Heart Attack

Causes

There are several factors that can increase your risk of coronary artery disease or a heart attack.

Cigarette Smoking 

Smoking increases your risk of coronary artery disease dramatically. The nicotine and carbon monoxide in the smoke strains the heart by making it work harder, and the chemicals damage the coronary blood vessels even more. Smokers improve their health as soon as they stop smoking. It’s never too late to benefit from quitting.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Long-standing high blood pressure that goes untreated can thicken or harden your blood vessels and damage them. Damaged or narrowed blood vessels are more prone to developing blockages from cholesterol.  

Blood Cholesterol Levels

There are different types of cholesterol in your blood. There is “bad” cholesterol, (LDL) and “good” cholesterol (HDL). High levels of LDL have been associated with worsening atherosclerosis and therefore, a predisposition to coronary artery disease. HDL is considered “good” because it carries away the “bad” cholesterol.

Age

Unfortunately, normal aging results in coronary arteries that stiffen and narrow. Up to age 85, men are at higher risk of coronary artery disease than women. After age 85, the risk is greater for women.

In older adults, coronary artery disease is often diagnosed later in the course of the disease. This is in part because adults who are not physically active may not notice symptoms until the disease is more advanced. It is also due to the fact that atypical presentations of chest pain (angina) are more common in older adults,  therefore early symptoms may go unnoticed for a longer period of time.

Other risk factors 

  • Family history
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Low levels of physical activity
  • Menopause
  • High stress levels

 

Last Updated July 2020