Alex Trebek's Mild Heart Attack: What Affects Heart Attack Severity?

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Alex Trebek, the iconic host of the TV game show "Jeopardy," suffered a heart attack this weekend, according to news reports, but he is expected to be fine and is currently recovering at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Trebek, 71, is said to have suffered a "mild" heart attack, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"Trebek is in good spirits and is currently under observation and undergoing further testing," Paula Askanas, of Sony, told CNN. "He is expected to fully recover and be back at 'Jeopardy!' when production begins taping in July for the new season, the show's 29th."

This isn't the first time Trebek has had heart troubles -- he suffered from a mild heart attack in 2007, as well, HuffPost TV reported.

A heart attack occurs when blood is not able to properly flow through the coronary artery to the heart because of a clot, the Mayo Clinic reported. The clot commonly occurs because cholesterol builds up inside of the artery, narrowing it -- when the plaque build-up ruptures, a clot can form and block blood flow.

Risk factors for heart attack include being older than 45 for men or 55 for women, smoking, having diabetes, having hypertension, having high cholesterol or triglycerides, not exercising, being obese, having a family history of the disease, having high levels of stress, and using drugs, according to the Mayo Clinic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in four deaths in the United States in 2008 was caused by some form of heart disease.

Severity of heart attack depends on how much of the heart is damaged during the incident. If help is received early enough -- meaning blood flow is restored to the heart -- there might only be limited damage to the heart, thereby improving the chances of survival, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Recently, a study from the Minneapolis Heart Institute showed that heart attack severity may actually depend on the time of day the heart attack is experienced. That study showed that heart attack injury is the most grave when experienced in the middle of the night, between 1 and 5 a.m., HealthDay reported.

If a heart attack occurs during these hours, researchers found that damage is 82 percent worse than if it occurs some other time of the day, according to the Circulation Research study.

"It is important to understand that the heart's ability to protect itself against more severe damage varies over a 24-hour cycle. Identifying those protective changes may be particularly relevant for pharmaceutical manufacturers that are seeking to develop cardioprotective drugs," study researcher Dr. Jay H. Traverse, M.D., said in a statement.

In addition, a study in rats published earlier this year in the FASEB Journal showed that the bacteria that live in the gut may also influence the severity of heart attack.

"We may not be ready to prescribe yogurt to prevent heart attacks, but this research does gives us a much better understanding of how the microbiome affects our response to injury," Dr. Gerald Weissmann, M.D., the editor-in-chief of the FASEB Journal, said in a statement. "Just as physicians use cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and overall body composition as measures of heart disease risk, we may soon evaluate our body's susceptibility to disease by looking at the microbes that inhabit the gut."

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