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PHOENIX -- Researchers believe there is a link between the holidays and heart attacks.

A study out of Tufts University School of Medicine and the University of California at San Diego suggests there are 5 percent more heart-related fatalities during what's supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. The 2004 study also found that ER doctors are the most busy on Christmas Day, the day after and New Year's Day tending to heart attack patients.

While some experts have found a link between the cold weather and its effect on the cardiovascular system, many doctors agree there are other factors at play.

"The holidays are a time when our stress levels tend to be higher, diet changes may occur and increases in alcohol use," said Dr. Shannon Scott at Midwestern University in Glendale.

A combination that can prove deadly if the patient isn't in the best of health.

Scott said patients get so wrapped up in the hustle and bustle this time of year many miss doctor's appointments, neglect to reschedule them then run out of medicine.

While researchers continue to pinpoint the exact cause of the spike in heart-related incidents during the holidays, the best advice is to try to keep stress levels down, stick to healthy diet habits, don't overdo with alcohol and always seek medical attention if you are feeling ill.

Sandra Haros , Reporter

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