Risk factors for a heart attack
When many lakhs of cars are moving on the roads, only a few cars meet with accidents. Cars with defective brakes, gears, or mis-aligned tyres, have increased chances of accidents. Likewise, extensive clinical and statistical studies have identified several factors that increase the risk of coronary heart disease and heart attack.
Major risk factors are those that, research has shown, significantly increase the risk of heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease. Other minor factors are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease but their significance and prevalence haven’t yet been precisely determined. They are called contributing risk factors. The American Heart Association has identified several risk factors. Some of them can be modified, treated or controlled and some cannot. The more risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing coronary heart disease. Also the greater the level of each risk factor, the greater the risk. For example, a person with a total cholesterol of 300 mg dl has a greater risk than someone with a total cholesterol of 245 mg / dl, even though everyone with a total cholesterol greater than 240mg / dl is considered high-risk.
Modifiable risk factors
- A smoker’s risk of developing coronary heart disease is 24 times that of non-smokers.
- Cigarette smoking is a powerful independent risk factor for sudden cardiac death in patients with coronary heart disease; smokers have about twice the risk of non-smokers.
- Cigarette smoking also acts with other risk factors to greatly increase the risk for coronary heart disease.
- Exposure to other people’s smoke increases the risk of heart disease even for non-smokers.
- People who stop smoking at 60 years, gain 3 years of extra life; at 50 – 6 years; at 40 – 9 years: and at 30 – 10 years.
- Smoking also totally cancels the actions of Aspirin (a cardiovascular protecting drug) and cancels 75 % of the action of Statins (drugs that improve good cholesterol levels).
High blood cholesterol
- As blood cholesterol rises, so does risk of coronary heart disease.
- When other risk factors such as high blood pressure and tobacco smoke are present, this risk increases even more.
- A person’s cholesterol level is also affected by age, sex, heredity and diet.
High Blood Pressure
- High blood pressure increases the heart’s workload, causing the heart to thicken and become stiffer.
- It also increases your risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and congestive heart failure.
- When high blood pressure exists with obesity, smoking, high blood cholesterol levels or diabetes, the risk of heart attack or stroke increases several times.
- An inactive lifestyle is a risk factor for coronary heart disease.
- Regular, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity helps prevent heart and blood vessel disease. The more vigorous the activity, the greater are the benefits.
- Even moderate-intensity activities help, if done regularly.
- Exercise can help control blood cholesterol, diabetes and obesity, as well as help lower blood pressure in some people.
People who have excess body fat, especially if a lot of it is at the waist, are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke, even if they have no other risk factors.
- Excess weight increases the heart’s work.
- It also raises blood pressure and blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and lowers HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
- Excess weight can also make diabetes more likely to develop.
- Many obese and overweight people may have difficulty losing weight. But by losing even as few as 10 pounds, you can lower your heart disease risk.
- Diabetes seriously increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, even when glucose (blood sugar) levels are under control.The risks are even greater if blood sugar is not well controlled. About three-quarters of people with diabetes, die of some form of heart or blood vessel disease.
- If you have diabetes, it is extremely important to work with your healthcare provider to manage it, and control any other risk factors you can.
- Individual response to stress may be a contributing factor.
- Some scientists have noted a relationship between coronary heart disease risk and stress in a person’s life; their health and socio-economic status.
- These factors may also affect established risk factors. For example, people under stress may overeat, start smoking or smoke more than they otherwise would.
- Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure, cause heart failure and lead to stroke.
- It can contribute to high triglycerides, cancer and other diseases and produce irregular heartbeats.
- It also contributes to obesity, alcoholism, suicide and accidents.