heart disease risk factors

What's your risk of developing heart disease?

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, affecting over 12 million of us. And because it often shows no symptoms, it's important to know beforehand if you may be at high risk.

A few of the different types of heart disease include:

coronary artery disease or CAD: hardening and narrowing of the arteries which can lead to angina (discomfort due to ischemia, your heart not getting enough blood) or a heart attack (where an artery becomes severely or completely blocked).

heart failure: failure of the heart to pump sufficient blood to meet the body's needs. The cause may be that the heart isn't filling with enough blood or because the force of the pumping action has become weak. The name heart failure is a bit of a misnomer since the heart does not actually stop.

arrhythmia: where the beat of the heart changes. This becomes more common as we age.

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What are your chances for developing heart disease?

It is estimated that 90% of us have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease*

  • Having just one of the following risk factors can double your chances of heart disease.
  • Having two risk factors makes you 4 times more likely.
  • Having 3 or more risk factors puts you at 10 times the risk.

Heart Disease risk factors that are BEYOND our control:

  • age: being over age 45 for men or over age 55 for women
  • family history of heart disease: if your father or a brother had diagnosed before the age of 55 or if your mother or a sister was diagnosed before the age of 65
  • history of preeclampsia: a condition effecting the mother and unborn baby in at least 5% of all pregnancies. Symptoms may include hypertension, protein in the urine, swelling of hands face and eyes (though swelling of feet and ankles is considered to be normal during pregnancy), sudden weight gain over just a couple, persistent headache.

The good news is that 25% of heart attack deaths (and 50% of stroke deaths) may be preventable. Heart disease risk factors that are WITHIN our control:

  • don't smoke. If you do smoke, quit. If you can't quit, at least cut back. Smokers have a 6x greater risk of suffering a heart attack than do non-smokers and the risk for chronic heart disease goes up with the number of cigarettes smoked daily.
  • prevent or control high blood pressure through healthy lifestyle choices, including reducing salt and limiting alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day.
  • manage your weight. Unfortunately about 65% of Americans are currently overweight or obese
  • eat for heart health. This includes eating more fruits, vegetables, high fiber and whole grains while reducing your consumption of saturated fats, trans fats and dietary cholesterol
  • become physically active: The options are nearly endless: jogging, walking, lifting weights, dancing, yoga, gardening and around the house chores. Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity or 15 minutes of vigorous exercise at least 5 days per week.
  • brush and floss your teeth daily: research shows that the more teeth a person has lost, the greater their chances of gum disease, which may contribute to arterial plaque and inflammation, which have been associated with heart disease and stroke.
  • sleeping 7-8 hours per night: sleeping more than 9 hours or less than 6 hours per night has been associated with hypertension, chronic heart disease and diabetes.
  • manage your stress: chronic stress may set of a hormonal chain of events which increase blood cholesterol and blood pressure as well as affecting blood clotting factors, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Tools for reducing anxiety include exercise, developing a support network of family and friends, and/or practicing stress reduction techniques like yoga, walking, meditation or guided imagery.

You may also be interested in reading: 4 Important tests for protecting your heart health

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