Heart attacks in Democrat-voting Southern California spiked 53 per cent following the 2020 U.S. presidential election, a study says.
But in Northern California — where almost half of counties voted for Trump — they rose by a lower 32 per cent.
Researchers at Kaiser Permanente — the largest health system in the state — monitored hospitalizations for heart problems among 6.4million patients over a five-day period two weeks before the election. They then tracked admissions for five days immediately after ballots were cast.
Southern California also had bigger surges in heart failure — where the muscle stops pumping efficiently — and stroke rates compared to its northern neighbor.
Researchers blamed ‘anger’ and ‘hostility’ amid the close results for the uptick, warning stress could trigger heart problems.
But they warned other factors like Covid and extreme weather may also have fueled the uptick in admissions.
To manage stress during elections, they suggested Americans should meditate, do yoga and practice ‘mindfulness’.
The above graph shows the percentage change in cardiovascular events over five-days two weeks before the 2020 presidential election to the five-days immediately following voting. It breaks it into southern California, which mostly backed Biden, and northern California, which mostly backed Trump
The above map shows which president each Californian county backed in 2020. In the south nine in ten supported Biden, but in the north 22 out of 46 voted for Trump
Scientists have been pointing to a link between U.S. presidential elections and upticks in heart attacks for years.
They largely blame stress sparked by casting ballots and expectations surrounding the results for the uptick in rates. Stress is known to raise the risk of heart problems.
The 2020 presidential race was a close-fought affair, with Republicans quickly calling a recount in several states over allegations of vote-rigging and shifting tallies.
In the study — published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Network Open — scientists looked at hospitalization rates for heart problems over October 21 to 25, nine days before the election.
This was compared to the November 4 to 8, just after the election and spanning the period where the results were disputed before a victor was declared on November 7.
Kaiser Permanente’s network is the largest in California, and covers 20 percent of people in the southern area and 30 percent in the northern region.
The majority of patients were between 18 and 54 years old (62 percent).
They were equally split between male and female, and more than 40 percent were white.
The health system did not record which candidate its patients voted for.
But in Southern California nine out of ten counties backed Biden, while in the north 22 out of 46 cast their votes for Trump.
Southern California’s hospitalization rate for heart attacks was 141 per 100,000 person-years over the week before the election. But over the five days afterwards it spiked to 216 per 100,000.
For comparison, in Northern California the rate rose from 145 to 192 per 100,000.
For heart failure, the hospitalization rate in Southern California rose from 245 to 293, up 19 per cent.
Strokes in the region ticked up by 14 per cent, from 346 to 396 per 100,000.
In Northern California, heart failure rates rose from 216 to 252, up 16 per cent, but stroke rates fell from 246 to 205, down 17 per cent.
Overall, white men in their 70s were found to be most at risk of suffering a heart problem following the election.
Researchers, led by Dr Matthew Mefford, cardiovascular disease epidemiologist at Kaiser, warned emotions such as ‘anger and hostility’ were associated with ‘new and recurring heart disease, as well as premature development on CVD.
‘Additionally, anxiety is often tied to CVD risk factors that accelerate atheroscelrosis (risk factor for heart attacks).’
They said: ‘Leading up to the 2020 election and through several days afterwards, there were claims of widespread voter fraud, different timelines for counting and reporting mail-in and in-person ballots, shifting vote totals, and speculation that results would not be acknowledged by one of the presidential candidates.
‘Although speculative, it is plausible these factors combined created an emotionally charged atmosphere across the U.S. regardless of demographic or political affiliation.’
The scientists did not say why stroke rates rose in one region and fell in another.
The above graph shows hospitalizations from all heart problems in California before (control window) and after (grey window) the election. The average (black line) is shown to rise by 17 per cent over this period
The above graph shows average hospitalizations from heart attacks (black line) over the period before (control window) and after (risk window) the US election. It reveals an uptick of 40 per cent, according to the researchers at Kaiser Permanente
The above graph shows the average rate for heart failure (black line) both before (control window) and immediately after (risk window) the US election. Scientists say that the rates rose by 18 per cent across the state between the two periods
The above graph shows the average rate for stroke (black line) before (control window) and after (risk window) the U.S. presidential election in 2020. It reveals they rose by two per cent
They added that concern over the Covid pandemic ‘cannot be ruled out’ in contributing to higher rates of heart problems.
But noted that any stress from this risk happened over a ‘much broader and prolonged period’, meaning it is unlikely to explain the sudden spike.
Severe weather such as torrential rain and wildfires could also have contributed to the uptick in heart problems, they said.
The results match a separate paper from around the 2016 presidential election, which also found a spike in heart problems after Trump won.
This found heart problems rose 62 percent across the state in the two days following the victory’s announcement.
A separate paper from North Carolina — which backed Trump in 2016 — showed heart attack rates rose 77 percent in the six weeks following the election.