When we think of heart attacks, we think of obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and genetics as the primary causes. But experts say other lesser-known factors often trigger potentially deadly cardiovascular events.
“Even strong, negative emotions can be culprits,” Dr. Tracy Stevens, a Kansas City-based spokesperson for the American Heart Association, tells Newsmax Health.
Here are five surprising causes of heart attacks:
1. Anger, fear, and depression. Dr. Stevens says that negative emotions can trigger inflammation in the blood vessels that can cause plaque formations to rupture. When the plaque ruptures it can form a blood clot which in turn can cause a heart attack. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University recently published a study in The New England Journal of Medicine that showed victims of emotional stress have a higher risk of heart failure. A death in the family, being a crime victim, or even having a surprise birthday party were among the events that sent people in the study to coronary care units with chest pain.
2. Wireless devices. Renowned cardiologist Dr. Stephen Sinatra, co-author of the best-selling book The Great Cholesterol Myth, points to research showing that electromagnetic frequencies from wireless devices such as cellular and cordless phones are linked to increased risk of heart attacks. A study published in the European Journal of Oncology demonstrated that wireless devices can adversely affect heart function. “They can depress heart rate variability and whenever heart rate variability is curtailed, it is the harbinger of sudden death,” Dr. Sinatra tells Newsmax Health. His recommendation is to limit exposure to wireless emissions by keeping devices away from your body as much as possible.
3. Nitrate medications in combination with Viagra. Despite warnings against this combination, which causes dangerous blood pressure drops, Dr. Stevens says that it continues to cause heart attacks. The American Heart Association says that nitrates such as nitroglycerin must be avoided within 24 hours of taking Viagra or Levitra and within 48 hours of taking Cialis. When these drugs are combined blood pressure can drop as much as 80 points in 30 minutes.
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4. Azithromycin. Sudden death is a newly discovered risk of the commonly prescribed antibiotic azithromycin – better known as Zithromax or Z-pak. A study of Medicaid patients who received Z-pak prescriptions from 1992 to 2006 showed that compared to patients who took no antibiotics, those taking the five-day course of treatment had three times the risk of heart death. Compared to patients with infections who were treated with the antibiotic amoxicillin, those who took azithromycin had twice the risk. “Although the actual risk is not large in terms of actual numbers,” says Dr. Stevens, “I think it might be wise to ask your physician if antibiotics are absolutely necessary.”
5. SCAD. This rare but often-fatal condition called spontaneous coronary artery dissection affects mostly women and may have a hormonal cause, says Stevens. “It sometimes happens after pregnancy,” she explains. The coronary artery can suddenly develop a tear, causing blood to flow between the layers which force them apart, causing a heart attack. SCADs have been known to occur during both exercise and rest, and are also seen is women nearing menstruation. The condition is diagnosed with an angiogram. Treatment usually consists of an arterial stent.
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