Below are some factors that may put people at risk specifically for heart attack, not just heart disease. Some—such as the link between calcium supplements and heart attacks in older women—are far from definitive. But this lists reinforces the idea that the heart can be put at risk by more factors than the dietary fat, obesity, and smoking that share the majority of the blame.
1. Low good cholesterol
A study of nearly 7,000 people led by a researcher at Indiana University analyzed the relationship between HDL, or good cholesterol, and major coronary events. The study concluded that low HDL was the third strongest predictor of coronary events, after prior heart disease and age.
If you are diagnosed with flu or another respiratory tract infection, your odds of having a heart attack are five times higher during the three days after diagnosis than it would be otherwise. The reason: Infections can bring on an inflammatory response, which can trigger a heart attack or stroke. A flu vaccine may help protect against infection-induced heart stress.
3. Kidney problems
A study of elderly patients in Rotterdam in the Netherlands found that having weak kidneys, even without full-blown kidney disease, can put you at a significantly higher risk for heart attack.
4. Urban living
Exposure to heavy traffic—whether you’re traveling by car, bike, or public transit—may double your risk of a heart attack, according to a German study. Another earlier study found that death from cardiopulmonary causes was nearly twice as high among people living close to a major road.