‘Even thin and relatively young people can have a heart attack’

Science and Health

Anyone who has experienced a cardiovascular event already knows how important it is to lower the bad cholesterol level in the body. 

Dr. Yaron Arbel, an expert in cardiology and catheterization, was a guest on International Heart Day on Prof. Rafi Carso’s program for an in-depth conversation on the causes of heart attacks and the differences between the types of cholesterol in our body.

Arbel explained that the heart has three blood vessels that supply it with blood. During a heart attack, one of the blood vessels suddenly closes, which causes that area of the heart to not receive enough blood, and eventually those cells begin to die. 

If this isn’t treated the same area of the heart will stop working, and in some cases people just die. Often, there’s news about people who had a sudden heart attack or cardiac arrest and died.

Why do blood vessels clog?

Arbel noted that this is due to some kind of wear and tear. He explained that over time, we accumulate layers of fat, mainly cholesterol, which close these blood vessels.  At a certain point, they can explode and a blood clot is formed, which completely closes the artery and leads to a heart attack.

Arbel said we all know the risk factors: an unhealthy lifestyle, lack of sleep, being overweight, smoking, diabetes, excess cholesterol and hypertension. 

Each of us is born with a genetic load, meaning that some people can be very thin and still have a heart attack at a relatively young age, 45 for example. It’s important to remember that heredity is a very central component.

How do you know when it’s time to see a cardiologist?

Arbel stated that anyone who has several risk factors must be tested for prevention and to check if something can be done to balance their risk factors. Even people with one risk factor that is really unbalanced, such as high cholesterol, should see a cardiologist. He said that usually family doctors do an amazing job so in many cases, there’s no need to go to a cardiologist.

The differences between good cholesterol and bad cholesterol

Arbel pointed out that generally, we know that the higher the cholesterol, the higher the risk of heart disease, narrow blood vessels and stroke. It’s very similar to someone who smokes. We all know the 85-year-old man who smoked two packs a day for 60 years and nothing happened to him. 

Our problem is that at the age of 20-30 it’s hard to know if you’re one of the lucky ones. 

Cholesterol types are genetically determined in most cases and diet also affects factors. For vegetarians or vegans, for example, there is a slight, but not significant, decrease. Basically, we want bad cholesterol to be as low as possible and the good to be high. The bad cholesterol is actually the one that circulates in the body, while the good cholesterol is supposed to clean it up.

This article was written in partnership with Novartis.