Am I at Risk for a Heart Attack?
Find out some common risk factors for a heart attack, then learn what you can do to boost your cardiovascular health.
Nearly half of all Americans possess a major risk factor for heart attack, according to the CDC. There isn’t a singular cause of cardiovascular disease, but a combination of genetic factors, medical conditions, and behavior/lifestyle can spell out the difference between a healthy heart and the onset of heart disease.
The most common type of heart disease is coronary heart disease, a buildup of plaque in the heart’s coronary artery. If enough plaque builds up, coronary heart disease can lead to a heart attack. Fortunately, there are many ways to tell whether you are at risk for heart disease — and several options to manage your risk.
Common Risk Factors
There are some uncontrollable factors that can contribute to a greater risk for heart attack. These factors can be based on genetics, age, or just circumstance. They include:
- Age: Age is the most basic risk factor for heart attacks — most people who die from heart attacks are 65 or older.
- Gender: Though heart disease is the number one killer for everyone, men are more likely to suffer heart attacks, and more likely to experience them earlier in life, than women.
- Family history: People with relatives who have suffered from coronary heart disease are more likely to develop coronary heart disease themselves.
If you already suffer from certain medical conditions, your risk for coronary heart disease may be increased. Some of these conditions are easier to control than others — if you have been diagnosed with a medical condition that can lead to heart attacks, it’s important to have a conversation with your doctor about what habits or environmental factors you can change to reduce your risk.
High cholesterol levels can contribute to artery blockage and plaque buildup, which can lead to coronary heart disease. A healthy cholesterol score depends on age, and can be determined with a cholesterol test at your doctor’s office. The AHA recommends that healthy adults get their cholesterol checked every four to six years.
High Blood Pressure
When you have high blood pressure, your heart’s activity goes into overdrive. This can thicken the walls of your arteries, leading to coronary heart disease. If you have high blood pressure, you can work to lower it by eating healthy, managing your weight, quitting smoking, and getting regular physical activity.
Diabetes is a disease that leads to a dangerous increase in blood sugar. Your body converts blood sugar into energy by using the hormone insulin — and when insulin is not being produced, your blood sugar accumulates. This causes stress on your heart, which can lead to heart attacks. Almost seventy percent of people over the age of 65 who have diabetes die from heart disease.
The Bottom Line
There are plenty of ways to protect yourself from coronary heart disease and decrease your risk of heart attack. Some of the most basic factors cannot be changed, but there are lifestyle adjustments that everyone can make to prevent medical conditions like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
- Quit smoking: Nicotine consumption is a major risk factor for high blood pressure, which can lead to a heart attack.
- Manage your weight: Obesity often leads to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Maintaining a healthy body weight through diet and physical activity can be crucial to preventing heart disease.
- Find healthy ways to destress: Decreasing your stress levels can lower blood pressure.
- Drink less: Decreasing your alcohol consumption can improve your cardiovascular health.
The best way to prevent a heart attack is to know the risk factors. If you suspect you might be at risk for a heart attack, schedule a checkup with your doctor. Premier Heart and Vein Care offers check-ups and consultations with board-certified heart specialists, so you can get an expert assessment on your status. Come visit us for a consultation today.