Monday Blues? Fatal heart attacks more common at the start of the week

Fatal heart attacks, also called STEMIs, affects 30,000 patients every month.
Sejal Sharma
Representational image
Representational image

Ake Ngiamsanguan/iStock 

After analyzing the data of almost 11,000 patients admitted to a hospital between 2013 and 2018 in Ireland, researchers have concluded that most serious types of heart attacks happen at the start of the week, usually on a Monday.

These serious heart attacks, known as ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), occur when a major coronary artery is completely blocked. It’s estimated that between 2.5 percent and 10 percent of people who get a STEMI die within 30 days. Mainly affect the heart's lower chambers; STEMIs tend to be more serious and dangerous than other types of heart attacks. 

In their research, the doctors analyzed the data of 7,112 patients in the Republic of Ireland and 3,416 patients in Northern Ireland. The spike in rates of STEMIs was observed at the start of the working week, with rates highest on a Monday. The team also found unusually higher rates on a Sunday.

The United Kingdom sees over 30,000 patients admitted to its hospitals annually due to STEMIs. It requires emergency assessment and treatment to minimize damage to the heart, and this is usually performed with emergency angioplasty – a procedure to re-open the blocked coronary artery, said the press release by the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

“Someone is admitted to hospital due to a life-threatening heart attack every five minutes in the UK, so it’s vital that research continues to shed light on how and why heart attacks happen,” said Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, BHF’s Medical Director.

The doctors presented their research at Manchester's British Cardiovascular Society (BCS) conference. This was a combined effort of Doctors at the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

Can this have anything to do with Monday blues?

Come Monday after a relaxed two-day weekend of sipping iced teas and catching up with friends, ‘Monday blues’ are legit. It’s associated with stress and not feeling motivated enough to return to the grind.

Though doctors haven’t been able to pinpoint an exact reason why there was a hike on Mondays, they suspect it was likely associated with the circadian rhythm, the 24-hour internal clock in our brain that tells us to sleep when it’s dark and wake up when it's light. These clocks regulate various biological functions and processes, including the sleep-wake cycle, hormone secretion, digestion, and reproduction. Still, they can easily be disrupted by inappropriate light exposure, such as light at night.

The circadian rhythm may get interrupted during the weekend. Cardiologist Dr. Jack Laffan, who led the research, said: “We’ve found a strong statistical correlation between the start of the working week and the incidence of STEMI. This has been described before but remains a curiosity.”

"The cause is likely multifactorial; however, based on what we know from previous studies, it is reasonable to presume a circadian element,” he added.

Highlighting that this research helps uncover the reason behind peculiar timings of serious heart attacks, Professor Samani said, “We now need to unpick what it is about certain days of the week that makes them more likely. Doing so could help doctors better understand this deadly condition so we can save more lives in future,” said Samani.

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