You may have a basic understanding of what factors can lead to a heart attack — obesity, not getting enough exercise, high blood pressure, stress, smoking — but do you know what can trigger one? Recent research is revealing other behaviors and factors that can damage your cardiovascular system. While diet and exercise (coupled with medication, when necessary) are still the best ways to manage your heart health, it’s good to be aware of these lesser-known heart attack triggers.
Lack of sleep
If you’re not getting enough sleep, you might be grumpy and tired during the day. However, you’re also putting yourself at greater risk of experiencing a heart attack. One study shows that people who sleep less than six hours a night are twice as likely to have a heart attack as those who sleep the recommended six to eight hours.
People who experience migraines are more likely to have a heart attack later in life than people who don’t, especially if they experience auras — strange sights, sounds or feelings that precede the onset of migraine pain.
Being outside in extreme winter temperatures can shock your system, causing your arteries to narrow and making it harder for blood to reach your heart. Plus, in such circumstances, your heart has to work overtime to regulate your body temperature. That’s why the old wives' tale that shoveling snow leads to a heart attack actually contains a grain of truth.
Air pollution and car exhaust
High air pollution levels raise heart attack numbers. If you breathe dirty air on a regular basis, you’re more likely to have clogged arteries and develop heart disease. This is especially true if you’re spending a lot of time sitting in traffic.
A big, heavy meal
Piling up your plate affects more than just your waistline. Eating large quantities of food at once increases stress hormones in your body, raising your blood pressure and heart rate. Fatty meals can also cause a spike in a type of fat in your blood that can temporarily damage your blood vessels.
Contact your primary care provider to discuss your risk for heart attacks and/or heart disease. If you are looking to consult with a cardiovascular specialist, the board-certified surgeons, cardiologists, neurologists and radiologists at the Goshen Heart & Vascular Center offer complete, comprehensive care.