Conditions that increase risk for Heart Disease
Several medical conditions can increase your risk for heart disease. If you have one of these conditions, you can take steps to control it and lower your risk.
High blood pressure
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. It is a medical condition that occurs when the pressure of the blood in your arteries and other blood vessels is too high. The high pressure, if not controlled, can affect your heart and other major organs of your body, including your kidneys and brain.
High blood pressure is often called a “silent killer” because many people do not notice symptoms to signal high blood pressure. Lowering blood pressure by changes in lifestyle or by medication can reduce your risk for heart disease and heart attack.
Cholesterol substance is made by the liver or found in certain foods. Your liver makes enough for your body’s needs, but we often get more cholesterol from the foods we eat. If we take in more cholesterol than the body can use, the extra cholesterol can build up in the walls of the arteries, including those of the heart. This leads to narrowing of the arteries and can decrease the blood flow to the heart, brain, kidneys, and other parts of the body.
Some cholesterol is “good,” and some is “bad.” High cholesterol is the term used for high levels of low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, which are considered “bad” because they can lead to heart disease. A higher level of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or HDL, is considered “good” because it provides some protection against heart disease.
A blood test can detect the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides (a related kind of fat) in your blood.
Diabetes mellitus also increases the risk for heart disease. Your body needs glucose (sugar) for energy. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that helps move glucose from the food you eat to your body’s cells. If you have diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin, can’t use its own insulin as well as it should, or both.
Diabetes causes sugars to build up in the blood. The risk of death from heart disease for adults with diabetes is higher than adults who do not have diabetes.
Obesity is excess body fat. Obesity is linked to higher low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol and triglyceride levels and to lower high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good”) cholesterol levels. In addition to heart disease, obesity can also lead to high blood pressure and diabetes. Talk to your health care team about a plan to reduce your weight to a healthy level.
Heart disease behaviour
Your lifestyle choices can increase your risk for heart disease and heart attack. To reduce your risk, your doctor may recommend changes to your lifestyle. The good news is that healthy behaviours can lower your risk for heart disease.
Diets high in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol have been linked to heart disease and related conditions, such as atherosclerosis. Also, too much salt (sodium) in the diet can raise blood pressure levels.
Not getting enough physical activity can lead to heart disease. It also can increase the chances of having other medical conditions that are risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Regular physical activity can lower your risk for heart disease.
Too much alcohol
Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure levels and the risk for heart disease. It also increases levels of triglycerides, a form of cholesterol, which can harden your arteries.
Tobacco use increases the risk for heart disease and heart attack. Cigarette smoking can damage the heart and blood vessels, which increases your risk for heart conditions such as atherosclerosis and heart attack. Also, nicotine raises blood pressure, and carbon monoxide reduces the amount of oxygen that your blood can carry. Exposure to other people’s secondhand smoke can increase the risk for heart disease even for nonsmokers.
Genetics and family history
When members of a family pass traits from one generation to another through genes, that process is called heredity.
It is also likely that people with a family history of heart disease share common environments and other potential factors that increase their risk.
The risk for heart disease can increase even more when heredity combines with unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as smoking cigarettes and eating an unhealthy diet.
Both men and women can have heart disease. Some other characteristics that you cannot control, like your age, sex, and race or ethnicity, can affect your risk for heart disease.
Preventing Heart Disease: Healthy Living Habits
By living a healthy lifestyle, you can help keep your blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar normal and lower your risk for heart disease and heart attack. A healthy lifestyle includes the following:
- Eating a healthy diet.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Getting enough physical activity.
- Not smoking or using other forms of tobacco.
- Limiting alcohol use.
Choosing healthful meal and snack options can help you avoid heart disease and its complications. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods.
Eating foods low in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol and high in fiber can help prevent high cholesterol. Limiting salt (sodium) in your diet also can lower your blood pressure. Limiting sugar in your diet can lower you blood sugar level to prevent or help control diabetes.
Being overweight or obese increases your risk for heart disease. To determine if your weight is in a healthy range, doctors often calculate your body mass index (BMI).
Doctors sometimes also use waist and hip measurements to calculate excess body fat. They may use special equipment to calculate excess body fat and hydration status.
Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar levels. For adults, the Surgeon General recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking or bicycling, every week. Children and adolescents should get 1 hour of physical activity every day.
Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. Your doctor can suggest ways to help you quit.
Source: National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion , Division for Heart Disease and Stroke (US)