These days many are worried about blocks developing in the blood vessels of the heart because it is one of the leading causes of illness and death. Most of the blocks in the blood vessels of the heart do not occur all of a sudden though heart attack is usually an abrupt event. Material which block the vessels including fat deposit develop over a long period of time, just like in an old rusted water pipe. This gradually decreases its lumen size, leading to poor blood supply to the region of the heart muscle supplied by it. But a vessel can get blocked suddenly when one which is partially blocked by fat deposit gets totally blocked by a clot forming over the partial block. This is often the mechanism behind a sudden heart attack, which can even be fatal.
Risk factors for blocks in blood vessels of the heart (coronary arteries)
Risk factors could be modifiable and non modifiable ones. Male gender and advancing age are associated which higher frequency of blocks in blood vessels. These two are important non-modifiable risk factors, along with genetics and ethnicity. Certain families have a higher incidence of heart attacks among their members. Similarly people from some ethnic background are more prone for heart attacks than others.
Though we can’t do much about non modifiable risk factors, there are quite a few modifiable risk factors. The well known ones are high blood sugar (diabetes mellitus), high blood pressure (hypertension), high body weight (obesity) and smoking. Though stress itself does not causes blocks to build it blood vessels, it can act in multiple ways. Stressed individuals are likely to take solace in excessive eating as a method of relief and may become obese. Sudden stress can increase the heart rate and blood pressure which can precipitate a heart attack in an individual already having partially blocked blood vessel. The sudden increase in blood flow speed can cause fissures in the partial blocks which have built up in the blood vessels. This exposes a raw area in the blood vessel where clots can easily form and convert the partial block into a total block.
Risk factor modification by changes in lifestyle is an important intervention in the prevention of heart attack. Reducing total food intake to cut down obesity, regular walking program for physical fitness, restriction of fatty foods and smoking cessation are good time tested methods for remaining fit.