Christmas Eve linked to dangerous increased risk of killer disease

While Christmas is typically filled with joy and merriment for many people, it can also be a stressful time for others. Preparing the home for guests, cooking a large dinner and buying lots of presents can be overwhelming.

And unfortunately this can take a toll on the body, according to scientists. A study, published in the British Medical Journal in 2018, found that Christmas Eve is one of the most common times of the year for a heart attack.

As part of their research, a team from Sweden analysed data from a heart attack registry taken between 1998 and 2013. They specifically wanted to see whether time factors, such as national holidays, major sports events, the hour of the day, or the day of the week, could raise your risk for a heart attack.

The data set included information on 283,014 heart attacks reported to a coronary care unit within that 16 year period. It was discovered that during the Christmas and New Year period, the risk of a heart attack increased by 15 per cent, compared to the control period.

However, this significantly rose on December 24, when the risk shot up to 37 per cent. The peak time for heart attacks on Christmas Eve was 10pm.

The researchers linked this increase to the fact Swedes hold most of their festive celebrations on Christmas Eve, as opposed to Christmas Day in the UK.

Emotions will be peaking at this time of year, they said.

It was also found that people aged over 75-years-old and/or with diabetes and existing heart disease were at the highest risk.

Midsummer, which is the second most important holiday in Sweden, was also a dangerous time for heart attack, with a 12 per cent increased risk.

Outside of holidays, Monday mornings at 8am was also linked to a higher rate of heart attacks.

The study built on previous research linking heart attacks to holidays and major events.

“In Western countries, cardiac mortality and hospital admission due to myocardial infarction [heart attack] has been observed to peak at the Christmas and New Year holiday,” the study said.

“The risk of myocardial infarction has also been linked to football championships, hurricanes, and stock market crashes.

“It is therefore conjectured that factors associated with emotional stress, physical activity, and lifestyle changes may modulate the onset of myocardial infarction by acting as short term triggers.”

It concluded: “In this large study covering 16 years of clinical myocardial infarction data, a higher risk of myocardial infarction was observed during Christmas/New Year and Midsummer holidays but not during the Easter holiday.

“The highest risk was during Christmas Eve and in patients over 75, and those with previous diabetes and coronary artery disease.

“Sports events were not associated with higher risk of myocardial infarction.”

According to the NHS, common signs of a heart attack include:

  • Chest pain – a feeling of pressure, heaviness, tightness or squeezing across your chest
  • Pain in other parts of the body – it can feel as if the pain is spreading from your chest to your arms (usually the left arm, but it can affect both arms), jaw, neck, back and tummy
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling sick (nausea) or being sick (vomiting)
  • An overwhelming feeling of anxiety (similar to a panic attack)
  • Coughing or wheezing.

If you suspect you or someone else is having a heart attack you should call 999 immediately.

You are more at risk of a heart attack if you:

  • Smoke
  • Eat high-fat diet
  • Have diabetes
  • Have high cholesterol
  • Have high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Are overweight or obese.

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