ACC: Duke study links stock market to cardiac events

This press release arrived this morning and I’m guessing it will attract a certain amount of attention in the general media. All the usual caveats about the limitations of a single center pilot observational study should apply, but the concept certainly seems plausible. In any case, here’s the press release.

Here is the ACC press release:

CARDIAC EVENTS MAY BE RELATED TO STOCK MARKET TRENDS

Economic recession may influence heart attack risk although larger data group needed

Atlanta, GA – Heart attack frequency and stock market fluctuations may be related, according to research presented today at the American College of Cardiology’s 59th annual scientific session. ACC.10 is the premier cardiovascular medical meeting, bringing together cardiologists and cardiovascular specialists to further advances in cardiovascular medicine.

The 2008-2009 U.S. stock market crisis led researchers to examine whether the effects extend beyond people’s wallets, possibly increasing the likelihood of heart attacks among those with ischemic heart disease—a condition characterized by reduced blood supply to the heart muscle.

In this pilot observational study, authors report results for patients who came to the Duke Hospital Catheterization Lab between January 2006 and July 2009 using data from the Duke Databank for Cardiovascular Disease. To be included, patients had to have suffered a heart attack within three days prior to cardiac catheterization, a procedure in which doctors insert a thin flexible tube (catheter) into the left side of the heart. Data was then plotted against the stock market daily values during the same period of time.

“In analyzing our local patient population undergoing catheterization during the recent period of increased volatility in the stock market, we found that when stock market values decreased, heart attacks seemed to increase, and then decreased when stock trends improved,” said Mona Fiuzat, Pharm.D, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C., and lead investigator of the study. “While more and larger studies are needed to examine the reason for these findings, it’s important for healthcare providers to be aware of social stressors that may potentially affect their patients.”

Despite previous studies showing that mental stress and traumatic events, such as those associated with 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, may increase the risk of cardiac events including heart attacks, there is limited data looking specifically at a correlation between economic trends and cardiovascular events, according to researchers.

“These results appear to be consistent with studies looking at other environmental stressors and their impact on cardiovascular events,” said Dr. Fiuzat. “Learning stress management strategies may be beneficial, especially for people with or at high risk of heart disease.”

Possible psychological or environmental contributing stressors include alterations in cell function, changes in platelet reactivity (effects on blood clotting factors), stress hormone changes, immune/inflammatory changes, as well as social support factors.

“This is an intriguing study and yet another example of how stress can affect a person’s heart health,” said Dr. Janet Wright, Vice President of Quality and Science for the American College of Cardiology. “It is important to be aware that personal stressors – in this case an economic one – can be a trigger for cardiac events.”

Authors stress that these are preliminary findings from a local database that need validation and confirmation in a larger, more inclusive cohort. The researchers are planning a larger extended study.

Dr. Fiuzat will present the study, “Has the U.S. Stock Market Collapse Impacted Cardiovascular Event Rates?” on Monday, March 15 at 9:30 a.m. in Hall B5.

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