Going over the list of diseases that cause disability and death, we will find that heart disease is at the top of it. This prominent, albeit infamous, position is, in turn, mainly due to coronary heart disease – one of the various forms of heart disease. In the United States, an average healthy man has about one chance in five of developing coronary heart disease before he reaches the age of sixty-five.
More common among men than women, coronary heart disease is responsible for practically all the cases of heart attack that strike suddenly and end, too often, in sudden death. About a quarter of those who have a first heart attack succumb within three hours of the onset of the attack. In this same group of victims of a first heart attack, another ten percent die within the next four weeks. The remaining 65 percent in the group who survive their first heart attack carry on their lives, aware that their life expectancy is virtually reduced as they have become completely vulnerable to another heart attack.
Stressing further the consequence of coronary heart disease, we note that about fifty percent of the mortality in middle-aged men is caused by this form of heart disease. Each year, in the United States, about one percent of men between the ages 35 and 64 will suffer a first heart attack.
A heart attack resulting from coronary heart disease often strikes unexpectedly. The victim may have appeared quite healthy until the occurrence of the treacherous episode of the heart disease. A heart attack may strike while the person is carrying on his usual activities, as in while sitting at his desk, driving his car, or eating his dinner. It may take place while he is enjoying his favorite television program, or even while he is asleep. The prospect of death during the first heart attack is reduced with prompt emergency treatment. Nevertheless, the attack has already caused damage to the heart’s tissues.
Having considered the foregoing facts, medical science has exhaustively studied the risk factors that lead to heart attack and came up with a list that includes at least eight of these risk factors. At the top of the list are three risk factors which are considered the major ones. These are: hypercholesterolemia (the presence of excess cholesterol in the blood) associated with developing arteriosclerosis; uncontrolled hypertension (abnormally high blood pressure); and cigarette smoking.
The power of these three major risk factors in causing an effect is augmented when more than one or all of them are present in a person. This means that when two of these major risk factors are present in a person, his prospect of suffering a heart attack is more than two times as great; the presence of all three risk factors in the same person naturally makes the probability of a heart attack even greater.
Continuing with the list, we find five other risk factors which are considered minor: heredity (for example, a family tendency to coronary heart disease); a metabolic predisposition in which there is a low tolerance for glucose; lack of adequate physical exercise; obesity; and continual emotional stress.
Cognizance of these risk factors should prod a person to do what are necessary to avoid being a victim of a heart attack. The method by which these risk factors may be modified (some of the minor risk factors, of course, cannot be changed) is about the same as the treatment and rehabilitation program for a victim of a heart attack. It makes sense, therefore, for the person at risk to have the treatment first and, hopefully, prevent the occurrence of an actual heart attack.
1. “Coronary Heart Disease”, on eMedicineHealth – http://www.emedicinehealth.com/coronary_heart_disease/article_em.htm
2. “Risk Factors and Coronary Heart Disease”, on the American Heart Association (online) – http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4726