Surprising Things That Put Your Heart at Risk

From traffic to Turkey Day, these circumstances can put your ticker in danger

Age, weight, and a family history are all known risk factors for a heart attack, but there are other, less obvious situations that can put even healthy, fit women in cardiac jeopardy. To help you become more aware of risk factors and when you should seek medical attention, we scoured research and found five surprising times your heart may be in danger.

You Live Near a Highway


We all know being stuck in traffic is enough to make your blood boil, but even hearing traffic can increase your risk of a heart attack. According to a 2012 Danish study, for every 10-decibel increase in noise from nearby traffic, heart attack risk goes up by 12 percent.

Protect your ticker: Other than moving, researchers suggest regular stress-reducing activities (like yoga) if you're living life near the fast lane.

You Just Woke Up


Waking up is not the best part of the day for most of us, but it's also not the best part of the day for your heart, according to research published in the Harvard Heart Letter. Before you wake up, stress hormones make their way into the bloodstream, which helps get your butt out of bed, but also stresses your heart. These, as well as the dehydration that occurs overnight (and can be made worse by night-before-drinking) can increase that stress, which research says may be the reason heart attacks often occur in the morning.

Protect your ticker: While we freely admit middle-of the-night pee breaks are a drag, protect your heart by drinking a big glass of water before you hit the sheets.

...And It's Monday Morning


Research has consistently shown that Monday is the day of the week in which heart attacks are mostly likely to occur. The reason is the usual morning heart stress combined with anxiety-and depending on your job-depression about starting your workweek (depression and anxiety can both cause increased heart rate and variability).

Protect your ticker: End your weekend with yoga followed by a funny movie-research also shows that laughter can reduce heart-unhealthy stress hormones.

You Lost a Loved One


It's not wrong to feel like your heart is literally breaking. According to research presented at the American Heart Association's Science Sessions in 2010, changes in normal heart patterns immediately following the death of a loved one could lead to heart abnormalities and an increased risk of heart attack.

Protect your ticker: The study also showed that time does heal all wounds; participants' heart rate and other indicators of heart health returned to normal after a period of six months, which just underscores the importance of taking care of yourself during times of extreme stress and grief.

It's a Food-and-Drink-Centric Holiday


Whether your revelry of choice is Thanksgiving, New Year's Eve, a trip down south for Mardi Gras, or just Saturday night, indulging in rich food and copious drink is hard on your heart-so much so that it even has a name: Holiday heart syndrome. It's characterized by heavier-than-usual alcohol consumption combined with high-fat and sodium-heavy foods, which can cause an irregular heartbeat (usually felt as palpitations), according to a recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ). Cold temps can also elevate your risk, which is why the condition is associated with the winter holidays.

Protect your ticker: The solution of course is to stay moderate (or just head to New Orleans for your once-a-year uber partying, though we recommend restraint over travel).

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