Heart attack risk spikes with winter holidays
If Christmas past is any indication, the statistics for holiday heart attacks are scarier than Ebenezer Scrooge.
An earlier study of U.S. data from the years 1973 to 2001 showed that deaths due to heart attacks were highest on Dec. 25, followed by Dec. 26 and Jan. 1. The 2004 study, published in the journal Circulation, has led to speculation over the potential causes.
One factor may simply be cold weather, which can cause blood vessels to constrict and otherwise put extra strain on the heart. Other possible factors include changes in routines and environments, the rush of holiday events and the emotional impact of being with and without loved ones. And then there's the food.
Dr. William D. Yarbrough, Trident Health's medical director for cardiovascular services, says tempting seasonal favorites, for example, ham, seasoned turkey and stuffing, may lead people to consume more sodium than usual, and that can cause immediate trouble for those who have heart failure or high blood pressure.
Finally, some wonder whether a contributing factor in the number of fatalities due to heart attacks might be a reluctance to recognize or act on warning signs because of the disruption it could cause to special plans. “If you are having severe chest pains, shortness of breath or other symptoms of a heart attack, then the correct thing to do is call 911 and have an ambulance come get you,” says Dr. Yarbrough.
Heart attack symptoms * Chest discomfort, especially in the center of the chest * Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach * Shortness of breath * Cold sweat * Nausea * Lightheadedness * Fainting * Dizziness * Unusual fatigue
Trident Health is an HCA hospital system comprised of two acute care hospitals – Trident Medical Center and Summerville Medical Center – as well as Moncks Corner Medical Center. The Joint Commission recently named Trident Health to their list of the nation's top hospitals for quality and safety. In 2012, Trident Health provided almost $40 million in charity and uncompensated care and contributed $27 million in taxes. Accredited by The Joint Commission, Trident Health is committed to providing quality health services along with wellness information and opportunities to the communities it serves. For more information about Trident Health, please visit our website at www.tridenthealthsystem.com or call 843.797.7000.