Heart Attack FAQs

Click on a question for the answer.

Collapse All Expand All

The most common type of heart disease is coronary heart disease, also called coronary artery disease. This disease involves the buildup of plaque on the inner walls of the heart's arteries. The plaque can be made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances found in the blood.

The buildup of plaque can narrow the coronary arteries and reduce blood flow to the heart muscle. This leads to symptoms such as chest pain or discomfort. Very often this plaque can completely block the flow of blood to part of the heart muscle - causing a heart attack.


As one of its major risk factors, high blood cholesterol has a lot to do with your chances of having coronary heart disease. And the higher your cholesterol goes, the greater your risk.

Too much cholesterol in the blood can cause plaque to build up on the walls of your arteries - eventually narrowing them and restricting the flow of blood to the heart and other vital organs.

Since high blood cholesterol on its own doesn't cause symptoms, few people are aware their level is too high. But it's important to know your numbers. Normal cholesterol is below 200. Borderline is 200-239. And High is anything over 240.


Your overall cholesterol risk is best determined by evaluating both your "bad" cholesterol (LDL) and "good" cholesterol (HDL) levels. LDL is the "bad" cholesterol, and the main source of cholesterol buildup and blockage in the arteries. This is the type of cholesterol buildup that contributes to heart attacks and strokes. So, the lower your LDL blood cholesterol level is, the better.


It is important that everyone start getting a cholesterol test beginning at the age of 20, especially since plaque buildup in your arteries is a gradual process, taking many years. And total cholesterol should be measured at least every five years after that.

Lack of regular physical activity, poor dietary habits and genetics can all affect a child's cholesterol levels. So it's important that parents and caregivers help kids develop a heart-healthy lifestyle. That includes serving foods low in saturated fat, trans fats and cholesterol; encouraging at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day; and stressing the importance of avoiding tobacco products.

Check children, also

Even children - especially those in families with a history of heart disease - can have high cholesterol levels. Evidence exists that these children are at greater risk for developing heart disease as adults.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health, recommends that cholesterol testing begin at age 2 for any child who has the following:

  1. At least one parent who has been found to have high blood cholesterol (240 milligrams or greater).
  2. A family history of early heart disease (before age 55 in a parent or grandparent).

The NHLBI also recommends periodic testing of cholesterol and other lipids in children and adolescents who have demonstrated risk factors, such as obesity. A full lipid profile will show the actual levels of each type of fat in the blood: LDL


Research warns that women who experience an early menopause (before the age of 46) run twice the risk of a heart attack or stroke later in life. After menopause, the levels of estrogen in a woman's body drop significantly and can increase your risk of coronary heart disease.

Knowing that early menopause is a potential risk factor, women can then work harder by exercising and following a healthy diet to improve their modifiable risk factors including high cholesterol and high blood pressure.


According to the American Diabetes Association, people with diabetes have a problem with insulin and are not able to use glucose as energy. Glucose collects in their blood and blood glucose levels go up.

High blood glucose levels can lead to increased deposits of fatty materials on the inner wall of the blood vessels. These deposits may affect blood flow, increasing the chances that blood vessels will clog and harden.

Over time, this can lead to high blood pressure and coronary heart disease.

People with diabetes are at least twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke as people who do not have diabetes. In addition, people with diabetes tend to develop heart disease or have a stroke at an earlier age. Women who have not gone through menopause usually have less risk of heart disease than men of the same age. But women of all ages with diabetes have an increased risk of heart disease. That's because diabetes cancels out the protective effects of being a women in childbearing years.

There is a link between diabetes, heart disease and stroke. People with diabetes who've already had one heart attack have an increased risk of having a second one. Heart attacks in people with diabetes also tend to be more serious and are more likely to result in death. In fact, two out of every three people with diabetes die from cardiovascular-related disease.

Not necessarily. Many products labeled "low in cholesterol" may be high in saturated fats or trans fats, which are not considered healthy. In addition, unsaturated fats like vegetable oil, palm or coconut oil can also be high in calories.

Saving Time, Saving Lives

The MoBap cardiology team explains why time is so critical when it comes to chest pains. New techniques and relationships with local ambulance providers allow MoBap to treat heart attacks faster with better outcomes.

For more information on our heart attack treatment program, call us at 314-996-3627 or contact us online.

Copyright © 1997-2015 BJC HealthCare. All Rights Reserved.