Behaviors that could cause a heart attack

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A heart attack occurs in the U.S. every 40 seconds.

A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, happens when a part of the heart muscle does not get enough blood.

The more time that passes without treatment, the greater the damage to the heart muscle, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While coronary artery disease is the main cause of heart attack, a severe spasm or sudden contraction of a coronary artery can also stop blood flow to the heart muscle.

Symptoms of a heart attack include chest pain or discomfort, feeling weak, feeling faint or light-headed, pain in one or both arms or shoulders, shortness of breath and pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck or back.

Women are more likely to experience symptoms of nausea, vomiting or unexplained tiredness.

A heart attack happens in the U.S. every 40 seconds

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death globally, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives each year, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports.

There are several factors to monitor that can increase an individual’s risk for heart disease and heart attack. 

About half of all Americans have at least one of the three key risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and smoking.

While some risk factors cannot be controlled, like age or genetics, other behaviors that lead to increased risk can be.

For example, eating a diet high in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol has been linked to heart disease and related conditions. 

Too much salt in the diet can also raise blood pressure. 

Not getting enough physical activity can lead to heart disease as well as raise the chances of having other medical conditions that are risk factors, like obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Drinking too much alcohol can also raise blood pressure levels and increase the risk for heart disease and levels of triglycerides in the blood.

Tobacco use increases the risk of heart disease and heart attack. 

The CDC says that cigarette smoking can damage the heart and blood vessels, nicotine raises blood pressure and carbon monoxide from cigarette smoke reduces the amount of oxygen that the blood can carry.

The Mayo Clinic warns that illicit drug use – including stimulants like cocaine or amphetamines – can trigger a spasm of the coronary arteries.

Exposure to secondhand smoke can also increase the risk of heart disease.

Those who notice symptoms of a heart attack should call 911 immediately.

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