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Early morning heart attacks are the most dangerous, says study

Early morning heart attacks are the most dangerous, says study Likely to cause more heart damage

Heart attacks that occur in the early morning do the most damage to the heart, according to a new Spanish study.

By looking at the levels of enzymes after heart attacks, the researchers found that attacks between 6am and midday resulted in 20% more muscle damage than those that happened later in the day.

Over 800 cases were reviewed as part of the study, which is published in the British Medical Journal Heart. They were split into 4 groups based on the time of day of the attack, with those between 6am and 12 noon having the most severe attacks.

It is also well known by doctors that people are more likely to have heart attacks when they wake up, although until now there was no data to suggest that these attacks are more damaging than others.

The new study confirmed this pattern, as it found that the greatest number of patients (269) had their heart attack in the 6am to noon period, followed by 240 patients who had their attack between noon and 6pm, 161 during the 6pm to midnight period, and 141 between midnight and 6am.

British Heart Foundation senior cardiac nurse Judy O’Sullivan cautioned that regardless of the time of an attack, the key factor is speed of treatment - "the quicker someone having a heart attack is treated, the less the damage they will have, which is why it is essential that anyone who experiences heart attack symptoms should call 999 immediately."

The study could help medical emergency staff to plan better allocation of resources. There are an estimated 124,000 heart attacks in the UK each year, and some dies from a heart attack every 6 minutes. All told there are around 1.5m people in the UK who have experienced a heart attack at some point.

This article was published on Thu 28 April 2011

Image © Sebastian Kaulitzki - Fotolia.com

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