Deaths during the holiday period between December 25th and January 7th are higher than other times of the year.
Winter temperatures and snowfall in northern portions of the US contribute to heart attacks. Cold exposure can cause coronary artery spasm and when you are not accustomed to lifting, the exertion of shoveling snow is a significant factor. These are not the only causes of increased deaths at this time of year. Flu season, higher stress and travel can take a toll.
In a New Zealand study where the holiday season occurs in warm weather, they also found an increase in cardiac deaths. More studies are needed to explain the findings, but possible reasons include holiday travel. People delay seeking attention for symptoms away from familiar physicians and hospitals. Stress, rushing to flights, lugging packages, over-eating, and increased alcohol consumption are also factors.
- If you are traveling, be sure to bring medical records, a medication list, enough medications for the entire trip, and even a copy of your baseline electrocardiogram.
- Seek attention immediately for classic chest, arm, neck or jaw discomfort. Women sometimes have atypical symptoms of weakness, abdominal discomfort and shortness of breath.
- All of these symptoms can be warning signs for an impending heart attack due to narrowing of coronary arteries.
- Early treatment is life-saving. See a doctor right away, even if an ER evaluation interrupts festivities.
Have a safe and happy holiday season.
As a holiday gift to you, I have placed both the Kindle format and paperback of Your Heart on sale.
Betty Kuffel, MD