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Factors That Increase the Risk of Heart Attack


August 24, 2021

Table of Contents

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. The blockage can be due to blood clots and other deposits that such as cholesterol/plague.

Such a blockage limits the flow of blood to the heart muscles resulting in death of tissues. There are three types of heart attack: non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI), ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) and coronary spasm, or unstable angina. STEMI and NSTEMI are major heart attacks.

A STEMI is a 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 form of heart attack results in pain and tightness or feeling of discomfort around the chest area. Some victims also experience pain in one or both arms, jaw, neck and their back. Other symptoms of this for of heart attack include anxiety, shortness of breath, nausea, light-headedness and sweating.

In NSTEMI, the victims coronary is partially blocked. The condition may be critical depending on the seriousness of the blockage.

Coronary artery spasm also known as unstable angina occurs from tightening of hearts arteries. The vessels tighten to the extent of preventing blood flow. In some cases, the affected arteries cannot allow blood flow. The condition is not usually critical it can increases the risk of a major heart attack. The symptoms for all types of heart attack are similar but vary from an individual to another.

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 come and go, and  are relieved by resting.

Causes of Heart Attack

Each coronary artery supplies blood to a different heart muscle. Heart attack occurs from the blockage of arteries that supply the heart. The blockage could result from a blood clot, cholesterol/fat deposits and the formation of plague within the arteries. Plagues is formed by the deposit of protein, calcium and inflammatory cells. The material deposited on the arteries hardens them causing them to rapture. 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 artery affected and the time taken before treatment. Current studies suggest that an attack by Covid 19 could result in 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 it’s ability to pump blood.

Risk factors for heart attack
  1. 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 narrowing and hardening of blood vessels, and build up of plague. They are in turn lead to hypertension, obesity and diabetes which have adverse effects to the heart.
  1. Being inactive or lack of exercises: Staying active and engaging in regular exercise is critical in 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.
  1. Unhealthy body weight: Obesity and being overweight are linked to several risk factors for heart disease such as diabetes, high blood pressure, triglyceride levels and high cholesterol levels. If you maintain a healthy body weight, you lower the risk of these conditions and the risk of heart disease. Keep your BMW in check and if need be consult your health specialist on the appropriate body weight. For those overweight, eating fewer calories and physical exercise will help in weight loss.
  1. Smoking: 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 never smoked don’t start. If you experience difficulties quitting, seek professional help.
  1. Alcoholism: Excessive consumption of alcohol leads to high blood pressure. Alcohol also contains a lot of calories which lead to weight gain. For healthy living, you should stick to a maximum of two drinks per day.
  1. Underlying Conditions: These are the risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure and diabetes. It is important to have regular check ups for both diabetes and high blood pressure (Recommended 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. 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.

  1. Stress: Excess stress leads to heart attack. In other cases, stress can lead to high blood pressure and other unhealthy habits such as alcoholism, smoking and overeating. It is best to learn a stress management strategy that works best for you. Some people find certain activities good for stress release such as jogging, working out at the gym, swimming, reading, watching movies among others.  Whichever way you choose to let out stress, let it be a healthy choice. Progressive stress leads to depression and other mental conditions that affect your health further. 
  1. Lack of enough rest and sleep: When you sleep, your heart also gets to relax. Sleep deprivation can lead to certain high risk conditions such as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. Adults require seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

Certain sleep conditions such as sleep apnea can potentially lead to 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. 

  1. Ignorance: Read widely and talk to your doctor on matters concerning your health. 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 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 the 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 come across 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

Lay the person on their back and kneel next to their shoulders and neck. Place the 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. Make sure that your hands are straight on the elbows and shoulders directly above. Push on hard with the heels of your hands by the use of your upper body weight. Compress the victim’s chest at least 5 to 6 centimeters (which is 2 to 2.4 inches). Perform 100 to 120 compressions per minute. 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 4months and above, the chest compressions should not exceed 1.5 inches.


According to recent research, performing CPR increases the chances of survival for cardiac arrest patients by 40%. Heart attack can affect healthy persons without any history of heart disease. Even 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 good health habits will save you trips to the doctor.

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