Understanding Your Risk for Heart Disease

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The scary truth is that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. That’s why it is essential to be well informed and understand what factors make you vulnerable to heart disease.

Understand your risk.

Risk factors are the conditions that increase your risk of developing a disease. Risk factors are either modifiable, meaning you can take measures to change them, or non-modifiable, which means they cannot be changed.

Non-modifiable risk factors include:

  • Age. At 65 years and older, the risk of developing heart disease increases significantly.
  • Gender. Men have a higher risk of suffering from a heart attack than women. However, the heart attacks women do experience are often more severe than in men.
  • Heredity. Heart disease typically runs in the family. People with a significant family history of heart disease are at an increased risk for developing an illness themselves. 

Modifiable risk factors include:

  • High blood pressure. High blood pressure, or hypertension, can increase your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. If you have high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about positive lifestyle changes, and medication needed to control your blood pressure levels.
  • High cholesterol. Too much “bad” cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) can cause the arteries to become clogged with plaque. This typically results in a heart attack or an increased risk of developing heart disease. To lower your cholesterol, you should eat a heart-healthy diet, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Tobacco use. Cigarette smoking can damage the heart and blood vessels, which increases your risk for heart conditions such as atherosclerosis and heart attack. If you smoke cigarettes or e-cigarettes, talk to your doctor about smoking cessation to improve your heart health.
  • Alcohol use. Too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure and increase the levels of triglycerides in the blood. To reduce your risk of developing heart disease, moderate drinking– an average of one drink per day for women and one or two for men– should be practiced.
  • Stress. Stressful situations tend to raise your blood pressure and heart rate. If you are experiencing higher-than-average stress, consider self-calming techniques to improve your mental health, and reduce your heart disease risk.
  • Physical inactivity. Living a sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk of heart disease. Regular, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity is encouraged to decrease excess weight and improve your overall health.

Click here to keep reading this on the Baptist Health website.

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