Christmas Season Brings A Sharp Spike In Heart Attacks

By: 
Joyce Coates
County Reporter
Fans of Hallmark movies enjoy stories set in the winter holiday season full of everything merry and bright: happy homecomings, cherished family traditions, and romance! Problems arise, of course, but no matter what they may be, movie watchers know ahead of time that they can count on a heartwarming happy ending. Meanwhile, across the United States from Washington, DC to San Francisco, news reports of studies based on Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data alert us to the fact that heart attacks and strokes spike during the Christmas and New Year holidays. The phenomenon holds true, for example, in Australia and New Zealand in the southern hemisphere, and in countries like Sweden. Although common factors have been identified and the correlation between Christmas and New Year holidays widely acknowledged, exact reasons why remain a mystery“Heart attacks are more common during the holidays,” according to Golden Valley Memorial Hospital in Clinton, Mo. Golden Valley’s website reflects information from the American Heart Association that lists stress, strained finances, and unhealthy eating and drinking as contributing factors.A Consumer Reports article of December 15, 2018 explained the importance for people with chronic conditions like coronary heart disease and atrial fibrillation (A-fib), to control how much they eat and drink.  Too much alcohol, for instance, can lead to A-fib, which can cause heart problems or stroke. John A. Osborne, M.D., Ph.D., a spokesman for the American Heart Association, a contributor to the Consumer Reports article, suggested that cold weather and physical exertion in shoveling snow may be factors, but that eating and drinking too much and family stress are also involved.  Golden Valley’s online Health Information Library describes symptoms of potential heart attacks that should not be ignored. One problem most sources report on is that too often people do not want to upset holiday plans or their family members and decide not to mention, or to ignore symptoms and delay seeing a doctor or visiting the emergency room for the care they need. Of course, these symptoms should not be ignored, but should be cared for by seeing a doctor; going to an emergency room, or calling 911, depending on time and location of the patient: Pain or discomfort in the chest Shortness of breath, with or without chest pain Discomfort or pain in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw, stomach Lightheadedness, nausea or vomiting, cold sweat In the event of sudden heart attack whether at home or in a public place, immediate response with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can often save lives whilewaiting for 911 response team to arrive.
A number of local residents are trained in CPR and first aid, yet the more members of the community trained and able to respond the greater likelihood that someone capable of responding to heart attack emergencies will be present or near.Benton County Emergency Management’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) conducts monthly meetings, with primary classes in April and September in which volunteers are taught medical operations as well as other first responder courses (see bcmoem.com). Nurses and athletic coaches at the Lincoln, Cole Camp and Warsaw schools are CPR trained and certified. And, it is encouraging to know that high school students in each of the Benton County school districts must “have received thirty minutes of cardiopulmonary resuscitation instruction and training in the proper performance of the Heimlich maneuver or other first aid for choking,” in order to graduate. Missouri law (RsMO §170.310) became effective for school years 2017-2018. Therefore, any student graduating from high school in 2018 and thereafter will have completed either the StudentCPR Awareness or the StudentCPR Community Certificate Program, making them capable and qualified to assist until an emergency management team or other professional medical personnel takes over.Brooke Daleske at the Benton County Health Department provides CPR certification training on an as-needed basis, onsite or at other locations that can accommodate classes of up to 6 individuals. The CPR certification course requires approximately 3-1/2 hours of class time; the first aid and CPR combined training requires6-1/2 hours with first aid taught in the morning, and CPR taught in the afternoon after a lunch break.  Contact www.bentonhealth.org, or call (660) 438-2876.  Finally, in this winter holiday season, it is good to guard our hearts, and to avoid what can be avoided, including excesses of food, drink, stress and worry about finances. Rather, it may help our hearts more to do what Hallmark movies make us do—laugh, cry,romanticize a bit, and through it all, to strive for a happy ending.

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