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Christmas could be the deadliest time of the year

by Leila Salaverria

THE merriest time of the year could also be the deadliest.

This was according to internist and cardiologist Anthony “Tony” Leachon, who warned Filipinos that they could face a lot of illnesses and even death because of the feasting and drinking they would do to celebrate the Christmas holidays.

Leachon himself noticed an increase in the number of his patients getting heart attacks or strokes around Christmas in previous years.  

“There was a time, 8 out of 10 ICU cases ay pasyente na na-heart attack or na stroke,” Leachon said.

He read up on the matter, and found a 1999 American Heart Association study that conducted a 12-year population-based analysis and found that the mean number of deaths was highest in December and January. 

The study said cooler temperatures may play a role in the increase in deaths, and that other factors such as overindulgence or holiday stress might likewise contribute to excess deaths. 

Leachon, in a vlog, listed the causes of illness and death for merrymakers during the holiday season.

Heart attack or stroke

Leachon said lower temperatures could cause a narrowing of the arteries which could lead to heart attacks and strokes.

But he also said eating and drinking a lot could be factors as well as these could cause people’s cholesterol, sugar, and blood pressure to spike.

“Kung predisposed ka, pwede ka magka heart attack or stroke,” he said. 

He noted that in the Philippines, the holiday festivities begin as early as December 1, which also means more chances for overindulging in food and drink. 

People also tend to lose a lot of sleep because of the eating and the parties. And if they lack sleep, they don’t have time to exercise, he said. 

Holiday heart syndrome

This is a condition related to drinking. Leachon said people who are not sick could suddenly experience irregular heart beat and lose consciousness because of their alcohol consumption. 


Leachon said many of his friends get operated on for gallbladder stones during the holiday season. He said this is a lifestyle disease that has become quite common. 

When he was a young doctor, he said gallstones were usually found among those who were fat female, fertile or 40 years old.

But now, even those in their 30s get this condition. 

“Because of the proliferation of hamburger joints and restaurants, ito na, nag-iincrease ang calorie intake natin,” he said.

Fatty liver 

This is caused by fatty intake, alcohol, or hepatitis B or C. But the most common now is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, he said.  

Vehicular accidents 

While not exactly a disease, people who drink and become tipsy could get into accidents when they insist on getting behind the wheel, he said. 

Prevention is key 

There are health tips that people could follow to prevent their holidays from becoming horrific.

Leachon said one of the things merrymakers could do is to avoid smoking.

“It is associated with four diseases: stroke, heart attack, cancer, chronic obstructive lung disease,” he said.

These diseases have a P200 billion impact on the economy, he added. 

He also said people should avoid eating too much fatty food and reduce their alcohol intake. 

Another thing that will help them get through the holidays alive is to exercise. They should also keep tabs on their body mass index, which is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. 

People should not forget to take their medications as well, he said.

“Ang iba di umiinom ng gamot kasi iinom daw ng alak. Mali iyon. Unahin muna yung health bago uminom ng alak,” he said.

It is also important for people to get a check up before the holiday rush, he said. 

Leachon said people should likewise take care of their mental health and avoid stress.

Getting enough sleep is crucial as well, he said. People could take a nap in the afternoon and it could be “very invigorating,” he said.

One more thing people should keep in mind is to have a positive outlook.

“Happy tayo lagi,” he said. “We don’t want to be hospitalized during the most important time of the year.” 

If they follow these tips, they have a big chance of having a truly merry Christmas!

Photo credit: Heigen18 (wikimedia commons) 



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