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June 16, 2019

This time on Christmas Eve may be most high-risk for heart attacks, study says

December 25, 2018
Christmas Eve is potentially the most high-risk day for heart attacks, with the peak occurring around 10 p.m. (iStock)

Christmas Eve may be the most high-risk day of the year to have a heart attack according to a study from the British Medical Journal — and doctors have pinpointed it down to the minute.

The study involves 283,014 cases of heart attacks in Sweden from 1998 to 2013 — covering 16 years.


Researchers used a Swedish registry system for heart disease to identify cases of myocardial infarction in Sweden during the period.

The study showed Christmas Eve as potentially the most high-risk day for heart attacks, with the peak occurring around 10 p.m.

Those at highest risk around Christmas were patients over the age of 75 and those suffering from diabetes or coronary artery disease, according to the researchers.

Short-term risk factors that could be possibly responsible for the increased risk include emotional stress, heavy physical activity, cold weather exposure and air pollution.

External factors such as earthquakes, hurricanes, wars, sporting events and market volatility have all been previously liked to create increased risk for heart attack —these factors occur on a circumstantial basis, however, so they may not be directly related to the increased risk around holidays noted in the study.

Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day were also observed to pose a higher risk for heart attack — but New Year’s Eve, Easter and sporting events were not, according to the study.

Control periods to compare the dates were set as two weeks before and after a holiday — and one year before and after sporting events when tournament took place.

Christmas Eve had a 37% higher risk for heart attack than the control period.

New Year’s Day had a 20% increased risk, which could be associated with effects of “excess alcohol and food consumption, exposure to cold temperatures at night, or sleep deprivation on New Year’s Eve.”

The increased risk seemed to be similar for men and women for all holidays except Midsummer — a Swedish celebration — where men were not found to have an associated risk.

The study noted that despite the observations, there is still more that needs to be known for the holidays to be listed as a definite risk for heart attacks.

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