Holidays a heart disease risk factor
There are a bunch of factors that can put someone at risk for heart disease — family history, smoking, etc. But, according to a study published in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association, the winter holiday season also is considered a risk factor for cardiac and noncardiac death.
While researchers don’t know exactly why heart attacks are more common around holidays, they note possible reasons, including changes in diet and alcohol consumption during the holidays; stress from family interactions, strained finances, travel and entertaining; respiratory problems from burning wood; not paying attention to the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, and delaying emergency treatment when it’s a holiday.
According to a release from the American Heart Association, an analysis in 2004 of 53 million death records over 26 years from across the United States pinpointed more specifically that more cardiac deaths occurred on December 25 than any other day throughout the year, followed by December 26 and January 1.
“The progression of heart disease doesn’t happen overnight, so an uptick in cardiac death during the holidays is actually more the acute manifestations of the disease,” said Dr. Jorge Plutzky, a volunteer with the American Heart Association in a news release. “Factors like cold weather, stress and dietary indiscretion can contribute to a chain of events leading to more stress on the heart. A cardiac event might be triggered because the heart is working harder.”
The Connecticut Department of Public Health states that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the state, with 85 percent of heart disease deaths among those 65 and older.
Heart attack signs include uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back. Other symptoms include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomac and shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort. Women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
If you have any of these signs, call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital right away. Delaying treatment can be the difference between life and death.
According to the AHA, stress sets off a physical chain of events including adrenaline hormone response, increased heart and breathing rates. When stress is constant, or chronic, your body remains in high gear. That chronic stress can increase blood pressure, hurt artery walls and weaken immune systems.
The AHA recommends trying positive self-talk to help you calm down and control stress. Try stress-stoppers like deep breathing and counting to ten before you speak. Find time for joy and gratitude every day, or take up a hobby you like. Exercise to relieve stress and start a meditation practice. Free American Heart Association resources for stress reduction are available at www.heart.org/stress.