Many important factors can impact a person's risk of having a heart attack within 10 years. The most important risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, inactivity, or being overweight or obese. Some risk factors, including gender, age, and heredity, cannot be controlled. The more risk factors a person has, the greater his/her risk of developing heart disease or having a heart attack.
Several organizations, including the American Heart Association, have designed online calculators, or risk assessment tools, to help people estimate their risks of having heart attacks. These calculators are designed for people who are older than 20 years of age who do not already have heart disease.
These tools, which are available online, also help individuals determine if they may have metabolic syndrome, which is a group of medical conditions that greatly increases a person's chance of developing heart disease. Indicators of metabolic syndrome include a large waist circumference (also called abdominal obesity), high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, and high cholesterol levels.
The American Heart Association recommends that all individuals who are 40 years of age or older check their risks every five years. Some people are encouraged to use this tool at an earlier age. For instance, if a person's immediate family member had heart disease at an early age (mother or sister diagnosed before the age of 65 or father or brother diagnosed before the age of 55), it is recommended that he/she knows his/her risk factors before the age of 20.
Heart attack risk assessment tools should not replace regular visits to the doctor. They are meant to be used in addition to regular medical checkups.
These tools are also not recommended for people who have already been diagnosed with heart disease, diabetes, peripheral arterial disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm, or carotid artery disease. These people already have a 20% increased risk of having a heart attack or coronary heart disease in the next 10 years. These people should talk to their doctors and cardiologists about their health risks.
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