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New Study Shows Reasons for Heart Attack no Mystery

separator There used to be the idea among many medical professionals and some lay people as well that it wasn’t unusual for people to have heart attacks even if they had no risk factors for heart disease. Some even thought the number of “out of the blue” cases was about 50 percent.

It’s true that every now and then you read a story about someone who is extremely fit and seemingly healthy who suddenly and surprisingly dies of a heart attack. But two new studies show that the vast majority of people who have heart attacks also have one of four major, conventional risk factors: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, cigarette smoking and diabetes.

In one study of more than 386,000 participants who died of heart disease or heart attack, at least 87 percent had one or more of the four conventional risk factors. Of those participants who did not die, 92 percent of men and 87 percent of women had the risk factors. Similar results were found in a second study, with 84.6 percent of women and 80.6 percent of men having the risk factors.

What this means to the general public is that there’s no denying that having a risk factor for heart disease is serious business. If you smoke, talk with your doctor for advice about quitting. If your cholesterol or blood pressure are high, talk with your doctor about how to get the numbers down. If you have diabetes, make sure you work closely with your healthcare team to keep you blood sugar in the normal range.

Journal of the American Medical Association, 20 August 2003.
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