The Best Time to Avoid a Heart Attack

It may sound funny, but it’s true. There’s one time of day when you can dramatically decrease your chances of dying from a heart attack. Here are the 6 things you need to know.

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It’s probably no surprise in this overscheduled world of ours, that our bodies stick to a pretty rigid rhythm themselves. And understanding our internal clocks gives us the power to do everything we can to stay healthy, and, in some cases, stay alive. Here’s what you need to know to stop the #1 killer of women—heart disease—from stopping you.

Here are three reasons heart attacks are 3 times more likely to strike in the morning than the evening:

  1. Blood pressure is highest in the morning because it rises quickly to get you ready for the day. In fact, your heart needs 50% more blood to go from being asleep to being awake, and as that blood pulses through your blood vessels, the increased pressure can tear the vessel lining.
  2. Blood vessels are thicker in the morning. Just as our muscles and joints feel stiffer when we get up, our blood vessels are thicker and more rigid. It’s harder for them to bend and flex, which makes them more likely to build up plaque; combine that with high blood pressure, and it’s a recipe for artery rupture.
  3. Blood is thicker in the morning. The platelets in our blood, which help it clot, are stickier in the morning and more likely to stick to blood vessel walls, plus the system that combats blood clots is not as active in the am. And when stickier blood hits the scars and tears caused by high blood pressure and stiff arteries, clots form, and the stage for a heart attack is set.

Easy Things You Can Do to Prevent a Morning Heart Attack

Take most of your meds at night.

  • Blood pressure-lowering medications can ward off the morning pressure rise when you take them before bed.
  • Meds to lower cholesterol also work better when taken at night, because the liver likes to make extra cholesterol while you sleep. Keeping your cholesterol down in the morning will help reduce the fragility of any plaque build-up in the arteries.
  • Baby aspirin, which thins the blood and make it less likely to clot, can help your blood flow better in the morning when taken just before bed.
  • Magnesium (500mg) taken before bed will help your blood vessels relax and open up. Pair it with 1,000 milligrams of calcium to keep the magnesium from causing runny stools and help stabilize plaque in the arteries. 

Get a good night’s sleep

Poor sleep raises your blood pressure (and nightmares may increase your heart rate and stiffness in your blood vessels), so take a little time to get a peaceful 7 to 8 hours each night. Try these tricks:

  • Get 20 minutes of sun daily to increase melatonin (the sleep hormone) at night.
  • Try a little lemon balm. One study found that it improved anxiety, nervousness, and sleep disturbances in 90% of patients.
  • Listen to relaxing music at night, which has been shown to reduce your heart rate and blood pressure and may help decrease nightmares.