Heart attack risk spikes after presidential elections: Study

June 3, 2024

(NewsNation) — People with certain genetic traits are at a higher risk of heart attack during stressful events, such as a presidential election and holidays, a new study shows.

According to the study presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session, people with specific genetic traits like anxiety or depression are at a “significantly higher heart attack risk.”

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital said the study was the first to examine the genetic basis for stress sensitivity as a potential driver behind acute coronary syndromes (ACS). These syndromes include “heart attacks and other serious conditions where the heart is suddenly deprived of blood supply.”

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Researchers analyzed data on nearly 18,500 participants in the Mass General Brigham Biobank who experienced ACS and measured their stress sensitivity by measuring their neuroticism polygenic risk score (nPRS).

The scores were compared among people who had ACS events after stressful times against those who had events during control periods and those who didn’t experience ACS. Stressful periods included the five days after presidential elections, 10 days after Christmas Day, and the five days after major sports events like the Super Bowl or NBA playoffs.

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Of the study participants, 1,890 experienced ACS over the study period between 2000 and 2020.

Researchers found people with above-average nPRS were 34% more likely to experience a heart attack during stressful events than during control periods, even after researchers accounted for other traditional heart risk factors.

Additionally, people with above-average nPRS who also developed anxiety or depression were 3.2 times more likely to experience a heart attack after a stressful event than during control periods.