A study published in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation found more cardiac deaths happen on Christmas Day than on any other day of the year.
The second highest number of cardiac deaths typically happen on December 26, and New Years’ Day traditionally sees the third most.
Dr. Mitch Elkind, the American Heart Association’s Chief Clinical Science Officer, attributed the rise in holiday heart attacks to increased stress, poor eating, routine disruption and a lack of exercise. He said it’s important that people not overlook their symptoms.
“If you’re feeling a little bit of chest discomfort, a little twinge of pain, some fluttering in the chest around the holidays, don’t put it off till the new year. Seek help now, because if you don’t, you might not get that chance later,” Dr. Elkind said.
Going for a 20-to-30-minute walk daily or taking some time to consciously relax are a couple of recommendations from Dr. Elkind to remain heart-healthy this holiday season.
He also said it’s okay to partake in the big family meals that are sometimes fattier than usual and riddled with sweets. He does warn not to overindulge.
Warning signs of a heart attack include chest discomfort, pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach, shortness of breath, as well as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Cardiac arrest, according to the AHA, is when a person abruptly loses their heart function and can be deadly if appropriate steps aren’t taken immediately.
If someone is experiencing cardiac arrest, Dr. Elkind said to get them help as soon as possible.
He said to call 911 and then start CPR immediately. “The purpose of the CPR is really to just provide enough pressure that the blood flows to the brain because the brain is the first organ to suffer in a cardiac arrest,” Elkind said. “It can only tolerate about three minutes or so of lack of blood flow before there’s irreversible damage.”
It’s advised that Hands-Only CPR be performed on a person who’s in cardiac arrest at 60 beats per minute until emergency responders arrive and can take over.