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4 Surprising Culprits of Heart Disease

4 Surprising Culprits​ of Heart Disease

January 30, 2020

Many people assume that if they are not overweight, exercise frequently and eat healthily, that they cannot have a heart attack.

When it comes to heart disease, most advice focuses on diet, fitness, weight and smoking. While it's true that you should eat well, exercise, maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI) and abstain from smoking, it's important to also consider some other, less frequently discussed factors that can also cause problems:

Cold weather: Chilly temperatures can constrict the arteries of the heart, which could put you at a temporarily increased risk of having a cardiac episode. While we typically don't have to deal with freezing weather in Houston, it's good to keep this in mind on the days when the mercury does drop, or next time you head for a ski vacation.

Clotting: When most of us think of cardiac problems, we think of heart attacks. However, some people have a genetic predisposition that puts them at an elevated risk of blood clots, even in their 20s. If clotting occurs in your heart, called a pulmonary embolism, it can be life-threatening. Find out if anyone in your family has a history of clotting and, if so, talk to your Kelsey-Seybold physician, who may prescribe blood thinners. It's also important to know that certain medications, like birth control, can further heighten your clotting risk.

Emotions: While strong emotions are unlikely on their own to cause a heart attack, they can increase your chances if you are already at risk. This is because when you are excited, whether negatively or positively, your heart rate and blood pressure temporarily increase. Research has found that men who get angry quickly are more likely to get premature heart disease and are five times more likely to go into cardiac arrest at a young age. In other words, if you consistently lose your temper, it might be a good idea to learn some anger management techniques.

Infection: Some studies show that in the three days following a diagnosis of flu or another respiratory tract infection, your risk of having a heart attack goes up five times. When your body is fighting an infection, inflammation levels may rise. This, in turn, can exacerbate existing cardiac issues, sometimes causing cardiac arrests or strokes.

Pregnancy: Women who are pregnant or recently gave birth may experience a spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD), when the artery tears. While the vast majority of new mothers and moms-to-be will never need to worry about this, if you experience shortness of breath or chest pain, go to the hospital right away.

Stress: Many people assume that if they are not overweight, exercise frequently and eat healthily, that they cannot have a heart attack. While good diet and fitness habits may help decrease your risk of heart disease, other factors can also play a role. Studies suggest that stress can also elevate your chances of experiencing issues, and in rare cases, may even lead to cardiac arrest. If you are experiencing chronic, severe stress, schedule an appointment at one of Kelsey-Seybold's clinics in Houston.

Perhaps the most important takeaway is that not everyone who will have a heart attack is overweight or obviously at risk. The best way to ensure that your health is on the right track is to schedule regular wellness exams with your Kelsey-Seybold primary care physician. They can help you determine how to improve your cardiac health.

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