with family, but Blankstein stressed it’s critical that people “take symptoms seriously” and either go to the ER or call 911.
“Individuals need to pay attention to symptoms, and pay attention to their family members as well,” he said.
Heart disease does not only impact elderly people. Younger individuals also get heart attacks, Blankstein noted, and women are just as likely to have a heart attack as men.
Winter weather has been noted as a trigger for increased heart attack risk due to restricted blood flow in the cold weather.
“Research also shows that the biggest increases in these holiday heart attack deaths are among people who are not in a hospital,” said cardiologist Shahriar Heidary, board member for American Heart Association, Puget Sound. “This highlights the importance of recognizing symptoms and seeking immediate medical care. Don’t ignore heart attack warning signs because you don’t want to spoil the holidays, the consequences could be much worse.”