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Heart attacks rise during holidays, 'holiday heart syndrome' linked to stress

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Posted at 8:58 PM, Dec 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-27 17:28:44-05

CLEVELAND  — There are a lot of factors that can lead to a heart attack and medical professionals warn that these cases rise during the holidays.

The American Heart Association said people die of heart attacks between Dec. 25 and Jan. 1 more than any other time of the year.

And this year, hospitals in Northeast Ohio are already strained.

"They call it holiday heart syndrome," said Dr. Ian Neeland, a cardiologist at University Hospitals.

"Our hospitals need our help now." said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, director of the Ohio Department of Health, in a press conference on Wednesday.

COVID-19 cases are increasing steeply and hospital beds in intensive care units and emergency departments are filling up.

"And as a result, we have backups in the emergency department," said Dr. David Custodio at the same public update. Custodio is with Summa Health in Akron. He warned of the issues Ohio hospitals are facing but urged people who need help should not delay care.

The increase in visits during the holidays because of heart problems has a name.

"People are kind of more stressed during the holidays and can bring about a predilection to get a heart attack or stroke or have a heart issue," Neeland said. He also pointed to the increase in drinking and a change in eating habits as reasons why heart attacks rise.

He wants people to keep up healthy routines during the last few weeks of the year.

"Don't let all that football and all those bowl games make you sit on the couch all the time," he said. "Definitely get up, take walks."

Signs of a heart attack can vary for each person and also for men and women. In general, the American Heart Association wants people to look for chest pains, shortness of breath and lightheadedness. In women, there may also be discomfort in both arms, jaw, stomach and back.