Risk of Having a Heart Attack May Peak on Christmas Eve

The holidays are a time of joy, from spending time with family to giving and receiving gifts. However, according to a new report, it also comes with a heightened risk of cardiac arrest.

heart attack

Holidays and Heart Attacks

The study, done by researchers in Sweden, looked at various holidays and sporting events to find links to heart attacks. Over 300,000 heart attack patients in a period of 15 years were plotted by day to find any spikes.

What they found was a large increase in risk around Christmas and New Year’s. Compared to a regular December day, heart attack risk on those days was a whopping 15% higher.

Heightened Risk on Christmas

The day that claimed the highest risk of a heart attack, though, was Christmas Eve. They even found a spike in a specific time of day – 10pm. At that specific time, risk of heart attack spiked 37%.

Keep in mind, in Sweden, the main Christmas celebration is during Christmas Eve. Therefore, the highest risk of a heart attack in other countries would likely be on Christmas Day.

But Why?

What causes this phenomenon is unclear, but Dr. David Erlinge, senior author of the study, has some ideas. Erlinge is the head of cardiology at Skane University Hospital in Lund and he said, “many mechanisms may be involved.”

It could be emotional distress, anxiety or just stress from something such as long-distance travelling. It could also be the amount of food and alcohol people consume on Christmas. All of these can increase the odds of a heart attack on their own. When they combine during the holidays, they might create a perfect storm to cause such a spike.

Study Shows Correlations

While there is no definitive proof that the holidays cause heart attacks, this study shows there’s a correlation. It’s important to not put the elderly or those with known heart issues through too much stress this holiday season.

Don’t forget to take any medications and try to tone down the food and alcohol consumption. Study authors also recommend keeping political discussion out of the holidays, as it can cause people to get worked up.