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Katrina, Other Crises Boost Heart Attacks: Studies
Date:3/8/2013

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, March 7 (HealthDay News) -- New studies suggest that severe stress caused by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and fallout from the Greek financial crisis boosted the risk of heart attack for people living through those crises.

A New Orleans hospital saw a threefold spike in patients admitted for heart attacks after Katrina battered the Gulf Coast region in 2005, according to an American study. The higher numbers lingered into at least 2011, and researchers don't think they can be explained by anything other than hurricane-related stress in a city wrenched by loss of loved ones, property, pets, jobs and more.

"Whenever a major disaster hits a city, everybody thinks of rebuilding. That's all everybody thinks of. It's also important to pay attention to the health of the community," said study lead author Dr. Anand Irimpen, associate professor of medicine at Tulane University Heart and Vascular Institute in New Orleans.

While the studies don't prove that stress caused people's hearts to give out, they do suggest a link, experts say.

"Stress is a known risk factor for both the development and progression of heart disease," said Donald Edmondson, assistant professor of behavioral medicine at the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.

"Acute stressful events have been shown to increase the incidence of heart attack in the subsequent days and weeks, but few studies have assessed the long-term cardiovascular impact of such events," said Edmondson, who was not involved in the studies.

These heart-harming catastrophic events aren't limited to natural disasters. A study of the health effects of the economic crisis in Greece reports an increase in heart attacks between January 2008 and December 2011, compared to the four years before financial tumult rocked the nation.

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