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Deadly heart attacks more likely to happen on Monday, finds study

According to new data presented at the British Cardiovascular Society (BCS) conference currently underway in Manchester, life-threatening heart attacks are more likely to occur at the start of the working week than at any other time.

Doctors at the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland examined data from 10,528 patients admitted to the hospital with the most life-threatening type of heart attack, known as an ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) when a major coronary artery is completely blocked, between 2013 and 2018 (7,112 in the Republic of Ireland, 3,416 in Northern Ireland).

The researchers discovered a surge in STEMI heart attacks at the start of the work week, with rates peaking on Monday, which were higher than those expected on a Sunday.

Scientists claim they have yet to fully explain why the "Blue Monday" phenomenon happens, and earlier research indicating that heart attacks are more probable on Mondays has suggested a relationship with the body's sleep or waking cycle, known as circadian rhythm.

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According to the World Health Organisation estimates, in 2019, over 15.2 million people across the globe died due to heart attacks and strokes.

Pointing out that over 30,000 hospital admissions due to STEMI each year in the United Kingdom, requiring emergency assessment and treatment to minimise damage to the heart, normally performed with emergency angioplasty to re-open the blocked coronary artery, Cardiologist Dr Jack Laffan, who led the research at the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, said,  “We have found a strong statistical correlation between the start of the working week and the incidence of STEMI.”

“This has been described before but remains a curiosity. The cause is likely multifactorial, however, based on what we know from previous studies, it is reasonable to presume a circadian element, ” he added.

“Someone is admitted to hospital due to a life-threatening heart attack every five minutes in the UK, so it is vital that research continues to shed light on how and why heart attacks happen,” Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said.  

“This study adds to evidence around the timing of particularly serious heart attacks, but we now need to unpick what it is about certain days of the week that makes them more likely.  Doing so could help doctors better understand this deadly condition so we can save more lives in future,”  he added.

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