Despite the joyful nature of the holiday season, it triggers as much stress in many people as it does yuletide cheer. Holiday-related increased stress levels actually cause the occurrence of heart attacks to rise. Preventing stress-induced heart attacks start with year-round heart health monitoring by a physician with the help of a cardiology EHR.

Many factors contribute to holiday stress:  extra expenses that lead to a mountain of credit card debt, the preparation -and eating – of large fatty and salty meals, increased alcohol intake at parties, coordinating with relatives, and not to mention keeping the kids entertained on winter break. On top of additional stress, heart attacks occur more during the winter overall, possibly due to less outdoor physical activity.

The University of Windsor in Ontario conducted two studies between two hospitals in Windsor and Detroit, looking at 135 patients treated for heart attacks. The first study compared those who sought treatment immediately and those who waited hours or days before seeking treatment. The research revealed that patients who didn’t seek immediate help tried to ignore their symptoms or didn’t believe they were having a heart attack because their symptoms did not match that of their expectations, such as not having sharp chest pain.

The second study included same patients and their belief of what a heart attack should feel like compared to their experience. Results showed that those whose symptoms matched their expectation sought medical attention right away. The head of the University of Windsor’s study mentioned that many patients who have had a previous heart attack do not realize that symptoms of a second as may not necessarily be the same as the first.  She also advises people to be aware of non-chest pain heart attack symptoms that could be easily overlooked or attributed to food poisoning or a hangover around the holidays, like extreme fatigue and low energy levels, shortness of breath, light headedness, nausea and vomiting and cold sweats.

Maintaining good heart health should be a year-long endeavor. High blood pressure found in a regular physical exam can elicit an alert to the physician via cardiology EMR to recommend that the patient schedule a stress test, an ECG or an echocardiogram in order to prevent the increased risk of a heart attack.

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