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Heart Disease Risk Factors that You Can Control

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in the United States, one person dies every 33 seconds from heart disease. It is the leading cause of death for men, women, and for most racial and ethnic groups. Heart disease is attributed to a large amount of total health care costs, medications, and loss of work.

The good news is that there are some heart disease risk factors that are controllable. These include lifestyle changes, diet, exercise, and receiving regular medical care.

The first risk factor that contributes to heart disease is cholesterol level. Cholesterol levels can be lowered through diet, exercise, and medication if needed.  Lowering your LDL (bad cholesterol) by one percent reduces your risk of heart disease by one percent. A one percent increase in HDL (good cholesterol) reduces the risk of developing heart disease by two to four percent.

Another risk factor is smoking. Those who smoke one to five cigarettes a day increase their risk of heart attack by 38 percent, and 40 cigarettes a day by 900 percent. If you stop smoking, the risk of developing heart disease decreased over time. After three to five years, your risk of developing heart attack is the same as a non-smoker. Quitting smoking is challenging but can be done. Click this link for help.

Stress is another risk factor that is often overlooked. Stress can increase inflammation in the body, which in turn can increase your blood pressure and lower your good cholesterol.  It is important to identify and lower the sources of stress in your life. These include anger, depression, and anxiety. If you feel stressed seek professional help from your health care provider.

Diabetes increases your risk of developing heart disease by 50 percent or more. Many individuals are not aware that they have diabetes. Some of the signs of diabetes include increased hunger, increase thirst, and increased urination. If you have any of these symptoms or are unsure, ask your health care provider to screen you for diabetes. If you have diabetes, it is important to keep your blood sugar as close to normal as possible.

An unhealthy weight is another risk factor that contributes to the development of heart disease. An increased amount of fat around the waist is a risk factor for heart attack. It can also contribute to high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and cholesterol. Waist measurement is a better predictor of risk than weight alone. Men with waist measurements from 37.1-39.9 inches are at an intermediate risk. Men with waist measurements at 40 inches and above are high risk. Women with waist measures from 31.6-34.9 inches are at an intermediate risk. Women with waist measurements at 35 inches and above are at a high risk.  Contact your health care provider if you fall into any of these categories. You can also schedule an appointment with us by clicking this link and scheduling an appointment.

Another risk factor is an unhealthy diet. Eating less than the recommended four to five servings of fruits and vegetables puts you at an increased risk of developing heart disease. Many cardiologists recommend following the Mediterranean diet. This is a plant-based diet. It does not mean that you cannot eat meat, it means that you eat more fruits and vegetables. Read our blog on the Mediterranean diet.

Lack of exercise also increases the risk of developing heart disease. Inactivity can lead to fatty material building up in the blood vessels. If you blood vessels are clogged, it can lead to a heart attack. Exercise also contributes to lowering of the blood pressure, raises good cholesterol, reduces bad cholesterol, controls blood sugar levels, and increases the number of calories your burn and helps you maintain a healthy weight.

Finally, the amount of alcohol consumed can contribute to the risk of developing heart disease. Excessive alcohol intake can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, and stroke. Alcohol can also lead to an unhealthy weight and liver disease.

In summary, controlling the above risk factors can lower your risk of developing heart disease. I recommend completing an annual physical examination with your health care provider to further lower your risks.