Risk Factors for Heart Disease: What to Watch For

Americans suffer greatly from heart disease. Each year 1 in 4 American adults die from heart disease, deeming it the number one reason for death in the U.S.

Studies have also shown that roughly half of Americans have one of three key risk factors for heart disease.

Three Most Common Risk Factors for Heart Disease

1. High Blood Pressure

risk factors for heart disease

High blood pressure affects nearly one third of American adults and costs about $46 billion annually in health care, missed work days, and medications.

High blood pressure is defined as having blood pressure over 140/90. Blood pressure can be tested at a doctor’s office, in a pharmacy, or at home with your own machine.

Food high in sodium and sugar contribute to high blood pressure, as they restrict blood flow and oxygen to the rest of the body. Tightened, blocked, or clotted blood vessels result in too high of blood pressure within the vessels and arteries, which can lead to heart disease.

There aren’t many symptoms of high blood pressure, so getting blood pressure checked annually will keep you up to date on if you need to be concerned or not.

2. High Cholesterol Levels

risk factors for heart disease

Cholesterol levels rise when we consume too much food that is high in “bad” cholesterol, or LDL.

What Else Causes High Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is also created by our body, but excess cholesterol can collect along the lines of artery walls and reduce the amount of blood and oxygen that can reach the heart.

Getting a blood test can let you know what your cholesterol levels are and if you’re at a high or low risk for heart disease.

3. Smoking Habit

risk factors for heart disease

Almost 40 million Americans smoke, with about 77% of them smoking each day. Cigarette smoking is considered “the leading preventable cause of disease and deaths in the United States” according to the Surgeon General.

Smoking is a risk factor for heart disease for more than one reason. It increases blood pressure on its own, decreases any endurance to exercise, and reduces the amount of HDL, “good” cholesterol, in your blood.

Lungs are not the only organ affected by smoking. Heart disease is a serious risk for smokers and when combined with preexisting high cholesterol or blood pressure levels, it becomes even more dangerous.

Those surrounded by smokers, despite not smoking, are also at increased risk of heart disease.

Talk to a doctor about quitting and find a program that will help you reach that goal to help you and those around you.

Additional Risk Factors for Heart Disease

Family History of Heart Disease

Heredity and genetics can determine if you are more at risk for heart disease or not. If you have a family history of heart disease, then the likelihood of of you getting heart disease increases.

Don’t worry too much though. Heredity doesn’t mean you are bound to get it despite all your efforts.

Eating well, exercising, and having healthy lifestyle habits can help you stay just as healthy as someone who is not predisposed to heart disease.

Diet and Exercise

Heart disease has also been linked to obesity, which is usually a result of poor dieting and absence of exercise.

Without proper diet and exercise, blood pressure and cholesterol levels generally rise and lead to worse problems like heart disease, stroke, or diabetes.

Eating too much fatty and high cholesterol foods lead to plaque buildup in blood vessels, raising blood pressure and risk of heart disease.

Exercise lowers LDL and raises HDL, which helps keep blood vessels happy and healthy. Exercise also helps your heart stay strong by raising heart rate with cardio and getting blood circulating.

Age and Sex

risk factors for heart disease

With age, unfortunately, risk for heart disease rises naturally as blood pressure levels rise.

Women who have gone through menopause are twice as more at risk for heart disease than women the same age who have not yet gone through menopause.

Estrogen levels drop and hormones fluctuate, causing changes in regulation in blood pressure, stress, and metabolism.

Men also increase in risk for heart disease with age as a natural process. The risk rises with each additional risk, such as high cholesterol or obesity.

Keeping healthy throughout your life will produce the best results as you age.

Learning about your family medical history and setting goals to help you stay healthy or get healthy are essential to preventing heart disease.

If you already have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, take supplements like l-arginine to reduce blood pressure and increase energy. Working out will become easier and one healthy step can lead to another.

Most importantly, talk to your doctor about what the best options are for you to get healthy or stay healthy.

References

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/hearttruth/lower-risk/risk-factors.htm

http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/family_history.htm

http://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/facts.htm

http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/resources/data/cigarette-smoking-in-united-states.html

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