Heart attacks are caused by a buildup of plaque in the arteries, which can lead to a narrowing and blockage of the artery.
Call 999 immediately and seek emergency medical treatment if you believe you are having a heart attack. Symptoms include:
- Chest pain such as pressure, tightness, or squeezing of your chest
- Pains in the arms, back or jaw that feels like it travels to your chest
- Weakness and tiredness
- Shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing
- Nausea and vomiting
- An overwhelming feeling of anxiety like an anxiety attack
The more risk factors someone has, such as smoking cigarettes or being overweight, the higher their chance of having a heart attack. However, even someone without any risk factors can have a heart attack.
The main risk factors are :
- being overweight or obese, or eating a high-fat diet
- diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure (hypertension)
Other risk factors:
- misuse of drugs can interfere with heart function
- hypoxia (lack of oxygen in the blood) for example as a result of carbon monoxide exposure
If you are worried about your chance of having a heart attack, speak to your doctor as soon as possible.
The chances of having a heart attack increase with age because over time most people accumulate more risk factors as a result of lifestyle habits. The chance of a heart attack is also higher for men than for women because more men smoke and are overweight or obese or have other risk factors and complications.
If you’re at low risk for having a heart attack then your chances are less than one percent per year but if you have multiple risk factors then your chances could be as high as fifty percent per year.