Circadian variation and triggers of onset of acute cardiovascular disease.
Information obtained during the past decade suggests the need to reexamine the possibility that the onset of myocardial infarction and sudden cardiac death is frequently triggered by daily activities. The importance of physical or mental stress in triggering onset of coronary thrombosis is supported by the findings that 1) the frequencies of onset of myocardial infarction, sudden cardiac death, and stroke show marked circadian variations with parallel increases in the period from 6:00 AM to noon, 2) transient myocardial ischemia shows a similar morning increase, and episodes are often preceded by mental or physical triggers, 3) a ruptured atherosclerotic plaque, often nonobstructive by itself, lies at the base of most coronary thrombi, 4) a number of physiologic processes that could lead to plaque rupture, a hypercoagulable state or coronary vasoconstriction, are accentuated in the morning, and 5) aspirin and beta-adrenergic blocking agents, which block certain of these processes, have been shown to prevent disease onset. The hypothesis is presented that occlusive coronary thrombosis occurs when 1) an atherosclerotic plaque becomes vulnerable to rupture, 2) mental or physical stress causes the plaque to rupture, and 3) increases in coagulability or vasoconstriction, triggered by daily activities, contribute to complete occlusion of the coronary artery lumen. Recognition of the circadian variation--and the possibility of frequent triggering--of onset of acute disease suggests the need for pharmacologic protection of patients during vulnerable periods, and provides clues to mechanism, the investigations of which may lead to improved methods of prevention.
- Copyright © 1989 by American Heart Association