Heart Disease Risk Factors For Dummies
As a healthy person, you should know your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Your risk depends on many factors – some you can control and others you cannot. By learning about your peril, you can make better lifestyle choices to help prevent a heart attack, stroke, or coronary artery disease.
Having a family history of heart disease increases your own risk. If you have a mother or sister who had heart disease before the age of 65 or father or brother who had heart disease before the age of 55, you should learn your risk from an early age so you can take steps to prevent early onset heart disease. Talk with your doctor about your family history and make a plan to monitor your other risk factors.
Unlike family history, many conditions that raise your risk of cardiovascular disease can be improved. Heart healthy lifestyle choices are a good idea for all healthy people. But if you have one or more of the ‘modifiable risk factors,’ take steps today to reduce your risk.
Modifiable Risk Factors
Do you smoke? Smoking increases your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Are you overweight? If you are overweight (BMI of 25 to 29.5) or obese (BMI of 30 or greater), take steps to lose weight and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Also, a large waist circumference (greater than 35 inches for women and greater than 40 inches for men) is related to a higher risk of heart disease. Eat a lower-calorie diet add physical activity and exercise to your daily routine.
Do you have high blood pressure? If your systolic blood pressure (top number) is 120 or more or your diastolic blood pressure (lower number) is 80 or more, take steps to lower these numbers to a healthy range. You can lose weight, modify your diet and add exercise to try to reduce your blood pressure. If these lifestyle changes do not improve your blood pressure, blood pressure lowering medications can help.
Do you have high cholesterol? Total cholesterol of 240 mg/dL or more and LDL cholesterol of 160 or greater is considered high cholesterol that increases risk. Again, lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and quitting smoking can be effective at lowering your cholesterol. Also, be sure to eat healthy fats, eat less saturated and trans fat and add more fiber to your diet. Cholesterol-lowering medications, known as statins, also exist.
Do you have diabetes? Most people with type II diabetes eventually die of heart disease. Fasting blood sugar greater than 100 mg/dL can increase your risk. High blood sugar that is not treated can last for years, damaging your vessels and tissues in the process. Some signs that your blood sugar is too high are constant hunger, frequent urination, and excessive thirst. You may also experience fatigue, weight loss, blurry vision, and irritability.
Do you have high triglycerides? Triglycerides greater than 150 mg/dL can increase your risk. Exercise, a heart healthy diet, not drinking alcohol, and a healthy weight is essential keys to lowering triglycerides in your blood.
Even if are healthy today, you may have a high risk of developing heart disease. Find out your heart disease risk by answering these questions. The first step is knowing your risk. Then, you can learn how to make the right lifestyle choices to ensure maximum heart health.