Are you at risk of a heart attack?
Atherosclerosis refers to the buildup of substances (like fats and cholesterol) within or on the artery wall, which can block or restrict blood flow. When the arteries lead to the heart, the disease is referred to as coronary heart disease, which is the leading killer of both women and men in America. Often associated with this disease is a heart attack, or a myocardial infarction, which is a blockage disabling blood flow to the heart muscle. Signs and symptoms of a heart attack include discomfort or pain in or near the chest, cold sweats, loss of color, fatigue, pain or discomfort in the jaw, arm, back or abdomen, and other less or more severe symptoms. Knowing your risk and taking measures to prevent heart attack can be key to avoiding this sometimes silent killer.
Risk factors that cannot be changed include:
- Aging – There are more than 3 million cases of heart attacks in the U.S. each year. Heart attack is common in adults ages 41-60 and very common in adults 60 years and older.
- Race or ethnicity – Heart disease is the leading cause of death for African Americans, Caucasians and Hispanics and is second to cancer for American Indians and Asians.
- Family history of cardiovascular disease – Genetics play a significant role in your risk for heart attack. Experts suggest that if you have a sibling who has had a heart attack or been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, you are as much as 100 times more likely to have a heart attack.
- Previous heart attack – This of course seems obvious, but if you have had a heart attack previously, you are considered very likely to experience another.
Risk factors that can be changed by lifestyle fixes and medications include:
- Exposure to second-hand smoke
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Poor diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
Other factors that are more specific to women:
- Hormonal replacement therapy
- Birth control via pills, especially in smokers
- Onset of menopause at younger age
Generally speaking, men are at higher risk for heart attack at a younger age compared to women.
Need help determine your heart attack risk? Complete this survey to learn more.
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– CASEY EDMONDS, CHC
Health Advisor | Email Casey