The Major Heart Attack Risk Factors
Heart attacks can occur in people who have no known risk factors — or at least they think they don’t. Upon reflection, however, most heart attack victims realize that they have one or more of the major risk factors.
If you do, this increases the possibility that, whether you experience one of the Four Major Things that happen before a heart attack, or one of the less common signs, you are indeed having a heart attack, or one is in the offing.
Here’s a rundown of the major risk factors, so you can use them to evaluate whether you are having a heart attack. Remember: even if you’re uncertain its always best to call for help first; rather than regret it later.
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is so common that it’s now estimated that 1 in 3 people in most developing countries have this condition. It’s also known as a “silent killer” because it can cause its damage without you ever noticing any symptoms at all.
Sometimes, high blood pressure can occur for no known reason, but often, people who have it are overweight, have diabetes, smoke, or have a family history of the disorder (when the patient follows the same lifestyle patterns like their ancestors).
Men tend to develop high blood pressure earlier than women, but the risk equalizes at about age 55. And after the age of 75, women are at a higher risk.
Having high blood pressure means that your heart is working too hard to pump blood throughout your body. Because of this, the heart becomes enlarged and weakened. This condition also damages the coronary arteries, leading to heart disease and, ultimately, heart attack.
People with diabetes have a metabolic disease that hampers their ability to transform sugar from the foods they eat into energy. The result is a buildup of glucose in the blood, which damages both the heart and the coronary arteries, along with the rest of the blood vessels and organs in the body, including the kidneys, the eyes, and more.
Diabetes doubles the risk of a heart attack in men, and triples it in women.
The frightening thing about diabetes is that, like high blood pressure, it does its damage silently, often for years, before it’s diagnosed. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to learn they have high blood pressure, diabetes, or both only after they’ve suffered a heart attack.
A Special Warning for Diabetics
➨ Diabetes can double or even triple your heart attack risk. But it does something else that is deadly as well:
Diabetes damages not only your body’s organs, it also damages your nerve endings. As a result, diabetes can dampen the pain signals that you may ordinarily have felt, including the warning sign of chest pain that signals you may be developing heart disease, or even be in the midst of a heart attack!
Most doctors focus on the role that physical conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes play in heart health, and they tend to overlook the impact of stress. But, over and over, real-time data shows that stress can trigger heart attacks in many people.
Stress can contribute to atherosclerosis. The cascade of hormones your body releases when you are under stress can also trigger a deadly heartbeat irregularity.
Being overweight triples your risk of a heart attack. Obesity also is a major factor in the cause of high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. When these three factors occur together, it creates a condition known as “metabolic syndrome.” This greatly accelerates heart attack risk. In fact, having metabolic syndrome is almost a guarantee that you will suffer a heart attack.
Most people like to say they exercise, but a recent study using pedometers to measure the amount of exercise that people actually did, found that most exercise less than they say they do. A lack of exercise not only contributes to the development of high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol, but it is also a heart attack risk factor in itself.
We think of smoking in terms of lung cancer or lung damage, but smoking also causes major damage to your heart. In fact, it is a leading cause of heart attacks. Every time you inhale cigarette smoke, you draw into your lungs a mixture of 4,000 chemical substances, many of which are poisonous.
DID YOU KNOW?
Being overweight triples your risk of a heart attack. Obesity is also a major risk factor in the cause of high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. When these three factors occur together, it creates a condition known as “metabolic syndrome.”