Heart Disease – Learn the Risk Factors
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Heart disease is a widely-used term that covers many different diseases of the heart and the blood vessels. Some forms of heart disease develop when the heart is attacked by viruses or are due to congenital deformities. However, in a lot of cases, heart disease is related to the lifestyle and choices you make on a daily basis. It is therefore important to be able to understand that there are risk factors that contribute to heart disease. Some of them are under your control, but some of them are not. What follows is a summary of these different risk factors.
Risk Factors that you cannot change:
* Age – Heart disease increases as you age.
* Family History – Your risk of heart disease goes up if an immediate family member has had heart disease or a stroke.
* Gender – Being male puts you at increased risk of heart disease development. Women, however, are at increased risk after menopause.
* Race – If you are African-American, Mexican-American, South Asian, Native American or Aboriginal, you are at increased risk.
Risk Factors that you can change or control:
* Lack of activity and exercise – Too many people have become couch potatoes and this sedentary lifestyle is affecting our hearts in a negative way. You need to start exercising every day to ward off heart disease. Doing this allows you to maintain a healthy weight and keep your heart strong and pumping effectively.
* Smoking – Whether you are the one smoking or you are breathing in second-hand smoke, you are damaging your blood vessel walls each time. Smoking also causes your heart to work harder, because it reduces the amount of oxygen carried in your bloodstream. It should be noted that this applies to smoking anything whether it be cigarettes, cigars, or pipes.
* Eating Habits – You need to focus more on heart-healthy fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and foods that have a lot of fiber in them. As well, you want to avoid or decrease consumption of foods that are high in fat, and replace them with foods that have healthy fats such as the Omega 3 fatty acids. Salt is also known to contribute to high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease, so limit your salt intake as well. You also want to limit your alcohol intake, as drinking more than two per day, increases your blood pressure.
* High blood pressure – Blood pressure that is too high damages your blood vessels, and makes the heart work harder. Over time, the heart can then become weaker. Regular visits to your physician to monitor your blood pressure is important, as is taking any prescribed medications to lower it. Blood pressure can also be controlled by starting an exercise program under the guidance of your physician, losing weight if necessary, decreasing and controlling stress in your life, not smoking, and eating healthy foods.
* High blood cholesterol – You want to ensure that the less healthy LDL cholesterol is kept in check and that the healthier HDL cholesterol can do its job in your body. High levels of cholesterol is said to increase the deposits of fatty streaks on the blood vessel walls, which can lead to their narrowing over time.
* Diabetes – It is important if you have diabetes, that you control your blood sugar levels through diet, exercise, and medications as simply having diabetes increases your risk for developing heart disease.
* Stress – Stress, when it becomes prolonged, is not good for your heart. You need to learn how to de-stress by exercising, joining a fun activity, or just learning to say “no” to things that come your way on a daily basis.
In summary, there are risk factors for heart disease; some of which we can control or change, others which we cannot control. Even if you have a number of the risk factors that you cannot change, do know that there are other risk factors that you CAN change.
By Shanae Ferne