New study changes how experts view cardiac arrest risk.
For decades, health experts believed that weekday mornings — especially Mondays — were prime time for unexpected deaths and sudden cardiac arrests.
The reason, they predicted, was due to the sudden surge of cortisol — known as the stress hormone — we experience upon waking up. All that cortisol drives up our blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar levels, and, consequently, would send early risers off to the emergency room.
However, those peak hours may now be a thing of the past.
Thanks to the modern pressures of living and working in a fast-paced world, sudden cardiac arrests are now more likely to occur at any time any day of the week, according to a recent study published in
In order to identify the current peak times for sudden cardiac arrest, researchers from the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles studied data from The Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death Study, a 16-hospital, multi-year assessment of cardiac deaths in Portland, Oregon.
All cases that the team evaluated were collected from emergency medical reports between 2002 and 2014.
The investigators found that of the 1,535 adults who died from sudden cardiac arrest, just 13.9 percent died between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m. Furthermore, there was no evidence that sudden cardiac arrests were more likely to occur on Mondays.
Sudden cardiac arrests, on the other hand, involve electrical issues of the heart and take place when the heart’s rhythm slows down and stops beating. This often causes a loss of consciousness or death.
“In [a] large percentage of patients, the cause of sudden cardiac arrest is not known,” Dr. Shephal Doshi, a cardiac electrophysiologist and director of cardiac electrophysiology and pacing at Providence Saint John’s Health Center, said.
These patients often have issues with their heart including how it’s pumping, Doshi noted, adding that certain hereditary genetic diseases can also contribute to sudden cardiac arrest in family members.
“Heart attacks typically cause symptoms such as chest tightness or chest pain while sudden cardiac arrest causes people to have sudden loss of consciousness and most often death,” Doshi said.
Sudden cardiac arrests take the lives of nearly 300,000 people in the U.S. annually, making it one of the leading causes of death each year.
While there may be many factors contributing to this shift in sudden cardiac arrests, the research team believes that stress may have a lot to do with it.
“We now live in a fast-paced, ‘always on’ era that causes increased psycho-social stress and possibly, an increase in the likelihood of sudden cardiac arrest,” the study’s lead investigator Dr. Sumeet Chugh, a professor of medicine and medical director of the Heart Rhythm Center, Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai, said in a statement.
“Stress causes an increase in blood pressure, inflammation, and even cholesterol levels — all of which increases the likelihood of a heart attack, and, subsequently, sudden cardiac arrest,” Dr. Michael Ghalchi, a cardiologist with Manhattan Cardiovascular Associates, told Healthline.
Additionally, stress can also lead to depression and anxiety, which may increase your chances of a sudden cardiac arrest, Ghalchi said.
For one, put down your smartphone. All those apps and persistent notifications aren’t doing us any good. Do yourself (and your heart) a favor, and try to slow down and disconnect.
It’s also worth looking into your eating habits. Ghalchi recommends eating a well-balanced diet of unprocessed foods with the majority of calories coming from heart-healthy proteins and fat — think fish, vegetables, legumes, and nuts — along with complex carbohydrates.
While more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between stress and sudden cardiac arrest, we do know
In the meantime, though, it seems we could all stand to silence our notifications every now and again.