Doctors: Heart attacks rise during the holiday season

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The holidays are a time to eat, drink, and be merry. But all the food, alcohol and stress that surrounds this time of year can be harmful to your health. Decades of research shows more people have heart problems around Christmas than any other time of the year.

"We've seen a spike both in heart attacks but also in heart failure," Dr. Amir Haghighat, a cardiologist with the Cardiovascular Institute of Northwest Florida, said. "We have patients who have fluid overload, whether they ate too much salt or drank too much alcohol or just forgot to take their medications. Some of them are travelers who are coming to Florida to visit family here and forgot their meds or didn't realize that they should avoid eating too much salt."

It's not just holiday gluttony causing heart troubles.

"What happens is we assume it's the stress of the season," said Dr. Hagighat. "I mean the holidays are the happiest time and also the most stressful times. Sometimes you have great family visits and sometimes you have stressful family visits."

Dr. Haghighat says the stressors don't stop there.

"Some of the patients are under financial pressures at Christmas time and holidays, they have to buy the gifts, they have to travel," he said.

But according to Dr. Haghighat there are steps people can take to help them avoid holiday heart issues.

"Once we identify that stressors are part of the problem, we have to work on handling our stressors, whether that could mean excising while you visit or finding some down time to read or relax, whatever it takes to calm your blood pressure and get your being straight," he said.

Doctors say New Year's Eve is another time when they see a rise in heart attacks and heart failure.