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Any list of real risks of heart attack, high cholesterol does not rank very high. In fact, completely unrelated factors are more likely to trigger this life-changing, sometimes life-ending event.

High Cholesterol Is Not Highest on the List

Recently the news services have buzzed with the story of the man in America who recently consumed his 25,000-th Big Mac. Many commentators expressed amazement that he had normal cholesterol and no heart disease, perhaps unaware that the human body itself makes nearly 90% of the cholesterol in circulation in the bloodstream.
Any list of real risks of heart attack, high cholesterol does not rank very high. In fact, completely unrelated factors are more likely to trigger this life-changing, sometimes life-ending event. Here are the top 10 heart attack risks.

Monday mornings

In Europe, a study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine tells us, heart attacks are least common on Sunday and most common on Monday mornings. However, a study at the Massachusetts General Hospital, affiliated with the Harvard University School of Medicine, found that those who are admitted to the ER for heart attacks on the weekend are more than twice as likely to die, because the regular staff is less likely to be available.

Snow days

A study at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville found that ER admissions for heart attacks were highest on snowy winter days, especially if the atmospheric pressure was also low. In fact, 25% of all admissions for the entire year were associated with shoveling snow. Since residents of Virginia deal with snow less often than residents of locations further north, they may experience greater stress finding shovels, starting snow blowers, or lifting wet, heavy snow.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and holiday dinners

In the USA, Thanksgiving dinner is a time most people eat two, three, four or more times their regular amount of food. Most American hospitals see a temporary upswing in admissions for heart attacks the next day. Similar trends are found for Christmas in Europe and Eid in Muslim countries. When people overeat, heart attacks are more likely.

Extra fat and sugar digested from a large holiday meal literally shrink veins and arteries. The flood of free radicals caused the the auto-oxidation of sugar temporarily interferes with the release of the chemical nitric oxide, which keeps blood vessels open. Eating a big meal does not necessarily cause a heart attack, but if some other process causes formation of a blood clot, smaller blood vessels are more likely to be completely blocked.

Holiday drinking

In much of the Western world, holidays are occasions for additional consumption of alcohol. "Holiday heart syndrome" results from the extra alcohol, and interferes with the normal rhythms of the atria, the upper chambers of the heart. Atrial fibrillation can cause the formation of blood clots that can cause heart attacks or go to the brain and cause strokes.

Eating at festivals focusing on salty foods

An unusually large number of Minnesotans have heart attacks after church suppers featuring lutefisk, a dish made by soaking fish in lye. The resulting delicacy is so high in sodium that it cannot be served on porcelain plates, because it will dissolve them. The load of sodium from the lutefisk causes immediately higher blood pressure that increases risk of heart attack until the sodium is excreted in urine, usually 2 or 3 days later.

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  • Tanner JM,Chang TI,Harada ND,Santiago SM,Weinreb JE,Friedlander AH. Prevalence of Comorbid Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Metabolic Syndrome: Syndrome Z and Maxillofacial Surgery Implications. J Oral Maxillofac Surg.2011 May 19. [Epub ahead of print]
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