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Heart Disease: How To Reduce The Risk

Are You At Risk For Heart Disease?

Thursday, March 29, 2012 - 22:02

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Risk factors can be divided into two categories:

Need To Know:

People who have more than one risk factor for coronary heart disease may be at much greater risk for CHD than people with no risk factors. For example, a person who has a high cholesterol level and smokes two packs of cigarettes a day may have as much as a 10 times greater chance of having a heart attack as a non-smoker with normal blood cholesterol.

Risk Factors You Can't Do Anything About

Some risk factors for coronary heart disease (CHD) are beyond your control. Remember that having an uncontrollable risk factor for CHD does not mean that you are destined to develop CHD. It does mean, however, that you should do what you can to care for your heart's health.

  • Age: The older you get, the more likely you are to develop CHD
  • Race: Black individuals are more likely than white individuals to develop CHD because they develop high blood pressure(hypertension) more often. High blood pressure increases risk for CHD.
  • Gender: Middle-aged men have a higher risk of CHD than middle-aged women do. The risk of CHD is similar in postmenopausal women and in men.
  • Heredity: The genetic make-up of some individuals increases their chances of developing CHD.

Risk Factors You Can Do Something About

  • High cholesterol levels: High levels of blood cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia) contribute to the build-up of plaques that can clog the blood vessels leading to the heart, narrowing them and potentially blocking blood flow to the heart.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension): High blood pressure strains the heart and increases wear and tear on the blood vessels, making blockage more likely.

    For further information on high blood pressure, go to High Blood Pressure.

  • Smoking: The Surgeon General of the United States has stated that cigarette smoking is the most important of the known modifiable risk factors for CHD. Nicotine in cigarettes speeds up the heart and also narrows the arteries, making it harder for enough blood to get through.
  • Being overweight: According to the American Heart Association guidelines, obesity is a major risk factor for CHD. Obesity increases blood pressure, blood cholesterol levels, and the risk of diabetes, and may directly contribute to CHD.
  • Inactivity: When you are inactive, your circulation is less efficient, increasing risk of blood vessel blockage.
  • Stress: Stress can increase blood pressure in some individuals.

Need To Know:

People who suffer from diabetes - either insulin-dependent or non-insulin-dependent - are also at a higher risk of developing CHD. Diabetes accelerates blockage of blood vessels. People with diabetes are also more likely to have high blood cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. Although diabetes cannot be cured, people with diabetes can significantly reduce their risk of CHD by controlling their diabetes.

For further information on diabetes, go to Diabetes In Adults.


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