Archive for Monday, December 24, 2007

Ho, Ho Heart Attack?

December 24, 2007


The good side of holiday hoopla - increased camaraderie, generosity of spirit - can help ease depression for some. But what is balm for the mind can be bad news for the ticker.

National statistics show that even as suicides go down during the holiday season, deaths from heart disease go up. Cardiac problems increase so much that researchers have coined the phrases "Merry Christmas Coronary" and "Happy New Year Heart Attack."

And, contrary to conventional wisdom, the increase in heart attack deaths has nothing to do with shoveling snow or coronary artery spasms caused by frigid weather. Dr. Robert A. Kloner, a cardiologist at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, challenged that once-prevalent medical theory in 1999.

His research team examined L.A. County death records of 220,000 people who died of heart disease over a 12-year period. In a paper published in the journal Circulation, they reported that heart disease deaths were 33 percent higher in December and January than they were from June through September - even in Southern California's consistently mild climate.

A national study published in 2004 in Circulation further debunked the cold-weather theory. Researchers led by David P. Phillips at the University of California, San Diego looked at 53 million death records between 1973 and 2001. They found a 4.6 percent increase in heart-related deaths in the period from Christmas Eve through New Year's Day.

The two riskiest days of the year for heart-related deaths: Dec. 25 and Jan. 1. Christmas and New Year's, it appears, can line up alongside smoking, obesity and high blood pressure as risk factors for cardiac mortality.

Researchers speculate that some of the things that come with the season of joy may be playing a part in heart attack deaths: rich food, alcohol and the season's stress and excitement.

Kloner has some advice on staying healthy - long enough, at least, to fail at your New Year's resolutions. He tells patients to try to avoid some of the known triggers of heart attack: too much food, salt, fat and alcohol. "Avoid excess physical exertion, overeating, lack of sleep, emotional stress and anger. They have all been associated with cardiac events," he says.

Don't let a flood of social obligations let you forget to take medications for high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or get in the way of exercise routines.

"Don't say, 'I'm at a party. I'm having chest pain, but I'll just have another drink and blow it off,'" Kloner says. It's possible that more people die on the holidays because, in a festive mood, they put off seeing a doctor even in the face of a classic symptom.

So eat right, exercise, take your medications, don't stress out over what the holidays are costing you, take Cousin Fred's bad jokes with a grain of salt -- but limit those actual grains of salt. And enjoy the party.


lounger 10 years, 2 months ago

So eat right, exercise, take your medications, don't stress out...

Yeah this is sound advise except for the medication part. A large part of medications can actually cause heart problems. GO natural and throw out the pharmys!!

perkins 10 years, 2 months ago

I agree that we should all be skeptical and ask many questions about meds. Vioxx played a major role in my father's death, causing an irregular hearbeat after 3 weeks.(Exactly why was it supposed to be better for shoulder pain than Advil?)

Be skeptical and do lots of research. Now I'm throwing on some clothes for a brisk thirty minute walk. One easy way at this time of day is to go to a laundrymat and circle the machines 50 times. I also get a load of clothes done.

Ragingbear 10 years, 2 months ago

I love uninformed and pointless articles like this. Anything you eat during December or whatever is not going to have an impact on a looming heart attack. Not really. A heart attack is an accumulation of YEARS worth of bad diet and excersize.

What really boggles me is that they claim that the suicide and depression rate goes down during this season. Quite the opposite is true. Nationwide, the suicide rate doubles during this time of year. If you know people that battle depression, right now is an important time to keep an eye on them for certain telltale symptoms that can be a muffled cry for help. But not like anyone really cares. Christmas is about buying stuff,not Peace on Earth and good will towards men.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.