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Christmas Eve linked to a higher heart attack risk

A Swedish study has found that the risk of having a heart attack peaks on Christmas Eve, especially for people who are sick or elderly. The researchers say the elevated danger is most likely the result of heightened emotional stress.

The risk of myocardial infarction was also found to be higher on New Years’ Day, during summer holidays, and on Monday mornings. According to the study, the chance of a heart attack was not increased during the Easter holiday or major sporting events.

The investigation was focused on whether national holidays, major sport events, the hour of the day, or day of the week could trigger a heart attack. Using data in the Swedish coronary care unit registry from 1998 to 2013, the researchers analyzed the exact timing of 283,014 heart attacks.

The study revealed that Christmas was associated with a 15 percent higher risk of heart attack, while midsummer holidays were linked to a 12 percent higher risk. The rate of heart attacks was also found to be higher during the early morning hours around 8:00 a.m. and on Mondays.

However, by far the biggest threat for a heart attack was found to be on Christmas Eve, when there is a 37 percent increased risk that peaks around 10:00 p.m. The danger is particularly elevated for individuals over the age of 75, and also among those with existing diabetes and heart disease.

Surprisingly, there was no higher heart attack risk associated with New Years’ Eve, which is considered to be a major day for celebrations. The experts found that the higher risk was instead on New Year’s Day, which they say was “possibly explained by a negligence and masking of symptoms due to alcohol.” Contrary to the findings of previous studies, no increased hazard was seen during sporting events.

The study authors pointed out that anger, stress, sadness, and grief have all been identified as potential triggers for a heart attack, and people are more likely to experience these heightened emotions during national holidays.

The research is published in the journal The BMJ.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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