Every 40 seconds, somebody in the United States has a heart attack, otherwise known as a myocardial infarction (MI). In one out of five cases, the MI is “silent,” meaning it doesn’t cause any symptoms.
Yes, you could have a first heart attack without even knowing it. Nevertheless, this silent heart attack has damaged your heart, and it increases your risk for a second heart attack. In fact, of the 805,000 heart attacks that strike men and women in this country every year, 200,000 occur in someone who’s already had a heart attack.
Whether you know you’ve had a first heart attack or not, you may wonder what causes an MI and how you can avoid one. At Advanced Medical Care, our cardiology experts help you stay heart-healthy by providing state-of-the-art diagnostic techniques and treatments at our offices in Brooklyn and Queens, New York.
Are you at risk for a heart attack? Here’s the most common cause of myocardial infarction and what you can do to reduce your risk for a first — or second — heart attack.
When you have a heart attack, your heart is deprived of blood and oxygen due to poor blood flow. Without blood to nourish your heart muscle cells and supply them with oxygen, they begin to die.
The portion of your heart that’s deprived of blood can no longer do its job. That disrupts the pumping mechanics in the rest of your heart, too. When your heart stops pumping blood, or does it poorly, you can die.
So, why is your heart deprived of blood in the first place? The most common reason for a myocardial infarction is that your arteries have become blocked, narrowed, and hardened so they no longer transport blood efficiently to your heart. Simply put, the main cause of MI is atherosclerosis.
Usually, blockage in atherosclerosis is caused by a buildup of plaque. In your blood vessels, plaque is a sticky substance composed of:
When plaque builds up on arterial walls, it narrows the passageway through which blood passes. Plaque also makes the arteries hard and inflexible, which can lead to high blood pressure. Healthy arteries are elastic, so they can adjust to different amounts of blood flowing through them and help moderate blood pressure.
In addition, plaque deposits can rupture, causing blood clots in the artery. When a clot blocks the artery entirely, it cuts off blood supply to your heart. The result is a heart attack.
The best way to prevent MI — and myriad other health conditions that can shorten your life — is to adopt habits that keep your blood vessels and your entire cardiovascular system as healthy as possible. Heart-healthy habits include:
Exercise builds up the health of your cardiovascular system by making your heart pump faster. Some of the best exercises for your heart aren’t necessarily “cardio.” Resistance training, particularly weight training, builds up strength in your muscles — including your heart muscle — and flexibility in your blood vessels.
In addition, stretching your body regularly helps create elasticity in your arteries. Trunk flexibility is associated with healthy, elastic blood vessels and a low risk for MI. Trunk inflexibility, in contrast, is associated with dangerously stiff blood vessels that increases your risk of heart attack.
If you’ve had a heart attack, suspect you might have had one, or worry about your risk for myocardial infarction, call Advanced Medical Care at the office closest to you. You can also use online booking to schedule a consultation with our committed, caring team.