Did you know that more people die from heart attacks between Christmas day and New Year’s Day than any other time of year? That’s why the American Heart Association and their network of doctors are encouraging everyone to learn CPR this holiday season.
“The holidays are a busy, often stressful, time for many of us. Routines are disrupted; we may tend to eat and drink more and exercise and relax less. We’re getting too little sleep and experiencing too much stress. We also may not be listening to our bodies or paying attention to warning signs, thinking a trip to the doctor can wait until after the new year,” said American Heart Association Chief Clinical Science Officer Mitchell S.V. Elkind, M.D., M.S., FAHA.
“While we don’t know exactly why there are more deadly heart attacks during this time of year, it’s important to be aware that all of these factors can be snowballing contributors to increasing the risk for a deadly cardiac event.”
Sadly, most cardiac deaths occur on Christmas Day than any other day of the year; the second-most cardiac deaths occur on December 26, and third-most occur on January 1. You may think that cold weather has something to do with the uptick, considering the cardiovascular system undergoes more natural stress during winter months. But temperate climates like Los Angeles report the same high heart attack figures, as do figures in New Zealand, where the seasons are flipped below the equator.
Therefore, the data suggests that the trend is likely stress-related.
“Don’t ignore heart attack warning signs because you don’t want to spoil the holidays, the consequences could be much worse,” Elkind said. “And learn CPR. The whole family can learn how to do it, it’s simple enough to do.”
Older readers may remember CPR for both the pumping and the mouth-breathing, but doctors now recommend pumping-only during critical situations.
“We do recommend hands-only CPR now. Because when you press on the chest, you also help to fill the lungs with oxygen so you don’t need to breathe into the person’s mouth. You can just use hands on the chest to do that,” said Elkind.
Beyond learning CPR, the other way to prepare for cardiovascular issues is to learn the warning signs. Chest pain is the primary symptom of a heart attack, but other symptoms exist, too. Lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, jaw pain, neck pain, left shoulder pain, and shortness of breath are all possible indicators of a heart attack.