Have you ever had a heart attack? Do you know anyone that has? Chances are that you do. 2,200 Americans die from heart disease every day. That is absurd and disturbing! February is American Heart Health Month, aimed to raise awareness for the nation’s #1 cause of death.
There are ten heart disease risk factors. Knowing your risk for heart disease will help you modify your lifestyle and take control of your health. When we’re done you’ll know what the risk factors are and what you can do take control. Ready?
Heart Disease Risk Factors
The majority of heart disease risk factors can be controlled, treated or modified. However, there are three that you cannot control. Here they are:
- Family History – A family history of heart disease would be described as first degree relatives, male (<55 years old) or female (<65 years old) who have had a heart attack or stroke.
- Age – Many people wish that they could make themselves younger. Some people even celebrate their 29th birthday forever! Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that as the body ages so does the heart, even in the absence of heart disease. The heart must do more work which becomes more complicated in the presence of heart disease.
- Gender – A man’s risk of developing heart disease is greater than pre-menopausal women. Once women go through menopause the risk is equal. Women are not immune to heart disease. 1 out of every 3 women will have a heart related event.
Here are the seven risk factors that you can change:
- High Cholesterol – The technical term is Dyslipidemia. It’s classified as LDL (aka bad) cholesterol greater then 130 and/or HDL (aka good) cholesterol below 40. For those that need a review on cholesterol!
- High Blood Pressure – Also known as Hypertension. It’s classified as greater then 140/99 mm/Hg and must be confirmed on two separate occasions.
- Diabetes – The technical term is Impaired Fasting Glucose. It’s classified as higher then 100 mg/dl on two separate occasions.
- Physical Activity – Are you sedentary? Are you active in your occupation, in your free time and with structured exercise? If you’re not even close to meeting the minimum recommended guidelines for exercise, put a check mark next to this one too.
- Obesity/Overweight - This can be classified with a few different methods. There’s Body Mass Index (BMI; greater then 30 kg/m), waist girth/circumference (40+ inches for men and 35+ inches for women) or waist to hip ratio (greater then 0.95 for men and 0.86 for women). With the short comings of BMI, the more accurate methods would be circumference measurements or waist to hip ratio.
- Cigarette Smoking – If you currently smoke or have quit within the last 6 months then you would qualify. Smoking doesn’t do anything good for your arteries. It’s estimated that 10% of all heart disease deaths are caused by smoking. Quitting smoking for 15 years returns your risk of heart disease to that of a non smoker.
- Unhealthy Diet – Diets high in salt, saturated fats, trans fats, processed foods and sugars and low in fruits and veggies have a negative impact to overall heart health. Sound familiar? Like the average American’s diet.
What’s the next step?
Now that you’ve had all of the risk factors laid out in front of you, you should make sure you know all of YOUR information. If you are unaware of your numbers then you need to call the doctor’s office or make an appointment to find out.
- Whaley, M.H. et al. “ACSM’s Guidelines For Exercise Testing and Prescription.” 7th Ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, pp. 19-28.
- “Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors.” Accessed on 6, February 2015. http://www.world-heart-federation.org/press/fact-sheets/cardiovascular-disease-risk-factors/
- “About Heart Disease in Women.” Accessed on 6, February 2015. https://www.goredforwomen.org/home/about-heart-disease-in-women/
- Image courtesy of jscreationzs at Freedigitalphotos.net