Most Heart Attacks Happen on This Day of the Week, Says New Study
New research might suggest your choices over the weekend could impact your cardiovascular health. A doctor unpacks the logic.
At some point we’ve all had a tough Monday, but it looks like Monday could be hard on your heart, too. Recent research presented in June 2023 at the British Cardiovascular Society conference in Manchester, U.K. reveals that the most severe type of heart attack, known as ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), is most likely to strike on a Monday.
The study, led by cardiologist Dr. Jack Laffan at Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, examined data from over 10,000 patients. What’s the connection? Your weekend habits and the stress of starting a new week might be key players. Dr. Laffan shared in a news release, “We’ve found a strong correlation between the start of the working week and the incidence of STEMI. This has been described before but remains a curiosity.”
What is a STEMI?
Before we proceed, let’s define the term STEMI. The Cleveland Clinic, which is one of the leading heart care hospitals in the country, explains that a STEMI represents one of the most severe forms of heart attack. A STEMI is the outcome of a blockade of blood supply, which consequently inflicts considerable damage to a broad section of the heart muscle.
What sets a STEMI apart is its unique signature on an electrocardiogram—an ECG or EKG. This diagnostic tool detects and records the electrical activity of the heart. In a STEMI event, the EKG reveals a distinctive pattern, signaling that a primary coronary artery—a significant pipeline supplying blood to the heart—is completely obstructed.
This unusual EKG pattern serves as a red flag for healthcare providers, highlighting the critical nature of the situation. Prompt recognition of a STEMI, followed by immediate medical intervention, can drastically enhance survival rates, mitigate the extent of heart damage, and improve the prognosis for long-term heart health.
Tune in to your body clock
Dr. Laffan proposes that the study results aren’t attributed to a single factor. He asserts: “The cause is likely multifactorial, however, based on what we know from previous studies, it is reasonable to presume a circadian element.”
Your body has a natural rhythm, the circadian rhythm, that guides your sleep and wake cycles. This internal clock also plays a vital role in heart health. Dr. Laffan suggests that the spike in heart attacks on Mondays could be linked to disruptions in the body’s sleep cycle over the weekend.
So, how can you keep your ticker ticking smoothly? Start by setting a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends, and create a calming bedtime routine to let your body know it’s time to wind down.
Be mindful of weekend indulgences
Maybe you’re disciplined with nutrition during the week but consider the weekend safe to “cheat.” No judgement: Weekends are a time to let loose, but going overboard might have consequences for your heart. Here’s a sobering fact to consider: A 2015 Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health study suggests that binge drinkers are 72% more likely to experience a heart attack than their non-binge-drinking counterparts.
It’s all about balance. Choose to savor your treats mindfully and alternate alcoholic drinks with water. Be sure to incorporate heart-healthy foods and engage in physical activity to keep your heart in tip-top shape.
Say goodbye to Sunday stress
Maybe you’ve heard of the Sunday scaries, and they can have a real effect—the “anticipatory anxiety” of the upcoming work week can sometimes cast a shadow over your relaxing Sunday. Dr. Joel K. Kahn, MD, an integrative cardiologist, shared in an article with Insider that worries about the week ahead cause adrenaline and cortisol levels to spike. This sudden increase might not only elevate blood pressure, but also enhance clotting—neither of which are beneficial for your heart.
How about turning your Sunday into a day of relaxation and preparation? Engage in stress-reducing activities like yoga, meditation, church or other spiritual practice, or a leisurely walk in the park. Plan your Monday morning to avoid the rush, and create a heart-friendlier start to your week.
Daily love for your heart should be non-negotiable. As scientists work to understand the Monday heart attack spike, you can adopt proactive measures to protect your heart.
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