In a shocking revelation, a study finds an increase in heart attacks in the festive period which could be possible due to difficulty in access to hospitals, combined with stress, an excess of alcohol and a fatty diet. Researchers from the University of Melbourne analysed 25 years’ of death records of heart attacks between Christmas and the first week of January, during summer in the southern hemisphere.
The research, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, revealed a 4.2% increase in heart-related deaths occurring out of hospital during the Christmas period in New Zealand. The average age of cardiac death was 76.2 years during the Christmas compared with 77.1 years at other times of the year. “Using data from a country where Christmas occurs in the height of summer, he was able to separate any “holiday effect” from the winter effect,” said lead study author Josh Knight.
Knight said that there is a need to understand whether restricted access to healthcare facilities might be combining with other risk factors such as emotional stress, changes in diet, alcohol consumption result in the spike in cardiac deaths. “The Christmas holiday period is a common time for travel within New Zealand, with people frequently holidaying away from their main medical facilities,” he said.
“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,” Knight explained.
Another explanation may have to do with a terminally ill patients’ will to live and hold off death for a day that is important to them. “The ability of individuals to modify their date of death based on dates of significance has been both confirmed and refuted in other studies, however it remains a possible explanation for this holiday effect,” Mr Knight said.