Are You at Risk for a Heart Attack?


Did you know that every 40 seconds, someone in America suffers from a heart attack? In fact, heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States. Heart disease is sometimes called a “silent killer,” because it doesn’t present symptoms until a cardiac event strikes.

Heart attacks don’t have one specific cause. Rather, different risk factors can increase your odds of developing heart disease or suffering a heart attack. The good news is that you can minimize your risk of suffering a heart attack by understanding your risk factors.

Our providers at Prima Medicine in Fairfax and South Riding, Virginia, are experts in helping patients prevent heart attacks from occurring and treating those who have had them. In this blog, we explain the risk factors for heart attacks and how to keep them from happening.

Heart attack 101

When your heart doesn’t get enough blood, you can experience a heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction. This typically happens when cholesterol or fat builds up and creates plaque in the arteries, blocking the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart.

When blood flow to the heart is blocked, this powerful muscle can be damaged or destroyed. In the United States, the main cause of heart attacks is coronary artery disease (CAD), although you can also suffer a heart attack due to a sudden contraction or severe spasm of the artery that feeds the heart.    

Risk factors for a heart attack

As we mentioned above, heart attacks aren’t the result of one cause. Instead, there are risk factors that can increase your odds of experiencing a myocardial infarction. Researchers have found that about 50% of Americans have at least one risk factor for heart disease.

The more risk factors you have, the higher your chances will be of developing heart disease or experiencing a heart attack. There are two types of categories when it comes to risk factors: modifiable and nonmodifiable. Here are some of them.

Nonmodifiable risk factors

  • Being a male age 45 or older
  • Being a female age 55 or older
  • Having a family history of heart attacks

Modifiable risk factors

  • Having high blood pressure
  • Having high cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Having an unhealthy diet
  • Being inactive or sedentary
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Having diabetes
  • Using stimulant drugs or medications

It’s important to note that you can still experience a heart attack even if you don’t have any of the risk factors listed above.   

Preventing heart attacks

The good news is that you can take steps at any age to prevent a heart attack, even if you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease or have already had a heart attack. 

Some of the risk factors may be easy to identify, such as whether or not you smoke or are overweight. However, it can be impossible to know if you have certain risk factors, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure, without medical testing. 

At Prima Medicine, we can evaluate your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, review your history and lifestyle, and check for other risk factors. If you have any of the risk factors, we can recommend steps to lower your risk, such as managing your blood pressure or lowering your cholesterol.   

Your heart specialist may also recommend lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of developing heart disease or suffering a heart attack. Your provider may recommend a number of changes, such as the following:

  • Eating a heart-healthy diet
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Losing weight
  • Managing your stress
  • Treating mental health disorders
  • Monitoring underlying health conditions

Don’t wait to take steps to reduce your risk of suffering a heart attack. Get the help you need by booking an appointment online or over the phone with Prima Medicine today. We also offer telemedicine appointments.

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