There is no single thing that causes heart disease. Several risk factors that contribute to it. Some of these factors are modifiable, meaning you can control them to reduce your chances of developing heart disease. Other risk factors are non-modifiable. Here we list the most important risk factors, and the way you can act to keep them under control.
A. Modifiable risk factors
Why? The evidence that tobacco use kills you is incontrovertible. Smoking promotes cardiovascular disease through a number of mechanisms. It damages the endothelium (the lining of the blood vessels), increases fatty deposits in the arteries, increases clotting, raises LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), reduces HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) and promotes coronary artery spasm. The addictive component of tobacco, nicotine, accelerates the heart rate and raises blood pressure.
How to prevent? QUIT SMOKING. Avoid secondhand smoke too. Quitting smoking may be the best thing you can do to prevent heart disease.
Why? Diabetes causes high levels of glucose in your blood. Uncontrolled diabetes causes damage to your blood vessels making them more prone to damage from atherosclerosis and hypertension. People with diabetes develop atherosclerosis at a younger age and more severely than non-diabetics.
How to prevent? If you know that you have diabetes, you should be under a doctor's care. Good control of blood sugar levels can reduce your risk. If you think you may have diabetes, see your doctor for tests.
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE (HYPERTENSION)
Why? High blood pressure increases the cardiac workload, causing the heart to thicken and become stiffer. High blood pressure is a risk factor for atherosclerosis and ischemic heart disease. If high blood pressure was eliminated, it is estimated there would be 18% fewer cases of heart attacks.
How to prevent? Although increasing blood pressure is part of aging, a healthy low salt diet, physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the risk of this happening.
Why? People who sit for long periods of time have been found to have higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, and death.
How to prevent? EXERCISE. Exercise improves cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Helps you to stay on a healthy weight. Reducing sedentary behavior by breaking up how long you sit will benefit your overall health.
HIGH BLOOD CHOLESTEROL LEVELS
Why? Too much bad cholesterol (LDL) in your blood can cause fatty material to build up in your artery walls (atherosclerosis). When plaque builds up in the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart, you are at greater risk of having a heart attack. The risk is particularly high if you have a high level of bad cholesterol and a low level of good cholesterol (HDL).
How to prevent? A diet low in cholesterol, saturated and trans fat, and simple sugars will help lower cholesterol levels and reduce your chance of having heart disease.
Why? Extra weight can lead to increased high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and diabetes, all major risk factors for heart disease.
How to prevent? Exercise at least 30 minutes a day and maintain a heathy lifestyle and dietary habits. Choose a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Choose low-fat dairy products. Eat fewer animal products that contain cheese, cream, or eggs. Avoid saturated fats and anything that contains partially-hydrogenated or hydrogenated fats.
Why? Emotionally upsetting event can serve as a trigger for a heart attack or angina in some people. Stress can contribute to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular risks. Some of the ways people cope with stress—drinking alcohol, abusing other substances, smoking, or overeating—also contribute to increase the risk of heart attack.
How to prevent? Use management techniques to lower your chance. Use relaxation techniques. Manage your time. Set realistic goals.
Why? Drinking more than a moderate amount of alcohol can cause heart-related problems such as high blood pressure, stroke, irregular heartbeats, and cardiomyopathy (disease of the cardiac muscle).
How to prevent? Drink moderately.
B. Non-modifiable risk factors
Why? If a first-degree male relative (e.g. father, brother) has suffered a heart attack before the age of 55, or if a first-degree female relative has suffered one before the age of 65, you are at greater risk of developing heart disease.
How to prevent? Know your family history of health problems related to heart disease.
Why? The majority of people who die of coronary heart disease are 65 or older.
How to prevent? Heart attack prevention should begin early in life. Start with an assessment of your risk factors and a plan you can follow to keep your heart attack risk low. Prevention is critical, because many first-ever heart attacks are fatal or disabling.
Why? Statistics show that in the UK, if you are of a South Asian background, you may be at an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease. if you are of an African Caribbean background, you may be more likely to have high blood pressure. the prevalence of type 2 diabetes for people of African Caribbean and South Asian ethnicity is much higher than in the rest of the population.
How to prevent? Control your modifiable risk factors.
Why? Overall, men have a higher risk of heart attack than women. The difference narrows after women reach menopause. After the age of 65, the risk of heart disease is about the same between the sexes when other risk factors are similar.
How to prevent? Control your modifiable risk factors.
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