Is there really a correlation with the Christmas season heart-related deaths? First, we heard this claim from American scientists, and now a new study from New Zealand has repeated the disturbing revelation.
The worrisome spike in heart deaths results from the so-called Christmas Holiday Effect, and the Kiwis, who witness the start of summer right before the holiday season, have also been suffering from the unprecedented problem.
What causes it?
The paper claims that due to the “Holiday Effect” people tend to wait too long to receive care when they face some heart attack symptoms, simply because people don’t want to “ruin the celebrations” and be a party pooper for their friends and family.
But the second, and even more unfortunate reason is quoted by the paper to be
“both hastening and postponement of death for reasons associated with the holiday period.”
This doesn’t include suicides for the lack of data, but the phenomenon is close to it. It might be that your grandma wanted to see you one last time before succumbing to her heart troubles, or maybe your uncle just wanted to wait for the new year to tick over before finally giving up.
There could be other reasons as well, such as the emotional stress of visiting “loved ones,” drastic changes in diet and alcohol consumption, lack of staff at medical facilities, and the unprecedented changes in the physical environment.
The Shocking Results
The study took data on over 700,000 deaths occurring between the year 1988 and 2013, out of which 200,000 were heart-related. Deaths between the period around the holiday (December 11–24 and January 8–21) was compared to the December 25-January 7 period, and the shocking results made it clear that this was truly related to Christmas and wasn’t simply seasonal.
The researchers found a striking 4.2 percent more people dying from heart-related issues outside of hospitals in the holiday season when compared with any other period in the year. The results also showed that the average age of people dying from cardiac problems was 76.2 years during the Christmas period, almost one year lesser than the 77.1 average during other times of the year.
The research was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
And although the results were only statistically significant (meaning there’s less than a 5 percent chance of the effect being real), they still implore us to try and spend as much quality time with our loved ones while the moments last.
Dr. Itzhak Kronzon, who is director of cardiac imaging at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, commented on the study’s results,
“The difference is small, but there are definitely more people who die over the holidays, compared to the rest of the year. There are people who are very sick and decide to take control over their death, and decide at Christmas to stop taking their medication or not call their doctors.”
But, Kronzon was seen wanting for answers on how to tackle this phenomenon,
“There is no straightforward advice, because there is no straightforward explanation,” he said.
Knight, key part of the research team, added:
“It is hard to give recommendations, but the usual caveats apply about avoiding rich foods, smoking and excess alcohol. But in particular, if people are traveling, ensure that they know how to access health care services in an emergency situation. And where possible, don’t delay seeking treatment if the signs of cardiac distress occur.”
For more on heart disease, you can visit the American Heart Association.
What are your thoughts on the interesting study? Did one of your relatives depart around the Christmas season?