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Holiday Heart Attacks

December 26, 2011, 6:06 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Holiday Heart Attacks
SIOUX FALLS, SD - The day after Christmas is traditionally one of the most deadly days for heart attacks. Studies have found that daily visits to hospitals for heart failure increase by 33 percent during the four days after the holiday.

Mildred Lindley volunteers her time helping heart attack victims and their families at Avera Heart Hospital. She says there's no doubt a reason behind holiday heart attacks.

"They're already stressed out from all the holiday shopping and planning the trips, worrying about the weather," Lindley said.

Stress is what Lindley thinks might have been to blame for her heart attack eleven years ago. Her husband had died and she was moving to Sioux Falls.

"I think getting ready to move all that stuff and the anxiety of the trip and leaving that area put a lot of stress, and I think that was part of it," Lindley said.

Dr. David Nagelhout says the reason why hospitals traditionally see an increase in heart attacks right after Christmas could be because of a variety of factors. He says along with added stress over the holiday season, overindulging in food and alcohol can lead to heart problems, along with putting off going to the doctor.

"They don't want to bother people. They don't want to bother their relatives, go into the hospital, that type of thing. Or, they could be traveling in unfamiliar areas and don't even know where to go," Nagelhout said.

But Nagelhout says that can be a life or death decision, because every minute matters after a heart attack.

"If you don't get in right away, then there's going to be more and more damage. And the more damage you have, the more likely of having bad side effects or mortality or death," Nagelhout said.

Lindley says she's lucky she suffered her heart attack when she was by her daughter, so she could get to the hospital quickly.

"When a woman goes into full cardiac arrest, a lot of times, she does not come through that. So, I've been very fortunate. But, I really feel like God was in this. I think He brought me back so I could help other people and that's what I do now," Lindley said.

And her help is needed even more now, over the holiday season.

Some signs that you're having a heart attack include chest pain or pressure, shortness of breath, nausea, and sweating.

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