Top Causes of a Heart Attack

Top Causes of a Heart Attack

Sometimes there can be very little sign of heart problems, but nevertheless there are some signs which when exhibited should be taken seriously and attended to immediately. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation six tell-tale symptoms of a heart attack are:

  • Pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or upper back
  • Nausea, vomiting, indigestion, heartburn or abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweat
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness

However not everyone that has a heart attack will have the same symptoms or the same severity of symptoms. Others may have mild pain, and others more severe pain and other may not even have any symptoms. It is not unheard of that the first sign is sudden cardiac arrest but one thing is certain, the more symptoms you have the greater the chance that you are having a heart attack.

The earliest warning may be ongoing chest pain (angina) which is triggered by exertion and relieved by rest. Angina causes a temporary decrease in blood flow to the heart.

If you exhibit any of these signs, or there is a family history of heart disease you should see your health professional and advise them accordingly so that they can take the steps necessary to ensure you do not have a heart attack.

If you think you are having a heart attack – call 911 immediately! If you are not able to and there is someone close by, alert them and have them call. During a heart attack time is of the essence.

What Can Cause a Heart Attack, Heart/Cardiovascular Disease?

One of the main reasons we get heart disease (or cardiovascular disease) is due to high blood pressure. So what causes high blood pressure? Several things as noted by WebMD:

  1. Excessive use of salt in food – either added, or through processed foods which generally contain more salt than the body needs. Fast food is also laden with salt to make the food tastier. Too much salt causes hypertension (high blood pressure). The easiest solution is to avoid salt as much as possible – don’t add extra salt to your meals. If you do eat out, try and get the meal without salt added to it.
  2. Too much sugar. Again another reason to eat healthy, and cook your own food so that you can limit the amount of sugar contained in the food. Processed foods also contain excessive amounts of sugar, in addition to bad food choices like soda pop, cookies/cakes and even muffins which may seem healthy. Even your breakfast cereal may contain too much sugar – the easiest solution is to read the label to limit the amount of sugar you are taking.
  3. Obesity can also cause high blood pressure – solution is to eat right, get plenty of exercise to ensure your mind and body remain as fit as possible. If you are overweight, start your exercise slowly by taking short walks. As your fitness level increases, then increase the amount of exercise you do and vary it. Always speak to your doctor before starting any exercise program to ensure your heart is strong enough for the exertion and for specific exercises that your doctor wants you to do, and avoid as you work your way towards a healthy body.
  4. Sitting idly – or living a sedentary lifestyle may also increase your blood pressure. You need to get moving. Parking farther away from the grocery store, or your office is a small step in the right direction. Taking walks and then slowly building up your stamina to take on a wider variety of exercise is one of the easiest ways to get your body moving.
  5. Excess stress can also cause hypertension – again, by simply moving around and buring off that stress by taking your mind off of it will help. Not only will it help alleviate some of the stress you may be having, but it will help you get fit.
  6. Smoking is known to contribute to hypertension. As society moves away from this habit, it may one day become a non-issue however until then if you do smoke you need to find ways to stop. There are many smoking cessation programs out there, your doctor will be able to help you find the best one for your situation.
  7. Alcohol is another contributor that can lead to high blood pressure. If you are having more than two drinks per day, you’re contributing to hypertension. Cut back, and if possible simply cut it out.

Old age, and genetics (family history) also play a role in blood pressue, as can sleep apnea, thyroid disorders and chronic kidney disease. Even the type of food you eat will contribute to you developing high blood pressure – for instance, eating too many fatty foods.

What Should My Blood Pressure Be and What Do the Numbers Mean?

According to the CDC, blood pressure is measured using two numbers. The first number, called systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats. The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart rests between beats.

If the measurement reads 120 systolic and 80 diastolic, you would say “120 over 80” or write “120/80 mmHg.”

The chart below shows normal, at-risk, and high blood pressure levels. A blood pressure less than 120/80 mmHg is normal. A blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or more is too high. People with levels in between 120/80 and 140/90 have a condition called prehypertension, which means they are at high risk for high blood pressure.

Blood Pressure Levels


systolic: less than 120 mmHg
diastolic: less than 80mmHg

At risk (prehypertension)

systolic: 120–139 mmHg
diastolic: 80–89 mmHg


systolic: 140 mmHg or higher
diastolic: 90 mmHg or higher

The NIH (National Institutes of Health) goes on to say:

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood. High blood pressure, sometimes called hypertension, happens when this force is too high. Health care workers check blood pressure readings the same way for children, teens, and adults. They use a gauge, stethoscope or electronic sensor, and a blood pressure cuff. With this equipment, they measure:

  • Systolic Pressure: blood pressure when the heart beats while pumping blood
  • Diastolic Pressure: blood pressure when the heart is at rest between beats

The NIH also has an excellent 20-page document entitled Your Guide to Lowering Blood Pressure that you can download from their website. Click on the link to view in your browser, or to download.

Regardless of the reasons of high blood pressure, you need to get it down to prevent a heart attack. When diet and exercise do not work, your doctor may prescribe medication to keep your blood pressure within normal range.

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