Behavioral and emotional triggers of acute coronary syndromes: a systematic review and critique

Psychosom Med. 2005 Mar-Apr;67(2):179-86. doi: 10.1097/01.psy.0000155663.93160.d2.


Objective: The objective of this study was to review the evidence that behavioral and emotional factors are triggers of acute coronary syndromes.

Method: Systematic review of the published literature from 1970 to 2004 of trigger events, defined as stimuli or activities occurring within 24 hours of the onset of acute coronary syndromes.

Results: There is consistent evidence that physical exertion (particularly by people who are not normally active), emotional stress, anger, and extreme excitement can trigger acute myocardial infarction and sudden cardiac death in susceptible individuals. Many triggers operate within 1 to 2 hours of symptom onset. There are methodologic limitations to the current literature, including sampling, retrospective reporting, and presentation biases, the role of memory decay and salience, and reverse causation because of silent prodromal events.

Conclusions: Behavioral and emotional factors are probable triggers of acute coronary syndromes in vulnerable individuals, and the pathophysiological processes elicited by these stimuli are being increasingly understood. The benefits to patients of knowledge to these processes have yet to accrue.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Aged
  • Alcoholism / complications
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Anger / physiology
  • Coronary Disease / etiology*
  • Coronary Disease / physiopathology
  • Coronary Disease / psychology
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / etiology
  • Disasters
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / etiology
  • Myocardial Infarction / physiopathology
  • Myocardial Infarction / psychology
  • Physical Exertion / physiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology