No Myth: Your Heart Attack Chance Increases During Holidays

Let’s talk turkey: does the holiday season really increase your chance of having a heart attack? Sadly, the answer is a resounding yes, according to multiple robust research studies. There are multiple reasons for this, which include:

  • Colder Weather. Circulation becomes more difficult in colder weather, leading to a higher possibility of blood clot formation
  • Strenuous Activity. Shoveling Snow, for example, increases your oxygen demand, which may be impaired by blockages in your heart called arteriosclerosis. This may lead to heart attack.
  • Large, heavy, fat-laden meals (like the one you just consumed) — these direct blood flow to your digestive organs and away from your heart, increasing a risk of oxygen deprivation and heart attack.

While the risk is not greatly increased (somewhere around five percent) it is enough that you should take any warning signs quite seriously during the holiday season.

Knowing the risk factors for heart attack and warning signs are highly related to seeking early treatment and preventing death, according to multiple research studies.

Risk factors for heart attack include: diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, male gender, advanced age, African-American descent, smoking, working the night shift, and lower socioeconomic status.

While there are cardinal signs that signal heart attack, they are not the same for all people. Women and diabetics, for example, may not experience the major symptom of chest pain. Instead, they may experience nausea and vomiting, difficulty breathing, sweating, and/or severe anxiety. Some people even experience “silent heart attacks” — a brief period in which they felt unwell but didn’t seek treatment, and later discover during routine testing that they had a heart attack.

While not every person experiences every symptom, some of the major signs and symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Chest pain, discomfort, or heaviness in the chest
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Chest pain that is not relieved by rest
  • Profuse sweating
  • Feeling of doom or impending death
  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, or coughing up pink sputum
  • Pain that radiates to the shoulder, jaw, back, or teeth
  • An intense urge to deny that you are feeling any of the above things

While heart disease is still a common cause of morbidity and mortality, great strides in medicine have been made that mean more people than ever are surviving heart attacks. The very most important thing to do is to seek emergency care immediately if you experience symptoms; dialing 911 is your safest option.

Just a bite of reality with your pumpkin pie. Happy Holidays!

[Image via Getty]