“Silent Night, Deadly Night” may be a 1980s slasher horror movie, but it did have one thing right: The risk for having a heart attack is higher on Christmas Eve.
The study, published in the Christmas issue of the British Medical Journal, found the highest risk of heart attack came at 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve. There was a greater risk of heart attacks on New Year’s Day, but not during Easter or major sporting events like the Olympics or soccer’s World Cup.
Beyond the holidays, heart attacks most often happened early in the morning and on, of course, Mondays.
The Swedish study took an expansive look at over 16 years of data, ranging from 1998 to 2013, on more than 280,000 cases of myocardial infarction.
Researchers wanted to find out if heart attacks were more likely to happen on major holidays or important sporting events. The Swedish holidays they focused on were Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, the Epiphany, Good Friday, Easter Eve, Easter, Easter Monday, and their Midsummer holiday.
How to prevent a heart attack
According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. They offered some lifestyle tips that could help prevent a heart attack:
• Have a healthy diet with nutrient-rich foods rather than junk food. The emphasis should be on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, poultry, fish and nuts, while limiting sweets and red meat.
• Get some physical activity every day.
• Stop smoking. (Kudos if you’re already a non-smoker.)
• Don’t drink too much alcohol.
• If applicable, work on lowering your high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. If you have diabetes, try to manage that as well.
• Reduce your stress levels.
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