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‘Holiday Heart’: spike in heart attacks in last 2 weeks of December

By Cara Murez

health day reporter

MONDAY, Dec. 19, 2022 (HealthDay News) — The holiday season is full of to-do lists, but you have to rise to the top: take care of your heart.

Whether it’s from stress, the cold or the loss of good eating, sleeping and drinking habits, heart attack rates soar by up to 40% between Christmas and New Years, according to cardiologist Dr. Donald Lloyd Jones. He is chair of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

“When we look at the year in terms of heart attack rates, we see fairly consistent rates week over week, with two exceptions: the first is that there is a broad and shallow decline during the summer months. and, secondly, there is a very short spike of around 30% to 40% in the last two weeks of the year between Christmas and New Years,” Lloyd-Jones said in a press release from the company. ‘university.

It’s important not to underestimate the symptoms, he stressed.

“We have two kidneys and two lungs, but only one heart and one brain, so it’s much safer to err on the side of caution,” Lloyd-Jones said. “If in doubt, get checked in person. At best, I hope you abort a heart attack or stroke. Time is the heart muscle, time is the brain cells, and therefore time is of the essence. The sooner you seek help in this situation, the sooner we can save your life or your brain.”

Family stress is a problem for some, as well as the loss of healthy habits.

“During the holiday season, there are different stresses, like dealing with your in-laws and travel arrangements that can add stress,” Lloyd-Jones said. “We often get thrown off our feet by our eating and sleeping habits, we tend to drink more alcohol, we don’t keep up with our usual physical activity, and we risk being kicked out of our medication regimen.

The weather is another culprit when it comes to heart problems in the winter.

“When we breathe in cold air, it cools the blood in our lungs and causes blood vessels to constrict,” Lloyd-Jones said. “The first blood vessels downstream of the lungs are the coronary arteries, which are particularly affected by the cold. Pursuing activities in cold weather, such as shoveling, can be particularly dangerous because we might overdo it, and we wear extra layers, which could cause us to overheat. It’s a perfect storm to maximize the stress on the heart.

Classic heart attack symptoms in men are heavy, crushing pressure in the middle of the chest or sudden, unexplained shortness of breath.

Symptoms in women can be the same or more diffuse, such as simple shortness of breath or deep fatigue, or sometimes dizziness and lightheadedness.

Stroke signs can be memorized using the “FAST” memory aid. It means: drooping face; Weakness of an arm or leg on one side; Speech difficulty; and Time to call 911.

Heart attacks and strokes are the leading causes of death in the United States and around the world.

More information

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on heart attacks.

SOURCE: Northwestern Medicine, press release, December 14, 2022

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