Heart Disease: Are You At Risk? Know Your Risk Factors

Heart Disease: Are You At Risk? Know Your Risk Factors

Healthline |
31 January 2018

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is still the number-one cause of death in the United States for both men and women, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Do you know if you are at risk? By taking time to learn the major risk factors for heart disease, you’re taking steps to protect yourself and your loved ones. 

What Are CHD Risk Factors?
Before you can understand if you’re at risk for heart disease, it’s important to know what CHD risk factors are. Heart disease risk factors are habits or conditions that increase your risk of developing CHD and heart attack. If you have already been diagnosed with CHD, the NIH reports that these risk factors increase the chance that your condition will worsen.

There are two main types of risk factors for heart disease. The first group of risk factors can’t be controlled. These non-modifiable risk factors include: Your age (getting older increases your risk), your gender (men are at greater risk), and family history (your risk increases if others in your family have had heart disease).

But the second group of risk factors includes habits or conditions that you can control. It’s important to pay special attention to these modifiable risk factors, and make changes as directed by your doctor, if advised to do so. By making needed lifestyle adjustments, you can decrease your risk for heart disease:

  • Being overweight or obese. If your body weight is greater than what is healthy for your height, then you are considered overweight. You can determine whether your weight is healthy or not by referring to a simple chart that shows body mass index (BMI) for adults. By knowing your height and weight, you can determine whether your BMI indicates that you are of normal weight, overweight, or obese. The Mayo Clinic notes that carrying excess body weight often makes other risk factors for heart disease worse.
  • Stress. High levels of unrelieved stress can damage your arteries and worsen other risk factors for heart disease. It’s important to control excess stress in your life and make the necessary changes to decrease stressful situations to the degree that you can. The Cleveland Clinic recommends that adults commit to 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days of the week to help relieve stress.
  • Physical inactivity. Lack of exercise has been linked with many types of heart disease, as well as with other risk factors. By staying physically active, you can improve how well your heart muscle pumps blood in your body.
  • Smoking. Smokers have heart attacks at more than twice the rate of non-smokers. Smoking is also the most significant risk factor for sudden cardiac death because the nicotine in cigarettes causes your blood vessels to constrict. Yet the Cleveland Clinic reports that smoking is the most preventable risk factor for both heart disease and stroke. Simply quitting smoking – and staying away from other’s secondhand smoke – can decrease your chance of developing CHD and other heart conditions.

Protect Yourself by Making Changes
By learning the risk factors of heart disease, you can better protect yourself and your family from serious health problems. A number of the risk factors for heart disease are modifiable. You have the ability to adopt positive lifestyle habits – like staying physically active and not smoking – to support your own wellness. Your heart health is in your hands – it’s that simple. With support from your family, friends, and healthcare providers, you can work toward changing your modifiable risk factors and reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease.