Heart attacks spike during winter holidays

More people die from heart attacks between Dec. 25 and Jan. 1 than during any other week of the year, with Christmas Day being the most fatal day, says research from the American Heart Association. Dec. 26 and Jan. 1 are the second- and third-highest days for heart attacks, respectively. 

Several factors of the holiday season can affect our heart health, including altered diets, exercise and sleep routines, says Dr. Eugene Yang, co-director of the UW Medicine Cardiovascular Wellness and Prevention Program

Increased alcohol intake also can result in "holiday heart" syndrome

“It is a very potentially serious condition that causes people to develop heart failure symptoms,” Yang said. “Certain people might be more predisposed to it, but you can have no history of any heart-related conditions and drink excessively or consume too much alcohol during the holidays, and you could create a situation where you develop atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure — even in the absence of any preexisting risk factors.” 

Researchers say elevated stress levels and dehydration appear to be secondary contributors in many cases of holiday heart syndrome. 

Download broadcast-ready soundbites on holiday heart syndrome.

UW Medicine