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There's a way bigger risk for heart attacks on Christmas Eve. Here's why (and what you can do about it)

A study study found that there's a 37 percent increase in reported heart attacks on Christmas Eve due to a variety of factors from stress to alcohol use.

DENVER — A new study in the British Medical Journal looked at more than 280,000 people over 16 years old in Sweden. Surprisingly, researchers found a 37 percent increase in heart attacks on Christmas Eve, peaking at 10 p.m. as compared to other holidays.

The heart attack risk also was 15 percent higher on Christmas Day and 20 percent higher on New Year’s Day as well. The highest risk was seen in people 75 years or older, diabetics, and those with a history of heart disease.

Why does heart attack risk increase this time of year?

No one knows exactly why the risk is higher, but we think it could be related to higher stress levels, overindulgences in food and drinks, anger, sadness, and colder weather. People may also wait to come in to the emergency room at 10 p.m. because they do not want to bother their families, are waiting until the festivities are over, or may be delayed in recognizing their symptoms because of alcohol use.

What are some of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack?

  • Chest pain
  • Pain in the jaw or shoulder
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath

What are some things you can do to decrease your stress levels?

Figure out what your stressors are. Plan for how you will overcome these stressors. Take a walk outside, meditate, exercise before your event, or do whatever makes you feel better during a non-holiday time of year. Finally, take a moment to appreciate everything around you. It’s ok if the holiday is not perfect. Keep yourself and your family healthy, that is most important.

For more information about heart attacks, you can go to the American Heart Association website to learn more about your risk factors, and what you can do to prevent a heart attack.

Follow 9NEWS Medical Expert Dr. Comilla Sasson on Facebook and Twitter. Have a medical question or health topic idea? Email Dr. Comilla at c.sasson@9news.com

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