holiday heart attacks

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Come Christmas Eve, Marty Metcalfe will have a full house.

"Everybody's home this year so it's good," said the Louisville mom.

Having everyone together for the holidays isn't something she takes for granted.

"Just enjoy what is around us, because we never know if it's going to be taken away. If it's our last day," said Metcalfe who knows that all too well.

At just 48 years old, she had a heart attack.

"I thought I'm just going to go back to sleep and it's going to go away. And it didn't," she said. "Later that night, I had a heart attack in the hospital, so had I not been there, I probably wouldn't be sitting here today."

Quadruple bypass surgery saved Metcalfe's life, and gave her the opportunity to spend more holidays with her family. She wants others to know their risk for a heart attack, especially during Christmas when the threat increases.

"Anywhere between 5 and 10 percent depending on what study you look at," said Dr. John Harris with Norton Healthcare.

A recent study conducted in Sweden found the average number of heart attacks increase from 50 to 69 the day before Christmas. The two days after Christmas Eve also see a spike in heart attack rates. A week or two of celebrations doesn't equal a case of sudden cardiac arrest, but a combination of things can add to the risk.

"It's usually related to things like stress or overeating, alcohol consumption," said Dr. Harris.

If you fall into a high-risk category for heart attacks and heart disease, pay close attention to your body this Christmas. Know the warning signs, like heaviness in your chest, shortness of breath, nausea and sudden fatigue. Regardless of what you're feeling, if something seems off, Dr. Harris says don't hesitate to tell someone.

"You're not bothering them, they're your family members. You want to let them know what you're feeling. More often than not, it's the family member insisting the patient comes to the hospital that brings them," said Dr. Harris.

There are ways to manage stress, especially during the holidays. That's something Metcalfe tries to do in her own life. "(I) have my me time. Get some massages, get my nails done," she said.

Because a little me time, especially during the holidays, could be a lifesaver. "You can't enjoy the holidays if you're in the hospital, so be really aware of your symptoms and get them checked out by a doctor," said Dr. Harris.

If someone shows signs of a heart attack, call 911. Knowing how to do Hands Only CPR can also save a life.

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