The Grapevine

Holiday Health Risks To Watch Out For

In a new study from Sweden, which examined data spanning 16 years, researchers found that the odds of suffering a heart attack are the greatest on Christmas Eve, specifically at 10 p.m. 

While specific, this is not too surprising as past estimates have shown that heart attack-related deaths are five percent more likely during the holiday seasons. But what are we doing during this jolly time to contribute to this?

For starters, cold weather is considered a risk factor as the temperature lead to a constriction of blood vessels. On top of that, people tend to overeat comfort foods or drink alcohol excessively during celebrations, in addition to slacking off on their exercise.

"Interestingly, the pattern of increased risk in the morning which dominates the rest of the year was reversed at Christmas, with an increased risk in the evening, indicating that the stress and eating during the day triggered the heart attacks," noted David Erlinge, one of the researchers involved in the Swedish study.   

Indeed, "festive stress," or what some would call a holiday burnout, affects a lot of Americans. Surveys have found that busy schedules, exhaustion from traveling, financial strain, shopping for presents, cooking, cleaning, and the emotional stress of dealing with family are some of the possible reasons for it.

"Advertisers show us a Christmas season full of romance, extravagant wealth, wholesome family cohesiveness, and major celebrations with friends that can cause you to feel inferior by not living up to a hyped image," said Suzanne Roff-Wexler, Ph.D., of New York University.

Linda Saab and Arash Javanbakht, academic psychiatrists from Wayne State University, similarly highlight how high expectations and traditions can become a burden on mental health for some.

If one lives far away from their family or has lost their loved ones, he or she may suffer from feelings of loneliness and isolation. To avoid this, such individuals are advised to reach out to friends, volunteer at shelters, join charity events, or get involved in their communities.

Furthermore, people may also need to watch their step more than usual during the holidays. Just think about the number of holiday-related hazards out there: electric shocks from lighting, flammable Christmas trees, wobbly ladders placed against the roof, sledding in unsafe conditions to name a few.

And if you can't believe that people are really that accident-prone, just take a look at data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Some of the top reasons for emergency room visits during this time of year involve decorations and unwrapping gift boxes.

As for other safety tips, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds people to wear warm clothing and get all their required check-ups and vaccinations. And as always, make sure to wash your hands and maintain good hygiene habits to reduce the risk of infections.