Heart attack risk goes up in men older than 45 and women older than 55, but it can happen even earlier. While lifestyle modifications help reduce risk — eating a healthy diet, maintaining good blood pressure and normal weight, not smoking — sometimes it’s not enough.
Family history is a big risk factor that can’t be changed. Bender’s father had a triple bypass surgery more than a year before Bender’s death, Tofferi said. And men are more likely to have heart attacks than women.
A heart attack happens when the blood that flows to a section of heart muscle gets blocked. That section of heart muscle begins to die without a quick restoration of blood flow, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Heart attacks are often the result of coronary artery disease, which occurs when a waxy substance called plaque builds up in the coronary artery.
Heart attacks in the United States are uncommon among people younger than 55, but the numbers could rise because obesity is a growing problem, said Dr. Lee Goldman, Hatch Professor and dean of the faculties of health sciences and medicine at Columbia University Medical Center.
“There’s no better prevention than addressing the reversible risk factors,” Goldman said.