Heart Attacks

What Causes Heart Attacks?

Heart attacks can have various causes, ranging in severity from 'troubling' to 'critical'.  Finding the true cause means ruling out or confirming each possibility – in other words, diagnosis.

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Diagnosis is usually a complex process due to the sheer number of possible causes and related symptoms.  In order to diagnose heart attacks, we could:

  • Research the topic
  • Find a doctor with the time
  • Use a diagnostic computer system.
The process is the same, whichever method is used.

Step 1: List all Possible Causes

We begin by identifying the disease conditions which have "heart attacks" as a symptom.  Here are eight of many possibilities (more below):
  • Lack Of Exercise
  • Anorexia/Starvation Tendency
  • Lack Of Sleep
  • Salt Sensitivity
  • Diabetes Type 1.5
  • Low Testosterone
  • Dehydration
  • Atherosclerosis

Step 2: Build a Symptom Checklist

We then identify all possible symptoms and risk factors of each possible cause, and check the ones that apply:
high diastolic blood pressure
high systolic blood pressure
long-term sleep deficit
occasional runny nose
being postmenopausal
numb/burning/tingling extremities
typical Metformin use
allergies to certain foods
adverse reaction to delayed meals
heart attack(s) in father
severe emotional instability
reduced underarm/pubic hair growth
... and more than 90 others

Step 3: Rule Out or Confirm each Possible Cause

A differential diagnosis of your symptoms and risk factors finds the likely cause of heart attacks:
Cause Probability Status
Lack Of Sleep 97% Confirm
Lack Of Exercise 13% Unlikely
Salt Sensitivity 12% Unlikely
Anorexia/Starvation Tendency 2% Ruled out
Dehydration 2% Ruled out
Atherosclerosis 1% Ruled out
Low Testosterone 1% Ruled out
Diabetes Type 1.5 1% Ruled out
* This is a simple example to illustrate the process

Arriving at a Correct Diagnosis

The Analyst™ is our online diagnosis tool that learns all about you through a straightforward process of multi-level questioning, providing diagnosis at the end.

If you indicate pre-existing cardiovascular problems, The Analyst™ will ask further questions including this one:
Have you already suffered Heart Attack(s)?
Possible responses:
→ Don't know
→ No
→ Yes, mild one
→ Yes, a severe one
→ Yes, more than one
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate no history of heart attack, history of heart attack, history of severe heart attack or history of heart attacks, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:
Coronary Disease / Heart Attack

Coronary Disease / Heart Attack also suggests the following possibilities:

Low Male Testosterone Level

Researchers at Columbia University Medical School studied 55 men undergoing X-ray exams of their arteries and found that those with a lower testosterone level had higher degrees of heart disease (blockage of the coronary arteries).  This study also found that the protective HDL cholesterol levels were higher in men with higher testosterone levels.

Low testosterone is linked to hypertension, obesity, atherosclerosis and increased waist-to-hip ratio – all of these being heart attack risk factors.  Administration of testosterone to men has been reported to decrease the risk factors for heart attack.

Anorexia / Starvation Tendency

Being severely underweight can cause heart failure.

Birth Control Pill Issues

If you smoke, it should be noted that there is a synergistic effect between smoking, oral contraceptives and the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Cigarette Smoke Damage

According to a report from the U.S.  Surgeon General, "Cigarette smoking should be considered the most important risk factor for coronary heart disease." Statistical evidence reveals a three- to five-fold increase in the risk of coronary artery disease in smokers compared to nonsmokers.  Risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke depends the number of cigarettes smoked, the number of years smoked, the age of smoking onset and depth of inhalation.  However, when a woman stops smoking, no matter how long or how much she smoked, her risk of heart disease drops by 50% in the first year alone.  Similar benefits would be expected for a man.

Cocaine Addiction

In 1999 the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that the risk of death from a heart attack rose 24-fold in the first hour after cocaine use.

Diabetes Type 1.5

It is not clear yet if people with type 1.5 have the same high risk for cardiovascular problems as individuals with type 2.

Diabetes Type II

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of diabetes-related death.  People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease.  At least 65% of people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke.

Hemochromatosis (Iron overload)

Male carriers of the common hemochromatosis gene mutation are at 2-fold risk of a first heart attack compared with noncarriers.  Some 10% to 20% of the population carry at least one gene for hemochromatosis.  Full-blown hemochromatosis affects about 0.5% and gene carriers usually do not know that they are at increased risk.  They have almost no increase in iron stores over those without the mutation [Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association September 21, 1999;100].

Giving blood is the best way to lower iron stores, but a more recent study found no protective effect against heart attack among men who donated blood regularly.  [Circulation January 2, 2001]

Hypothyroidism

The thyroid affects every organ in the body, including the heart.  Almost any type of heart disease can be worsened by thyroid disorder, so thyroid function should always be checked if cardiac symptoms are worsening.  Hypothyroidism weakens the heart muscle in both its contraction and relaxation phases, resulting in less blood being pumped.  And, because the heart muscle does not relax normally in between beats, a potentially serious condition called diastolic dysfunction may result.

Lack of Sleep

If you sleep less than six hours per night and have disturbed sleep you stand a 48% greater chance of developing or dying from heart disease.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Obstructive sleep apnea increases a person's risk of having a heart attack or dying by 30% over a period of four to five years, according to a Yale University study presented at the American Thoracic Society 2007 International Conference in May of 2007.  Sleep apnea is associated with many physiological changes that increase the risk of both heart attack and stroke.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Women with the PCOS have a five to seven times higher risk of myocardial infarction and ischemic heart disease than other women.  Surprisingly, the increased risk was found to be independent of obesity, supporting the argument that insulin resistance alone is important in determining cardiovascular risk.  [Fertil Steril 2000;73(1): pp.150-156, J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1999;84(6): pp.1897-1899]

Problems Associated With Lack Of Exercise

Because it increases the risk for coronary artery disease by almost two times, a lack of exercise is nearly as dangerous to the heart as smoking, abnormal cholesterol levels, or hypertension.  Sedentary living is the fourth major cardiac risk factor.

Problems Caused By Being Overweight

Even if you never become diabetic, high levels of insulin contribute to cardiovascular risk by increasing the process of atherosclerosis.  Insulin increases the rate at which cholesterol-laden plaque builds up on arterial walls.  The abnormally high levels of insulin produced by all overweight individuals, diabetic or not, is an independent risk factor for early cardiac death.

Stress

Stress may increase magnesium excretion and the resulting temporary magnesium depletion may make the heart more sensitive to electrical abnormalities and vascular spasm that could lead to cardiac ischemia.

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