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Heart Attack: All the Stats, Facts and Info You’ll Ever Need to Know

Have you ever experienced chest pain, heartburn or shortness of breath and wondered if you were suffering from a heart attack?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), someone in the United States suffers a heart attack every 40 seconds.
The latest study from the Global Burden of Disease, published in 2019, states that cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death globally, with approximately 18 million deaths annually, and according to the American Heart Association[ACGR1] , coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing over 382,000 people in the in 2020, in the United States.
In this article, we’ll try to cover everything you need to know about heart attacks, their cause, types, and some other interesting facts.
Let’s start with understanding what’s a heart attack. The most common cause of a heart attack is coronary artery disease. This occurs when a substance called plaque builds up inside the arteries which leads oxygen-rich blood to the heart itself, causing them to narrow and limit or completely block the blood flow. This causes
a section of the heart muscle not to get enough oxygen. If the blood flow is not restored quickly, usually by a stent placed in the artery, the affected section of the heart muscle starts to die, disrupting the heart’s ability to contract effectively and to pump blood to essential organs such as the lungs and brain, ultimately leading to death.
The sooner you get medical treatment, the more can be done to stop any long-lasting heart damage and prevent arrhythmias, heart failure, and death.

Heart attack symptoms include:

  • Sharp pain or discomfort in the chest

  • Shortness of breath

  • Pain in the arms, neck, jaw, or back

  • A feeling of heartburn or indigestion

  • Sweaty or clammy skin

  • Coughing or wheezing

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Nervousness or anxiety

  • Light-headedness or dizziness

What are the risk factors for heart attacks?

According to the American Heart Association, there are three categories of risk factors that increase the chance of developing coronary artery disease (CAD), which could lead to a heart attack.

Risk factors that can’t be modified:

  • Increasing age: The majority of people who die of CAD are older than 65.

  • Gender: Men are at higher risk of suffering from a heart attack than women.

  • Genetics: People with family members who suffered heart attacks, are more likely to experience one.

  • Race: Mexican American, Native Hawaiian, Asian American, African American and American Indian are predisposed to suffer from a heart attack, compared to white people

Risk factors that can be modified:

  • They refer to those factors you can treat, modify and control.

  • Smoking

  • High blood cholesterol

  • High blood pressure

  • Lack of exercise

  • Obesity

Pro-Tip: To prevent and manage heart disease, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends combining aerobic exercise, such as biking or swimming with moderate weightlifting.

Not all heart attacks are the same

There are three types of heart attacks. The seriousness of a heart attack is evaluated by the amount of heart muscle that is permanently damaged and the treatment also depends on the severity of it.

STEMI (ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction)
It’s a serious form of a heart attack in which a coronary artery is completely blocked and a large part of the heart muscle is unable to receive blood. This type of heart attack requires immediate emergency revascularization to restore the blood flow.

NSTEMI (Non-ST segment myocardial infarction)
It’s a type of heart attack in which the coronary artery is partially blocked and the blood flow is severely restricted. They are less harsh than STEMI heart attacks. However, they can cause permanent damage.

Coronary Artery Vasospasm
Also known as a silent heart attack, Coronary Artery Vasospasm is a constriction of the coronary arteries that can cause complete or near-complete occlusion of the vessel, potentially causing a heart attack. It mostly occurs in people who smoke and don’t have any other risk factors for heart disease.


Do heart attacks depend on age?

