While Americans await the fireworks, flag-waving and food binging of July 4, hospitals await the apparent consequences of the holiday activities: increased heart failure admissions in the days afterwards.
A 10-year study conducted at Einstein Healthcare Network showed a drop in heart failure admissions on the actual day of the holiday, but a significant increase in the four days following.
Holiday revelers apparently avoid seeking medical attention so they can indulge in the holiday—salty foods, for instance, which aggravate heart failure—and then seek help afterwards.
Overeating, the stress of traveling and partying, and the lack of exercise, may contribute to the increase in heart failure admissions after the holidays.
Dr. Vincent Figueredo (left) is co-author of the study and vice chairman of Einstein’s Department of Cardiology. The research involved 22,727 patients admitted to Einstein between 2003 and 2013.
Heart failure admissions dropped on other holidays, too—Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Day. But July 4 and Christmas showed the largest drop-off in holiday admissions and the most increase in post-holiday admissions.
Heart failure, the leading cause of hospitalization of seniors older than 65, is a condition in which the heart doesn’t pump blood effectively, so fluid builds up in the feet, ankles, legs and lungs. Patients are short of breath, weak and can become completely incapacitated.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 5.1 million people in the United States have heart failure. It costs the nation an estimated $32 billion a year, including the cost of health care, medications, and missed days of work.
Independence Day revelers ought to enjoy themselves, of course, but watch their salt and fluid intake and go the hospital immediately if their symptoms worsen, not wait until the celebration is over.