11 Surprising Causes for Heart Complications and Stroke

Heart diseases are among the greatest killers of our day and age and lay claim to the lives of about 18 million people worldwide every year, according to the World Health Organization. Of those, a whopping 80% deaths are the result of a stroke or a heart attack. While some possible triggers of heart conditions, such as obesity, are a matter of public knowledge, other possible causes may surprise you:
1. Poor Dental Hygiene
Heart Complications: brushing teeth
Apparently, not brushing your teeth may cause plaque buildup… in the arteries. The same oral bacteria that cause periodontal (or gum) disease can enter the blood stream and cause atherosclerosis, a cardiovascular condition wherein blood vessels become clogged by arterial plaque, possibly leading to strokes and heart attacks.
2. Drinking Diet Sodas
Heart Complications: diet coke
If you’re looking into sugar-free soft drinks as a means to avoid obesity and related heart complications, you have another thing coming. Heavy diet soda drinkers are actually more likely to suffer from a stroke or a heart attack than those who drink sugar-sweetened sodas.
3. Shunning Beans
Heart Complications: beans
Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart. This isn’t just a line out of a nursery rhyme, it’s a medical fact. Eating beans and other protein-rich legumes (such as lentils, chickpeas, soybean, peas and peanuts) has been found to lower your resting heartbeat as effectively as regular exercise, potentially preventing heart attack.
4. Dieting
Heart Complications: diet
Committing to a drastic change of lifestyle may sound like a good idea when thinking about weight loss, but often dramatic and prohibitive diets are very hard to sustain over time, cause great fluctuations in body mass over a short period of time and can cause more harm than good. This yo-yo effect, in and of itself, can dramatically increase the risk of heart disease.
5. Contracting Flu
Heart Complications: flu
If there weren’t enough reasons to get a flu shot, according to this study, among people between the ages of 65-86, the likelihood of having a heart attack within one week of contracting influenza A was six times! Odds were even higher for people with prior heart complications and those who contracted influenza B.
6. Depression
Heart Complications: depression
The notion that body and mind operate independently is flat-out wrong, as many mental health conditions and physical illnesses appear to be inextricably tied. This is also true of depression, as a recent study established. The research showed that among men above the age of 45, depression was associated with a 30% increased chance of heart attack, and a 18% increased chance among women of the same age group. For both groups, depression was also associated with 24-44% increased chance of stroke, with odds increasing with the intensity of their mental distress.
Likewise, one of the major symptoms of depression is social withdrawal, which- independently of the aforementioned study- has been shown to be associated with a 30% increased chance of coronary heart disease and stroke
7. Avoiding Fruit
Heart Complications: fruit
Much like legumes, eating fresh fruit has been established as an effective way to reduce heart pressure, as well as lowering blood sugar levels. According to the study conducted in China, people who consumed fresh fruit on a daily basis were 40% less likely to have a heart attack, 34% less likely to have a major heart complication, and 30% less likely to have a stroke. For a detailed look at food that might prevent heart disease, click here.
8. Sleep Apnea
Heart Complications: apnea
Snoring might be a hassle for your partner, but it can indicate a huge risk for you. Severe obstructive sleep apnea, characterized by problems breathing through the nose while sleeping has been associated with a nearly twofold increase in coronary heart disease, heart failure and heart disease-related death.
9. Living at a Low Altitude
Heart Complications: altitude
This may seem strange to you, but for athletes who depend on good cardio, this is hardly news. Living at a high altitude increases cardiovascular endurance, which in turn decreases the odds of having metabolic syndrome, a cluster of several medical conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure and high blood sugar, by 25%. Metabolic syndrome is a major cause of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
10. Body Image
Heart Complications: body image
We know that obesity can be a cause for multiple heart conditions, but apparently stigma around obesity greatly increases the risk. According to a 2017 study, obese people who suffered from a negative body image were 46% more likely to have metabolic syndrome than those who are more accepting of their body type.
11. Your Job
Heart Complications: work
Yes. Your work, and particularly if your career finds you sitting on a chair in front of a monitor for the better part of the day, can kill you. A 2012 study found that a sedentary schedule was associated with a 147% increase in heart complications and a 90% increase in heart-related deaths. Meanwhile, a work schedule of 55 or more weekly hours was associated with a 13% increased chance of coronary heart disease and a 33% increased chance of stroke.
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