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  • Writer's pictureJanice Buziak-Smith, M.S. CCC-SLP

Don't Let A Cardiovascular Event Catch You By Surprise This Holiday

The holiday season is here, and with it comes an increased risk of cardiovascular events, including heart attacks, stroke, and cardiac arrest. While the holidays are a time for joy and celebration, we must also be aware of the potential for elevated risk of heart-related issues.

A recent NPR story found that "nearly 800,000 Americans have a heart attack each year," with heart attack and stroke still the leading causes of death worldwide and in the United States (Aubrey, 2022). Unfortunately, cardiologists have noticed a trend spanning a few decades of increased risk of cardiovascular events during the holiday season, specifically the last week of Christmas leading into the New Year.

A number of factors may contribute to this increased risk. For example, the change in weather could be part of the explanation, as blood vessels can constrict or narrow in cold temperatures (Aubrey, 2022), causing a need for increased pressure to pump blood. However, this trend also occurs in places where the weather is not a factor. Individuals typically tend to "get off their routines during the holidays," eating more, drinking more and sleeping less (Aubrey, 2022). Elevated stress related to financial and social pressures, and even an altered medication schedule also elevate risks. Finally, physical activity often decreases during this time, leading to lowered heart health.

The American Heart Association (AHA) states that knowing the warning signs of a cardiovascular event is critical for early intervention. Knowing the signs and symptoms can lead to early intervention and save lives.

  • Heart attack: This may include chest discomfort or discomfort in other areas of the body, such as the back, arms, neck, jaw, and stomach, shortness of breath, and other unexpected ailments such as nausea, lightheadedness, or cold sweating.

  • Stroke: This may include facial drooping or numbness, arm weakness, slurred speech, or inability to speak.

  • Cardiac Arrest: This may present as a sudden loss of responsiveness or abnormal breathing.

If you or anyone in your party this holiday season shows any of these signs or symptoms, even if they go away, it is imperative to call 911 and seek immediate medical attention. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you are at high risk for heart problems or have any other serious medical conditions.

Nobody wants to worry about heart health during the holidays, but it's an important issue to consider. Being aware of the elevated risk for a heart attack, stroke, and cardiac arrest can make a big difference in keeping your heart - and you or your loved ones - safe this season.

Learn More:

Aubrey, A. (2022, December 12). Doctors warn that heart attacks Spike this time of year. NPR. Retrieved December 20, 2022, from

Heart attack, stroke and cardiac arrest symptoms. (n.d.). Retrieved December 20, 2022, from

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