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Apex Heart and Vascular Center (Vein Clinic)

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Heart Attack Risk Factors

What are the signs and symptoms of a heart attack?

Are you at risk of a heart attack?  Believe it or not, there are actually many common risk factors that can lead to a heart attack that many people are not aware of. February is American Heart Month, so we wanted to share some of the less common heart attack risk factors you may not be aware of.

21 Surprising Things that Affect Whether You May or May Not Have a Heart Attack

Cold weather. Being in the cold weather too much can lead to ‘vasospasm’ or sudden narrowing of the arteries causing a heart attack. I often tell my patients who are not physically fit not to go out in the snow and start shoveling without getting clearance from their cardiologist first.

Your zip code. Where we live has a direct correlation with the risk of heart attacks. For example, people in a higher altitude and people in more educated cities have lower risk of heart attacks and vice versa. Even choosing the right coast makes a difference. People in the east coast have a higher risk of heart attack than the west coast. Developing countries have a much higher risk of heart attacks than developed countries.

Sudden Heartbreak (Broken Heart Syndrome). This is a real condition – the fancier name being “Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy” or “Broken Heart Syndrome.” We believe it’s due to a sudden surge of catecholamine (nerve hormones). Even a sudden surge of positive emotions can lead to heart problems.

Diabetes. People with Diabetes have a much higher risk of heart attack, stroke and all kinds of blockage-related problems.

Lack of sleep. People who have healthier sleep hygiene have lower risk of heart attacks and heart problems.

Fitness. When researchers compared people who had ‘fatness’ vs. ‘lack of fitness’ – those who had lack of fitness had much higher risk of heart attacks).

Inability to perform push-ups. Yes, that’s true – men who could not perform more than fifty pushups had a higher risk of heart problems than those who could.

Family history heart disease. People who have a higher family history have significantly higher risk of heart attacks, even with lack of symptoms or other risk factors.

Athlete’s heart. Yes, a big surprise. Technically not a ‘heart attack,’ but there’s a condition called ‘Athlete’s heart,’ where people who are very athletic, typically marathon runners end up getting thick heart and arrhythmia’s related to this.

Infections. Bad infections like sepsis can lead to damage of the heart muscles and subsequent heart attack.

Very loud, frequent snoring (this could be due to obstructive sleep apnea).

Yellowish Discoloration of the eyelids (this could be due to Xanthelesma, very high cholesterol).

Development of cataracts at young age (some people believe that those who develop cataract at a young age are associated with higher risk of heart attack).

Discoloration and nodules of Tendons of hands and legs (Xanthoma).

Bad Breath. Poor oral hygiene has been associated with significantly higher risk of heart and circulation problems. It’s unclear if this directly causes heart problems or if people who have poor oral hygiene also have overall poor metabolic health.

Chewing Tobacco. Everyone knows cigarette smoking leads to higher risk of heart attacks. But surprisingly, a lot of people have no clue that other forms of tobacco can also increase their risk. A lot of studies are taking place to find out if vaping increases the risk of heart attacks or not.

Bad food. This goes without saying. The type of food we eat has a lot to do with our future risk of heart attacks.

Pollution. Countries and cities with higher pollution have a higher risk of heart attacks and heart problems.

Alcohol. People know that too much alcohol can lead to liver problems. But a lot of people don’t realize that too much alcohol also leads to cardiomyopathy – which is an enlarged and weakened heart, putting people at risk of heart attacks and sudden cardiac arrest.

Postpartum. After pregnancy, there’s a higher risk of heart problems, known as ‘post-partum cardiomyopathy’ that can lead to heart attacks/arrhythmias.

Breast cancer. Having breast cancer (and a few other types of cancers) can lead to a higher chance of heart attacks due to cancer itself as well as due to certain chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

RESOURCES:

Dr. Anuj Shah was recently interviewed by Eat This Not That On Heart Attack Symptoms. Click below to read the full article titled, “20 Surprising Things That Affect Whether you Have a Heart Attack.”

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