Why are heart attacks more frequent in December and January?


Heart Attack Season

Scientists have established there is a heart attack season associated with December and January. But they aren’t sure why there are more cardiac-related mortalities during these months.

The authors of the 2004 Circulation article explored several possible explanations. The drop in temperatures during the winter months has long been blamed for heart attacks because the cold weather increases blood pressure and restricts blood vessels. But the study found an increase in heart attacks in Los Angeles, which has a relatively mild winter, and a slight decrease in states bordering Canada, where frigid winter temperatures are typical.  

Instead of blaming the weather, the study’s authors suggested more heart attacks might have occurred during the holidays because people ignored symptoms and delayed treatment. Other studies have found that emergency room and urgent care admissions drop on holidays and increase the next day.

The authors proposed that people don’t want to interrupt or ruin the holiday for others. If a person feels a tingle in their arm or a building chest pain, they might chalk it up to indigestion from holiday overindulgence. Or they might keep quiet about their symptoms until the emergency becomes obvious to others.

Thus, the authors concluded that “holiday-induced delays” in seeking medical treatment can have fatal consequences.


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