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11 Signs You Might Be Headed For a Heart Attack

Your mood, sleep schedule, and even your neighborhood could be putting your ticker in trouble.


You get angry over the littlest things

Tend to morph into the Hulk when you’re upset? Those fiery emotions can drastically increase your risk for a heart attack. Researchers at the University of Australia questioned 313 patients who had suffered suspected heart attacks about their anger levels before the onset of symptoms. They found that patients were 8.5 times more likely to have a heart attack in the two hours following an intense outburst of anger, defined as “very angry, body tense, clenching fists or teeth.” The more often you’re angry, the higher your chances for a heart attack.


You spend most of your time in front of a screen

Yes, that includes working on your computer. A study from the University College London reports that people who watch TV or work on a computer for four or more hours a day increase their risk of an event associated with cardiovascular disease, like a heart attack, by 125 percent. Long periods of sitting deplete the body’s supply of lipoprotein lipase, an enzyme that breaks down fat and prevents clogged arteries. If you spend most of your day plopped behind a desk, take a brief walk after every 20 minutes or try a standing desk. You can burn 30 percent more calories when you stand than when you sit. Don’t miss these 15 doctor-approved tips to prevent heart disease.


You log less than six hours of sleep each night

Many adults struggle to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night, but consistently missing that mark could be deadly. A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health found that Japanese men who got less than six hours of sleep were five times more likely to have a heart attack than men who slept seven or eight hours a night. Another study from Jichi Medical School in Tochigi, Japan, found the same risk applied to Japanese women who got less than six hours of sleep.


You live in a smoggy area

Smog is just as bad for your heart as it is for your lungs. Researchers used hourly air pollution measurements in South Boston to determine how exposure to particulate matter (small combustion particles that come from fuel burning and vehicle emissions) affected patients in this area who had heart attacks. They found that exposure to high concentrations of air pollution increased the likelihood of a heart attack by 48 percent in the two hours before patients first experienced heart attack symptoms. The risk went up to 69 percent when people were exposed to high levels of air pollution for 24 hours before the onset of symptoms. Check out the Environmental Protection Agency’s website to see how smog affects your neighborhood. Here are 9 more things you should know about heart attacks before you have one.


It’s Daylight Saving Time

When researchers examined three years of Michigan hospital records to track the number of heart attacks that required stent insertions, they found that the frequency of these procedures fluctuated when Daylight Saving Time started and ended. On the Monday after “springing ahead” an hour, there was an 24 percent increase in heart attacks. (However, on the Tuesday after “falling back,” there were 21 percent fewer daily heart attacks). Since the total heart attack counts for those weeks were not drastically different from other weeks, researchers determined that the time changes didn’t necessarily make the heart attacks happen, but rather made them likely to occur sooner than they otherwise would have. This is probably due to disrupted sleep-wake cycles and increased stress at the start of a new week of work.


You’re divorced

Divorce can cause literal heartache. Researchers at the Duke University School of Medicine conducted an 18-year-study of nearly 16,000 men and women between the ages of 45 and 80 who had been married at least once. Every two years, researchers assessed the participants’ marital status and overall health. Divorced women were 25 percent more likely to have a heart attack than those who stayed married. Women who had two or more divorces were 77 percent more likely to have a heart attack. As for the men, the risk of heart attack stayed the same regardless of whether they were married or divorced—at first. But if they divorced at least twice, their heart attack risk increased by 30 percent. Here are 8 more sneaky heart attack symptoms women always ignore.


You live in an area with extreme temperatures

Studies show that both extreme cold and extreme heat can put people at risk for heart attacks. Using data from cardiac patients in the Worcester Heart Attack Study, scientists found that exposure to temperatures lower than 17º F in the two days prior to a heart attack increased patients’ risk by 36 percent. On the other end of the spectrum, British researchers found that once the temperature reaches 68º F, each increase of 1.8º F increased the risk of heart attack by 2 percent over the next one to six hours. On the first day of a hot spell, that risk jumps up to 6.5 percent per 1.8º F increase.

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You lived through a natural disaster

Experiencing a hurricane or earthquake devastate your hometown not only affects you mentally and emotionally but physically as well. Researchers at Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans studied the number of patients that were admitted with heart-related problems in the years after Hurricane Katrina hit the area in 2005. They found that the number of people admitted to the hospital for heart attacks increased three-fold in the ten years after Katrina, compared to the number of admissions in 2003 and 2004. Patients were also more likely to have heart attack risk factors after the hurricane, including high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and diabetes. Don’t miss these things heart doctors do to protect their own hearts.

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You didn’t go to college

The four or more years you spend in college may be good for more than a diploma. A study published in the International Journal for Equity in Health analyzed data from more than 267,000 Australian men and women. The results showed that people with no certifications or degrees were more than twice at risk of a heart attack compared to those with a university degree or higher. Bottom line: The more time you spend in school, the lower your risk for a heart attack.

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You got the flu

The American College of Cardiology has long recommended that those with heart disease get annual flu shots, but new research shows just how important that shot is. New research published in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at 364 people hospitalized for heart attacks and found that they were six times more likely to have a heart attack in the week after being infected with the flu. If you’re feeling under the weather, look out for these 7 silent signs you’re having a heart attack.

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Your mother had a heart attack

Or maybe it was your father, or grandparent, or siblings. No matter which relative it was, the American Heart Association says that heart disease and risk factors for heart disease are strongly linked to family history. There are at least 67 sites in the DNA sequence, or variants, that can increase your risk of a heart attack, and as Dr. Pradeep Natarajan, director of preventive medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, told Harvard Health Publishing, “Each of these variants raises the relative risk of cardiovascular disease by about 10%. But if you have a number of them, it adds up.” The good news is, having a family history of heart attacks don’t guarantee you will have one. Actively maintaining a healthy lifestyle can lower your overall risk. Start with these 30 proven ways to reduce your risk of heart disease.