‘What you eat is what you are and how you live is how you shape’. This holds true for the heart that beats life into human beings. Having said that, it is not surprising that the most common risk factors for coronary artery disease comprise lifestyle issues, eating habits, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, weight and stress issues, and diabetes. Below mentioned are some of the major causes of heart attack along with its risk factors.
Causes of Heart Attack & Risk factors
Generally, a heart attack is a result of a combination of factors, rather than a single one. The various causes of heart attack followed by multiple risk factors are as following:
Causes of heart attack
- Coronary Artery Disease: The underlying cause of most heart attacks. This is a result of a build-up (collectively called as plaques) of cholesterol and other substances in the artery. One of these plaques can rupture and spill out cholesterol and other substances (plaque) into the bloodstream causing blood clots that block the coronary artery. Studies show that one fifth of the deaths in India are caused due to coronary heart disease
- A spasm in the coronary artery: This shuts down the blood flow to the heart muscle causing a heart attack. Drugs like cocaine can cause such a life-threatening spasm.
- A tear in heart artery: A heart attack can also occur due to a tear in the heart artery (spontaneous coronary artery dissection). Coronary Embolism—a condition, in which small blood clots or tumors travel from other parts of the body to the artery—is an uncommon cause of heart attacks.
- Decreased Blood Flow to the Heart: When blood flow to the heart is severely decreased, in the case of extremely low blood pressure (shock), it can lead to a heart attack.
- Family history: Your chances of having a heart attack are higher if you have a family history of heart disease or a history of cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and obesity.
Dr. Agarwal talks about causes of heart attack in the following video
Heart Attack Risk Factors
There are various causes of heart attack and at the same time, there are various factors that increase the likelihood of suffering from a heart attack. These risk factors of a heart attack are mentioned below:
- Age: There are greater chances of a heart attack to men over 45 and women over 55.
- Angina: This causes chest pain due to lack of oxygen or blood supply to the heart and may lead to a heart attack.
- Diabetes: High blood sugar due to insulin resistance or diabetes, especially uncontrolled, increases your risk of a heart attack
- Diet: For Example, consuming large quantities of saturated fats leads to plaque generation leading to a coronary artery disease. This condition may cause a heart attack.
- Genetics: You can inherit a higher risk of heart attack through the genes in the family.
- Heart surgery: After a heart surgery, your heart may be more vulnerable to heart attacks.
- Hypertension: This is also known as high blood pressure. Greater the volatility of blood pressure, the greater is the pressure on the heart.
- HIV: As per research, people who are HIV-positive have a 50 percent higher risk.
- High Cholesterol Levels: This increases the chance of blood clots in the arteries hindering the supply of blood to the heart hampering the proper flow and functioning of the heart. This situation increases the likelihood of a heart attack.
- Obesity: Being significantly overweight is associated with high blood cholesterol levels. This further results in high triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
- Smoking: This is a well-known fact, smokers are at much higher risk than non-smokers.
- Work stress: The way tackle stress in day to day life plays a significant role.You may respond in ways that can increase your risk of a heart attack.
Heart attack warning signs can vary from person to person, and they may not always be sudden or severe. Always bear in mind, act immediately. Some people wait too long because they don’t recognise the important signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Therefore, it is crucial to remember that a person’s survival depends largely on how quickly they reach the hospital.
To learn more about the heart attack symptoms, go to the Symptoms of Heart Attack in Men and Women article.