In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds. That number is often said to spike during the holidays.

While the holidays are a fun and festive time, they can also wreak havoc on your health. In fact, research shows that the most likely days someone is bound to suffer a fatal heart attack are during the holidays–specifically Christmas, the day after, and New Year’s Day.  It is a time when our board-certified cardiothoracic specialists at CTVS urge you to take caution and care for your heart.

What causes heart attacks during the holidays?

Cardiac experts point to a few factors that likely contribute to stress on the heart over Christmas and New Year’s. Here’s what they are:

  • Overindulgence in things like salty and fatty foods and lack of regular exercise and quality sleep
  • Exposure to seasonal viruses such as the flu, COVID-19, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) that can all have very serious symptoms and side effects damaging to the heart
  • Stress stemming from financial burdens or family issues that are often exacerbated during the holidays
  • Reluctance to seek medical help for chest pains or other heart attack symptoms if traveling or away from home

Knowing the warning signs of when a heart attack is occurring though and how to take action (call 911 right away) can provide better outcomes for you and your loved ones. Common warning signs of a heart attack include:

  • Sudden chest pain and/or tightening of the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Sometimes lightheadedness, nausea or vomiting

One other factor that could contribute to heart attacks at this time of year is the cold weather.

How does cold weather affect the heart?

In cooler months, blood vessels constrict, or shrink. This can lead to increased blood pressure as the body has to work harder to pump blood through the narrowed vessels creating undue stress throughout the circulatory system. Those who have existing heart conditions should take special care to bundle up outside when it’s cold and avoid overexertion.

In order to best prevent a heart attack due to the stress of the holiday season and these colder winter months, our CTVS cardiothoracic specialists recommend:

  • Continuing to eat a healthy diet and exercise during the holidays
  • Limiting stress and getting sufficient rest
  • Scheduling dedicated time for yourself to take breaks during all of the many activities
  • Protecting yourself in cold weather
  • Paying attention to your body and acting fast if you feel any sudden or unexpected pains in your chest or experience any of the other heart attack signs

Never hesitate to call 911 or delay a trip to the ER if you suspect you or a loved one are having a heart attack.

Our entire team at CTVS wishes all of our patients, their families, and their hearts, a happy and healthy holiday!

For questions about any of our cardiac, thoracic, or vascular services, please visit or call us at (512) 459-8753 to schedule an appointment.

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