Articles Cardiovascular Disease Lifestyle

Factors That Increase The Risk of a Heart Attack

Heart attacks are preventable. That’s our mission here at Digital Nomad Health, to help our patients prevent ever having a heart attack. For this, we need to know the factors that increase the risk of a heart attack. Some of these are modifiable and worth focusing on.

Certain risk factors are not only modifiable but major drivers of the risk. For example, while diet is a risk factor, smoking is a far bigger risk factor.

List of Factors That Increase Heart Attack Risk

  • Age. Anytime after 40, your risk goes up quite a bit.
  • Gender. Men are generally at higher risk than women, though women’s risk increases and can surpass men’s after menopause.
  • Family History. A family history of heart disease, especially at an early age, increases risk.
  • Smoking. Tobacco use significantly increases the risk.
  • High Blood Pressure (Hypertension). It puts additional strain on the heart and the vasculature.
  • High Cholesterol. High apoB or non-HDL cholesterol levels are the biggest risk drivers.
  • Diabetes. It causes micro and macrovascular damage to the cardiovascular system.
  • Obesity. More so, visceral fat, and less so, being overweight.
  • Physical Inactivity. A sedentary lifestyle is a well-known risk factor.
  • Unhealthy Diet. Diets high in saturated fats, trans fats, sodium, and ultraprocessed foods can increase heart disease risk.
  • Chronic Stress. Long-term stress may contribute to heart disease, especially when one cannot cope with it.
  • Excessive Alcohol Use. Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure and inflammation.
  • Sleep Apnea. Untreated sleep apnea can increase the risk because of the stress it puts on your heart.
  • Chronic Kidney Disease. Decreased kidney function is a significant risk factor.
  • Ethnicity. Certain ethnic groups have higher rates of cardiovascular disease.
  • Inflammation. This can be tracked with symptoms or using biomarkers.
  • Autoimmune diseases. Conditions like Lupus and Rheumatoid arthritis are risk factors.
  • HIV/AIDS. This viral infection increases the risk of atherosclerotic.
  • Air Pollution. Usually linked to inflammation in the body.
  • Gum Disease. There is a major correlation between dental health and heart health.
  • Drug Use Disorder. Likely due to the stress, inflammation, and chemicals, it is considered a major risk factor.
  • Low Health Literacy. This could be due to stress or lifestyle factors.
  • History of CVD. This is perhaps the biggest driver.

Selecting For The Major Drivers of Heart Disease

Now, let’s list these heart disease risk factors in descending order. I will focus only on the modifiable ones.

  1. History of CVD.
  2. Smoking.
  3. Hypertension.
  4. Hyperlipidemia.
  5. Diabetes.
  6. Physical Inactivity.
  7. Unhealthy Diet.
  8. CKD.
  9. Obesity.
  10. Inflammation.
  11. Stress.
  12. Substance Use Disorder.
  13. Gum Disease.
  14. Alcohol Use Disorder.

Taking Action to Reduce Heart Disease Risk

It makes little sense to worry about your alcohol intake (unless you are dealing with AUD) if you are a smoker. The best way to decrease our heart disease risk is to prioritize actionable steps based on their relative risk.

For example, we know that hypertension is a bigger risk factor than high cholesterol. And yet, most people worry more about their lipid profile than their blood pressure.

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