Chances of having a heart attack increase over the holidays

Chances of having a heart attack increase over the holidays
(Photo: MGN online generic picture)
(Photo: MGN online generic picture)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The holidays are a time of food, fun and festivities.

According to cardiologist Dr. Bill Yarbrough with Trident Medical Center it's also a time for more heart attacks specifically on holidays like Christmas and New year.

"People are eating saltier foods and foods with fat and the routines are different," Dr.Yarborough said.

Change in routines along with stress causes a five to six percent higher incidence of heart deaths across the country during the holidays, according to Dr. Yarbrough.

Robert Nobbs, 78, remembers last Thanksgiving all too well.

He says what he thought was just heartburn was an artery that was completely blocked.

"The burning was something that would wake me up out of a dead sleep, and I wanted to do something right then," Nobbs said.

Instead, Nobbs waited days before going to the hospital.

Waiting could have cost Nobbs his life.

Dr. Yarbrough says the holidays can also bring on emotional stress which can also weaken the heart muscle.

He says the condition is specifically known as broken heart syndrome.

"A normal heart squeezes maybe 55 or 60 percent of the blood out when it squeezes but with this syndrome it only is at 25 percent and is significantly reduced," Dr. Yarbrough said.

It's also important to take it easy, exercise, watch what you eat and if you smoke, stop.

"Very rarely do I see a patient who has heart disease who doesn't have those risk factors," Dr. Yarbrough said.

As for Nobbs, he goes to cardiac rehab three days a week and keeps it simple during the holidays.

"With exercise and time I will get back in shape," Nobbs said.

If you have symptoms like shortness of breath, chest tightness and are feeling tired and weak, Dr. Yarbrough says you need to call 911 immediate