Medically Reviewed by Nicolette Naso, MD
A heart attack strikes suddenly. Victims need to call 911 immediately for help. But the process leading up to the heart attack can be years in the making.
“In your heart artery, blood flows freely,” says McLeod Cardiologist Nicolette Naso, MD. “Over time, cholesterol plaque, fibrous tissues and sometimes calcium, build up under the lining of the blood vessel, creating a bump that narrows the artery. When this bump in the lining ruptures, the waxy plaque spills out. It goes from a 30 percent blockage to a 100 percent blockage in minutes. Blood flow to the heart stops and the attack occurs.”
It can take years leading up to that climatic moment. The risk rises as you age. And if there’s a family history of heart disease your risk is higher. You can’t change your age or your family history but you can change many of the other factors that lead to a heart attack – diabetes, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and tobacco.
THE DEADLY TRIO
Then, we come to what some call the deadly trio or triad of heart risk factors: obesity, poor diet and sedentary lifestyle. Eliminating the deadly trio takes work but can add years to your life and life to your years.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
Control your weight. A healthy weight is considered a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 18 to 25. To find out your BMI, click here.
Eat healthier. To help your efforts, you might try the “DASH” diet, which focuses on reducing the salt (sodium) in your diet, or the Nordic Diet, focusing on fish, whole grains, berries and beans. The Nordic Diet uses canola oil, while the Mediterranean Diet is similar but emphasizes use of olive oil.
Get more exercise. Push yourself away from the computer and go outdoors for exercise. You don’t need to run marathons. Moderate exercise 30-minutes a day will improve your heart health.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of heart problems, see a cardiologist.