JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The risk of dying from a sudden, serious heart ailment increases during the holiday season, according to health officials.

Paramedics with American Medical Response (AMR) recommend avoiding “triggers” for cardiac crisis.

In studying 53 million deaths nationwide between 1973 and 2001, researchers found, “The number of cardiac deaths is higher on December 25 than any other day of the year, second highest on December 26 and third highest on January 1.”

Those days, there are about five percent more deaths from cardiac crisis compared to other days of the year. Studies since the first research have confirmed the original findings.

The risk rises due to holiday stress, skipping medications and dietary mistakes. Cold weather strains the heart, but the spike also occurs in warmer states. Over-exertion is another factor. Drinking large quantities of alcohol can also contribute to a holiday heart crisis.

Too much salt, large meals and eating more fatty food than usual can also contribute to holiday cardiac crises. Skipping exercise may be another factor.

“It’s important to recognize an emergency heart problem quickly and call 911 immediately. Particularly during holidays, all too often, a person suffering a cardiac emergency doesn’t tell anyone. Symptoms can include pain in the chest or jaw or down the arm, shortness of breath, weakness, dizziness or nausea. Women suffering a heart crisis are more likely than men to feel pain in the arms, back, neck or jaw, stomach pain and extreme tiredness even if they’ve been sitting for a while,” said Ryan Wilson, operations manager at AMR Central Mississippi.

Wilson said people who feel such symptoms should not put off going to the doctor or delay calling 911.