Does the name “Happy New Year Heart Attack” mean anything to you? Well, Happy New Year Heart Attack/Merry Christmas Coronary is the name given to the increased number of cardiac arrests or myocardial infarction deaths during the festive seasons like Christmas and New Year.
According to a study conducted from 1999-2012, it was observed that there were seasonal variations in cardiac mortality among people living in Los Angeles and California. The study concluded that there were more ischemic cardiac deaths in winter than in summer. One third of the ischemic cardiac deaths were recorded from December and January. This was attributed to the climatic conditions during these months in the past.
As the study progressed, daily deaths were plotted during November, December, and January. The deaths started around Thanksgiving, climbing through Christmas, peaking on New Year’s Day, and then falling afterward. There were no changes in the temperatures during December and January. Almost the borderline temperature remained flat. It was concluded that temperature changes has nothing to do with cardiac deaths.
Well, the researchers concluded that the peak in cardiac deaths during the holidays might result from other factors, including the emotional stress of the holidays, overindulgence during the holiday season, or both.
Another study conducted by Phillips and coworkers and published in the same journal Circulation, confirmed the findings of the first study. They compared both cardiac and non-cardiac deaths in other parts of the United States as well. This study also described 2 discrete peaks in cardiac death — one for Christmas and the other for New Year’s. This holiday peak was observed nationwide and it worsened in the subsequent years.
Essentially, the possible mechanisms include:
Delay in seeking medical care
Non-availability of healthcare professionals
Increased emotional stress
Increased intake of alcohol and foods
Past history of respiratory problems
Colder weather, leading to increased vascular resistance, coronary spasm, hemostasis and thrombus formation, and O2 demand
More research is needed to identify the mechanism involved so that the number of cardiac deaths can be decreased. Hence patients and common people are advised to know the risk factors of the disease. All of them should be educated regarding the following:
Avoid delay in seeking medical care when symptoms occur
You should be well aware of symptoms of the cardiac diseases
Identify your own risk actors like hypertension, diabetes, respiratory diseases etc, and get them treated accordingly
All the healthcare staff should be on the alert and available
Avoid exposure to cold temperatures
Get vaccinated against flu
Avoid outdoor activities when air pollution is at its peak
Always have lifesaving drugs handy (Aspirin, Sorbitrate etc. are recommended)
Physicians should be aware of this “Merry Christmas Coronary,” and “Happy New Year Heart Attack” phenomenon. That way, they can help their patients to minimize coronary risk factors that will trigger acute myocardial infarction, most especially during the winter holiday season.
Robert A. Kloner. The “Merry Christmas Coronary” and “Happy New Year Heart Attack” Phenomenon. https://doi.org/10.1161/01.CIR.0000151786.03797.18Circulation. 2004; 110:3744–3745. 21 Dec 2004