Cardiovascular disease is a general term encompassing many conditions- aortic disease, peripheral vascular disease, cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease, angina, and heart failure. An understanding of your personal cardiac risk factors is a good starting point in controlling your cardiac health.
Heart Disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States. Overall men have a higher risk of heart disease than women and the disease typically impacts them at a younger age. Risk factors for heart disease may include genetics, family history, stress management, diet, or a combination of the above. Regardless of the underlying causes, it’s smart to understand the main risk factors of heart disease. Here are the five biggest risk factors to watch out for.
Diabetes – Diabetes dramatically increases your risk of developing heart disease – it’s considered as serious as a previous coronary event. To put it another way: when it comes to your risk of a cardiac event, having diabetes is just as bad as already having had a heart blockage, heart attack or stroke. There are two types of diabetes. The most common form is type 2 Diabetes and affects the way your body metabolizes sugar. Type 1 Diabetes is genetic condition in which little insulin is produced by the body. Type 1 diabetics are at risk from a younger age for developing heart disease.
Smoking – Smoking is a significant risk factor in the progression of heart disease. It can increase blood pressure by damaging the lining of the blood vessels. Smoking is also a major cause of atherosclerosis, a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries. Aterosclerosis impedes blood flow to the heart and can lead to chest pain or other symptoms, especially during increased activity.
High Blood Pressure – When the heart has to work harder, it increases pressure on the arteries. As the pressure increases, both the heart and arteries can thicken. This overworks the heart and can lead to the development of blockages.
High Cholesterol – The higher the level of cholesterol in the bloodstream, the more heart problems can arise. Excess amounts of cholesterol floating in the blood gets into the artery wall and then is attacked by white blood cells. This causes inflammation on the inside of the wall of the artery. Smoking, high blood pressure, and LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol all impact the speed at which plaque builds up in the arteries.
First-Degree Family History – When it comes to family history, only first-degree relatives are generally considered: parents, siblings, or children. Men who experience an event at age 55 or younger are considered as having “pre-mature” coronary disease, which may signal the possibility of putting the next generation at risk. For women, the age for pre-mature coronary disease is 65 or younger. If you do have a family history of heart events at a young age, it means you should be more aware of your other cardiovascular risk factors.
We know you can’t control your age, gender, and genetics but you can control your other risk factors! Blood pressure, obesity and cholesterol can all be managed with diet and medication. If you’re a smoker, quitting now can greatly reduce your risk of a heart event in the future. If you want to calculate your risk, there are some great free tools on the Internet https://www.cardiosmart.org/Tools/Heart-Disease-Risk-Assessment
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Published June 14, 2019