Men, You Can Prevent Your Heart Attack - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on October 23, 2014

Men, You Can Prevent Your Heart Attack

Crozer-Keystone Health SystemMedia Contact:
Mary Wascavage
(610) 284-8619

By making relatively simple lifestyle changes, men and women alike can significantly lower their risk of heart attacks.

By making simple lifestyle changes,
men and women alike can significantly
lower their risk of heart attacks.

This year alone, more than 720,000 Americans will have a heart attack and nearly half of them will occur without prior symptoms or warning signs. That is a startling figure.

However, in a recently published study, researchers discovered an even more startling figure – most heart attacks in men are preventable. To be exact, the study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found that 80 percent of men’s heart attacks are preventable.

How is this possible?

“Fewer than 2 percent of American men follow healthy lifestyles that are good for their cardiovascular health,” said Charles M. Geller, M.D., Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery for the Crozer Keystone Health System.

By making relatively simple lifestyle changes, Dr. Geller said, men and women alike can significantly lower their risk of heart attacks.

“Lifestyle behaviors are always able to be changed. The best thing someone can do is adopt healthy lifestyle choices as early in life as possible and thereby prevent a future potential heart attack,” he explained.

A heart attack happens when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood through a coronary artery — a blood vessel that feeds blood to the heart muscle.

“When the blood flow is interrupted during a heart attack, it damages or destroys the heart muscle,” Dr. Geller explained.

When someone has a heart attack and survives, they often face a range of side effects or complications related to the damage that was done to the heart during the heart attack, including abnormal heart rhythms, also known as arrhythmias.

“(Arrhythmias are) essentially an electrical short circuit. They can be quite serious or even fatal,” Dr. Geller stated.

Another complication caused by a heart attack includes heart failure. The amount of damaged tissue can prevent the heart muscle from doing an adequate job of pumping blood through the heart. This complication can sometimes recover on its own, but may become a chronic problem.

Heart attacks can also cause valve problems – heart valves can develop severe, life-threatening leakage problems following a heart attack.

Though it is the least common side effect, heart rupture is very serious. Areas of heart muscle weakened by a heart attack can rupture, leaving a hole in part of the heart, which is typically fatal.

Some risk factors can’t be controlled, such as age and family history. But many of the risk factors can be controlled by lifestyle changes, which is exactly why the study determined that most of men’s heart attacks are preventable.

Those risk factors include:

  • Tobacco use and long-term exposure to secondhand smoke, which can damage the interior walls of the arteries. Smoking also increases the risk of blood clot formation.
  • High blood pressure, which can also damage arteries
  • High blood cholesterol levels or triglyceride levels – cholesterol plays a major role of the deposits that can narrow arteries throughout your body.
  • Diabetes, especially when it isn’t controlled
  • Stress
  • Obesity, mostly because it’s associated with high blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and diabetes
  • Lack of physical activity – an inactive lifestyle contributes to both high blood cholesterol levels and obesity.
  • Illegal drug use – use of stimulant drugs like cocaine or amphetamines can trigger a spasm of your coronary arteries that can cause a heart attack.

The study found that five healthy behaviors, which are related to the risk factors, can prevent four out of five heart attacks.

“What researchers found was that men were much less likely to have heart attacks if they drank only moderately, didn’t smoke, maintained a balanced diet, adopted a regular exercise program and maintained a healthy weight,” Dr. Geller said.

While it’s not surprising that these behaviors can lower your risk of a heart attack, it is surprising how much the risk drops.

“The bottom line is that it’s important to remember how significant relatively simple life changes can be in the prevention of heart disease. These things are far easier than someone hoping for a miracle cure or new technology to be developed,” Dr. Geller stated.

To schedule an appointment with a Crozer-Keystone cardiologist who is right for you, contact the Cardiology Appointment Scheduling Line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-866-95-PULSE (1-866-957-8573) or submit an online appointment request.

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