Are You At Risk For a Heart Attack?
There are several factors that increase our risks for a heart attack. The more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to suffer a heart attack. Some of the risk factors cannot be changed while others can be.
Risk factors that cannot be changed are the ones you are born with
Age Our arteries get stiffer as we age which increases the risk for heart attack. Most people get heart attacks after the age of 65.
Family history If your parents have had heart disease then it increases your risk.
Gender Men are at higher risk for heart attack than women and they get it much earlier in life as well. Women tend to experience heart attacks about 10 years later in life than men. After menopause the risk is still not as high as for men but the rate of death is higher in females within the first few weeks of having a heart attack.
Race African Americans have higher rates of high blood pressure and therefore have greater incidence of heart disease than Caucasians. There is also higher incidence in American Indians, native Hawaiians, Mexican Americans and Asian Americans due to higher rates of obesity and diabetes.
There are many risk factors that can be minimized by living a healthy lifestyle
Smoking Smokers are 2-4 times more likely to develop heart disease. However, your risk for heart disease can be cut in half in just one year if you quit. Second hand smoking is equally risky.
Exercise People who exercise regularly reduce their risk for heart disease by 30-40%. You should aim to reach the goal of exercising 30 minutes most days of the week.
Overweight/Obesity People who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk for heart disease. Losing as little as 10 pounds lowers your risk.
Diet Eating diet high in saturated and trans fat, high in sugar and cholesterol increases your risk. Avoid processed foods. Instead of frying foods, bake or grill them. Eat lean meats such as poultry, fish, and turkey. Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
High blood pressure This is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. Lowering your daily sodium intake, exercising regularly to maintain an ideal body weight, avoiding alcohol and regular medical checkups will help minimize this risk.
Diabetes Having diabetes doubles your risk for heart disease. Tight control of your blood sugars as reflected by your HbA1c levels is critical in lowering your risk. This can be achieved by adhering to a diabetic diet, regular exercise and taking your anti diabetes medications as prescribed.
High LDL (bad) cholesterol LDL cholesterol causes plaque buildup in the arteries, clogging them and increases the risk for heart attack. Although genetics impacts your LDL levels, you can lower high levels by eating a diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol and exercising regularly.
Prevention of heart attack should begin early in life. Try to lower your risk factors after doing a proper assessment of your risk. Remember the first heart attack can be disabling or fatal.
The biggest risk? Not knowing your risk.