Factors That Increase the Risk of Heart Attack

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Key Takeaways

According to the American Heart Association, focusing on heart disease prevention early in life is important. To start, assess your risk factors and work to keep them low. The sooner you identify the risk factors of heart attack, the earlier you can manage it.


  • A heart attack is a critical medical condition that results from the blockage of the heart's coronary arteries.
  • There are three types of heart attack: NSTEMI, STEMI, and coronary spasm.
  • Age, gender, and heredity are major heart attack risk factors we can't control.
  • Stress, alcohol, unhealthy diet, and lack of sleep are modifiable risk factors for coronary heart disease.
  • Smoking increases heart rate tightens major arteries and can create irregular heartbeat.
  • LDL cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein, is a major risk factor for coronary artery disease.
  • Healthy eating and exercise can keep you at low risk. There are changes that you can make to improve your cardiovascular health.
  • Being unaware of the risk factors can also be a risk of heart disease.
  • The early symptoms, such as shortness of breath, come and go and are relieved by resting.
  • Maintaining a good heart-healthy diet or heart-healthy lifestyle will save you trips to your doctor or health care provider.
  • When an incident of sudden cardiac arrest occurs, the availability of CPR-certified individuals makes all the difference.


A heart attack, also known as myocardial infarction, is a critical health condition that results from the blockage of the heart's coronary arteries. The blockage of blood vessels can occur in any part of the body. It, however, becomes critical if it affects a major body organ. For example, the blockage can be due to blood clots and other deposits such as cholesterol/plague. Such a blockage limits oxygen-rich blood flow to the heart muscles resulting in the death of tissues.


3 Types of Heart Attacks

There are three types of heart attack: Non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI), ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), coronary spasm, or unstable angina.


ST-Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI)

A STEMI is a major form of heart attack whereby the coronary gets blocked, and a significant part of the heart doesn't receive blood, running out of oxygen. This type of heart attack results in pain and tightness or a feeling of discomfort around the chest area. Some victims also experience pain in one or both arms, jaw, neck, and back. Other symptoms of STEMI heart attack include anxiety, shortness of breath, nausea, light-headedness, and sweating.


Non-ST Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction (NSTEMI)

NSTEMI is a type of major heart attack that usually happens when your heart's oxygen needs are not met. This condition gets its name because it doesn't have an easily identifiable electrical pattern or ST elevation like the other main types of heart attacks. In NSTEMI, the victim's coronary is partially blocked. The condition may be critical, depending on the seriousness of the blockage.


Coronary Spasm

Coronary artery spasms, also known as unstable angina, is a form of heart disease where the arteries tighten to the point of restricting or preventing blood flow. While the condition is not typically critical, it can increase the risk of a major heart attack. The symptoms for all types of heart attacks are similar but can vary in intensity from one individual to another. Some people experience severe pain, while others only feel a slight discomfort.


A heart attack can result in sudden cardiac arrest. Some people experience heart attack symptoms days or weeks before the attack. These symptoms include chest discomfort and pain, especially after undertaking strenuous activities. The early symptoms, such as shortness of breath, come and go and are relieved by resting.

Also read
Preventive Measure for Heart Diseases

Causes of Heart Attack

Each coronary artery supplies blood to a different heart muscle. A heart attack occurs from the blockage of arteries that supply the heart. The blockage could result from a blood clot or build-up of fatty deposits, and the formation of plaque within the arteries. Plagues are formed by the deposit of protein, calcium, and inflammatory cells. The material deposited on the arteries hardens them, causing them to rupture. The rapturing of these arteries results in the formation of blood clots which might block the vessels. The damage in the heart muscles depends on the size of the artery affected and the time taken before treatment. Current studies suggest that an attack by Covid 19 could result in a heart attack.

After treatment, the affected heart muscle heals over time (about eight weeks). After healing, the affected muscle forms a scar. The scarring affects the movement of heart muscles and their ability to pump blood.


What are the Heart Disease Risk factors?

Heart attack is life-threatening, but it can be prevented in many cases. Knowing the risk factors for heart disease will help you develop a plan that you can follow to maintain a low risk for heart attack and improve your quality of life.


Major Risk Factors of Heart Attack that are controllable


Tobacco has adverse health effects on the body. It raises the risks of heart attack, stroke, and blood pressure. Smoking is not beneficial to the body, and if you have never smoked, don't start. If you experience difficulties quitting, seek professional help.


Wrong Dietary Choice

Certain foods are known to promote heart health. They include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, plant proteins, legumes, fish, and lean meat. Foods that you should avoid include processed foods, sweetened drinks, refined carbohydrates, sugar, saturated fats, trans fats, and sodium. These foods lead to the narrowing and hardening of blood vessels and the build-up of plague. They, in turn, lead to hypertension, obesity, and diabetes, which have adverse effects on the heart.


Physical inactivity or lack of exercise

Lack of physical activity is a major risk for heart disease that we can control. Staying active and exercising regularly is critical to maintaining a healthy heart. It strengthens the heart muscles and improves blood circulation throughout the body. It also lowers the risk of high blood pressure and cholesterol, which are both risk factors for heart disease.


