Buddy Check: be aware of the signs of cardiac events this holiday season

Buddy Check 7
Published: Dec. 8, 2022 at 10:19 AM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - It might be the most wonderful time of the year, but with the holiday season also comes an increased risk for death from a cardiac event. The Chief Science Officer for the American Heart Association says it’s a grim reality of the winter holiday season.

“Every year, right around the holidays, there’s an increase in the number of fatal cardiovascular events that occur,” Dr. Mitchell Elkind said.

Dr. Elkind says there are several factors that contribute to the spike.

“It’s a wonderful time of the year, certainly, but our habits change a little bit,” he said. “People are under stress sometimes or they may just be eating more than usual, drinking more than usual, getting less sleep, and less exercise.”

Being away from home, and busy celebrating can also be factors.

“A lot of the research suggests that it’s actually a failure to get medical attention when these events occur, that leads to the problem,” Dr. Elkind said.

He says it’s important to recognize the signs.

“We often say it feels like an elephant is sitting on the chest,” Dr. Elkind said, “but people should know that you don’t have to have severe central chest pain like that, people can have pain in the jaw or the neck or even the arm as a symptom of a heart attack.”

Other signs can include shortness of breath, dizziness, or breaking out into a cold sweat.

“Women in particular tend to have some of those other symptoms,” Dr. Elkind said.

Once you recognize the signs, don’t hesitate to take action by calling 911. If a patient becomes unresponsive or falls unconscious before help arrives, Dr. Elkind says to perform CPR.

“The brain only has a few minutes before it’s irreversibly damaged, and what CPR does is it provides the blood flow through the body, particularly to the brain to keep it going,” he explained.

Click here to learn more about how to perform CPR.