Genetic Traits May Increase Heart Attack Risk During Stressful Periods

Research from Massachusetts General Hospital indicates that specific genetic traits, combined with anxiety or depression, can significantly raise the risk of heart attacks during periods of social or political stress, such as presidential elections, winter holidays, or major events like the Super Bowl.

The study, which was presented at the American College of Cardiology’s annual scientific session in April, is the first to explore how genetic sensitivity to stress can drive acute coronary syndromes (ACS), including heart attacks and other serious conditions where the heart’s blood supply is suddenly interrupted.

Of the 18,428 participants in the Mass General Brigham Biobank, 1,890 developed ACS between 2000 and 2020. The researchers assessed participants’ stress sensitivity using their neuroticism polygenic risk score (GPRS). Fox News Told this.

Stressful periods, such as the five days following presidential elections and the 10 days around Christmas, accounted for 3.2% of the study timeline. During these periods, 71 ACS cases were recorded, compared to 1,819 during non-stressful periods.

The findings revealed that individuals with high genetic stress sensitivity had a 36% higher risk of developing ACS. Furthermore, those with high genetic stress sensitivity who also experienced anxiety or depression faced three times the risk of ACS.

The study concluded that “High nPRS, indicating elevated genetic susceptibility to stress, mediates ACS risk during periods of socio-political stress,” suggesting that a comprehensive approach to cardiovascular disease prevention could be beneficial.

In an interview with NRP, lead study author Dr. Shady Abohashem, an instructor of cardiovascular imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, noted that while the numbers are striking, the overall results are not surprising. Anxiety and depression alone are already known to significantly increase heart attack risk, irrespective of genetics.

“So, if you have both conditions, you would expect to have a substantial increase in your risk,” Dr. Abohashem said.

The study’s scientific analysis found that about 25% of ACS cases could be attributed to anxiety and depression. Dr. Abohashem suggested that incorporating genetic susceptibility screenings into cardiovascular risk assessments could help identify individuals at the highest risk, allowing for better preventive measures.