Posted on 12/18/2018

NOTE: The following article was originally published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and states there is a high risk of both heart attacks and cardiac arrest at Christmastime. However, the original article it references, which appeared in the British Medical Journal, refers to heart attacks only. While heart attacks can lead to sudden cardiac arrest, they are very different conditions, requiring different responses. We apologize for any confusion.

From good food to thoughtful gifts, Christmas Eve is often a time to spend with family. But beware, it’s also the time of year there’s the greatest risk of a heart attack, according to a new report.

Researchers from health institutions in Sweden recently conducted a study, published in the British Medical Journal, to explore national holidays and sporting events as triggers of a heart attack.

To do so, they examined nearly 300,000 heart attack patients in Sweden over a 15-year period. The data they reviewed included the date and time when the symptoms started. 

After analyzing the results, they found Christmastime was peak time for heart attacks in Sweden. In fact, they said the risk of heart attack* was 15 percent higher on Christmas Day and 37 percent higher on Christmas Eve, compared with the two weeks before and after the holiday.

Furthermore, they said you’re more likely to have a heart attack around 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

The scientists also found a 20 percent increased risk on New Year’s Day and a 12 percent spike on Midsummer, a mid-June Swedish holiday. 

There was no apparent link between heart attacks and New Year’s Eve, Easter and sporting events. 

The authors suspect some holidays can bring on stress. Traveling, dealing with difficult relatives and preparing meals and activities can be challenging. 

But despite their findings, they noted association does not equal causation. 

“Understanding what factors, activities, and emotions precede these myocardial infarctions and how they differ from myocardial infarctions experienced on other days,” the team wrote, “could help develop a strategy to manage and reduce the number of these events.”

*The AJC incorrectly referred to cardiac arrest.

SOURCE: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution