Ask any EMT, paramedic or emergency room doctor or nurse what time of year it is right now and they’re likely to respond with, “heart attack season.” Because the fact is, heart attacks tend to spike between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Although experts can’t give one specific cause for the jump, it’s not hard to guess at some of the reasons.
First is that old chestnut, stress. Because no matter how much you love Christmas, it can be a tough time of year.
Huge demands on your wallet as well as your time cause strain. The desire to pull off a “perfect” Christmas is a pressure all its own. And for many of us the holidays remind us of those who are no longer with us.
Then there’s the overindulging which goes hand in hand with the festivities. Overeating rich and sugary foods, and drinking too much alcohol.
While at the same time, we end up dropping some of our healthy habits. Regular exercise and getting to bed at a decent hour often take a back seat to other obligations.
Heart attacks skyrocket when temps plunge
And then, of course, there’s the weather.
The hearts of folks living in parts of the country where the temperatures take a nosedive in the winter face an extra challenge. According to experts, the number of heart attacks a day jumps when the mercury drops.
Obviously shoveling snow can be tough on your heart. If you find yourself getting short of breath when walking, skip the shoveling. Hire someone to do it instead. But it’s not JUST strenuous activities that cause heart strain… the cold temperatures themselves can have an effect too.
In fact, if you’re a regular Healthier Talk reader you may recall the results of a 16 year study on the topic. Swedish researchers found there were four more heart attacks a day when temperatures fell below 32 compared to when they were above 50.
CPR saves lives when heart attacks strike
But regardless of the reasons, if you happen to be present when someone has a heart attack quick thinking could save his life. Because what many folks don’t realize is, you don’t have to have had special training to do CPR.
And there’s no need to do mouth-to-mouth to make it work, either. In fact, studies show chest compressions alone can significantly increase a person’s chance of survival. So even if you don’t do them perfectly, you can rest assured that keeping the victim’s blood circulating is helping.
If you ever find you need to do chest compressions on a heart attack victim, ask someone to call 911 before you begin. Every second counts and you want to make sure the ambulance is on its way.
Then simply follow these five steps (and remember just doing them at all is helping):
- Turn the person onto his back
- Place the palm of your one hand on his breastbone
- Put the palm of your other hand on top of the first hand
- Place yourself directly over your hands with your arms stiff
- Press down firmly about two inches for each compression
You want the compressions to be hard and fast. Experts say aim for about 100 per minute.
To get an idea of how quick that is, the American Heart Association recommends timing the compressions to the beat of the classic Bee Gee’s song, “Stayin Alive” featured in the film Saturday Night Fever.
Hopefully the holidays go off without a hitch and you sail through “heart attack season” without ever having to perform CPR. But it’s nice to know should you be called on, you can help a victim stay alive.