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If It Sounds Like You, You May be at Risk for a Heart Attack

Alarming New Trend: Men Under 40 Experience A Higher Rate of Heart Attack
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Heart disease, which can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and blood clots, is the leading cause of death globally. In the United States, 1 in every four men dies from heart disease, and the rate is even higher for African-American men. While there was initially a decline in heart disease, resulting from decreased smoking and treatments for high cholesterol, the country is now trending upwards in cardiovascular deaths, due to a rise in diabetes and obesity. Many people don't realize the risk of developing heart disease is cumulative over one's lifespan, so it is important to start practicing healthy heart habits when young. Taking the small steps below can lead to drastic changes in your heart health and add years to your life. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.Dr. Jennifer Chao is a Clinical Instructor in the Department of Medicine at NYU Grossman School of Medicine 


High Cholesterol

closeup doctor's hand holding blood sample for cholesterol

Long-term exposure to high cholesterol can lead to heart disease and clogged blood vessels. We recommend limiting your diet to unsaturated fat and reducing saturated fat and trans fat. One simple way of doing this is by using liquid plant oils (such as olive oil or canola oil) rather than tropical oils (like coconut oil) or animal fat (such as butter or lard) in your cooking.


High Blood Pressure

man having blood pressure checked
VGstockstudio / Shutterstock

Elevated blood pressure over time can thicken your heart muscle. But unlike skeletal muscle which strengthens as it grows, your heart muscle weakens as it grows. One simple way of preventing high blood pressure is by decreasing salt intake. Instead of using table salt to season your food, use spices such as garlic or onion powder.


Diabetes and Obesity

Nutritionist inspecting a woman's waist using a meter tape

Diabetes doubles your risk for heart disease including strokes and leads to other complications like kidney failure, nerve damage and blindness. Over time, high blood glucose from diabetes damages the blood vessels and nerves in your body. One easy way to cut out extra sugar in your diet is by replacing beverages with added sugars such as juices and sodas with water and seltzer instead.


Unhealthy Diet High in Sugars, Animal Fats, Processed Foods, Trans Fats and Salt

woman eating pizza in bed
Shutterstock / Doucefleur

The American diet is becoming increasingly heavy in ultra-processed foods, contributing to the rise of diabetes and obesity. The consumption of highly processed foods such as lunch meats, frozen pizza, and refined carbohydrates like cookies and donuts can lead to poor sugar and cholesterol control. Choosing natural foods like fruits and vegetables, or even frozen or dried vegetables, is a better alternative. The Mediterranean diet, which consists of fish, whole grains, nuts, and vegetables has been proven to reduce cardiovascular risk. 


Lifestyle and Stress From Work or in General

stressed out woman

Stress can lead to high blood pressure and poor lifestyle habits such as overeating, smoking, and decreased physical activity. It is important to be mindful of your stress level and to incorporate techniques such as therapy sessions, exercise, or meditation into your daily routine. 


Lack of Exercise and a Sedentary Life

overweight woman at home lying on the floor, laptop in front of her, prepared to work out on mat according to video

While social distancing and isolating have been critical during the COVID19 pandemic, it has also led to a more sedentary lifestyle. It is recommended to get at least 150minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise. Other simple ways of staying active include simply standing more frequently or using the stairs instead of the elevator.