'Look after each other' - Cardiologist warns of holiday spike in heart attacks

A Christchurch cardiologist is issuing a Christmas Eve warning to Kiwis: Keep an eye on your loved ones following a worrying spikes in festive season heart attacks.

New research out of Sweden shows a 37 per cent increase in the chances of having a heart attack on Christmas Eve - the Swedish equivalent to Christmas Day in New Zealand.

The research from Lund University looked at nearly 300,000 heart attacks over a 16-year period, with a 15 per cent increased heart attack risk overall during the Christmas period.

Speaking to 1 NEWS, Dr Paul Bridgman warned of the reasons behind the heightened risk.

"People should be careful," he began. "They should think, 'Gee, all that pre-Christmas stress can have an effect on me.

"It can affect my physical health."

Dr Bridgman is involved in an ongoing University of Otago Christchurch study into broken heart syndrome, and says that this new research is closely linked to the latest findings.

"There's no doubt that stress can do a lot of things to the heart," he said. "It can cause a broken heart, and it can cause a heart attack."

The risk is even greater for those over 75 with pre-existing heart problems.

Dr Bridgman's advice to those for surviving the silly season is simple:

"People like me don't want to be called in on Christmas Day. People should take it easy and look after each other."

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    The tinsel-lined Christchurch Cardiology Ward is bracing for a busy time. Source: 1 NEWS