New Orleans, La. - A study of Hurricane Katrina victims shows that stress at home may, in at least some cases, trump the stress of work.
When researchers studied heart attack cases, they found many of the patients who were Katrina victims did not have their attacks at the time most other heart attack patients have them.
Heart attacks are most common on weekdays, especially Mondays, and in the morning. Doctors have associated that pattern with work-related stress.
When researchers focused on Katrina victims, they found those patients' attacks were more likely to have happened on weekday evenings and weekends. They think for people put out of work by the storm, Mondays stopped being especially draining. For those still working, a job became a welcome break from the stress of figuring out how to recover from the storm.
The onset of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) has been shown to occur in a nonrandom pattern, with peaks in midmorning and on weekdays (especially Monday). The incidence of AMI has been shown to increase locally after natural disasters, but the effect of catastrophic events on AMI biorhythms is largely unknown. To assess the differences in the chronobiology of AMI in residents of New Orleans before and after Hurricane Katrina, the onset of AMI in patients at Tulane University Health Sciences Center in the 6 years before and the 3 years after Hurricane Katrina was retrospectively examined. Compared to the pre-Katrina group, the post-Katrina cohort demonstrated significant decreases in the onset of AMI during mornings (p = 0.002), Mondays (p <0.0001), and weekdays (p <0.0001) and significant increases in onset during weekends (p <0.0001) and nights (p <0.0001). These changes persisted during all 3 years after the storm. In conclusion, the normal pattern of AMI onset was altered after Hurricane Katrina, and expected morning, weekday, and Monday peaks were eliminated.
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