Heart attacks spike during winter holidays cardiologists say

Dec 19, 2022, 12:19 PM | Updated: 12:51 pm
heart attacks...
(Photo by Getty Images)
(Photo by Getty Images)

More people die from heart attacks between Dec. 25 and Jan. 1 than during any other week of the year, reports The American Heart Association (AHA).

Several factors of the holiday season can affect our heart health, including altered diets, exercise, and sleep routines, says Dr. Eugene Yang, a cardiologist with the UW Medicine Heart Institute.

“People consume more alcohol during the holidays. And alcohol is directly toxic to the heart,” Yang said. “So, if you drink an excessive amount of alcohol, it can cause cardiomyopathy – or weakening of the heart muscle – because of the direct toxic effects alcohol has.”

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Increased alcohol intake also can result in “holiday heart syndrome.” Excessive alcohol consumption, elevated stress levels, and dehydration appear to be the cause of the holiday heart syndrome.

“It is a very potentially serious condition that causes people to develop heart failure symptoms,” Yang said. “Certain people might be more predisposed to it, but you can have no history of any heart-related conditions and drink excessively or consume too much alcohol during the holidays, and you could create a situation where you develop atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure — even in the absence of any preexisting risk factors.” 

The AHA says it’s important to know the symptoms of a heart attack and take action.

Heart attack signs may vary in men and women, and it’s important to catch them early and call 911 for help. The sooner medical treatment begins, the better the chances of survival and preventing heart damage.

There are other factors that contribute to heart attacks over the holidays. Shoveling snow and increased stress have been noted as causes.

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Heart attacks spike during winter holidays cardiologists say