CHRISTMAS KILLER: Deaths related to heart disease 'spike' during the holiday season

CHRISTMAS KILLER: Deaths related to heart disease 'spike' during the holiday season

CHRISTMAS KILLER: Deaths related to heart disease 'spike' during the holiday season

Previous research in the United States found heart attacks rose during Christmas, which coincides with winter in the northern hemisphere when mortality rates are higher. But since they too were once English colonies, New Zealanders celebrate the lead-up to December 25 with feasting, merrymaking, travel and parties, just like Americans do. They also took their model and compared it against the actual deaths per day over the Christmas holidays, or a range of dates from December 25 through January 7.

Researchers from the University of Melbourne with Josh Knight as the lead researcher thought of removing weather as one of the factors responsible for the deaths caused by heart diseases.

Merry Christmas! Heart-related deaths spike right around the holiday season. In a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers examined data from New Zealand, where the holidays fall in the middle of summer. Over the 25-year period, there was a total of 738,409 deaths - including 197,109 reported as cardiac deaths.

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The researchers said there are several theories that may explain the spike in deaths during the holiday season, including the emotional stress associated with the holidays, changes in diet and alcohol consumption, less staff at medical facilities, and changes in the physical environment, such as visiting relatives.

Our results also show the Christmas holidays are indeed a time of higher cardiac deaths with a significantly higher death rate - of around four additional deaths per year.

"The ability of individuals to modify their date of death based on dates of significance has been both confirmed and refuted in other studies, however it remains a possible explanation for this holiday effect", Knight said.

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A new study was conducted in New Zealand to see the impact of Christmas there. Then they compared their model to the actual deaths each day over the Christmas holiday period, defined as December 25 through January 7.

So what's causing the spike in heart-related deaths in New Zealand? The lower average age of those who die from heart problems around the holidays implies that some people may simply wait too long to receive care.

For instance, New Zealanders often holiday away from home over Christmas, and they may find themselves far from their own doctor and could be unfamiliar with the local medical facilities. As the last months of the year are summer in Australia, this was a good measure to see if weather played a significant role in the increased mortality rates. This contrast allowed them to better analyze the causes - winter or the holidays - behind the deaths, UPI reports.

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'This could contribute to delays in both seeking treatment, due to a lack of familiarity with nearby medical facilities, and due to geographic isolation from appropriate medical care in emergency situations'.

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