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Risk of heart attack in US and West peaks on Christmas Eve: Study


The risk of suffering a heart attack in the US and other Western countries is highest on Christmas Eve, likely due to negative emotions like anger and anxiety, as well as overeating and excessive alcohol consumption, according to a new study.

Christmas Eve came with a 15 percent increase in the risk of heart attacks, researchers in Sweden said in a study published in the British Medical Journal.

The authors explain feelings of anger, anxiety, sadness, grief and stress have been found to increase the risk of heart attack in previous studies. In the current study, those older than 75 and those with a history of diabetes and coronary artery disease were found to be most vulnerable to heart attack triggers.

“Holiday stress, both emotional and financial, can lead to spikes in norepinephrine and adrenaline, which can have detrimental effects on the cardiovascular system,” said Dr. Kaitlyn Ibrahim, a board-certified internal medicine physician specializing in cardiology in an interview with ABC News.

In addition, people often over-exert themselves around this time of the year and indulge in foods and drinks they may not normally consume, like excessive alcohol, caffeine and fat-rich foods, explained Ibrahim.

Ibrahim said the holidays can also come with what is known as “holiday heart syndrome,” a condition that brings both healthy adults and adults with heart disease to medical centers around the country for abnormal heart rhythms following overeating and excessive alcohol consumption.

In addition to healthy habits, Dr. Barbara Robles, a psychiatrist at Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio said that self-care is more important than ever during the holiday season.

“Go out for a walk or just get some fresh air and know your limits. Remove yourself from situations and conversations that you know are likely to cause you anger, anxiety or stress,” said Robles in an interview with ABC news.

“Remember also to offer comfort to those who are at high risk of stress and emotional distress. Be extra mindful of those who may have lost a loved one over the holidays…offer them a big hug, a tap on the shoulder, some warm words and a listening ear,” Robles said.

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