Don't Neglect Heart Attack Warning Signs Over the Holidays

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     JTFMax Health:

    The American Heart Association is drawing attention to a startling study conclusion this holiday season: More people have fatal heart attacks on Dec. 25, followed by Dec. 26 and Jan. 1, than any other time of the year.

    The study, in the Heart Association journal Circulation, pointed to disruptions in people's routines and the added stress the holidays can bring as possible contributing factors.

    Dr. Peter Panagos, professor of emergency medicine and neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said that holiday stress could be a matter of degree.

    "We know that chronic stress is a risk factor for increased cardiovascular disease over time, and certainly increased stress -- you know, sudden increases of stress hormones in the blood -- can lead to high blood pressure," Panagos explained. "They can trigger cardiac events if you're predisposed to them, to begin with."

    The Heart Association encourages people to manage their stress, eat and drink in moderation, continue healthy exercise and sleep habits, and take their prescribed medications, especially blood pressure meds. And it stressed the importance of responding quickly to warning signs by calling 911.

    Panagos noted chest pain is the most common, but jaw or arm pain, shortness of breath, unexplained sweating, nausea, or vomiting should also not be ignored.

    Panagos cautioned people against prioritizing holiday gatherings over seeking care if they are experiencing concerning symptoms. However, he added they do not hesitate to seek hospital emergency care because of news reports about emergency departments being overwhelmed with flu, COVID, and RSV cases.

    "There are certain conditions such as heart attack, stroke, and major trauma, that if you arrive to the emergency department, no matter how busy we are, we are going to prioritize those symptoms and complaints," Panagos stressed. "If you need quick and efficient, timely medical care, you will get that, no matter how busy we are."

    Panagos pointed out an ambulance is the recommended means of transportation to the emergency department.

    "Our paramedics and EMTs are extremely well-trained for recognizing signs and symptoms of heart attack and stroke," Panagos emphasized. "Often, they will call ahead and give us some advance warning, so we can be prepared when someone who may be having a heart attack arrives."

    He added minutes could make a crucial difference and observed people who arrive by ambulance often receive care more quickly than those who arrive at a hospital by car and go to the main entrance. 

    As with men, women's most common heart attack symptom is chest pain (angina) or discomfort. But women may experience other symptoms typically less associated with heart attacks, such as shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.


    Disclosure: The American Heart Association of Missouri contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. 



    Study American Heart Assn. Journals 12/13/2004
    Heart attack signs American Heart Assn. 2022