The risk of heart attack beyond other risk factors more than doubles when someone is angry, emotionally upset or has engaged in heavy physical exertion, according to a new analysis by scientists at NUI Galway.
However, the risk more than triples when patients are angry or emotionally upset, and are engaged in physical exertion. The researchers say the triggers seem to independently increase a person's risk of heart attack beyond other risk factors, such as age, smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and other health problems linked to heart attack.
The data has emerged from the largest study of its kind ever conducted, which involved more than 12,000 heart attack patients from 52 countries around the world with an average age of 58.
Each of the participants completed a survey about the different triggers they had experienced in the same hour of the day of, and the day prior to, their heart attack.
Critically though the authors of the research, published in the journal Circulation, say the findings do not negate the benefits of regular physical activity in preventing heart disease and attack.
"Previous studies have explored these heart attack triggers; however, they had fewer participants or were completed in one country, and data was limited from many parts of the world," said Dr. Andrew Smyth, study lead author and a researcher at the HRB Clinical Research Facility at NUI Galway.
"This is the first study to represent so many regions of the world, including the majority of the world's major ethnic groups."
The authors say the results suggest that people at risk of heart attack should avoid extreme emotional situations, and instead should consider peer support, during difficult periods of their life.