Heart Attack Risk Factors

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What Are Heart Attack Risk Factors?

As you can imagine, there are a wide range of heart attack risk factors. However, as mentioned in EMG’s Heart Attack: An Introduction article, atherosclerotic plaque rupture is the cause of ~90% of heart attacks. The remaining 10% are caused by anything else that can temporarily or permanently decrease blood flow to the heart, such as blood vessel disease, loss of blood, other heart damage, and drug use (cocaine, amphetamines, etc.) among others. Consequently, this article will primarily focus on risk factors for atherosclerotic plaque formation.

There are two broad classes of heart attack risk factors: uncontrollable heart attack risk factors and controllable heart attack risk factors.1

Heart Attack Risk Factors
  • Uncontrollable Heart Attack Risk Factors

Risk factors that cannot be controlled include age, male gender, family history of early coronary artery disease (<45 year old male or <55 year old female), and male pattern baldness.

  • Controllable Heart Attack Risk Factors

Risk factors that can (and should) be controlled include smoking or other forms of tobacco use, diabetes, high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol or low HDL cholesterol, obesity, lack of exercise, stress, poor dental hygiene, and type A personality.

Please see diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and exercise for more information on these modifiable risk factors.

EMG Health Homepage: Men’s Health Introduction

External Resources: NIH: Heart Attack Risk Factors

1. Zafari M. Myocardial Infarction. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/155919-overview#aw2aab6b2b6aa: Medscape Reference; 2012.