Heart Attack Risk Higher During Holidays

RENO, NV - The treadmill is part of a stress test performed to diagnose patients with heart disease.

Half marathon runner Sondra Workman says she was the last person you'd expect to have heart damage resulting from a heart attack.

“If I wouldn't have found out and I wouldn't have seen those images myself, I wouldn't have believed it,” says Sondra.

And believe it or not, this time of year is prime for those at risk to suffer a heart attack.

”I think we do see more heart attacks over the holidays. By some estimates maybe as much as 5% higher risk of a heart attack during the months of December and early January,” says Cardiologist Dr. Richard Bryan with St. Mary's Regional Medical Center.

There are regional and national reasons for the spike in heart attacks.

Cold winter weather and shoveling snow are two good reasons.

In the Truckee Meadows, altitude for those not used to the higher elevations and smog can be contributing factors.

The increase includes fatal and non-fatal heart attacks as well as a less serious conditions called "holiday heart syndrome."

“We see some people who will come in, perhaps have been drinking a little more than they should, and it's the next morning they wake up and notice their heart fibrillating like a fish flopping around in their chest, and we call that holiday heart syndrome,” says Dr. Colin Fuller, a cardiologist with Northern Nevada Medical Center.

No one wants to go through testing like this over the holidays, which is one reason many people will choose to ignore symptoms they may be having.

They won't tell anyone about the heavy feeling in the chest, the radiating pain down one side, or pain the in jaw.

“It can only be treated and prevented if you seek medical care,” says Dr. Bryan.

Dr. Bryan says remember, time is muscle.

According to a study in the medical publication “Circulation”, the number of cardiac deaths is higher December 25 than any other day of the year. The second highest is December 26; The 3rd is January 1.

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