Utah doc shares advice on preventing a holiday heart attack

Dec 16, 2022, 6:30 PM
A heart attack occurs every 40 seconds in America, and heart disease is the number one killer of me...
A heart attack occurs every 40 seconds in America, and heart disease is the number one killer of men and women around the world. Therefore, it's quite possible that you or a loved one will witness a cardiovascular event one day and be called upon to preserve life. Use the heel of one hand and cover with the other. Some suggest interlacing the fingers as well. Credit: Shutterstock via CNN

SALT LAKE CITY — What do you think of when these dates are mentioned Dec. 25, Dec. 26 and Jan 1? Christmas and New Year’s Day. Yes, but also during the holiday season, there are more heart-related deaths, according to a 2004 study.

More cardiac deaths occur on December 25 than on any other day of the year; the second largest number of cardiac deaths occurs on December 26, and the third largest number occurs on January 1.

The doctor is in

Dr. Richard Ferguson, chief medical officer of Health Choice Utah and Founder of Black Physicians of Utah, joins KSL NewsRadio’s Dave & Dujanovic with Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic to discuss holiday heart attacks.

Christmastime can be a stressful and busy time: family finances, purchasing gifts (and all that goes with that), hitting work deadlines, etc.

“We are sometimes more dismissive of complaints that our body may be telling us,” Ferguson said. “And so, we need to do a better job at paying attention to those, especially when it comes to heart attacks so we can protect ourselves and a loved one.”

“I would think that heart conditions are really earned over months/years/decades,” Dave said.

Ferguson pointed out that almost half the US adult population has hypertension or elevated blood pressure.

Of the 75 million Americans who have hypertension, almost half do not have the condition under control.

Don’t put off a medical checkup because of the holidays

Remember this: Taking the right precautions early can help stop a heart attack before it stops you.

“It’s really about our baseline unhealthy behavior preceding the holidays,” Ferguson said. “If you were supposed to get your routine physical, maybe to get your blood pressure checked, maybe to get that medication refill before you go on that holiday trip. You start cutting back on going to the gym because you’re going to a holiday party. All of this . . . leads to increased stress on our blood vessels. ”

Ferguson advised if you have any of the following symptoms, seek urgent medical care:

  • chest discomfort,
  • lightheadedness, 
  • nausea,
  • shortness of breath or
  • discomfort or pain in your arm, over your shoulder or even your neck pain.

Heart works harder during winter cold

Also, wintertime can be difficult for hearts because cold temperatures cause arteries to constrict, which can restrict blood flow and reduce oxygen to the heart.

“Your heart actually has to work a bit harder to keep your body warm,” Ferguson said.

What are the signs of a heart attack?

Atypical signs of a heart attack, the doctor said, are:

epigastric pain, or the upper part of the abdomen, and between shoulder blades.

Also watch for discomfort in the throat, jaw, neck, arms, back and stomach—a feeling described almost like a muscle pull or pain. The problem may also present like indigestion or heartburn and can even mimic other gastrointestinal issues, according to Banner Health.

“Exposure to particulate air pollution and vehicular traffic, as well as the first hour after a heavy meal can increase the risk for a heart attack fourfold” cautioned Oklahoma Heart Institute cardiologist Dr. Eugene Ichinose.

Ferguson reminded readers to exercise and try to reduce stress over the holiday season.

On stress, “It’s hard when you’re spending so much time with family.”

On exercise, “The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes a week. We cut back way too much on that during the holidays — and make sure you stay on your medication,” Ferguson said.

Read this:

What is Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)?

Prevent Holiday Heart Attacks

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

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Utah doc shares advice on preventing a holiday heart attack