Heart attacks occur when oxygen-rich blood can no longer access all areas of the heart due to blockage or other circumstances. Unless circulation is restored quickly, tissues in the deprived regions die.

Certain conditions make specific groups of individuals more likely to have heart attacks than the general public.

License: Creative Commons
License: Creative Commons

Overweight or Obese

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 35% of the nation’s adults suffer from obesity. Health care providers define someone as overweight with a body mass index (BMI) of 24 or more and obese with a BMI more than 29.

Additional indicators include a waistline measurement of more than 35 inches. Women having “apple-shaped” figures carry extra weight around the waist are also at higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease.

Excess body weight leads to a build-up of plaques in blood vessels, a condition known as atherosclerosis, which may lead to hardening of the arteries. While placing extra pressure on delicate vessels, blockages also increase the likelihood of developing blood clots. If a plaque ruptures or a blood clot loosens and travels to the heart, a blockage occurs, which causes a heart attack.

Reversing an overweight or obese condition requires lifestyle changes that include dietary modifications and increased physical activity. Through counseling, medication or weight reduction surgeries, healthcare providers may assist in the effort.

Metabolic Syndrome

The American Heart Association suggests that more than 35% of American adults suffer from this condition, which refers to a number of combined risk factors.

These factors include abnormal amounts of abdominal fat, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, along with high blood sugar levels.

The combination of these diseases can double the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, which often leads to heart attack or stroke. These individuals are also five times more likely to develop diabetes and subsequent vascular complications.

Treating or reversing the syndrome requires taking measures to minimize or eliminate the risk associated with each problem.

Dietary changes mean incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables, leaner meats and low-fat diary products while reducing salt and sugar intake.

Individuals should also strive toward getting 30 minutes of increased physical activity up to five times a week. These actions lead to fat and weight reduction, while normalizing blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.

Prescription medications also help alleviate symptoms until patients experience the necessary physiological changes.

Sleep Apnea

The common disorder refers to a condition where someone stops breathing momentarily while asleep. Respiratory lapses may occur anywhere between five and more than 30 times in one hour.

Along with causing daytime fatigue and a host of other symptoms, apnea also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.

This is because the brief lack of oxygen stimulates the release of stress hormones, which raises blood pressure, and causes the vessels to experience permanent damage over time.

The National Sleep Foundation estimates that 18 million people suffer from sleep apnea.

Individuals suspecting that they or a loved one suffers from sleep apnea should consult with a physician.

Diagnosis may involve anything from evaluating nighttime oxygen levels to undergoing a sleep study.

Treatment may include making lifestyle changes, wearing a continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP) at night or using specially designed dental appliances.

About the author:

Jason Kane volunteers for the Red Cross and is studying to be an EMT. He is working to improve the lives of others online as well by writing professionally for AEDs Today.