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Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction)
Heart Attack Risk Factors
Extensive clinical studies have revealed a significant group of factors that increase the risk for coronary artery disease and heart attacks. The American Heart Association classified the risk factors in two major categories:
I. Risk factors that can be controlled, modified, and treated.
II. Risk factors that cannot be changed.
According to the first category, the risk factors that can be controlled, modified, and treated are:
1. High levels of cholesterol. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in all the body's cells and is introduced into the body through different types of food. The body uses cholesterol to produce hormones, vitamin D, and substances used during digestion. If present in high amounts, cholesterol can increase the risk for heart diseases. On its own, cholesterol does not cause symptoms, but it can slowly build inside the arteries forming what is known as plaque. In time the plaque narrows the arteries (a condition called atherosclerosis).
The risk of heart attack decreases significantly when the person quits smoking. One year of smoking cessation drops the risk of heart attack to one half of what is was before.
4. Physical inactivity. An inactive lifestyle increases the risk of coronary heart disease, contributes to high levels of cholesterol, and obesity, therefore increasing the risk for a heart attack. A moderate to vigorous level of activity prevents the development of heart disorders, reduces cholesterol, prevents obesity and diabetes, lowers blood pressure, and reduces the risk of heart attack.
5. Obesity. Obesity is a factor that increases the risk of numerous health problems. Obesity is associated with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart problems. People that have excessive amounts of fat around the waist area face a great risk of developing heart disorders and experiencing strokes. Excess weight increases the amount of work the heart needs to peform just to maintain normal living.
6. Diabetes. Diabetes is a medical condition where the body either does not produce enough insulin, or the insulin is not properly used. Diabetes increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and heart attacks. Increased incidence of large vessel atheriosclerosis and heart attack is high in patients with type1 and type 2 diabetes. Therefore, it is important for these patients to keep the level of glucose under control with medication or diet.
7. Alcohol use. Consumed in moderate amounts, alcohol can prevent heart attacks. However, men should not drink more than two drinks per day, while women should limit themselves to one drink per day (or less). Excessive amounts of alcohol leads to increased blood pressure and therefore increases the risk of a heart attack.
According to the second category, the risk factors that cannot be changed are:
1. Age. Heart attacks are more frequent in men older than 45 and women older than 55. The younger population faces a higher risk of a heart attack if they use illegal drugs, suffer from obesity, or heart disease.
2. Gender. The incidence of coronary artery disease and heart attack is higher in men than in women in all age groups.
3. Family history of coronary artery disease. A family history of coronary artery diseases increases the individual's risk for atherosclerosis and heart attack.
Article by Kona Vishnu, MS
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