For many of us, surprises around the holidays are a good thing. But there’s one surprise that’s never welcome any time of year — a heart attack.
Unfortunately, a new study shows that heart attacks are more likely to occur on December 24.
The Swedish study, published in the British Medical Journal, found that your heart’s limits are tested because of the holiday season, with Christmas Eve being the peak day for cardiac arrest.
Researchers looked at 283,014 people who had suffered a heart attack over a span of 16 years, between 1998 and 2014. They honed in on the details surrounding the attacks, looking at symptoms the participants felt as well as other factors associated with the attack.
The result? Risk of myocardial infarction shot up by 37% during the holiday season. By sifting through the data, they were even able to establish the exact hour the heart attack was likeliest to occur.
That hour was 10:00 PM on December 24th.
People over the age of 75 who also have a history of medical conditions like diabetes and coronary artery disease are at an increased risk than their younger counterparts.
The goal of the study was to determine if things like sporting events and holidays served as triggers for heart attacks. And boy, do they.
However, at least New Year’s Eve and the day of the Super Bowl don’t elevate your risk of a heart attack.
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In addition to Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day are high risk days for the heart. Mondays are the worst days of the week, and early morning hours — before 8:00 AM — are also bad for your ticker.
This year, Christmas Eve falls on a Monday, making it an extra problematic day.
Why is Christmas Eve so dangerous?
So what is it about the night before Christmas that is so dangerous for your heart?
The researchers couldn’t say for sure, but they have some theories…
“We do not know for sure but many mechanisms may be involved of which emotional distress with acute experience of anger, anxiety, sadness, grief, and stress increases the risk of myocardial infarction,” researcher David Erlinge at Lund University’s Department of Cardiology said.
He added, “Excessive food intake, alcohol, long distance traveling may also increase the risk of heart attack.”
In the United States, a heart attack occurs every 40 seconds. That means about 790,000 people have a heart attack every year — and one out of every five of those attacks are “silent,” meaning they have no obvious symptoms.
It’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible when undergoing a heart attack, which is what makes “silent” heart attacks so devastating. The longer you wait to seek help after a heart attack, the more damage your heart muscle suffers.
Signs and symptoms of a heart attack include chest pain; sweating; shortness of breath; discomfort in the throat, neck, and jaw; stomach pain; heartburn; and arm, back, and chest pain.
Symptoms don’t show up the same in every person, and women present different signs than men. For instance, a woman may experience body pain, fatigue, changes in body temperature, and dizziness.
Be vigilant during the holidays and share this study with your loved ones. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, call 911 immediately.
This story originally appeared at Goodfullness.
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