I'm a heart attack survivor who was also a healthy distance runner for 19 years. I didn't smoke, didn't have issues with diabetes or cholesterol or family history or other major cardiac risk factors. But what I DID have was a pregnancy complication called "pre-eclampsia" while pregnant with my first baby decades before my heart attack struck.
We know that heart disease doesn't hit overnight, and that most cardiac events are 20-30 years in the making. We also now know that women with pregnancy complications like pre-eclampsia are 2-3 times more likely to develop heart disease, often years down the road.
What I had as well was a 30+ year high-stress, high-profile career in public relations, which (as most PR folks readily admit) means juggling multiple deadlines, all due yesterday, all while tap-dancing through life with that smiley face firmly pasted on! While I thrived on this relentless pace, and was good at what I did, living with chronic stress can wreak havoc on our coronary arteries. As Mayo Clinic cardiologists remind us:
"The long-term activation of the stress-response system — and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones — can disrupt almost all your body's processes. This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems including heart disease."
While there are no magic diagnostic tools to determine categorically what did or did not cause heart attacks, it's reasonable to assume that these two particular risk factors did indeed affect my chances of one day having a cardiac event.
I believe, however, that my otherwise healthy lifestyle - particularly exercising! - helped me survive what many do not.