Heart Attack Deaths Up During the Holiday Season

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By Lisa Adams

ERIE, Pa. (Erie News Now) — The holiday season is supposed to be joyous. But for many people it can be a stressful time as well.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, the joy of the season could be overshadowed by a loved one having a heart attack.

New research is showing that more people die of heart attacks on December 25, 26 and January 1 that at any other time of the year.

A number of factors play into that data. The things we love about Christmas — the preparations, company visiting, special food and drinks are all mental and physical disruptions to our routines, throwing off our scheduled, our diet and sleep.

Just one salty meal can cause fluid build-up and increase your risk of a heart attack by as much as 4 times in the two hours after a meal.

And sobering up from too much alcohol can be a trigger for heart rhythm issues such as A-fib.

Dr. Richard Petrella, Chief of the Department of Cardiology and Cardiovascular Surgery at UPMC Hamot says you need to enjoy the holidays in moderation without pushing the boundaries of your mental and physical limits. “We sort of avoid the rule of life that you know —to live life in moderation — whether it’s with alcohol, food, with salt, or shoveling 54 inches of snow and those activities are particularly dangerous to the cardiovascular system.”

If you do feel any cardiac symptoms: chest discomfort, discomfort in other upper body areas such as the arms, the back, the neck, the jaw, or if you’re experiencing shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness or break out in a cold sweat, Dr. Petrella says you should head to the hospital to get checked out without delay.

“Unfortunately there are a large number of folks who come to the hospital late, the next day, hours later…and our ideal time to treat a heart attack is usually within the first hour of symptoms and as you get beyond 6 hours and 12 hours it’s diminishing return, you should still come but we can really have the biggest impact in reducing death if we get to you early.”


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