Know the Risk Factors:
Understanding what puts you at risk for heart disease and how you can modify or reduce your risk may save your life!
• Family History. If either or both your parents or other close relatives had a heart attack, especially at a young age, then you have an increased risk for a heart attack. It is extremely important that you maintain a healthy lifestyle and do whatever you can to prevent heart disease.
• Age increases the risk of heart disease. Risk becomes greater at ages 45 for men and 55 for women (after menopause).
• Cholesterol in the blood is normal, but too much can build to form a paste that lines the blood vessels. This thickening of the arteries blocks the blood supply to vital organs and makes the heart work harder—it can cause a heart attack or stroke. High cholesterol can be inherited but can also be diet-related. Regular exercise and if necessary, medicine, can help to lower cholesterol levels.
• Diabetes occurs when the body can’t process glucose, or sugar. Over time, all the blood vessels in the body can be damaged, increasing your risk. A low-calorie, low-sugar diet, careful weight control and exercise may control diabetes in some—others may require medicine.
• Blood Pressure measures the force of the blood against the artery walls. If the pressure is too high (hypertension), it weakens the blood vessels and strains the heart. You cannot “feel” high blood pressure and should have your blood pressure checked regularly. A healthy diet that is low in salt, moderate alcohol use, and regular exercise may keep blood pressure in check, however in some people, blood pressure lowering medication may be necessary.
• Smoking nearly doubles your risk of a heart attack. The nicotine in tobacco makes the blood vessels narrow, causing the heart to work harder. Smoking is the most preventable risk factor for heart disease.
• Obesity substantially increases your risk of a heart attack, hypertension, and diabetes. The heart must pump harder in obese people. Your ideal weight is based upon your sex and height—see our website for more info.
• Inactivity can double the risk for heart disease and also contributes to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity. Regular exercise improves blood circulation and heart efficiency, and improves survival of a heart attack.