Is Santa Claus at risk of a heart attack?

Is Santa Claus at risk of a heart attack?


Osmosis videos often include famous people
who have had a disease, and it’s for two reasons: one it helps to destigmatize having
the disease, and two, it helps to serve as a memory anchor for remembering the specifics
of the disease. Today we’re discussing one of the biggest
celebrities of all: Santa Claus! Indeed, because of his age, his relationship
with iconic brands such as Coca-Cola, and his ability to pander to children—with promises
of presents—and to parents—with threats of withholding presents from their children
for misbehavior—Santa Claus has become one of the most beloved and recognizable figures
around the world. While Santa Claus has never been known to
have any serious illnesses or conditions we’re concerned he’s a ticking time bomb for having
a heart attack. Much of what we know about this enigmatic
cultural icon, including one of his many pseudonyms, comes from a single chance encounter with
a scholar name Clement Clarke Moore in 1822 who chronicled the meeting in A Visit from
St. Nicholas more popularly known as ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. As Moore recounts: His droll little mouth was drawn up like a
bow, And the beard on his chin was as white as
the snow; The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full
of jelly. He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old
elf. From this description, it’s clear Santa
Claus has several of the key cardiovascular risk factors which increase his potential
of having a heart attack. Remember heart attacks typically occur when
an artery has plaque build up and that plaque suddenly breaks—blocking the blood from
getting through and reaching the heart muscle. A bit like a plump individual getting stuck
in a chimney and blocking the smoke from getting through to the night sky. This starves the heart tissue of nutrients
and oxygen, causing cardiac ischemia; and eventually death of the heart tissue, called
a myocardial infarction or a heart attack. The first risk factor is age—Santa is old! He had a white beard even 200 years ago, so
let’s generously assume that he’s at least 250 years old. As we age, our blood vessels become less flexible,
making it harder for blood to move through them easily. Think of an old garden hose that’s become
rigid over the years—those are Santa’s blood vessels. The second risk factor is tobacco—Santa
is clearly a heavy smoker, as he was unable to put down the pipe even while hard at work. Sure this was in the 1800s when that was encouraged,
but still. Burning tobacco produces thousands of toxic
chemicals which when inhaled into the lungs, cause inflammation and damage the inner lining
of the arteries. The third risk factor is obesity. By all accounts, Santa is overweight likely
due to his eating a high-calorie, high-sugar, low-fiber diet. Obesity increases the risk of hypertension,
hyperlipidemia, and type 2 diabetes, all of which increase the risk of having a heart
attack. Finally, Santa’s job is chock full of occupational
hazards. His work hours are uneven during the year. In the summer, it’s not clear how much he
works, if at all, but during the Christmas period he’s likely working overtime. On Christmas Eve it’s estimated that he
works 36 consecutive hours while crossing all 24 time zones of the earth, so it’s
possible he works many of those same hours multiple times. That just logically can’t be a good thing. It’s likely that he depends heavily on stimulants,
like caffeine at the very least, to pull off that monumental shift. Also, because he’s circumventing the globe
at all latitudes after being used to the extreme cold temperatures of the north pole, he’s
likely to experience significant heat stress when he labors to deliver presents to homes
in warmer climates. This is likely exacerbated by having to enter
homes through a hot, sooty, narrow chimney. Finally, it’s customary for children to
tip Santa with cookies and milk which he consumes on this marathon shift. Even conservative estimates suggest that he’s
ingesting a massive bolus of sugar in one evening, and that likely causes a massive
spike in his blood sugar. Finally, there’s the constant threat of
the Grinch stealing Christmas and Amazon replacing the need for Santa. All of this is sure to weigh heavily on Santa’s
mind and cardiovascular system, causing his cortisol to rise and putting him at further
risk of having a heart attack. So, Santa is old, he smokes, he’s obese,
and his job is full of unique hazards—is he in danger of an imminent heart attack? Well, the good news is that he’s a physically
robust person, with a cheery disposition, and a strong social support network around
the world. Plus, the effects of magic on the cardiovascular
system are not well understood, and may play a considerable part in his continued way of
life. At any rate, these attributes have clearly
helped him so far, so we’re confident that he will continue to defy the odds tonight
and for years to come. Merry Christmas and Happy holidays everyone!