High Blood Cholesterol: Cholesterol is a major component of the atherosclerotic plaque (particles of blood, cholesterol, and protein that "clump") that leads to blocked arteries in the heart. These blockages may lead to a heart attack. An elevated level of total cholesterol is associated with an increased risk of coronary atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and heart attack. Laboratory testing provides a measure of certain types of circulating fat particles. Elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or bad cholesterol) are also associated with an increased incidence of both atherosclerosis and heart attack. Total cholesterol levels should be below 200mg/dl.
Diabetes Mellitus: Individuals with diabetes have a substantially greater risk of a heart attack because it adversely affects blood cholesterol levels and increases the rate of plaque buildup.
Hypertension: High blood pressure, or hypertension, has consistently been associated with an increased risk of heart attack.
Smoking: Certain chemicals present in tobacco, or that are inhaled after lighting tobacco, are known to damage blood vessel walls. The body's response to this type of injury elicits the formation of coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD causes less oxygen to get to heart muscle tissue (ischemia) and eventually will lead to a heart attack.
Age: Age may also increase the risk of having a heart attack. Statistics point to the fact that 83% of people who die from heart disease are 65 years of age or older.
Previous history: Having a previous history of angina (chest pain), a previous heart attack, or a surgical procedure such as angioplasty (the insertion of a catheter into the blood vessels and to the heart) may increase the risk of having a heart attack.
Obesity: A high body mass index (BMI), or a high amount of body fat, increases the chances of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), and diabetes, all of which increase risk factors associated with a heart attack.
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