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Changes in heart attack timing continue years after hurricane
Date:3/7/2013

SAN FRANCISCO (March 7, 2013) The upheaval caused by Hurricane Katrina seems to have disrupted the usual timing of heart attacks, shifting peak frequency from weekday mornings to weekend nights, in a change in pattern that persisted a full five years after the storm, according to research being presented at the American College of Cardiology's 62nd Annual Scientific Session.

The study, which could inform decisions about hospital staffing after natural disasters, compared the timing of heart attacks in patients admitted to Tulane Medical Center six years before and five years after the storm hit the Gulf Coast in August 2005, devastating New Orleans with floods and killing more than 1,800 people. The latest analysis expands on the previously published research that looked at these trends in the three years post-Katrina. The new data show that even five years after the hurricane, heart attacks were still less likely to occur in the mornings or on weekdays and were instead more frequent at night and on the weekendsa major shift from what cardiologists and hospitals normally see. Researchers point to prolonged periods of stress as the most likely cause.

"The stress and devastation brought on by Katrina doesn't just make a heart attack more likely, but it also can alter when they occur," said Matthew Peters, MD, a second year internal medicine resident at Tulane University School of Medicine and the study's lead investigator. "It may even outweigh or augment some of the physiological mechanisms [behind heart attacks]."

Heart attacks tend to be more common in the morning and on weekdays, especially Mondays, because of surges in the body's stress (cortisol) and "fight-or-flight" (catecholamines) hormones, higher than normal blood pressure and heart rate, and a dip in the body's ability to break up blood clots. But the shifts in behaviors and routines seen after the storm may have trumped some of these factors, Dr. Peters said.

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Contact: Beth Casteel
bcasteel@acc.org
240-328-4549
American College of Cardiology
Source:Eurekalert

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