People may avoid going to the hospital on holidays because they
don’t want to ruin holiday plans or they assume doctor offices are
closed, said Dr. Maria Mountis, a cardiologist at the Cleveland
Clinic in Ohio who was not involved with the study.
“If you don’t feel well, you should seek treatment,” she said. “The
longer you delay treatment, the longer it will take for you to get
Eating high-salt foods, lack of exercise and the stress of traveling
during the holidays may contribute to the spike in hospital
admissions, study coauthor Dr. Mahek Shah from the Lehigh Valley
Hospital Network in Pennsylvania told Reuters Health by phone.
“All of these activities tip the scale for you to accumulate fluid
and gain weight - causing heart failure symptoms to (worsen),” he
Nearly 5 million Americans suffer from heart failure, a chronic
condition in which the heart can't pump as well as it needs to. As a
result, fluid builds up in the feet, ankles, legs and lungs, causing
people to experience fatigue, shortness of breath and difficulty
Shah and colleagues reviewed data on 22,727 patients admitted to
Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia with heart failure between
2003 and 2013.
Most were African American and female, with other diseases in
addition to heart failure, including hypertension, diabetes, high
cholesterol and coronary heart disease. The average age was 68.
The researchers divided the patients into three groups, depending on
whether they were admitted on a holiday (Christmas Day,
Thanksgiving, Independence Day, New Year’s Day or Super Bowl
Sunday), within four days following the holiday, or on other days in
the same month.
Over the years, the average number of patients admitted for heart
failure on Independence Day was 3.8. That number rose to an average
of 5.6 per day in the days immediately after the holiday, and
settled at 5 per day during the rest of the month, the authors
reported in the journal Clinical Research in Cardiology.
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Every year on Christmas Day, 3.6 patients were admitted, on average.
In the four days after Christmas, that number rose to 6.5 per day.
On other days in December, however, the average number of patients
being admitted for heart failure was 5.5.
Similar patterns were seen for Thanksgiving, New Year’s Day and
Super Bowl Sunday, the researchers said.
Having more than one hospital included in the study would have made
the findings more reliable, said Mountis, but she did think the
results provide useful information for people with heart failure.
She cautioned that symptoms like weight gain and shortness of breath
can worsen 24 to 48 hours after eating high salt foods, and she
urged people to be vigilant in how they manage their heart
“For people with heart failure, the American Heart Association
recommends eating 1,500 to 2,000 mg sodium per day,” Mountis said.
“Eating a single hot dog could have up to 1,000 mg of sodium so
eating in moderation is important.”
“Weigh yourself every morning, if your weight goes up more than 2 to
3 pounds, that should be a clue that you’re retaining too much
fluid,” she said.
She also advises patients to read food labels and work closely with
someone who can help them keep track of how much salt they eat every
“I don’t want people to deny themselves the enjoyment of the
holidays,” she said. “But they should be extra cautious in
monitoring their food intake whether it’s the holiday or a special
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/2614ryW Clinical Research in Cardiology,
online May 24, 2016.
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