Researchers Say: ‘Tis the Season for Holiday Cheer and… Heart Attack

Christmas is sneaking up on us, along with some potentially fatal health risks. Read on to find out why Christmas could be deadly and how you can avoid an unexpected visit to the emergency room.

Christmas is the season of great joy, and indulgence. For many, it typifies a flurry of family gatherings, scrumptious feasts, and extravagant parties, but for some, excess merriment and gluttony may trigger a heart attack. 

A recent study in the ‘British Medical Journal’ reveals that you are more likely to have a heart attack on Christmas Eve, specifically at 10 pm, right after a hearty meal. Researchers broke the news after tracking and analysing the exact timing of 283,014 heart attacks reported to the Swedish coronary care unit registry between 1998 and 2013. 

Image from BMJ

This 16-year-long study aims to look into the correlation between holidays, sporting events, and heart attacks. Researchers found that the risk of having a heart attack increases by 37% the night before Christmas, when recorded cases of myocardial infarction surge on average from 50 per day to 69.  The study also shows that patients aged 75 or above, who had another pre-existing illness, including diabetes and coronary artery disease, are more prone to Christmas heart attacks. 

“We do not know for sure, but emotional distress with acute experience of anger, anxiety, sadness, grief, and stress increases the risk of a heart attack. Excessive food intake, alcohol, long-distance travelling may also increase the risk,” Dr. David Erlinge from Lund University’s Department of Cardiology, who led the study, told the ‘Telegraph.’

Not trying to rain on your parade, but as the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed. We’ve put together 4 preventative steps to lower your risk of a heart attack

1) Be mindful of what you drink and eat

During a time where free-flow alcohol and heavy meals take center stage, overindulgence can lead to more than indigestion. You don’t have to completely abstain from festive grub, but have some portion control over the unhealthy food you eat. If you’re anticipating drinking more than usual, make sure you switch between alcohol and water to give your liver a break from time to time. 

2) Carve out some time for yourself

It’s easy to get caught up in the seasonal frenzy, but it’s important to give yourself permission to stop and breathe. Stress is one of the primary triggers of heart and circulatory disease. To lower your risk of having a heart attack, you can engage in low-stress activities, be it having a power nap after lunch or taking a short walk outside.

3) Stick to your exercise regime

Difficult as it may sound, especially with the extra business and events happening around the holidays, you should try to make this a priority. It will not only help curb your appetite for junk food but will also help you work off that Christmas turkey and potato wedges.

4) Know your symptoms and seek help earlier

Learn to identify your symptoms so you can choose the proper medications and receive medical attention in time.