During the holidays, we frequently indulge in a number of activities that may increase our risk of a heart attack. And more heart attacks occur during the holiday season, according to research on the subject.
In 1999, Dr. Robert Kloner at USC in California headed a study evaluating 222,265 death records from Los Angeles.
“Cardiac deaths in December and January were found to be 33% higher than in summer months, with a dramatic increase in deaths starting at Thanksgiving and continuing through the New Year's holiday,” reported The Los Angeles Times.
One might want to attribute this to “winter” weather but while it is colder in Los Angeles in their winter, people are not typically shoveling snow or doing other exertional winter activities.
Though this is an older study, it is still frequently referenced today.
Another follow-up study in 2004, published in Circulation led by Sociologist David Phillips, found that nation wide, 5 percent more deaths — cardiac as well as non-cardiac — occurred around the two holiday weeks from Dec. 25 to Jan. 7. This was based on a review of 53 million U.S. death certificates from between the years of 1973 and 2001.
The researchers also found that the three peak days when deaths occurred were Dec. 25, Dec. 26 and Jan. 1.
The question is, what are people doing during holiday times that may increase their risk of heart attacks?
For one, there is a condition called "holiday heart syndrome."
Holiday heart syndrome is when a person’s heart develops an irregular heart rhythm after drinking large amounts of alcohol. Having an irregular heart rhythm can increase one’s risk of a heart attack.
The term was coined after a 1978 study by Philip Ettinger who observed 24 patients who had irregular heart rhythms after a weekend of holiday binge drinking.