Sunshine could hold clues on the timing for a severe form of heart attack, study says

April 9, 2018, American Heart Association
Sunshine could hold clues on the timing for a severe form of heart attack, study says
Credit: American Heart Association

The sun's radiation could be a factor in seasonal patterns of a deadly type of heart attack, according to new research that tracked a "summer shift" in their occurrence across seven countries.

Previous research has examined how these attacks – called ST-elevation myocardial infarctions, or STEMIs – seem to happen most often in the daytime during the colder winter months, and how their occurrence drops off in the summer. The new study published Friday in the Journal of the American Heart Association shows a shift primarily in the summer from the day to the night.

The work included 2,270 STEMI cases throughout both hemispheres and at different latitudes in Italy, China, Scotland, Finland, Japan, Australia and Singapore.

"No study before this has investigated this shift from day hours to nocturnal hours," said Carlo Vittorio Cannistraci, the study's lead author and a theoretical engineer in the Biotechnology Center and the Department of Physics at the Technical University of Dresden in Germany. The shift also is tied to the duration of sunshine in areas around the world closest to the equator that don't experience traditional seasons, he said.

STEMIs, sometimes called massive heart attacks, are caused when an artery leading to the heart muscle is completely blocked. As a result, a large portion of the heart cannot receive blood, and it can quickly begin to die. In the United States, between 2006 and 2011, emergency rooms saw an average of 258,106 STEMIs each year.

The researchers said they noticed the patterns in STEMI occurrence while they were collaborating on another study, published in the AHA's journal Circulation Research in 2013. In that work, they saw a late afternoon peak in their data from Italy and began asking questions about peaks in other countries.

The turning point came when they analyzed cases in Singapore, said Cannistraci, who leads a biomedical cybernetics group at TU-Dresden. In that country, where there is virtually no summer or seasons or wide variations in temperature, they were able to associate the STEMI peaks to sunshine.

"By this study we really are studying the dark side of the moon – what we don't really know," said the study's co-author, Dr. Enrico Ammirati, a cardiologist at Niguarda Hospital's De Gasperis Cardio Center in Milan, Italy. "We tried to look at the problem of , to look at an area that previous studies didn't examine, how something related to natural phenomena can affect us."

Dr. Patrick O'Gara, a cardiologist who helped write AHA guidelines that doctors use to treat STEMI patients, said the new research highlights gaps in the current knowledge about "the complex interplay" between daily biological cycles and triggers.

It's important to establish a "mechanistic link between circadian rhythms, sunshine duration, activity patterns, restful sleep" and the stability of the fatty deposits called plaque that can clog arteries, said O'Gara, a Harvard University medical professor and director of strategic planning for the Cardiovascular Division at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

"The 'summer shift' noted in this analysis may provide clues to a more informed understanding of these processes," O'Gara said.

The study's researchers say their work needs more confirmation, and that they hope they have opened the door to encourage other scientists to study the molecular mechanisms that could link sunshine to these STEMI patterns.

A key part to understanding the results, Cannistraci and Ammirati said, is their analysis is tied not to the amount of light given off by the sun, but by the radiation. So, it can be affected by cloud cover and pollution.

That's why, Cannistraci said, the study's results point even more to the notion that the relationship between humans, the environment and climate is delicate. "We should respect more the environment because perturbations can have a negative feedback on our health in unexpected ways."

Explore further: Hockey victories may increase heart attack risk in Canadian men

More information: Carlo Vittorio Cannistraci et al. "Summer Shift": A Potential Effect of Sunshine on the Time Onset of ST‐Elevation Acute Myocardial Infarction, Journal of the American Heart Association (2018). DOI: 10.1161/JAHA.117.006878

E. Ammirati et al. Questing for Circadian Dependence in ST-Segment-Elevation Acute Myocardial Infarction: A Multicentric and Multiethnic Study, Circulation Research (2013). DOI: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.112.300778

Related Stories

Hockey victories may increase heart attack risk in Canadian men

March 29, 2018
The thrill of a hockey victory may put younger men at an increased risk for heart attack. A new study published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology found an increase in hospital admissions for men under 55 presenting with ...

16-year study suggests air temperature is external trigger for heart attack

August 28, 2017
A 16 year study in more than 280 000 patients has suggested that air temperature is an external trigger for heart attack. The findings are presented today at ESC Congress.

Cold weather associated with higher risk of severe heart attack

August 30, 2015
Cold weather is associated with a higher risk of severe heart attack, according to research presented at ESC Congress today by Dr Shuangbo Liu, adult cardiology resident at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. ...

Young women more likely to die in hospital after STEMI

October 26, 2015
Young women with ST-elevation myocardial infarction were less likely to receive life-saving angioplasty and stenting to restore blood flow to blocked arteries than men and also had longer hospital stays and higher rates of ...

Beta-blocker use not linked to reduced mortality after AMI

June 1, 2017
(HealthDay)—β-blocker use is not associated with reduced mortality after acute myocardial infarction (AMI) without heart failure or left ventricular systolic dysfunction (LVSD), according to a study published in the June ...

Risk of death may be higher if heart attack occurs in a hospital

November 16, 2014
Prashant Kaul, M.D., of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and colleagues conducted a study to define the incidence and treatment and outcomes of patients who experience a certain type of heart attack during hospitalization ...

Recommended for you

Gout could increase heart disease risk

August 17, 2018
Having a type of inflammatory arthritis called gout may worsen heart-related outcomes for people being treated for coronary artery disease, according to new research.

Stroke patients treated at a teaching hospital are less likely to be readmitted

August 17, 2018
Stroke patients appear to receive better care at teaching hospitals with less of a chance of landing back in a hospital during the early stages of recovery, according to new research from The University of Texas Health Science ...

Cardiovascular disease related to type 2 diabetes can be reduced significantly

August 16, 2018
Properly composed treatment and refraining from cigarette consumption can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease resulting from type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in the New England Journal of ...

Genomic autopsy can help solve unexplained cardiac death

August 15, 2018
Molecular autopsies can reveal genetic risk factors in young people who unexpectedly die, but proper interpretation of the results can be challenging, according to a recent study published in Circulation.

Neonatal pig hearts can heal from heart attack

August 15, 2018
While pigs still cannot fly, researchers have discovered that the hearts of newborn piglets do have one remarkable ability. They can almost completely heal themselves after experimental heart attacks.

Fifty percent of cardiovascular patients suffer from multiple diseases

August 15, 2018
New research led by The University of Western Australia has revealed that one in two patients admitted to hospital with a cardiovascular disease is suffering from multiple chronic medical conditions which required complex ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.