‘Tis the Season — for Heart Attacks?

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas yesterday, filled with family and friends. But you’re not out of the woods yet — Christmas Day and the December 26 are two of the most common days to have heart attacks. So please take it easy today. Try not to stress about family issues, try to rest and relax, and don’t over-indulge.

An article in the New York Post details this unhappy phenomenon. Please read the article. Here are a few excerpts:

Reasons for the seasonal increase are uncertain. Theories include cold weather, overindulgence and stress.

American Heart Association spokesman Dr. Richard Stein, a cardiologist at New York University’s medical center, said most studies investigating holiday heart trends have found a statistical increase in heart attacks and other problems — not a giant surge but worth noting just the same.

It happens in cold climates, sometimes when sedentary people or those with heart disease take on too much snow shoveling, or spend too much time outdoors. Cold weather can constrict arteries, increasing demand on the heart, he said, But it also happens in warm places. Flu season coincides with winter holidays and Stein said that might be a factor since the virus can cause inflammation that also can stress the heart.

David Phillips, a sociologist at the University of California’s San Diego campus, has long studied when people die. His research, based on millions of death certificates nationwide, shows that cardiac deaths including fatal heart attacks increase almost 5 percent on Christmas Day, the day after and on New Year’s Day. Deaths from other causes also increase at holiday time, but not as much, he has found.

Then there’s “holiday heart syndrome,” a type of irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation brought on by too much alcohol.

It involves irregular contractions in the heart’s upper two chambers that patients often feel as palpitations, a funny fluttery sensation in the chest, or chest pain. It’s like the heart’s rhythm has gone “haywire,” according to a report last year in the Harvard Heart Letter.

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