(KTVI)- One factor that may put you at risk for a heart attack during the holidays is too much alcohol. Dr. Elie Azrak, a Cardiologist with SSM Depaul Health Center, tells us why cardiac problems spike this time of year.
He also shares more about the role alcohol plays in the increased risk.
In a national study, researchers discovered an overall increase of 5% more heart-related deaths during the holiday season. According to the study, the number of cardiac deaths is higher on Dec. 25th than on any other day of the year, second highest on Dec. 26th, and third highest on Jan. 1st.
Cold weather is hard on the heart. Blood vessels constrict, which raises blood pressure. Blood also clots more readily. Frigid temperatures increase strain on the heart, and too much physical exertion can worsen the burden and trigger a heart attack. For example, doctors have treated many patients whose heart attacks followed strenuous snow shoveling.
Some common-sense measures during this special time of year:
• Try to avoid exposure to very cold temperatures. Dress warmly.
• Steer clear of heart stressors, including too much physical exertion (especially snow shoveling), anger, and emotional stress.
• Avoid excess salt and alcohol. Too much drinking-- for example, binge drinking -- can lead to atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heart rhythm in which disorganized electrical signals cause the heart`s two upper chambers to contract irregularly. Atrial fibrillation increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart failure.
• If you feel chest pain or other symptoms, call 911 for emergency help.
Here are some important symptoms:
• Chest pain is common for both sexes. It could feel like heaviness, burning, or squeezing in the center of the chest. Some people describe the discomfort in terms of tightness or pressure, which may radiate from the chest to either arm, the jaw, neck, or back.
• Less common symptoms for both sexes include breaking out in a cold sweat, general weakness, nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness and/or lightheadedness, and/or discomfort or pain between the shoulder blades.
• Women are more likely than men to complain of the less common symptoms listed above, as well as jaw and back pain, unusual fatigue, and trouble sleeping due to the pain. They may also have a sense that something is terribly wrong or feel an impending sense of doom. Because these are not necessarily the typical symptoms, and women still often perceive themselves as being less likely to experience a heart attack than men, they are slower to seek medical attention and therefore are at greater risk of dying from a heart attack than men.