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ALERT: Stress, Diet During Christmas Linked to Increased Deaths from Heart Attack

Dec 26, 2016 10:22 AM EST
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A new study from University of Melbourne revealed that excessive stress and diet, and not the cold winter, were responsible for the increase rate of heart attack deaths during the Christmas season.

The study, published in the Journal of American Heart Association, showed that difficult access to health care facilities during Christmas season, combined with excess alcohol consumption, fatty diet and stress may be responsible for the increase in heart attacks around the festive period.

"The Christmas holiday period is a common time for travel within New Zealand, with people frequently holidaying away from their main medical facilities," said Josh Knight, a researcher at the Centre for Health Policy at the University of Melbourne and lead author of the study, in a press release. "This could contribute to delays in both seeking treatment, due to a lack of familiarity with nearby medical facilities, and due to geographic isolation from appropriate medical care in emergency situations."

Previous studies showed that cold temperatures during the Christmas season, or the so-called "winter-effect", are responsible for the increased cardiac deaths. However, these studies were conducted in Northern Hemisphere, where the Christmas season is being celebrated at the height of winter. In order to separate the winter effect from the holiday effect, the researchers chose to conduct their study on New Zealand, which celebrates Christmas season during their summer.

For the study, the researchers analyzed 25-year worth of death records of heart attack between Christmas and the first week of January, which is considered to be summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

The researchers found that there was a 4.2 percent increased in heart-related deaths during the Christmas season in New Zealand. Additionally, the average age of patients who died from cardiac arrest during the Christmas season was lesser compared to regular seasons, 76.2 years compared to 77.1 years.

Their findings clearly showed that restricted access to hospitals, changes in diet and emotional stress plays a more crucial role than the cold temperature in the increased rate of cardiac death during the Christmas season.

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