Long term eating of cheeseburger on a couch while watching tv is not the only way to trigger heart attacks

4 surprising heart attack triggers

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

Very surprisingly, that experiencing daily traffic could contribute in triggering a heart attack.

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!)

Steve Sisskind, M.D.

Hi, I'm Dr. Steve Sisskind, Chief Medical Officer & Founder at RealDose Nutrition.

As a young physician, I struggled because my patients came to me with serious health issues, but I didn't have the right tools to help them. Medical school taught me how to put "band aids" on their symptoms with drugs and surgery, but not how to address the root causes of their problems.

Years later I discovered a better approach... based on the fundamental idea that the power of nutrition can transform your health and vitality. But there's a lot of confusion... What foods should I eat? Which supplements should I take? What does the science say?

I have dedicated my life to answering these questions... And I share this knowledge with you every day here at RealDose Nutrition.

I invite you to connect with me by joining my free private community. I've helped thousands of people and I know I can help you too!

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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.


  1. Hello Dr Steve,

    Can I get my daily dose of Omega 3, just by taking nuts, olives and seeds without taking supplements?

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Mary,

      Thank you for posting your concerns! Yes, absolutely! But, you may need to eat a whole lot of nuts, olives and seeds to get the recommended amounts. I suggest you add fish in your diet in place of meat to get the recommended daily allowance. Hope this helps! Have a healthy day!

  2. Hi,
    I would like to loose around 30 pound. Most fat I have on my belly. I’m scared to take any loss weight product bcz once I stop I will gain back. What’s your suggestion ? What is the risk. According to doctor, I do over weight about 25-30 pound.

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Jagu,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! We always recommend making small permanent healthy changes to your diet or routine. While fixed plans or diets that work with a timeline may be effective, rebounds are still likely to happen and you only get even more discouraged to continue with your lifestyle change. Instead, by making small permanent changes, you are not pressured to stick to a rigid diet plan and in turn, are able to completely implement these in your day to day regimen. Changes such as cutting back on carbs, avoiding refined sugars and processed food may be simple but are quite effective in making your transition easier and less “traumatic”. Over time, you can implement other healthy changes such as adding more heaping helpings of leafy greens (great for those with cholesterol problems), beans and lentils (to cut down on meat consumption) and maybe cutting back on your alcohol intake. You can also try experimenting with fish and seafood dishes more, to help get you variety and meal options. The important thing is to not get discouraged and continue with your healthy changes. You will soon notice that you have become more aware of the quality of the food in your meals and also able to widen your options. Make it a healthy day!

  3. Hi am Liz got a few ?
    Need to loose belly fat assp. Had it after I had my son which is over 10 years ago and can’t seems to get rid of it. I read about after 30 our body goes into menopause States and store belly fat. I have high blood pressure but control, and pre dietetic but I need to loose weight like my doctor say like 20 lbs, my weight is on my stomach, but I feel I should be at least for my height I should be under 130lbs help me Dr please thank you.

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Liz,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! I completely understand your concerns and do know that how difficult it can be to lose weight at this time. However, please know that even though your body is currently going through changes, hormonal and physical, it is still quite possible. Try to incorporate Omega rich foods into your diet to help you fight off inflammation and also reap their heart health benefits. Omega 3 rich foods are your nuts, seeds, olives and avocados, to name a few. In terms of exercise, you may want to try routines that engage your core muscles. Exercises such as swimming, Pilates, Tai Chi and Yoga are all low impact but great at working out and strengthening your core. That said and before anything else, I do suggest that you first speak with your personal doctor before getting started on any the health plans above. The reason being, you blood pressure and overall health status may need to be assessed to ensure your safety as you go along your new regimen. Hope this helps! Make it a healthy day!

  4. Cortisol is the main problem in many cases. RealDose formula No 1 will help with that. I take it mainly to help me with my health. I do not have a weight problem. Also I eat raw food which makes half of my meal.

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Mary,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing! Yes, RealDose Weight Loss Formula No.1 can help your body control Cortisol and ease it effects. However, getting adequate sleep, exercise and keeping your cool is just as important. I thank you for sharing! Have a healthy day!

  5. This is good…I just hav a question though…Do u have any research on d effect of Omega 3 on the prostate? Because i saw that they say Omega 3 is not recommended to prostate patients..and still others say…Omega 3 is good for prostate…Which is REALLY and HONESTLY which ? 🙂

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Kitt,

      Thank you for writing in and for posting your question! We read the study recently published too and according to the article, large doses of Fish oil was being taken by these men. However, it is important to note that the study itself is not about Omega 3 and prostate cancer, which is why the results are more coincidental rather than cause and effect. That said, the American Heart Association considers taking up to 3 grams of fish oil per day safe. We recommend 2.4 grams and can be taken in 3 doses throughout the day or together. That said, I completely understand your concern and do highly recommend that you talk with your personal doctor, especially if you have a strong family history of the disease. Hope this helps! Have a healthy day!

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