A double bacon cheeseburger with a side of sitting on the couch is an obvious long-term strategy for a heart attack.
But what about in the short term?
Are there day-to-day triggers that could set off a heart attack sooner, rather than later?
While a heart attack doesn’t exactly come out of the blue — clogged arteries are the root cause — certain things can help set a heart attack into motion.
Here are 4 that may surprise you.
#1. Morning time
Although it sounds counterintuitive, you’re most likely to have a heart attack when you wake up in the morning. You’d think that’s the least stressed time — who’s stressed when they sleep? — but that isn’t the case.1
Researchers aren’t 100% sure why this happens, but it’s probably related to the hormone cortisol. To get your tired bones out of bed, your body sends cortisol into the blood stream (cortisol helps mobilize the body’s energy). That raises blood pressure and puts stress on the heart.
#2. A big fight
I’ve often said that my wife and kids are going to give me a heart attack. And they may!
Intense emotions can have an effect on the electrical impulses in the heart, which can lead to a heart attack. And that pesky hormone cortisol plays a role as well. Anger triggers the hormone, causing blood vessels to narrow and leading to a spike in blood pressure.2
#3. A supersized meal
As I said earlier, a diet full of double bacon cheeseburgers can lead to a heart attack in the long term. But research has found that a large meal can actually increase the risk of heart attack within hours after eating!
Researchers questioned more than 200 patients about the meals they had eaten just prior to their heart attacks. Those who ate what they described as a heavy meal were 4 times more likely to suffer a heart attack … during the first hour after eating … compared to after eating their usual meals.3
Eating a heavy meal may shuttle the blood to the stomach and intestines, making the heart work harder and faster.
#4. A traffic jam
Living in New York City, I get to walk a lot of places. But when I do hop in a taxi and have to sit still in traffic? I sometimes get so huffy that I feel like jumping out of the cab and walking instead.
Turns out, that may be healthier!
One study found that patients who had a heart attack were more than 3 times as likely to have been in traffic within an hour of the onset of their symptoms.4
It’s likely a combination of stress and air pollution that causes the attack.
I know it can be impossible to avoid traffic jams. But there IS something you can do to lower the effects of the pollution.
Take fish oil supplements. One study found that taking regular omega-3 fish oil supplements for as few as 4 weeks lowered subjects’ susceptibility to the effects of toxic air pollution.
The daily fish oil supplement contained about 2 grams of the key fatty acids (EPA and DHA), just like a daily serving of Omega-3 TG.5
And, the protective effect of omega-3 fatty acids for heart health is well-recognized. At least 10 health authorities around the world, including the American Heart Association, recommend an optimal intake of EPA and DHA as part of a heart-healthy lifestyle.
It’s a key reason why we included Omega-3 TG in our Essentials Line of dietary supplements. When you think about it, it’s pretty amazing that taking this 1 daily supplement has the power to help maintain the health of your entire cardiovascular system … and it’s something you can do in a New York minute. (With or without traffic!)
Dr. Steven Sisskind, M.D.
1. Elliott WJ. Circadian variation in the timing of stroke onset: a meta-analysis. Stroke. 1998;29(5):992-996. PMID: 9596248.
2. Mostofsky E, Penner EA, Mittleman MA. Outbursts of anger as a trigger of acute cardiovascular events: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur Heart J. 2014;35(21):1404-1410. PMID: 24591550.
3. Lipovetzky N, Hod H, Roth A, Kishon Y, Sclarovsky S, Green MS. Heavy meals as a trigger for a first event of the acute coronary syndrome: a case-crossover study. Isr Med Assoc J. 2004;6(12):728-731. PMID: 1560988.
4. Peters A, von Klot S, Mittleman MA, Meisinger C, Wichmann HE. Times spent in traffic and the onset of myocardial infarction [abstract P382]. Circulation. 2009;119(10): e366.
5. Tong H, Rappold AG, Diaz-Sanchez D, et al. Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation appears to attenuate particulate air pollution-induced cardiac effects and lipid changes in healthy middle-aged adults. Environ Health Perspect. 2012;120(7):952-957. PMID: 22514211.
6. Russell FD, Bürgin-Maunder CS. Distinguishing health benefits of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids. Mar Drugs. 2012;10(11):2535-2559. Review. PMID: 23203276.