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Heart attacks more likely during presidential elections and other stressful times, study finds

Your genes could put you at higher risk of heart attack during very stressful times.

A Massachusetts General Hospital study found that people with specific genetic traits associated with anxiety or depression are at “significantly higher risk of heart attack” during times of social or political stress, like elections. presidential elections, the winter holidays or even the Super Bowl. .

The study, presented at the American College of Cardiology Annual Scientific Session in April, was the first to examine genetically based stress sensitivity as a driver of acute coronary syndromes (ACS).

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These syndromes include heart attacks and other “serious conditions in which the heart is suddenly deprived of a blood supply,” a press release notes.

Of 18,428 participants in the Mass General Brigham Biobank, 1,890 developed ACS between 2000 and 2020.

People with high stress sensitivity, anxiety or depression are at “significantly higher risk of heart attack” during times of social or political stress, the study found. (Lorenzo Bevilaqua/ABC via Getty Images; iStock)

The researchers measured participants’ stress sensitivity by measuring their neuroticism polygenic risk score (nPRS).

Stressful periods – including five days after the presidential elections and 10 days around Christmas Day – accounted for 3.2% of the observed period.

A total of 71 cases of SCA occurred during stressful periods, compared to 1,819 during control periods.

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People with high genetic susceptibility to stress had a 36% higher risk of ACS, the researchers found.

People with high genetic stress who also developed anxiety or depression had a three times higher risk.

People with above-median nPRS, or high genetic susceptibility to stress, had a 36% higher risk of ACS, according to a new study. (iStock)

“High nPRS, indicating elevated genetic susceptibility to stress, mediates SCA risk during periods of socio-political stress,” the study authors wrote in conclusion. “A multidimensional approach to (cardiovascular disease) prevention could benefit.”

In an interview with Fox News Digital, the study’s lead author, Shady Abohashem, MD, professor of cardiovascular imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, said that while the numbers are “striking,” The overall results are not surprising, as anxiety and depression alone have been associated with substantial heart attack risk, regardless of genetics.

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“So if you have both conditions, you would expect a substantial increase in your risk,” he said.

Through scientific analysis, Abohashem and his fellow researchers found that approximately 25% of ACS cases were caused by anxiety and depression.

About a quarter of ACS developments in this study were due to anxiety and depression, the researcher told Fox News Digital. (iStock)

The impact of genetic susceptibility on heart attack risk could be an important factor for cardiologists and general practitioners to consider, Abohashem said.

He suggested implementing these screenings into cardiovascular risk assessments to help identify those most at risk.

“The mind-heart connection is strong, and this study highlights that not only our bodies, but also our minds, need rest and care.”

“Based on this identification, we could develop targeted intervention, or perhaps preventive strategies, that could help us protect these people from developing heart attacks in the future,” he added.

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Researchers are currently working on a study to find out how lifestyle changes can benefit people at high genetic risk for stress.

As 2024 is an election year, Abohashem advised Americans to manage stress through effective activities like exercise or yoga.

Shady Abohashem, MD, instructor of cardiovascular imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, was lead author of the new study and shared his insights with Fox News Digital. (ACC (American College of Cardiology))

Dr. Laxmi Mehta, a medical expert with the American Heart Association and director of cardiology at Ohio State University, commented on the study in a statement sent to Fox News Digital.

“This is an interesting study that confirms the data on the mind-heart connection,” said Mehta, who was not involved in the research. “This highlights the importance of mental health and its impact on overall health, including the heart.”

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Mehta noted that the “retrospective nature” of the study “limits the ability to show a direct causal relationship between mental health issues” such as depression and anxiety.

The study “strengthens global preventive care”, underlined the cardiologist.

One doctor stressed the importance of medical attention to the “mind-heart connection.” (iStock)

“The mind-heart connection is strong, and this study highlights that not only our bodies, but also our minds, need rest and care,” she said.

“The public needs to be aware of the impact of social and political stress on us, that it is okay to take a break from these stressors, and that it is also good to learn about interventions such as yoga, exercise and mindfulness.”

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The expert encouraged doctors to advise their patients on the American Heart Association’s “Life’s Essential 8,” which are key steps to maintaining cardiovascular health.

These eight steps include eating better, being more active, quitting nicotine products, sleeping healthily, managing your weight, controlling your cholesterol levels, managing your blood sugar, and maintaining healthy blood pressure.

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