Unhealthy body weight

Obesity and being overweight are linked to several risk factors for heart diseases, such as high blood sugar, high blood pressure, triglyceride levels, and high blood cholesterol levels. BMI or Body mass index, is a method to tell if a person is overweight. If you maintain a healthy weight, you lower the risk of these conditions and the risk of heart disease. Keep your BMI in check, and if need be, consult your health specialist on the appropriate body weight. Eating fewer calories and physical exercise will help in weight loss for those overweight.


High blood cholesterol

LDL cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein, is a major risk factor for coronary artery disease. Your cholesterol level is also impacted by risk factors such as sex, age, diet, and heredity. The risk of coronary artery disease rises as your LDL level increases. Other risk factors such as stress, high blood pressure, and smoking can also contribute to the development of coronary artery disease.


Underlying Conditions

Underlying conditions refer to the risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. According to studies, at least 68% of people with diabetes over 65 years old die from coronary heart disease. So, it's important to have regular check-ups for diabetes and high blood pressure at least annually for healthy adults. Persons with these conditions should also have their conditions monitored by medical specialists and follow the doctor's recommended lifestyle and habits.

Even without any underlying issues, you should have regular medical checks with your doctor or health care provider. When detected early, certain heart conditions can be easily managed and treated. Regular medical checks will also guide you on healthy lifestyle choices and habits. If you are under any medications, always be true to the doctor's instructions.

Also read
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Major risk factors that you can't control

  • Age: According to studies, people aged 65 or older die of coronary heart disease or heart failure.
  • Gender: Men have a greater higher risk of heart disease. They also have attacks earlier in life.
  • Heredity: Children of parents with a medical history of heart disease are more likely to develop it themselves.


Other Risk Factors of Heart Disease


Excess stress leads to coronary heart disease. In other cases, stress can lead to high blood pressure and other unhealthy habits such as alcoholism, smoking, and overeating. Learning a stress management strategy works best for you is best. Some people find certain activities good for stress release, such as jogging, working out at the gym, swimming, reading, and watching movies. Let it be a healthy choice, whichever way you choose to let out stress. Progressive stress leads to depression and other mental conditions that affect your health further.



Excessive consumption of alcohol is also a risk for heart disease. Alcohol also contains a lot of calories which leads to weight gain. For healthy living, you should stick to a maximum of two drinks per day.


Lack of enough rest and sleep

Your heart also gets to relax when you sleep. Sleep deprivation can lead to certain high-risk conditions like diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure. Adults require seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

Certain sleep conditions, such as sleep apnea, can lead to coronary heart disease. If you have the condition, it is best you have it addressed by a medical doctor as early as possible. You should also seek treatment for other sleep conditions that interfere with the quality of your sleep. Healthy sleeping habits include setting a consistent sleep schedule and avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bedtime.



Being unaware of these factors of heart attack can also risk heart disease. Reading widely and talking to your doctor or health care provider about your health is essential. It is also important to acquire first aid and CPR skills, which are basic when cardiac arrest occurs. Heart attack and cardiac arrest are leading causes of death across the world.

When an incident of sudden cardiac arrest occurs, the availability of CPR-certified individuals makes all the difference. CPR certification enables the individual to recognize cases of sudden cardiac arrest and the necessary life-saving procedures. Acquiring an AED certification is equally important. AED certification is offered alongside CPR certification by most institutions.

Online CPR and AED certification classes are just as good as physical classes. They offer a classroom experience while at the same time giving you flexibility. You can enroll for online first aid and CPR/AED certification classes from the convenience of your home from your computer. There are no minimum requirements, and the procedures involved are easy to follow.


First Aid and Treatment for Heart Attack

When you encounter someone having a heart attack, calm down the person. Let the person sit and relax, and loosen any tight clothing. Find out if the victim has an existing heart condition. If they have some heart medications, have them take them. Call for emergency medical services if the condition persists three minutes after taking the medication. Begin CPR immediately if the victim is not responsive and not breathing.


Steps for Hands-Only CPR

1. Lay the person on their back and kneel next to their shoulders and neck.

2. Place one hand on the individual's chest right between the nipples. Place the other hand right on top of the first and interlock your fingers. Ensure your hands are straight on the elbows and shoulders directly above.

3. Push on hard with the heels of your hands by using your upper body weight. Compress the victim's chest at least 2 to 2.4 inches. Perform 100 to 120 compressions per minute.

4. If you do not have a CPR certification, repeat the compressions till the person gains consciousness or until medical specialists arrive and take over.

For a child and younger teenagers, you can use one hand to perform the compressions and make them at least 2inches without exceeding 2.4 inches. In cases of babies 4 months and above, the chest compressions should not exceed 1.5 inches.

Also read
Preventive Measure for Heart Diseases


Performing CPR increases the chances of survival for cardiac arrest patients by 40%. Heart attacks can affect healthy persons without any history of cardiovascular disease. Even in recovery, the victim should seek further medical assessment and treatment. Heart disease is a chronic illness. We have looked at different ways to promote heart health. Maintaining a good heart-healthy lifestyle will save you trips to the doctor.

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