Also known as a silent heart attack, Coronary Artery Vasospasm is a constriction of the coronary arteries that can cause complete or near-complete occlusion of the vessel, potentially causing a heart attack. It mostly occurs in people who smoke and don’t have any other risk factors for heart disease.
However, a research presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session, reveal that more heart attacks are striking those under age 40. The 16-year study from 2000-2016, found that during the last decade, the proportion of people under the age of 40 who suffered from a heart attack has been increasing by 2% each year.
Ron Blankstein, MD, a preventive cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and associate professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston, conducted the study with 2,097 young patients (under the age of 50 ), who were admitted for heart attack in two large hospitals, where 20% of these patients were 40 or younger.
Researchers separated the heart attack victims patients into two groups (<50 years vs. ≤40). Blankstein tried to determine whether there were any potential risk factors for the rise in heart attacks among younger adults.
The study shows that although traditional risk factors for heart attack such as diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, and family history of heart disease were comparable between the two groups, the youngest heart attack patients were more likely to report substance abuse, such as cocaine and marijuana, and had less alcohol consumption.
Following this study, Blankstein recommended: “to avoid tobacco, get regular exercise, eat a heart-healthy diet, lose weight if you need to, manage your blood pressure and cholesterol, avoid diabetes if you can, and stay away from cocaine and marijuana because they’re not necessarily good for your heart.”
Regarding of the age, prevention is key. The vast majority of heart attacks can be avoided by implementing lifestyle changes, managing risk factors, and early detection of heart disease.

How to reduce the risk of having a heart attack?

You can reduce the risk of having a heart attack by incorporating these changes into your routine

  • Stop smoking: Chemicals found in tobacco can harm the heart and its blood vessels[MB1] [ACGR2] . According to Mayo Clinic, cigarette smoke “reduces the oxygen in the blood, which increases blood pressure and heart rate because the heart has to work harder to supply enough oxygen to the body and brain.”

  • Manage stress: Chronic stress is proven to be a risk factor for heart disease, which can lead to a heart attack.
    Exercise regularly: The (CDC) recommends exercising at least 150 minutes per week. This could be 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week.

  • Reduce alcohol consumption: Drinking alcohol can raise blood pressure, produce irregular heartbeats, and contribute to high triglycerides. The AHA recommends limiting alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one per day for women.

  • Eat a healthy diet: Incorporating a healthy diet can protect the heart, improve healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and reduce risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A heart-healthy diet includes legumes, vegetables, fruits, lean meats and fish, low-fat and fat-free dairy foods, whole grains, and healthy fats.

  • Get good quality sleep: Most adults need at least several hours of sleep each night. Taking care of your sleep routine will lower your risk of suffering from obesity, heart attack, high blood pressure, depression, and diabetes.

  • Keep a healthy weight: According to Mayo Clinic, a healthy body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher is considered overweight and could lead to higher blood pressure, higher cholesterol and an increase in heart attack and stroke. Also, the risk of heart disease increases if the waist measurement is greater than 40 inches (101.6 cm) for men and 35 inches (88.9 cm) for women.

  • Check your health regularly: Test your blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides , to make sure they are all within reasonable levels.


During a heart attack, your body could experience the following:

  • Chest pain or angina: It’s a discomfort caused by a lack of blood flow to the heart muscle and may occur when the blood vessels are damaged

  • Arrhythmia: Our heart contracts autonomously due to electric pulses passing through its surface. During a heart attack when the heart muscle starts to get ischemic and die, the electric pulses do not run properly, therefore causing irregular heartbeats, or arrythmia

  • Cardiogenic shock: Is caused by irreparable damage to the myocardium. Affects 15% of MI (myocardial infarction) patients and 90% of them are at risk of dying within the first 24 hours.

What can I do if someone suffers a heart attack?

According to Mayo Clinic, here are some of the steps you can follow if you are witnessing someone might be having a heart attack:

  • Call emergency services: The dispatchers can coach you through life-saving measures.
    Lose the clothing around the chest: If the person is still conscious, place them in a comfortable position and ease the strain on the heart.

  • Offer an aspirin: If the person is fully conscious, provide 300 mg of aspirin (a full dose) and advise them to chew it slowly.

  • Perform CPR: If you are trained or certified in providing CPR, and the person is unconscious and is not breathing, do continuous chest compressions. They must be 2 inches deep and 100-120 times per minute on the center of the chest.

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