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Avoiding the ‘Merry Christmas Coronary'

Research1,2 clearly suggests that the Christmas holiday season is associated with a significant increase in cardiac deaths. Increased respiratory problems (colds and flu); excessive physical exertion (dancing, DIY or playing with the children); overeating; cold weather; lack of sleep; emotional stress; anger; excess salt; and alcohol intake are all potential triggers of acute myocardial infarction3,4,5 .

“Families should be aware of this "Merry Christmas Coronary” phenomenon, watching for signs and offering persistent and persuasive advice, particularly to Dad, to encourage more moderate behaviour,” said Dr. Mike Ingram, GP and men’s health specialist.

The inequality in life expectancy between men and women is growing wider and men are falling behind at a faster pace than ever. In 1940 women outlived men by 4.4 years – today the average is nearly seven6.

“The biggest killer of men is heart disease and too many men are dying from this condition by failing to tackle their risks,” said Dr. Ingram.

All men over 55 have a 10-15% chance of a heart attack in the next 10 years along with men 45 and over who smoke, are obese, have a family history of heart attack or are of South Asian origin. An estimated 8.8million people in the UK7 are in this moderate risk group.

New research8 from healthcare company McNeil Ltd, the manufacturers of Zocor Heart-Pro®, the over-the-counter cholesterol reducing statin, highlights men’s alarming attitude to risk as they enter mid-life. It suggests family pester power is a powerful weapon in the fight against heart disease. Research highlights include:

One third of men over 45 never exercise and 13% are perfectly happy with the fact they are unfit and overweight - and as a consequence at increased risk of heart attack

A quarter of men over 45 drink more than the weekly allowance of 21 units and over half were on some sort of medication, indicating a clear need for men to re-evaluate their health and lifestyle choices

45% of men would only be prompted into improving their health and changing unhealthy behaviour by becoming ill first - the idea of preventing potential problems through diet and behaviour is an anathema

Men ranked their wives and partners as equal influences to GPs in prompting changes towards healthier behaviour

“The best gift for the man in your life this Christmas is to pester him. If he wants to enjoy a long and active life he needs to focus more on reducing his heart attack risk factors. Help him to stop smoking, drink in moderation, cut out the heavy fatty food, exercise regularly and watch the blood pressure – start by cutting out salt,” said Dr. Ingram.

An easy start is to reduce cholesterol through diet and to discuss the use of statins, which are effective and proven to reduce risk, with your pharmacist. Why not make a healthier heart the New Year’s resolution for the whole family?

McNeil Ltd. has created, a free to use resource that will help improve overall heart health through a personal heart programme based on each individual’s lifestyle.


Media enquiries: please contact Paul Jarman at Ozone on 07967 678 305 or e-mail

Interviews available: Dr Mike Ingram PLUS 4x male case studies – golfing buddies, all at moderate risk of heart attack with very different attitudes to their risk of heart attack

Note to editors:

Heart attack is the single biggest cause of premature death in the UK and will account for 1 in 4 male deaths each year9. Raised cholesterol is a key risk factor for heart attack in men over 45. There is an estimated 8.8 million of people who are considered at moderate risk of a heart attack (10-15% chance) in the next 10 years3. While many in this group will be below the threshold that would make them eligible for prescription statins, the single most effective product that you can buy to reduce cholesterol before it becomes a problem is an over the counter statin from the pharmacist.

Zocor Heart-Pro® contains simvastatin, always read the leaflet. Consult your pharmacist for advice.

Zocor Heart-Pro® is suitable for men aged 55 or over. In addition it is suitable for men aged between 45 and 54, or women aged 55 or over if they have a one or more of the following risk factors: a family history of heart disease, smoke (current or within last 5 years), are overweight, or have a family origin from South Asia.


1 - Phillips DP, Jarvinen JR, Abramson IS, Phillips RR. Cardiac mortality is higher around Christmas and New Year’s than at any other time: the holidays as a risk factor for death. Circulation. 2004; 110: 3781–3788.

2 - Spencer FA, Goldberg RJ, Becker RC, Gore JM. Seasonal distribution of acute myocardial infarction in the second National Registry of Myocardial Infarction. J Am Coll Cardiol. 1998; 31: 1226–1233.[Abstract/Free Full Text]

3 - Muller JE, Abela GS, Nesto RW, Tofler GH. Triggers, acute risk factors and vulnerable plaques: the lexicon of a new frontier. J Am Coll Cardiol. 1994; 23: 809–813.[Abstract]

4 - Mittleman MA, Maclure M, Tofler GH, Sherwood JB, Goldberg RJ, Muller JE. Triggering of acute myocardial infarction by heavy physical exertion. Protection against triggering by regular exertion. Determinants of Myocardial Infarction Onset Study Investigators. N Engl J Med. 1993; 329: 1677–1683.[Abstract/Free Full Text]

5 - Verrier RL, Mittleman MA. The impact of emotions on the heart. Prog Brain Res. 2000; 122: 369–380.[Medline] [Order article via Infotrieve]

6 - “19 Ways the Save Your Husband’s Life” By Armin Brott

7 - Ipsos RSL Consumer Survey amongst 612 UK adults. July 2004.

8 - TNS Onlinebus conducted 183 interviews with men aged 45-64 on 24th-27th August 2006

9 - British Heart Foundations Statistical Database. 2003.