When Are You Most Likely to Suffer a Heart Attack?

When it comes to predicting heart attacks, many different factors are at play. One of them is timing. Many people are unaware of the time of day during which their risk of needing heart hospital care increases, but knowing when this spike in heart attacks occurs can help you be more vigilant about the symptoms. Here are the facts you need.

Peak Time for Heart Attacks

The risk of having a heart attack – or any kind of cardiac emergency – is highest in the last few hours of sleep and into the morning hours. About a 40 percent increase in the risk of having a heart attack occurs between about 6:00 am and noon for most people, with the first three hours after waking being the most dangerous time.

Reasons for the Increased Risk

There are two reasons doctors believe the risk of heart attacks increases so dramatically during this time. One is blood vessel restriction. A heart attack occurs when blood flow is reduced to the heart, causing an imbalance in the need and availability of oxygen. When you sleep, blood vessel sizes decrease for a few reasons, including the fact that platelets are at their most adhesive at this time of day because the activity of the endogenous system is reduced. This allows platelets to form thrombi that block the blood vessels. At the same time, your body’s demands for oxygen increase suddenly and dramatically when you wake, so your heart needs more oxygen at a time when your body is least equipped to deal with it. The second is the activity of the autonomic nervous system during REM sleep when you dream. In this last stage of sleep, your heart may beat rapidly in response to your dream, triggering a crisis. For a healthy person, these demands are not dangerous, but if you have heart disease, they can cause a heart attack.

At Riverside Community Hospital, our emergency room and heart hospital are available 24 hours a day to provide critical care for heart attack patients. When you need a referral to our heart hospital or information about other services at our hospital in Riverside, please call (951) 788-3463.

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