It’s commonly believed that most heart attacks happen randomly. Maybe at night during sleep or while out walking alone. It’s also acknowledged that heart attacks are more likely to occur during periods of severe stress, such as during a natural disaster or even during periods of heightened emotions. There is however, a large body of research regarding the timing of heart attacks. It turns out we can predict the season, the day of the week, and even the time of the day that heart attacks are most likely to happen – even for the widowmaker, the most catastrophic of all heart attacks. Many studies encompassing thousands of patients have looked at this, and in this article we will review the major findings.
Which Season Has The Most Heart Attacks?
Several studies have demonstrated that there is seasonal variation in heart attacks.
They are most likely to occur in the winter, and least likely to occur in the summer. This is not just true for heart attacks, but also other cardiovascular events. Several explanations have been proposed. Winter is associated with infections and derangements in cholesterol levels. The lower temperatures cause increased stress on the walls of the heart and reduced flow to the arteries that supply the heart. Winter is also associated with psychological stress, depression and decreased activity. In fact, researchers have shown people are most likely to die from heart disease over the Christmas and New Years period.
What’s The Most Likely Day Of The Week To Have A Heart Attack?
Researchers have shown that people are clearly more likely to have a heart attack on a Monday. In fact the same goes for sudden cardiac death from life threatening heart rhythm problems, and death from other heart diseases. These findings are mainly true for the working population and hold true for men and women; however, this may not be true outside of the West. There is some evidence that in the Middle East the peak incidence of heart attacks is on Fridays, and in Japan it is during the weekend. This supports an explanation that relates to the working week and related stressors. It’s possible that increased stress hormones triggered by the return to work can make heart plaques unstable and lead to a heart attack. There is no clear proof of that however.
What’s The Most Likely Time Of Day To Have A Heart Attack?
It is well established that heart attacks are most likely to occur in the mornings and within the first few hours of waking. One study showed that you are three times likely of suffering a heart attack at 9am as compared to 11pm. Proposed reasons for this include increase surges of stress hormones on waking and also the blood being less thin in the morning, both of which have been demonstrated. Also the well-documented morning peaks in heart rate, blood pressure and blood vessel tone may contribute.
The Perfect Storm
Research has clearly demonstrated that far from being random, there is a pattern to peaks of incidence of cardiac events. Heart attacks, especially ST Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarctions, are most likely to happen in the winter months, on a Monday, and just after waking in the morning. Even worse would be a winter Monday morning in the setting of a natural disaster acting as a trigger. Statistically speaking, everyone at risk of heart disease should be a little on guard in such a scenario.