Healthy Living: Research shows heart attacks peak on Christmas Day

Ever heard of "holiday heart attacks"?  It's a real thing!  According to the American Heart Association, more people die from heart attacks during the holidays than any other time of the year.

In fact, research from a 2004 report

shows more cardiac deaths occurred on December 25th than any other day of the year, followed by December 26th and January 1st.

Dr. Francisco Yuvienco with CHI Franciscan Health says part of the reason is changes in lifestyle around the holidays.  Poor diet, lack of exercise and increased alcohol play a role in increased risk of a heart attack, but the biggest culprit may be stress.  Doctors say stress can cause blood vessels to narrow.  Stress can also causes an inflammatory cascade which is not healthy for your blood vessels and releases endogenous proteins that can causes clots to happen in otherwise healthy blood vessels.

Another concern, according to Dr. Yuvienco, is people who are suffering symptoms of a heart attack often delay seeing a doctor or going to the emergency department, primarily out of inconvenience.

Warning signs for a heart attack include chest discomfort, discomfort in areas of the upper body, shortness of breath, a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.  In addition, women may also experience vomiting, back and/or jaw pain.

If you or someone you know experiences any of these symptoms, call 911 right away to get it checked out.  Minutes matter in saving lives and preserving quality of life.

For more information visit the American Heart Association

Remember, cold weather can also play a role in an increased risk for heart attacks.  Chilly temperatures can constrict arteries and increase demand on the heart.

According to the American Heart Association, people who have had a heart attack are at increased risk of another one and should be careful through the holidays as their habits change.