How to Prevent the Christmas Coronary and the Holiday Heart Syndrome

The Christmas Coronary and the Holiday Heart Syndrome

A Swedish study published in the BMJ British Medical Journal showed that on Christmas Eve there was a 37% higher chance to have a heart attack. In fact, the most dangerous time for having a heart attack was around 10:00 pm, which was a few hours after enjoying the holiday meal. Other studies have also shown a steep rise in heart attacks on Christmas and so they are called Christmas coronaries. This phenomena is also referred to as the holiday heart syndrome.

The SWEDHEART Observational Study 1998-2013

The researchers from the SWEDHEART Observational Study discovered that there were 283,014 heart attacks in Sweden from 1998-2013. Over this 16 year period the researchers found increased risks for heart attacks on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and on the Swedish holiday of Midsummer. In fact, Midsummer, a national holiday and the second most important holiday after Christmas is usually celebrated by a lot of drinking. Also, a lot of binge drinking is part of celebrating New Year’s Eve. The Christmas Eve festive meal is usually celebrated with the family and may also be accompanied by drinking alcoholic beverages. Those people who were seniors over age 75, especially with chronic health conditions like diabetes or heart disease, were at the highest risk for a heart attack.

Holidays are Hard on Seniors

Holidays are often hard on seniors. For instance:

  • Seniors may be under financial stress. It may be difficult if they do not have enough money to buy holiday presents for all their loved ones.
  • Emotional stress can hit seniors very hard at holidays and they may feel more lonely and isolated.
  • Grief and depression can be very difficult to deal with throughout the holidays, as the holidays stir up memories of departed loved ones.

Holidays may Cause a Rise in Blood Pressure and the Heart Rate

The researchers think that the holidays may cause a rise in hormone levels of adrenalin and norepinephrine. These two hormones can cause a rise in blood pressure and the heart rate.

People Ignore Warning Signs of a Heart Attack on Holidays

People often ignore warning signs of a heart attack on holidays because they do not want to miss out on the festive meals or disrupt the festivities. Also, they may have gone out of town and so they tell themselves that when they return home after Christmas they will tend to the problem. Unfortunately, this may be too late. Be alert to the following warning signs such as neck, arm, back or chest pinching or pain. Also, indigestion can be a warning sign of a heart attack.

What you can do to Prevent the Holiday Heart Syndrome

  • Bing drinking on alcohol has been linked to the holiday heart syndrome. Binge drinking of alcohol is also linked to a high risk for a stroke.
  • Do not overeat and stuff yourself with a heavy meal. Research has shown that you have a fourfold higher chance for a heart attack after a heavy meal.
  • Do not do things to overexert yourself whether it is too much dancing or volunteering to shovel snow. While dancing is good physical activity, you should not dance to the point of exhaustion. You should take a break before your heart starts pounding and you are out of breath.
  • If you find yourself getting aggravated with the people with whom you are celebrating the holiday, then say your farewells and head for home.
  • Do not ignore any of these warning signs of a possible heart attack like indigestion, neck, back, arm or chest pinching or pain. Phone 911 right away.

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If you are not feeling well at the start of the holiday, then it is better to change your plans especially if you were going out of town. Better to stay home and rest than to risk having a heart attack or stroke. Do not hesitate to phone 911 if you get any of the warning signs.

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