Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the US, and heart attacks commonly trigger those fatalities. They happen when blood flow to your heart is interrupted, often by a blood clot, causing the tissue to die. And while getting needed care as soon as one happens can increase your odds of survival, it’s even better not to risk it at all. Understanding your personal heart attack risk factors may inspire you to take appropriate measures to lower them.
At Upper East Side Cardiology in the Upper East Side neighborhood of New York City, cardiologist Dr. Satjit Bhusri applies 15 years of intensive study and training in heart medicine to treating his patients. Read on to learn about heart attack risk factors we commonly see and what to do about them.
When you have high levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, and/or low levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol, you have a higher risk of a heart attack compared to people with healthier levels. While high cholesterol can be genetic, dietary factors, such as eating rich amounts of trans and saturated fat, as well as added sugars, can raise your LDL cholesterol. So shifting to a heart-healthy diet and getting routine cholesterol checks can be important.
High blood pressure and other chronic conditions
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is another major risk factor for a heart attack. It’s often called “the silent killer,” because it usually shows no symptoms at all until a worst-case scenario happens. When you have high blood pressure, it means that the pressure of the blood on your arteries is excessive. If it goes uncontrolled, it can affect numerous major organs, including your kidneys, brain, and heart. Other conditions that could raise your risk of a heart attack include autoimmune diseases, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and sleep apnea.
Unhealthy lifestyle habits
Your lifestyle habits can play a significant role in determining your risk level for heart attacks, too. In a study involving over 55,000 adults, participants who engaged in healthy habits, such as exercising regularly, avoided smoking, and eating a heart-healthy diet had a nearly 50% lower risk of heart disease than those who did the opposite. Eating rich amounts of unhealthy fats, low-fiber starches, sugar-free food, smoking and drinking heavily, can damage your arteries and make them stiff. Stiff arteries set the stage for atherosclerosis, which can lead to a heart attack.
Unmanaged stress and sleep loss
Long-term stress and a lack of sleep may also up your odds of having a heart attack. This can feel like a Catch 22 since the more stressed out you feel, the less likely you’ll be to experience restful sleep. One study showed that sleeping less than six hours each night brings a 20% higher risk of suffering a heart attack. For these reasons, seeking ways to better manage stressful situations and prioritizing healthy sleep habits can go far.
What to do about heart attack risk factors
The best way to determine and address risk factors for heart attack is to schedule routine wellness exams and to seek immediate care any time you notice potential heart attack symptoms, such as chest pain. Whether you’re dealing with symptoms or not, Dr. Bhusri can provide you with onsite diagnostic testing, as well as any needed lifestyle treatment recommendations to help your cardiovascular system stay as healthy as possible.
To learn more about heart attack risk factors or schedule an exam, call Upper East Side Cardiology or send us a message through our website.