Myth or Fact? Time Change Raises Your Risk for a Heart Attack?

Many of us may feel sleepy and out of sorts after the change to daylight saving time, but can “springing forward” really raise your risk for a heart attack?

If you’ve heard about a link between daylight saving time and heart attacks, keep in mind that many factors play a role in someone’s heart attack risk, including stress management and good sleep habits.

Find out more about heart attack risk factors and what to do if you think you or someone else is having a heart attack.

Does Daylight Saving Time Really Raise Your Risk for a Heart Attack?

Daylight saving time is used in many parts of the world to add one more hour of daylight to the evening in the spring and summer months.

In the United States, daylight saving time usually begins at 2 a.m. on a Sunday in March, when we “spring forward” by setting clocks ahead by one hour. In the fall, we “fall back” by setting clocks back by one hour to return to standard time.

Some people may feel tired and less focused in the days following the time change, but does losing an hour of sleep really raise your risk for a heart attack? Kathryn Berlacher, MD, MS, medical director of the Magee-Womens Heart Program, part of the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute, says the effects of the time change on heart attack rates haven’t been studied enough to say for sure.

“There have been a few studies showing increased incidences of heart attacks on certain days in the few weeks after the time change in spring,” she said. “When looking at data closely though, these patients may have been the ones who were at higher risk for heart attacks in the first place.”

Are You at Risk of Heart Attack?

Many factors play a part in your heart attack risk, including:

  • Your family history
  • Medical conditions like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight or obese

Some other factors, including how well you manage stress and how well you sleep, affect your risk for heart disease, which then affects your risk for a heart attack.

To learn more, visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute or call 1-855-UPMC-HVI (876-2484).

Stress and Heart Attack Risk: What’s the Connection?

Everyone feels stressed now and then, but chronic stress, or coping with stress in unhealthy ways, can take a toll on your heart.

According to Dr. Berlacher, doing things that lower the stress in your life will likely lower your risk of heart disease, but it’s important to relax in healthy ways.

Instead of smoking, drinking alcohol, or overeating – which can raise your risk for heart disease — find healthy ways to cope with stress. Some ideas include:

  • Getting regular physical activity
  • Practicing meditation or yoga
  • Having a hobby, like drawing, gardening, or playing a sport
  • Spending time with family and friends

And, if “springing forward” stresses you out, make sure you take care of yourself around the time change. Eating well, staying active, and getting plenty of sleep are important year-round and can help ease your transition from standard time to daylight saving time.

RELATED: How to Survive a Heart Attack When You’re Alone

Sleep and Heart Attack Risk

Good sleep habits can help you control some risk factors for heart disease and heart attack, like your blood pressure, blood sugar, and weight.

“There have been a few studies showing increased incidences of heart attacks on certain days in the few weeks after the time change in spring,” she said.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends most adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, so if you regularly get fewer hours of shut-eye, you could be raising your risk for heart problems, no matter the time of year.

“Good sleep hygiene is really important for health, including cardiac health,” Dr. Berlacher said. “Avoid caffeine later in the day, and try to do exercise at least a few hours before you want to sleep.”

She recommends getting a full night’s rest the day of the time change, and a few days before and after, to help your body adjust to the difference.

Staying safe during daylight savings: Heart attack symptoms

While there’s not enough evidence to say that the time change can put you at greater risk for a heart attack, it’s important to know the signs and to seek medical attention right away if you have symptoms. Common heart attack signs can include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Pain or discomfort in your jaw, neck, stomach, or one or both arms
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweat
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness

In addition to these heart attack symptoms, women may also experience:

  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Pressure or pain in the chest or back

If you think you or someone else is having a heart attack, call 911 right away. Paramedics are trained to treat people on the way to the hospital and offer the fastest, safest way to get there, so don’t drive yourself or have someone drive you.