People generally shy away from the topic of disease and death, but it’s absolutely vital to understand the factors that increase your chance of developing heart disease. To put it simply, the more risk factors your have, the greater the risk of getting a heart attack.
A heart attack occurs when a blood clot suddenly blocks one of the coronary arteries that supplies blood to the heart muscle. Those who have a heart attack nearly always have cardiovascular disease too.
Here, Dr Lim Ing Haan, Interventional Cardiologist at the Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, reveals the 7 key risk factors of developing heart disease and increasing one’s chances of getting a heart attack:
Risk Factor #1: Sex
According to Dr Lim, women tend to ignore heart disease symptoms. And even if they go to the hospital, they might be underinvestigated as women tend to recognise symptoms in a confusing way.
“Instead of having a typical chest pain, for example, women may complain of heartburn instead, resulting in a delay in diagnosis,” Dr Lim says. “This is why if women have a heart attack, they have a higher likelihood of death as compared to men.”
Risk Factor #2: Age
“Women tend to develop heart disease later than men,” says Dr Lim. “While men usually suffer from heart attacks in their 40s, women are more likely to develop heart disease symptoms post-menopause.” However, it’s important that pre-menopausal women don’t take things for granted, to lower the risk of even getting heart disease at all.
Risk Factor #3: Diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure
Be mindful of other health issues. “These three conditions all cause increased heart artery blockages,” Dr Lim says, “thus raising the possibility of a heart attack.” In fact, she notes that people who have experienced heart attacks also tend to have more than one of these conditions.
Risk Factor #4: Smoking
This is a huge risk factor, so even if you don’t have any of the above factors, smoking itself can cause a heart attack. In fact, “I’ve seen young heart attack patients in their 20s and 30s, and they’re invariably smokers. Smoking damages artery walls, increasing heart blockages that lead to a heart attack,” Dr Lim says.
Read also: 10 Easy Ways To Boost Your Heart Health
Risk Factor #5: Strong family history of heart disease
Risk is certainly increased if there have been members in the family with heart disease, but as long as one takes preventive measures, it’s possible to lessen the risk.
Risk Factor #6: Stress
Highly stressful jobs also place undue burden on the heart, Dr Lim notes. She sees that women of today are committed to two full time jobs – work and family. “Spare some time for yourself, for prevention is better than cure,” she says.
Risk Factor #7: Lack of exercise
Dr Lim says although a lack of exercise isn’t usually associated with increased heart attack rates, “people who don’t exercise definitely fare worse if they do suffer from a sudden heart attack”.
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Photo of Dr Lim: Chia Yoon Nyen