What are the Main Risk Factors for Heart Disease?
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Almost a half-million men and women die each year from this devastating disease. Rather than ignoring these alarming statistics, it is recommended that you learn more about heart disease in order to better understand the nature of the disease. While some of the risks cannot be avoided, becoming aware of the main risk factors may help you to reduce and even avoid the occurrence of heart disease and heart attack.
Risks that cannot be controlled:
- Age – As a person ages, the risk of developing heart disease increases.
- Sex – Men are more likely than women to develop heart disease.
- Family History – A family history of heart disease increases one’s risk.
Risks that can be controlled:
- Smoking – The link between smoking and heart disease is well established. Nicotine may cause blood vessels to become clogged. Carbon dioxide can damage the inner lining of the blood vessels, placing smokers at a greater risk for arthrosclerosis.
- Diet – Salty and fatty foods that are high in cholesterol can contribute to heart disease. (On the other hand, there are several foods that are considered to be heart-healthy. Foods such as fish and green leafy vegetables can contribute to a healthy heart.)
- Weight – People who are overweight are at greater risk for developing heart disease.
- Diabetes – Type I and Type II diabetes both increase the risk of heart disease.
- High Blood Pressure – Normal blood pressure is about 120/80. Individuals with untreated high blood pressure are at greater risk for developing heart conditions.
- High Cholesterol – Untreated high cholesterol may lead to problems with the heart. Treatment for high cholesterol may include proper diet, exercise, and specific medications.
- Lack of Exercise –Muscles in the body need routine exercise in order to remain healthy. Since the heart is a muscle, exercise is vital to its overall health.
- Stress – People who experience extreme and/or prolonged stress are more likely to develop heart disease. Effectively dealing with stressful situations may help to reduce this risk.
- Hygiene – Poor hygiene increases the risk for bacterial infections and other health problems, potentially placing the health of the heart at risk.
- Poor Dental Hygiene –The health of the teeth and gums is necessary for a healthy heart, as tooth decay can contribute to heart disease.
- Alcohol – Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol may contribute to high blood pressure, potentially contributing to heart disease.
- Arterial Function – the ability of the arteries to dilate is regulated by the thin layer of cells that line the blood vessels called the Endothelium. When these cells do not function properly, the arteries begin to lose their ability to dilate and supply more blood to the heart muscle quickly when necessary. Insufficient blood supply to the heart muscle causes chest pain and other symptoms such as shortness of breath, and can eventually lead to a heart attack if not properly managed.
How can risk factor information help me?
This list of risk-factors for heart disease is designed to help you recognize some of the behaviors that may lead to serious and potentially deadly health problems. Any one of these risk factors can place you at greater danger of developing heart disease.
If you have one of these risk factors you are likely to have some of the others. For example, obesity is usually linked to high blood pressure and Type II diabetes. Stress is often linked to high blood pressure. Poor diet and lack of exercise are linked to problems with obesity and high cholesterol.
In order for you to effectively reduce the risk factors for heart disease it is important to evaluate any unhealthy patterns. While living a healthy life does not require absolute perfection, it is helpful to become informed regarding the potential risks. It will then be possible for you to make choices that will contribute to a healthy lifestyle and to maintaining a healthy heart.