Why Heart Attacks Spike During the Holidays and What You Can do to Avoid It

Even if your heart skips a beat when you open an unexpected gift, or leaps with excitement when the ball drops on New Year’s Eve, these moments of glee are not necessarily warning signs of an imminent heart attack. Yet, in many studies published by researchers at the University of San Diego, CA and Tufts University School of Medicine, the evidence points to a specific time of year when more heart attacks occur.

The time between Thanksgiving and New Years is supposed to be happy and joyful, but it can quickly turn into a time of sadness if a loved one suddenly experiences cardiac arrest. After reviewing 53 million death certificates in the United States, the researchers found an increase of 5% more deaths linked to heart attacks during the holidays.

Is it because of the cold weather change? It might be one factor, as the blood vessels constrict and can raise a person’s blood pressure. Clot occur more often when chilly temperatures put greater strain on the heart and its ability to keep the blood flow moving fluidly.

Phyiscal exertion is one culprit. When winter comes, the chores can also become greater, such as shoveling snow or scraping ice off the car, or carrying heavy boxes and chopping down Christmas trees. Although these seemingly innocent and necessary tasks might not seem to trigger a heart attack exclusively, when a person has heart disease – and does not know they have it – then it can result in a sudden fatality.

In Circulation Magazine, most heart attacks occur on Christmas Day, with the second highest on December 26th, followed by January 1st. Some people might delay the warning signs and chalk it up to “holiday stress”. Rather than going to see a doctor, they may not want to disrupt the holiday season.

There is also a spike in “overindulgence” during the holidays. Eating, drinking and too many sweets and junk food can truly trigger a cardiac attack. People often forgoe their normal exercise routines and gain more weight during the holidays. More salt, more sugar, more alcohol; these are all factors that can lead to a good day gone bad.

People should be mindful of this warning and stay in tune with the warning signs, not only for themselves but in loved ones who might be having chest pains or shortness of breath. Always get a checkup before the holidays to make sure you have good health before eating, drinking, and being merry turns into a bad holiday for your family.