In the U.S., China, and Western Europe, there is an increase in the occurrence rates of sudden cardiac events around the holidays and during the winter. Known as the holiday heart syndrome, the heart muscle beat becomes irregular due to an increase in stress, alcohol ingestion or too much rich food.
Hospital emergency wards can see three or four times the regular number of patients presenting with a sudden cardiac event like a heart attack.
According to American Heart Association spokesperson, Dr. R. Stein, “It happens in cold climates, sometimes when sedentary people or those with heart disease take on too much snow shovelling, or spend too much time outdoors. Cold weather can constrict arteries, increasing demand on the heart, But it also happens in warm places.”
The heart is also taxed excessively from the stress of the holiday season combined with too much holiday liquid cheer and fat or sugar calories which can make the blood sticky and increase blood pressure. This can place the heart in a stressful situation where it may not be able to get enough oxygen.
If you already have a heart condition, or you are at an increased risk, the holiday heart syndrome may be a lot more relevant to you. Research indicates that in the U.S., fatal heart attack risks nationwide increase approximately five percent during Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year ’s Day! This equates to an additional 2,000 deaths annually from fatal cardiac events around the holiday season.
Excessive alcohol consumption in susceptible individuals can cause an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation. Although this can be a serious issue, it usually resolves on its own. However, most people who suffer this issue during the holiday season do not drink alcohol regularly so the increased dosage is where the problem lies.
My advice is to not overexert yourself if you have an increased risk of a heart attack and you have been sedentary for an extended period of time. Try not to get too stressed over the holidays, have fun, and enjoy the experience.Try not to place yourself into stressful situations and eat modest amounts of food.
Remember to pace yourself during the holiday season! Drink responsibly and do not drink and drive! If you have any unusual symptoms like fatigue, tightness in your chest, pain, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting or sweating, see a medical professional immediately.
“Heart Attacks Among Seasonal Risks, Doctors Say,” CBC News web site; http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/heart-attacks-among-seasonal-risks-doctors-say-1.2475343,last accessed Dec.24, 2013.