Why Death Visits During The Holidays...

I think by the time you get to be my age, you have probably lost at least one friend or a relative sometime around the holidays. Personally, I always thought suicide rates were definitely up this time of year due to people getting so depressed and stressed. Not enough money for gifts, too many bills, loneliness, etc. The holidays have a way of accentuating all of these.

Some think it's due to the colder climate. Shoveling snow is definitely not a year round exercise!

Then there's always the alcohol related auto accidents resulting in highway deaths. All the holiday parties, people drinking more due to depression, etc. Although this time of year is know for excess food and alcohol, the following may surprise you. It did me.

1. National statistics show that suicides are actually lower during the holiday season, while deaths due to heart disease go up.

2. Climate has little if anything to due with death during this time of year. Dr. Robert A. Kloner, a cardiologist at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, and his research team examined L.A. County death records of 220,000 people who died of heart disease over a 12-year period. In a paper published in the journal Circulation, they reported that heart disease deaths were 33% higher in December and January than they were from June through September -- even in Southern California's consistently mild climate.

3. Despite the winter holidays' reputation for revelry, more people die on our nation's roads due to drinking and driving during summer holidays than during those during the colder months, according Dr. Michael Garr, associate professor of sociology at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Ironically, the holiday most noted for drinking -- New Year's -- has the smallest number of alcohol-related deaths at 61 in 2001. Thanksgiving and Christmas had significantly fewer deaths, too, only 77 and 81, respectively.

I find the information above so totally shocking compared to what we normally believe. Come to find out the biggest culprits in the Holiday Death Toll, may be ourselves and the very medical facilities we count on to save our lives. It turns out that during the holidays, besides the fact that we eat and drink too much and exercise less, we tend to put off going to the doctor for what ails us. We tend to get so busy and just figure we will visit our friendly M.D. after the holidays are over and things start slowing down. For many, that's too late.

We also have a tendency to have so many things on our minds, that many forget to take their medication. This can have dire consequences in some cases because many medications have to be discontinued a little at a time. Quitting medications all of a sudden can actually bring on the very thing they are meant to protect us from.

Due to the above and the consistent spike in deaths, doctors have labeled Christmas, the 26th and New Year's Day the "Holiday Effect" or "Merry Christmas Coronary" and "Happy New Year Heart Attack."

The second culprit according to studies, is the quality of care we get if we have to go to a hospital over the holidays. According to Duke University Medical Center researchers, heart attack patients admitted to U.S. hospitals during the winter holidays have higher mortality rates than those admitted during the rest of the year. The researchers found that during these holiday hospitalizations, patients were less likely to receive the same care they would normally receive if they were admitted any other time of the year. Patients were less likely to be prescribed aspirin as well as beta blockers at admission and/or at discharge. They also were less likely to receive major procedures necessary to open blockages, etc.

To make sure you're around long after singing "Auld Lang Syne" I offer up the following tips.

1). While holiday eating and drinking are especially pleasant this time of year, use some control and common sense, especially if you normally follow some special diet (low fat, low cholesterol, etc.). Don't use the holidays as an excuse to blow off your exercise program. With all the stress and busy-ness during this time of year, use it as "Me Time", giving yourself a chance to regroup.

2). If you are feeling bad or something is "out of whack" see your doctor. There is nothing so important to do this holiday season if you're not around to see another one.

3). Make sure to keep up with all medications. Enough said. I don't think the prescription said "take a break from these for as a Christmas Present". LOL.

4.) If you're going to be traveling, make sure you know where to get medical care if necessary at your destination. Studies show the exceptions to the "holiday effect" seems to be during the years of 1973 and 1981. Holiday travel was down during these years due to an embargo in 1973 and a recession in 1981. Once again, don't put off seeing your doctor before you go. He's familiar with your history and may be able to help you have a safer and much more pleasant trip.

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Anonymous said...

Hi Lauri Ann. I'd like permission to reprint your blog article giving you full credit and linking back to your blog. You can email me at admin at fairhavenmemorial dot com.


Charity Gallardo
Fairhaven Grief Blog