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How to Know if You're at Risk for a Heart Attack

Understanding your heart attack risk can empower you to take the right steps to protect your heart and promote heart health. A heart attack usually occurs when blood clots interrupt blood flow to the heart. This is a medical emergency.

Lack of oxygenated blood causes tissues to die. Heart disease is the leading cause of death. Understanding what puts you at risk for a heart attack can help you live a longer, fuller life.  

Heart attack prevention

Here at West Coast Medicine and Cardiology, leading cardiologist Dr. Rajesh Sam Suri and the rest of our team encourage patients to know their heart attack risk so they can make lifestyle changes that boost heart health. We’ve gathered information that lets you know what to watch out for and how to improve your heart health.

Visit a cardiologist

The best way to understand your heart attack risk is to visit a cardiologist. Factors that may put you at risk for a heart attack vary. Our goal is to help you take steps to change factors that are within your control, such as lifestyle choices.

Discuss testing

As a cardiologist, Dr. Suri uses various tools to evaluate your heart.

Cardiac calcium scoring

This test checks for plaque in your arteries, which is made up of calcium and cholesterol. Your results help the doctor evaluate your heart attack risk. This test is useful if you’re over the age of 50, or are under 50 but have a family history of heart attack.

C-reactive protein

CRP is a protein in your blood that serves as an indicator of inflammation throughout your body. Cholesterol plaque triggers inflammation, and CRP levels rise. We see elevated CRP levels in people who have heart attacks. Dr. Suri may recommend this test if you’re 40 or older.

Cardiac stress test

A cardiac stress test measures your heart’s ability to respond under stress. It can help identify problems with blood flow to the heart. If you’re experiencing symptoms of coronary artery disease, this test can provide evidence of reduced blood flow from narrowing or plaque.

These are just three tests that can evaluate your risk for a heart attack. Dr. Suri will discuss the test that is right for you.

Know your cholesterol numbers

Elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein, a bad form of cholesterol, combined with lower levels of good cholesterol are a major risk factor for a heart attack.

A lipids checkup is an opportunity to gain useful information about your cholesterol levels. If your levels are in a risky range, Dr. Suri will discuss steps you can take to manage your cholesterol. 

Dietary changes like reducing your saturated fat intake and adopting a heart-healthy diet can help lower cholesterol. The doctor may recommend medication to bring your levels within a normal range depending on your health status and history.

Examine your habits: Know your lifestyle risk factors

Do you smoke? Do you find yourself indulging in alcohol excessively? Are you sedentary on most days? These lifestyle factors raise your risk of having a heart attack. Smoking and drinking too much alcohol damages arteries and promotes arterial stiffness, setting the stage for atherosclerosis and a potential heart attack. 

Long-term stress and an unhealthy diet also increase your risk of having a heart attack.

Check in on health conditions

Knowing whether existing conditions are managed effectively gives you another clue to your heart attack risk. Uncontrolled or poorly controlled high blood pressure is a significant risk factor for heart attack.

If you have high blood pressure, it’s crucial that you attend regular checkups and ensure that your current regimen is effective at keeping your blood pressure within target range. Even if you don’t have high blood pressure, knowing your numbers is an important aspect of preventive heart health. 

Many people with high blood pressure are unaware they have it. Other conditions like diabetes, sleep apnea and obesity heighten your heart attack risk.

These are a few good ways to better understand your heart attack risk. The best start to preventing a heart attack is to partner with a cardiologist to help keep your heart as healthy as possible. 

To learn more and schedule a heart health checkup, call our Fremont, California, office at 510-244-4280 or our Hayward, California, clinic at 510-398-2273. You can also send us a message here on our website.

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