Dying for a holiday?

Christmas Eve

Why is 10pm on Christmas Eve a dangerous time for Swedes.

Swedish research led by Dr David Erlinge, from the Department of Cardiology, Clinical Sciences, at the Lund University  looked at the frequency of heart attacks at holiday times.

They have concluded that, the average daily number of heart attacks increases from 50 to 69 a on Christmas Eve massive 37% increase. Most of these occur around 10pm, following a day of too much food and excessive drinking

You may ask why Christmas Eve? The simple answer, in Swedish culture they celebrate on the 24th of December, not Christmas Day as we do in the UK.Christmas lights

Christmas Day

Therefore, it’s not unreasonable to suppose that, 10pm on Christmas Day in the UK, may be the most likely time for Brits to be having heart attacks, too.

Seemingly it doesn’t get much better on Boxing Day either, the increase remains high at 22%.

But the big surprise was New Years Eve, with no appreciable increase, and heart attack symptoms probably masked by alcohol.Paper chains

New Year

However, New Year’s Day the heart attacks again rose by 20%. Put down to after effects of too much alcohol and food, sleep deprivation and cold weather.

Dr. Erlinge said, “The peak is very pronounced, exactly on Christmas Eve and the following two days, so, I think it is something specific about the way we celebrate these holidays.

“We do not know for sure, but emotional distress with acute experience of anger, anxiety, sadness, grief, and stress increases the risk of a heart attack. Excessive food intake, alcohol, long distance travelling may also increase the risk.

“Interestingly, the pattern of increased risk in the morning which dominates the rest of the year was reversed at Christmas. With an increased risk in the evening, indicating that the stress and eating during the day triggered the heart attacks.

“People could avoid unnecessary stress, take care of elderly relatives with risk of heart problems and avoid excessive eating and drinking.”

Beliefs

The researchers believe that the emotional pressure of Christmas. Stress, anxiety, sadness, anger, grief, family disputes, financial worries and memories of lost relatives and friends, all contribute.

Of course, environmental issues such as the “flu” season will pay a part. Over 65s being most liable to succumb, especially if they have heart problems.

“People need to be aware of the increased cardiovascular risk associated with emotional distress and excessive food intake that may occur during large holidays. We also need to care more about our elderly and sicker friends and relatives,” added Dr Erlinge.

Read about this research in the British Medical Journal

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