NEWS | December 26, 2018

Holidays and heart attacks

A UC Davis cardiologist offers insights on heart health during this time of year

Editor's note:

Video of Dr. Lopez's Q&A can be viewed here. For a broadcast version, contact Karen Finney at


A recently published study conducted in Sweden showed higher rates of heart attacks during major holidays, including the Christmas and New Year holidays. In this Q&A, UC Davis cardiologist Javier Lopez talks about heart health and what might be done to reduce the chances of having a heart attack during this and other potentially stressful times of year.

Cardiologist Javier Lopez talks about heart health, holiday celebrations and what to do when experiencing the signs of a heart attack. Cardiologist Javier Lopez talks about heart health, holiday celebrations and what to do when experiencing the signs of a heart attack.

What could be the reasons for heart attacks during the holidays?

The social stress associated with gatherings and celebrations may contribute. Also, the additional food and alcohol people tend to consume during celebrations may have something to do with this phenomenon.

Are some people at higher risks than others for holiday-related heart attacks?

The patients who appear to be at higher risk during this period of time were the patients who were older than 75 years of age, who had diabetes, who were smokers and who were already taking medications for heart conditions. These are the people who are more likely to have symptoms of a heart attack.

What should someone do when experiencing heart attack symptoms?

If you or someone else experiences the symptoms of a heart attack — chest pain, nausea or vomiting, or sweatiness — seek attention right away. The sooner you receive treatments that are available in the hospital, the more effective those treatments are. Dialing 911 right away is very important.

What are some of the ways to avoid a heart attack, during holidays and at all times?

  • Maintain a steady physical activity plan
  • Control blood pressure and diabetes
  • Be mindful of how to manage stress
  • Have a strategy for maintaining healthy relationships with others in social situations
  • Moderate the amounts of food and alcohol consumed

More information about heart attack symptoms for men and women is available from the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cardiovascular medicine specialists and subspecialists at UC Davis are passionate about providing the highest level of care to patients with cardiac and blood-vessel disease. The team includes nationally recognized experts on minimally invasive methods for diagnosing and treating coronary artery disease. In addition to being exceptional clinicians, UC Davis cardiologists are leaders in developing and testing the next generation of cardiac and vascular therapies, technologies and procedures, and then making them available to patients worldwide. For information, visit