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Heart Attacks Center

Heart Attack Causes and Risk Factors

What causes heart attack?
Coronary artery disease (CAD) usually causes a heart attack. CAD occurs when plaque builds up on the insides of the artery walls. If this plaque tears, then a blood clot will form, thus blocking the normal flow of blood.  

Coronary artery spasms can also cause a heart attack.  Cigarette smoking, drugs such as cocaine, exposure to extreme cold, and stress can cause the arteries to contract.  Or a strong enough contraction can lead to a heart attack, even though the arteries may not have a build-up of plaque.  

Risk factors
In the past several decades, heart attacks were almost always fatal.  Now, less than half of heart attacks result in death.  However, there are particular, lifestyle factors which increase the likelihood of having a heart attack.  Some risk factor for coronary heart disease or a heart attack include:

  • Age (men 45 years and older; women 55 years or older, or after menopause)
  • Diabetes
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Family history of coronary heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Smoking

It can be noted here that women are more susceptible than men for developing a particular type of vascular disease, which affects the microscopically small blood vessels of the heart.  During micro vascular disease, the smallest blood arteries can be obstructed or an overall weakening of the heart's blood vessels can occur and

Both men and women can have a heart attack.  However, because the symptoms differ by gender, it is important to know both types of symptoms.  Identifying symptoms within the first hour and before reaching a hospital can help save a life. Read here to find out more and to learn about the signs of women heart attack symptoms.

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