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Risk checklist

health-and-fitness Updated: Jan 12, 2008 23:55 IST

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Physical factors


Go to a doctor if you have one or more of the following risk factors.

Smoking. It decreases the age of heart attack by nearly a decade in all risk factor combinations.

High blood pressure. You have high blood pressure (hypertension) if you have a systolic blood pressure of at least 140 or a diastolic pressure of at least 90 or if you take medicine to lower your blood pressure.

Low HDL (“good”) cholesterol. An HDL under 40 is too low. However, if your HDL is at least 60, it cancels out one of the other risk factors.

A family history of premature heart disease. If your father or brother had heart disease before age 55 or your mother or sister had it before age 65, you have this risk factor.

Diabetes. People with diabetes are as likely to have a heart attack as people who have already had one. Diabetics also need aggressive treatment because they are more likely to die during or soon after a heart attack than non-diabetics.

Abdominal obesity. A waist size larger than 38 for men and 35 for women may be a sign of the metabolic syndrome, which is characterised by a group of risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated trigycerides, low good cholesterol (HDL) and high bad cholesterol (LDL), and a pro-inflammatory state (elevated levels of C-reactive protein in the blood).

Age. Men aged 45 or older and women aged 55 or older have this risk factor.

Psychosocial factors

According to The Lancet, psychosocial reasons pose heart attack risk as much as smoking, high blood pressure and obesity.

Anger/hostility. Atherosclerosis (build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries) advances faster in people who are hostile and aggressive. Anger can also trigger heart attacks.

Anxiety. Intense anxiety, the kind associated with fear of enclosed places, heights, crowds, and the like, can sometimes set off a sudden cardiac arrest.

Social support. Among heart attack survivors, social isolation is almost as important as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smoking at predicting long-term survival.

Chronic stress. Constant stress from work, financial problems, a troubled marriage, taking care of a parent or partner has been linked with the development of heart disease.