Holidays may increase chances of heart attacks, health officials say

Texas lawmaker Ray Lopez says he didn’t recognize his heart attack symptoms initially

San Antonio – Texas lawmaker Ray Lopez missed the symptoms leading to his heart attack. He said they started a few days earlier.

“I wasn’t even thinking a heart attack whenever I had started getting the symptoms a couple of days before I actually got to the hospital. I just thought it was heartburn. I just figured I can just take something over the counter,” he remembers.

On a Sunday morning, his wife drove him to the hospital, where he quickly realized he was on the brink of death.

“I ask the question, am I having a heart attack? Because I really never was unconscious. And they said, ‘yes, you are,’” he remember the doctors telling him.

Lopez wants to use his experience to warn others to listen to their bodies.

A report by the American Heart Association said the time between Christmas and New Year’s Day shows an increase in heart attacks and deaths associated with heart problems.

Doctor Dawn Hui with University Health/UT Health San Antonio said family history, diet, smoking and even diabetes can be high-risk factors. "

“I think there are multiple factors. One, it can be a stressful, busy time. People can get distracted. They may be more active as they’re trying to prepare for the holidays,” she said.

The signs to look for are chest discomfort, pain in the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach, shortness of breath or even a cold sweat, nausea and lightheadedness.

About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

Joe Arredondo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.