Heart Disease Kills Healthy Men, Too

You may have the image of an overweight male that eats poorly and gets little exercise as the ideal candidate for a heart attack. While it's true that those behaviors increase your risk of heart problems, healthy men do develop cardiovascular disease. There are several factors that influence whether a person is at risk for heart disease. Even though you are a lean, muscular man that passes your physical each year, you may still have heart problems one day. Here are the factors that affect every man and how to prevent serious heart disease.

Factors You Can't Control

There are some factors that influence whether you will get heart disease that you can do nothing about. These include:

  • Gender - Men have more heart disease than women.
  • Age - Seniors are at a higher risk of heart disease because of physiological changes.
  • Genetics - Family history is a sign that you are at a higher risk.

Factors You Can Control

There are a number of things that increase your chances of having a heart attack. Some of these are behavioral changes, and the sooner you change the behavior, the more likely it is that you've prevented heart problems. With most of these factors, you can still be a physically healthy and active man and develop cardiovascular problems.

  • Smoking - This increases your blood pressure, making your heart muscle work harder. It also causes the blood to clot easier, which can lead to a heart attack if one of the coronary arteries becomes blocked.
  • Cholesterol imbalance - If your good and bad cholesterol levels are out of balance, you risk developing plaque in the arteries, which can lead to a heart attack. Eating even small amounts of fatty foods can affect these levels.
  • Hypertension - A number of things affect your blood pressure, but they all result in higher than normal pressures in the heart, which damages heart valves and the heart muscle itself.
  • Uncontrolled diabetes - If you have diabetes that is not being treated, it will damage nerves and blood vessels that can lead to heart disease.
  • High stress and anger - Both of these increase your blood pressure and put stress on your heart. The cumulative effect of the stress damage on the heart muscle may cause a heart attack.

How Your Heart Reacts to These Factors

These factors make you a higher risk for one or all of these three cardiovascular diseases:

  • Coronary artery disease - Also called atherosclerosis, this is damage to the blood vessels that feed the heart muscles. When they become partially blocked, you can develop angina, or chest pain. When fully blocked, a heart attack can occur.
  • Abnormal heart rhythms - Some factors disrupt the electrical activity of the heart, causing it to develop an irregular beat. This can reduce the blood flow to the body and to the heart.
  • Aorta disease - This is a large blood vessel that delivers blood to the body. Some factors can cause this vessel to weaken and tear, resulting in blood loss or a heart attack.

Reducing Your Risks

You can reduce the influence the factors have on your risk of a heart attack. The more factors you learn to control, the more you'll reduce your risks.

  • Join a smoking cessation program.
  • Have a regular cholesterol screening and modify your diet to balance the good and bad cholesterol levels.
  • Have a blood pressure screening and start treating the hypertension to lower your blood pressure.
  • Have a diabetes screening and make diet changes or start on insulin to get the diabetes under control.
  • Learn stress and anger management techniques to take the stress off of your heart.

You can feel that you're in good shape but one or more of these factors can increase your chance of a heart attack. See your doctor for an evaluation of all of these factors and manage those that are putting you at risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

For more information, contact Mohan Jacob, MD, FACC, FCCP or a similar medical professional.