Barhite: Don’t fall victim to a holiday heart attackWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
My father-in-law suffered a heart attack Dec. 8.
He thought he was having one that morning and pulled into the parking lot of the emergency room. He sat there, waited and left because he started to feel better.
He had triple bypass surgery Dec. 12.
Data shows that deaths from heart attacks are more prevalent during the holiday season, according to Dr. Brian Kaminski, medical director of ProMedica Toledo Hospital’s emergency department.
First, the ER sees more patients for medical reasons during the winter months. Summer attracts trauma-related injuries because of warmer month activities. People are outside more, participating in sporting leagues, swimming, biking and enjoying the weather.
In the winter, people aren’t as active, but the cold weather can affect those who are suffering from underlying heart conditions. The body working to stay warm can stress the heart, as can shoveling the snow.
Also, during the holiday season, people are more likely to travel and will sometimes avoid going to a hospital in an unfamiliar town if they start to feel poorly, Kaminski said.
Holiday parties or gatherings might also prevent a person from seeking help right away. A person might think, “I will go after the kids finish opening their presents.”
Kaminski has worked several Christmases in the ER and says the day always starts slow, but picks up as people who had symptoms earlier in the day finally start to come in at night.
He said symptoms of a heart attack should not be ignored. The typical signs are chest pain that is described as pressure and lasts for more than a few minutes, pain in the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach, shortness of breath with or without chest pains, nausea and breaking out in a cold sweat.
But not everyone has the typical symptoms, especially women or people with other illnesses. For instance, a diabetic might have burning pain in the stomach.
“We see a small percentage of people who have heart attacks at a young age,” he said. “They usually have one or more risk factors or have a special condition.”
Also, those who use or abuse stimulants are at a high risk for heart attacks, as are those with a strong family history of heart disease.
“If you have a heart attack and it starts right now, every minute that goes by, more damage happens to your heart,” Kaminski said.
Surviving a heart attack should not be the only goal. Minimizing the damage is crucial. Time is critical, Kaminski said. Don’t wait in the parking lot. Go in.
“The sooner we can get you, the sooner we can help. We can make a significant difference. It is one of the things we really enjoy doing.”
Email questions or comments to Toledo Free Press Community Ombudsman Brandi Barhite at bbarhite@toledofree press.com.