A heart attack comes suddenly – his history, however, often goes back a long way. The change of the vessels takes place creepingly. The more constricted the coronary vessels over the years, the greater the risk of a heart attack. Above all, five risk factors are troubling the heart.
One of the biggest risk factors for a heart attack is a genetic predisposition. If heart attacks have already occurred in the family, especially among parents or siblings, their own risk is significantly increased. While you can do nothing against genetic influences, a healthy lifestyle can achieve a lot.
The five most important risk factors for a heart attack
“A sick heart is the leading cause of death in Germany,” says Professor Thomas Voigtländer, a cardiologist at the Cardioangiological Center Bethanien in Frankfurt and a board member of the German Heart Foundation. “The five most important risk factors for a heart attack are, in addition to genetic predisposition, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and smoking .”
With every additional risk factor, the risk of heart attack increases. According to the heart expert, only five per cent of over-50s are completely free from the risk factors mentioned. Already every second German over 50 suffers from hypertension. But what exactly do these risk factors do with the heart?
Atherosclerosis narrows the coronary arteries
An unhealthy lifestyle and the associated diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes mellitus promote arteriosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is one of the most common causes of a heart attack. The coronary arteries narrow and the heart muscle is no longer supplied with sufficient nutrients and oxygen. “The deposits in the coronary arteries are called plaques, which consist mainly of lime and cholesterol and close the vessels over the years,” explains Voigtländer.
In addition, unstable plaques can break down. As a result, their surface is rough and it can deposit platelets. A blood clot forms and can lead to constipation at the point of origin. It comes to a heart attack.
Sport is murder?
Even intense sports can be dangerous for the heart under certain conditions. “In marathons, it often happens that a runner has to be revived, often an unrecognized disease of the coronary arteries is the trigger, and in addition, there may be shifts in the electrolyte balance that are troubling the heart,” explains Voigtländer. “In rare cases, it can happen that the strong effort to change the plaques, they can tear down.” Anyone who wants to be active in sports should regularly have their hearts examined, according to the expert’s advice.
Does stress leave the heart?
Stress also does not leave its mark on the heart. However, according to Voigtländer, it is not the stress itself that is risky, but the associated body reactions and an unhealthy lifestyle. Stress does not just raise blood pressure. Many smokers significantly more and eat more fat and sugar. Also, the movement often falls by the wayside and overweight arises. Over a longer period of time, this has negative consequences for the heart.
What many do not know: Sudden stress in the form of emotional shocks, such as extreme joy or grief, can trigger symptoms similar to myocardial infarction. This effect is known under the term “broken heart syndrome” or “Tako-Tsubo syndrome”. It is a rare, serious and sudden dysfunction of the heart muscle, triggered by stress hormones. “There is a spasm in a section of the coronary artery that temporarily reduces blood flow to the heart muscle and causes a movement disorder in the heart, although the heart usually recovers from it.”
Heart tissue, as is the case with a true heart attack, does not die off, “explains the Voigtländer.” Recently, an elderly patient had such a severe heart attack when suddenly her dog ran away in the evening, “explains the cardiologist.
Take care when taking painkillers
Even painkillers can increase the risk of a heart attack. As Voigtländer reports, these have a negative impact on the stability of the arteries in the plaques. “However, the exact correlations have not yet been clarified, but studies have shown that patients who regularly take painkillers, especially with the active ingredients diclofenac and ibuprofen, have an increased risk of a heart attack.”
Tips for a healthy heart
There is no one hundred per cent protection against a heart attack. You can do everything right in your lifestyle and yet your heart can suddenly stop beating. The risk is especially high when genetic influences are involved. Nevertheless, the risk of heart attack can be significantly reduced with a healthy lifestyle. In addition to a healthy and balanced diet – the heart expert recommends especially the Mediterranean diet – abstinence from cigarettes and regular exercise.
At least three times a week you should work up a sweat for about 30 minutes. Especially endurance training is good for the heart. ” Jogging, for example, helps to regulate blood pressure and regulate cholesterol and blood glucose levels, and strength training increases the calorie consumption of the body, prevents obesity and reduces stress,” explains Voigtländer, advising: “Young people should follow these recommendations too is by no means a matter of age, there are patients who are just 30 years old. “