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The onset of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) is unevenly distributed over the 24 h and the week. While presence of a morning peak is generally agreed upon, contrasting results had been obtained regarding other periods of the day, probably due to differences of origin, size and composition of the populations. The 24 h and weekly distributions were studied within 6 h from the beginning of the symptoms in a population following a Latin life-style, who were enrolled in the GISSI2 Study (n=11472). Subgroups (smokers, the elderly (>65 years), diabetics, hypertensives) were also considered. Six hour periods starting at midnight were tested for uniformity. Circadian non-uniformity was found. Events increased in the morning hours and reduced during the night regardless of the day of the week. The night and day difference was attenuated in smokers and diabetics. Non-uniformity of the events was also found among the days of the week. AMI significantly increased in non-smokers on Monday. We suggest that there is a night-day gradient (characterized by the short time interval between the two frequency extremes) in the time of onset of AMI. The different distribution in smokers stresses the possible unfavourable and masking effect of a heightened sympathetic tone during the day while the general protective role of the night hours is preserved. Moreover, the increased incidence of events on Monday may suggest the importance of the shift from a period of non-scheduled to scheduled activity.