Risk Factors for Heart Disease

November 12, 2012

Risk Factors for Heart Disease

Things like age, genetics and race can all affect your likelihood of developing heart disease along with diet and lifestyle.

There are many different kinds of heart disease which affect the heart in different ways – but the one thing each type of heart disease have in common is that they disrupt the pumping action of the heart. Once the pumping action of the heart is disrupted or becomes ineffective there will be a subsequent detrimental effect on vital organs such as the brain or kidneys. The efficient working of the heart is essential for a healthy life.

The term ‘heart disease’ includes a number of conditions such as coronary heart disease; heart failure; arrhythmia; cholesterol and triglyceride disorders as well as various miscellaneous conditions.

Risk factors for heart disease

Some of the risk factors for heart disease can be controlled – others cannot.

Uncontrollable risk factors for heart disease include -

  • Gender – men are more likely than women to suffer heart disease

  • Age – heart disease is more prevalent in older people

  • Family history

  • Race

  • Menopause – post menopausal women are more at risk from heart disease than pre-menopausal women.

Controllable risk factors for heart disease include -

  • Smoking – stopping smoking has numerous health benefits

  • Physical inactivity

  • High stress levels and uncontrollable anger

  • Obesity – as with smoking weight loss has numerous benefits to health

  • High blood pressure – particularly when it is difficult to control

  • High levels of so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL)

  • Low levels of ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL)

  • High levels of C-reactive protein

Lower your risks

Whilst nothing can be done to alter the uncontrollable risk factors for heart disease much can be done to reduce the effects of the controllable risk factors for heart disease. Simple lifestyle changes can bring about dramatic improvements in your overall health as well as your heart health.

  • Stop smoking – the most preventable risk factor for heart disease, smokers are more than twice as likely to have a heart attack than non-smokers.

  • Improve cholesterol levels – this is particularly important for those with diabetes or multiple heart disease risk factors. A healthy, well balanced diet should be low in saturated and Trans fats and high in fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. Some patients may need medication to lower their cholesterol levels.

  • Reduce high blood pressure – hypertension is probably the most of the heart disease risk factors. It can be controlled by weight loss and maintenance of a healthy weight, increased exercise levels and medication when necessary.

  • Diabetes – should be properly controlled by following a health, well balanced diet, getting plenty of exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and the use of prescription medication.

  • Start an exercise program – ideally we should all be doing around 30 minutes of moderate exercise on a daily basis, even mild exercise has been shown to be beneficial in reducing the risks of heart disease. Aerobic activity involving large muscle groups has been shown to be most effective for good heart health – this includes walking, swimming, cycling etc.

  • Eat a healthy, well balanced diet. Certain things must be avoided by anyone concerned about heart disease risk factors -

    • No salt

    • Reduce intake of refined sugars

    • Avoid saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol

  • Other foods which should be eaten freely have been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease -

    • Fruit and vegetables

    • Nuts

    • Whole grains

    • Foods which are high in antioxidants

    • Fresh foods which are rich sources of essential nutrients and vitamins.

  • Lose weight if necessary and maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight will exacerbate the other risk factors.

  • Manage stress levels; avoid situations which may cause outbursts of anger

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