A heart attack, aka myocardial infarction, happens when a part of the heart muscle doesn’t get enough blood, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart muscle,” they explain. There are a number of risk factors for heart attack, some of them—including age and family history—out of your control. However, there are a number of everyday habits that can ultimately lead to the potentially deadly event. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Signs Your Illness is Actually Coronavirus in Disguise.
Dining Out Daily
Sure, eating out on occasion isn’t going to result in a heart attack, but dining out daily might have a negative impact on your heart, as you are more likely to make unhealthy choices at a restaurant. When you do eat out, Penn Medicine suggests paying attention to nutritional details, saying no to bread and cocktails, making healthier swaps, choosing smaller portions, and resisting unhealthy toppings.
One of the best things you should do to maintain heart health? Exercise. “Being inactive contributes to high blood cholesterol levels and obesity. People who exercise regularly have better heart health, including lower blood pressure,” says the Mayo Clinic. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition, published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion suggests at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of exercise weekly to help manage cholesterol and blood pressure—two key risk factors for heart attack per the CDC—and keep obesity at bay.
While a glass of wine or a beer on occasion isn’t going to lead to a heart attack, drinking too much can negatively impact your heart health. Penn Medicine explains that it can increase blood pressure and also lead to a high level of triglycerides, the most common type of fat in your body. “The calories in alcohol adds up. When your body has too many calories, it changes them into triglyceride, which can raise your risk of heart disease,” they explain. Additionally, those extra calories can translate to obesity, another heart disease risk factor.
Putting Yourself in Stressful Situations
Nearly everyone experiences stress at one point or another. However, avoiding it is in your best interest when it comes to heart health. “You might respond to stress in ways that can increase your risk of a heart attack,” explains the Mayo Clinic. Because stress can increase blood pressure and high blood pressure is one of the main risk factors for heart attack, finding ways to cope with stress can reduce your chances of suffering one.
Smoking—And Not Just Cigarettes
According to Penn Medicine, smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease, responsible for almost one-third of heart disease related deaths. “Every time you inhale a cigarette, you’re putting over 5,000 chemicals into your body—many of which are harmful to your health. One of these chemicals is carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide decreases the amount of oxygen in your red blood cells, which damages your heart. It also increases the amount of cholesterol in your arteries—another risk factor for heart disease,” they write. And no, vaping isn’t a healthy alternative. “By using an e-cigarette, you’re still exposing yourself to nicotine, toxins, metals, and other contaminants — all of which are dangerous to your health,” they write. The best way to prevent smoking-related heart disease? Put down the pack. “While this may be challenging, it’s more difficult to live with heart disease or to recover from a heart attack,” they write.
Some heart attacks are induced by illicit drug use. “Using stimulant drugs, such as cocaine or amphetamines, can trigger a spasm of your coronary arteries that can cause a heart attack,” explains the Mayo Clinic.
Know the Symptoms
Knowing the symptoms of a heart attack could save your life. The sooner you are treated, the more likely you are to survive without suffering any major health repercussions. Per the CDC, the most common signs are chest pain or discomfort “in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back,” feeling weak, light-headed, or faint, pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back, pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders, and shortness of breath. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.