The holidays are a time for celebrating with family and friends, but it is also a time of overindulging and stress. According to a 2016 report in the Journal of the American Heart Association, heart-related deaths spike during Christmas. While more research is needed on the cause, researchers suggest emotional stress, changes in diet and alcohol consumption, less staff at medical facilities, and changes in physical environment (i.e. visiting relatives) could play a role in the spike in deaths.

The report also noted that patients hold back in seeking medical care during the holiday season. If you or a loved one experiences the warning signs of heart attack, don’t delay, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Heart attack warning signs include:

Discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.

Discomfort in other areas of the upper body, including pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.

Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort.

Other signs may include breaking out into a cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness.

According to the American Heart Association, up to 80 percent of heart diseases and stroke can be prevented with simple lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet, getting at least 150 minutes of physical activity weekly, managing stress, and getting at least seven hours of sleep daily.

For more healthy lifestyle tips, visit

Rachana Kulkarni, MD, FACC, MBA

American Heart Association/American Stroke Association South-Central NJ Board

of Directors, Hillsborough

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