Heart attacks pose a unique threat to men's health. Simply put, men run a greater risk of suffering a heart attack, and they also have attacks earlier in life. Overall, between 70 and 89 percent of sudden cardiac events occur in men, making heart attack a serious issue for men. The risk of heart attack increases steadily for men after age 45, and the average age of a man having his first heart attack is about 66.
About 565,000 men are expected to suffer a heart attack in 2009. Nearly half of those younger than 65 years old who have a heart attack will die within eight years. All told, heart disease is the number one killer of men in the United States.
Heart attacks most often occur due to a blood clot that blocks one of the coronary arteries. Low blood flow starves the heart of oxygen, killing or permanently damaging heart muscle.
Blood clots tend to form because the affected coronary artery has suffered a build-up of a fatty substance called plaque along the artery walls. When that plaque ruptures, blood will clot around it. If the artery has been narrowed enough due to plaque, the clot could completely block all blood flow.
Plaque is made up of cholesterol, and high levels of total or “bad” LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream are leading risk factors for heart attack in men. Other risk factors include:
Stress is another leading risk factor for heart attack. In fact, sudden and overwhelming stress has been known to trigger a heart attack in some cases. Doctors also believe that stress can cause men to develop bad habits like smoking or eating fatty, unhealthy foods.
Chest pain is the most widely recognized warning sign of heart attack in men. A feeling of severe pain or discomfort in the center of the chest will last for more than a few minutes, and may feel like:
Other signs of heart attack that often accompany chest pain may include:
A man experiencing any of these symptoms should not hesitate to call 911. Prompt medical treatment is key to surviving a heart attack.
Men who want to limit their risk of heart attack can do the following:
Taking a daily aspirin may also be in your best interest, although you will want to clear this with your doctor first. Other medications may also be useful, depending on your circumstances, including statin drugs like Lipitor (atorvastatin) or Crestor (rosuvastatin). Other medical advances like drugs that dissolve blood clots and stents to keep arteries open also have helped make heart attacks much more survivable.
Still, prevention reigns supreme. Take steps today to lower your risk of heart disease.