This Christmas proved ‘less lethal than average’, says a leading blood testing expert. Though more people tend to die of heart problems during Christmas week than at any other time of the year, this year there were 7,447 deaths in England and Wales over Christmas, compared to 9,517 in 2022 and a five-year average of 8,228.
Dr Avinash Hari Narayanan (MBChB), Clinical Lead at London Medical Laboratory, says: ‘Christmas can be an unhealthy and stressful time of the year. Research published in the US journal “Circulation” shows that 4% more people die of heart problems during the Christmas holiday compared to even the mid-winter average.
‘The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show 7,447 deaths were recorded in England and Wales in the week ending 29 December, 2023. This total was down 21.7% on last Christmas and 9.4% on the five-year average for Christmas week. Despite reports of a surge in Covid cases, Covid was involved in only 181 deaths (2.4%), compared to 393 deaths over Christmas week, 2022.
‘We don’t yet have a complete breakdown of the cause of deaths for Christmas week, but we can tell a lot from last Christmas’ results. While we don’t see all causes of death in these figures, we can see 1,803 deaths for the week ending 30 December, 2022 were directly attributable to diseases of the respiratory system and 787 to influenza and pneumonia.
‘Adding to the impact of fatty Christmas foods, it’s perhaps not generally known that a bad case of flu can also have an impact on the heart. The flu virus affects inflammatory and blood-clotting pathways. This can cause stable fatty deposits on the artery walls (plaques) to become unstable, leading to rapid coronary artery blockage – the main cause of heart attacks.
‘Knowing all these issues, what preventative action can we take to fully recover from Christmas excesses? By monitoring our cholesterol over time we can see how effective our New Year’s healthy eating resolutions have been at reducing these levels.
‘London Medical Laboratory’s revolutionary and convenient home finger-prick Cholesterol Profile test measures total cholesterol, LDL “bad cholesterol”, HDL “good” cholesterol, non-HDL (a newly adopted, more accurate, measure) and other key markers. It can be taken at home through the post, or at one of the many drop-in clinics that offer these tests across London and nationwide in over 95 selected pharmacies and health stores.