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Heart Disease Risk Factors: What Are They?
- Risk factors for heart disease that you can’t change: age, gender, heredity
- Risk factors for heart disease that you can change: stopping smoking, lowering your LDL cholesterol levels, hostility
- High LDL numbers increase the chance of arthrosclerosis, artery plaque, heart attack or stroke
Determining your coronary heart disease risk can be important to your future health. No matter how old you are now, you could be establishing poor health habits and doing damage to your body that will make you more vulnerable to heart disease in the future. If you are older, you can determine which risk factors you can begin to change through better lifestyle choices. Although everyone eventually dies, heart disease is one of the most unpleasant ways to go because it can significantly reduce your quality of life during the remaining years. That’s why you should take action now to start reducing your heart disease risk.
Heart Disease Risk Factors You Can’t Change
The American Heart Association (AHA) breaks down the different factors that can contribute to the development of heart disease. Unfortunately, some of these factors you have no control over. Let’s examine these first.
One is age. As you get older, your heart disease risk is going to increase. More than 80 percent of people who die as a result of heart disease are over the age of 65, according to the AHA.
Another important factor is gender. Men have a greater risk of developing heart disease throughout their lives, although women who are older are more likely to die from a heart attack than men are as they age. Heart disease risks for women increase after menopause but are never as high as they are for men.
Another important heart disease risk factor is heredity. If your mother or father died from heart disease, your risks are much higher than average for developing the disease. Also, depending on your specific racial/ethnic background, your risks may be higher. For example, the rate of heart disease among African Americans, Mexican Americans, and American Indians is higher than it is for other races, according to the AHA.
Heart Disease Risk Factors You Can Change
There is a number of factors that you can control through simple lifestyle changes. If you fall into any of the high risk groups above, you should definitely be sure to work on lowering your heart disease risk through the following types of changes.
For one, you can quit smoking. According to the AHA, smokers have up to four times as great a risk of developing heart disease as non-smokers. Stopping now, even if you have smoked for decades, can help reduce your risk.
Another is getting control over other portions of your health. For example, lowering your LDL (low density lipoproteins, or bad cholesterol), controlling your high blood pressure, and losing weight are all ways to help minimize your risks. High blood pressure makes you heart work harder, and over time that can lead to congestive heart failure. High LDL (good cholesterol) numbers may suggest an increased chance of developing arthrosclerosis, or the build-up of plague on the artery walls, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. In fact, losing just 10 pounds can reduce your risk for heart disease noticeably.
Another controllable heart disease risk factor, at least in white men, could be hostility. A study published in 2002 in an issue of Health Psychology, following more than 770 men over a three-year period, excessive hostility increased the men’s risk of developing coronary heart disease. This risk was independent of other measured risks, including blood pressure and body mass index. The study suggests that another way to reduce your heart disease risk is to simply relax.
The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.
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