It’s that time of year again: time for myocardial infarctions.
Forensic pathologist Dr. Sebastian Kunz doesn’t want to see you in his workplace this holiday season. But he knows more than a lot of other people that Christmastime behaviour can kill people.
“We have had just in the past two or three weeks, six to eight death cases which were exactly the same,” he tells us. “They were are all myocardial infarctions, some of whom actually went to the hospital the week before, got treated, but then maybe continued with their pre-holiday lifestyle and just overdid it.”
The holiday heart
Dr. Kunz told us about a phenomenon known as the “holiday heart”; someone who has a pre-existing heart condition, and this heart condition is challenged due to things they do around Christmastime. He describes a set of behaviours that can lead to this.
“Not looking at their blood sugar or their blood pressure, maybe skipping some medication or just forgetting them at home, postponing a doctor’s appointment because it’s inconvenient with everything that needs to be done before Christmas,” he says. “And then there’s the food: eating too much, with too much fat, sugar or salt, or everything all together, and that challenges your body.”
On top of all this, he says, there’s the added stress of the holidays: “For some people, the holidays are something cheerful and nice; for a lot of people it’s stress. And we all know stress can trigger high blood pressure, also adding to the fact that it challenges your cardiovascular system.”
Dr. Kunz emphasises that healthy people, and even people with pre-existing cardiac conditions, can enjoy good food and drink and deal with stress, but the cumulative effect can land you in the hospital, or the morgue.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent this.
“It’s actually very basic things you do before and after Christmas, and that is planning ahead,” he says. “Plan your travels, make sure you don’t skip or postpone a doctor’s appointment, that you’ve taken your medication with you, and don’t challenge your body too much. I’m not saying you shouldn’t enjoy yourself. Of course do that, and you can even do that with a cardiac condition, but know what you do the rest of the year, and don’t exacerbate things just for the sake of Christmas.”
Below, you can listen as he summarises this advice so you can make out of Christmas alive (direct link):
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