Doctors say heart attacks increase during the holidays


by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist DENNIS THOMAS

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Posted on December 21, 2012 at 7:22 PM

Updated Friday, Dec 21 at 7:41 PM

AUSTIN -- Studies have shown that the number of heart attacks increase during the holiday season.  One Central Texas man is living proof of that holiday heart attack statistic. He wants to share his story so others can learn and live.

Dennis Watson, his daughter and granddaughter, gathered around a Christmas tree Friday. It's not the one at his Elgin home, but one at his cardiologist's office in Austin. The 57-year-old pastor almost didn't live to see Christmas this year after he suffered a heart attack three weeks ago right after Thanksgiving.

"I never dreamed that I would be a candidate for this or that this would happen to me," said Watson.

Dr. Tuan Nguyen, a cardiologist with Seton Medical Center, performed a triple bypass on Watson the day after his heart attack.

"The worst part of his (heart scan) pictures are right here," said Nguyen. "It's called the left main coronary artery. You see a very tight blockage or stenosis, and that was the culprit for his heart attack."

Nguyen says obviously a heart attack doesn't just occur because it's the holidays. He says the stress of the holidays, whether it be emotional or financial, or dietary indiscretion, like eating to much salty or fatty foods, can add to clogged arteries and trigger the heart illness that may have been building for years. It's why Nguyen says it's wise not to take a holiday from a healthy lifestyle -- even during the holidays.

"Prevention doesn't just occur in November and December," he said. "Prevention occurs January through December. It's year-round."

Watson didn't start exercising regularly until five years ago. He firmly believes that's what led to his clogged arteries. He plans to heed Dr. Nguyen's advice about year-round prevention, but following doctors orders, he doesn't plan to stress out about it.

"It is what it is, and it do what it do," said Watson. "You be concerned but don't worry. If I concern myself with certain things that need to be taken care of or addressed, of course you take care of that but not go to bed with it. I won't live with it. I won't walk with it."