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What causes Heart Attack

Updated on September 24, 2009

Heart attack and stroke

Heart attack and stroke

Doctors often use the term risk factor. A risk factor is named to be a predictor of future disease. Like for smokers, there are chances of getting affected with lung cancer than non-smokers, therefore smoking is a risk factor for lung cancer. Smoking is also a risk factor for heart attack and stroke, and is one of the first things to eliminate in any healthy lifestyle program.

Risk factors for heart attack and stroke can be classified as either, non-modifiable (ones we cannot change) and modifiable (one which could be changed)

The coronary risk factors we cannot change include;

Gender: Heart attack is more common in men than women.

Age: Increasing age is one of the most powerful risk factors.

Family history: Risk is increased if other family members have suffered heart attack, especially in parents or siblings before the age of 55 in men and 65 in women.

The Coronory risk factors we can control and change include:

o Blood fat levels ; heart attack risk is greater with increasing levels of cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides-high levels of these blood fats are harmful. The opposite applies for HDL, high levels of which are protective.

o Blood Lp(a) ; this is a particle in the blood that also carries a small amount of cholesterol, and is related to LDL. It can deliver cholesterol to the arteries and if levels are high, can contribute to clogging of the arteries.

o Cigarette smoking

o Blood pressure

o Weight

o Physical exercise

o Blood homocysteine level ; Homocysteine is a blood protein derived from the amino acid methionine, which increases the tendency of the blood to clot and can damage the lining of the blood vessels when present in high levels.

o Diabetes mellitus; Diabetes doubles the risk of heart attack in men

o Impaired kidney function and after kidney transplantation ; heart attack is more common in people with kidney disease, partly as a result of abnormal blood fats.


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