Doctor says ‘Don’t let Holiday stress land you in the Emergency Room’

Dec 22, 2022

A doctor gives health advice as studies show heart attacks increase in December and January

(Nacogdoches, TX) -- Most everyone looks forward to the holiday season, but did you know that research shows an increase in heart attacks during the holidays?

Published studies indicate that the incidence of heart attacks goes up in December and January, suggesting that the stress of the holidays contributes to hospitalizations for myocardial infarction.

Whether it’s wanting to host that ‘perfect’ family meal, decorating your house like Clark Griswold, finding the perfect gift, or the old standbys of the economy, politics, or relationships, doctors at Nacogdoches Medical Center note that stress during the holidays has many causes.

“When your body is in high gear off and on for days or weeks at a time like during the holidays, it could lead to high blood pressure and increase the risk for a heart attack or stroke in vulnerable individuals,” said Vijaya Pokala, M.D., FACC, a cardiologist who practices at Nacogdoches Medical Center.

In one study, researchers found that coronary death rates in December and January were some 33 percent higher than during the summer months.

“The classic heart attack comes on suddenly, but many start slowly with mild pain and discomfort. If you or someone you know is experiencing anxiety or stress accompanied by chest discomfort during the holidays, take that as a sign to slow down a bit. Overindulgence also plays a role in holiday health issues. Avoid overeating and limit your alcohol consumption,” Dr. Pokala said.

Moderate exercise and a healthy diet help reduce your risk for heart disease, she said. “Thirty minutes of moderate-intensity walking per day is a good way to reduce stress and get your exercise. And, if possible, stay away from soft drinks and foods high in carbohydrates and starches like pasta, white sugar, rice, and bread. Portion control and eating more vegetables and greens are important, too,” Dr. Pokala added.

Stress and anxiety are known to contribute to many health issues, so it’s important to know the risks and ways to reduce the likelihood of experiencing a heart attack and heart disease, Dr. Pokala said.

Signs of a heart attack include:

  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain between the shoulder blades or in the arm, jaw, chest, or upper abdomen
  • Dizziness or fatigue
  • Clammy skin or cold sweat
  • Indigestion or nausea and vomiting
  • Call 911 right away if you or someone else has any of these symptoms.

“Thankfully we don’t have to shovel snow here in Nacogdoches, another factor in winter heart attacks, but it’s still important to know your limits and listen to your body. If you experience tightness in your chest or any of the classic signs of a heart attack, get help quickly,” Dr. Pokala said.

For more information about Nacogdoches Medical Center, take a heart risk assessment, or find a doctor, visit

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