5 Times in Life When You Are More Likely to Have a Heart Attack

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A woman having a heart attack.
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Someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds in the U.S.

That’s about 800,000 heart attacks every year in one country — with the vast majority of them being first heart attacks, as opposed to affecting people who suffered one previously.

Research shows the risk of a myocardial infarction, as it’s known medically, is exacerbated during certain life events. Some of these events are rare, but one of them happens every year and another is a milestone we all look forward to.

The start of daylight saving time

Woman hitting the "snooze" button
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The frustrations of resetting your clocks and losing an hour of sleep aren’t the only negatives of daylight saving time.

A large study of hospital admissions across Michigan, published by the British Medical Association, found that there’s a 24% increase in heart attacks on the Monday after daylight saving time starts.

Research unrelated to daylight saving time, also published by the British Medical Association, found that serious heart attacks are more likely to occur on Mondays. According to the American Heart Association, this makes the time around daylight saving “even more worrisome.”

Loss of a partner

Pensive senior
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Heartbreak is more than just a saying.

Research from experts with the University of St. George’s London found that among 10,000 people age 60 and older, the risk of heart attack as well as stroke doubled in the 30 days following the loss of a partner.

Study co-author Dr. Sunil Shah explained:

“There is evidence, from other studies, that bereavement and grief lead to a range of adverse responses including changes in blood clotting, blood pressure, stress hormone levels and heart rate control. All these will contribute to an increased risk of events such as heart attacks and stroke after loss of a partner.”

Shah also noted that a separate study found that patients may not consistently take medications like cholesterol-lowering drugs or aspirin while grieving, which could contribute to increased risk for cardiovascular events like heart attacks.

Loss of a loved one

Grieving widow being comforted at a funeral service
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A study of 1,985 adult heart attack survivors, published by the American Heart Association, concluded that the risk of heart attack was higher in the month after they lost someone close to them. More specifically, the risk was 21 times higher than normal during the first 24 hours after the loss and six times higher during the first week after.

Cancer diagnosis

Stroke patient with doctor
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A cancer diagnosis can be devastating and life changing. Your heart feels that stress.

For a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health reviewed data on more than 6 million Swedish people.

They found that patients recently diagnosed with cancer had a 5.6 times higher risk of death from a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular event.

The risk was greatest a week after the diagnosis, but cancer patients were still three times more likely to die from a cardiovascular event one year after the diagnosis compared with people without cancer.


Retired woman
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Retirement is the time you get to finally enjoy the nest egg you’ve spent much of your life building, but it also puts your heart at risk — and it’s not just because you’re aging.

For a study out of Harvard School of Public Health, researchers followed more than 5,400 Americans age 50 and older who were working full-time and had no major heart disease at the start of the study period. Researchers followed the participants for up to a decade, including through their transition to full retirement.

Overall, being retired was associated with a 40% higher risk of heart attack as well as stroke compared with those still working full-time. The risk was highest within the first year of retiring and decreased from there.

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