Did you know that one fourth of all deaths in the United States are the result of cardiovascular disease? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart attacks strike more than 700,000 Americans each year. Find out the risk factors of cardiovascular disease so that you can take control to lower your risk.
There are several risk factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease. Some of these factors are beyond your control, including the following:
- Family history
As your age goes up, your risk of coronary heart disease increases. According to the American Heart Association, the majority of cardiovascular disease-related deaths occur in individuals who are 65 years of age and older.
A family history of cardiovascular disease increases your risk, either through genetically inherited traits, such as a tendency to have high blood pressure, or as a result of shared lifestyle habits, such as eating unhealthy dietary choices. If you are African-American or Caucasian, your risk of coronary heart disease is higher than if your race is Asian, American Indian, native Alaskan or Pacific islander.
It may surprise you to see that gender is not a factor that made the list. While coronary heart disease was once thought to cause more deaths in men than in women, it has now been established that this disease claims the lives of men and women in equal numbers, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Unfortunately, you cannot turn back the clock on your age, change your race or sever branches off of your family tree. However, there are many more risk factors that you can control.
Controllable Risk Factors
The good news is that there are more controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease than there are uncontrollable ones. These are all risk factors that you can do something about. Controllable risk factors for coronary heart disease include the following:
- Excessive stress
- Lack of exercise
- Unhealthy diet
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Unhealthy cholesterol levels
If you have been diagnosed with hypertension or diabetes, follow your physician's recommendations to control your condition. If you are a smoker, ask your doctor about some of the treatment options that are available for quitting this unhealthy habit. With today's hectic lifestyles, stress runs rampant and can take a toll on your health. Engage in stress reduction activities, such as yoga, meditation or a relaxing hobby.
If you have led a sedentary lifestyle, find a physical activity that you can enjoy and start moving. Whether you choose to join a fitness club, dust off your bicycle or take brisk walks, gradually increase the number of days each week that you engage in your exercise. This activity, combined with a nutritionally balanced diet that is high in lean proteins, fresh vegetables, healthy fats and whole grain carbohydrates and low in sugar, unhealthy fats, salt and processed foods, will help you to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. If you enjoy alcoholic drinks, the American Heart Association recommends that men limit their consumption to two drinks per day, and women should stick to one drink per day. Keep tabs on your cholesterol levels as part of your annual cardiac risk assessment.
Cardiac Risk Assessment Screenings
Knowledge is power. As part of your routine health checkup, your primary care physician or cardiovascular doctor will conduct screenings to assess your risk for heart disease. By performing these simple tests regularly, you will be able to keep tabs on your health and catch any contributing conditions early in their onset. This will empower you to take control in treating them so that your risk of heart disease can be reduced. Cardiac risk assessment screenings include the following:
- Your blood pressure will be checked. A healthy blood pressure reading is less than 120 over 80 mm Hg.
- Blood will be drawn to check your cholesterol profile. A healthy total cholesterol number is less than 200 mg/dL. Ideally, your LDL, or bad cholesterol, number should be less than 100 mg/dL, and your HDL, or good cholesterol, number should be 40 mg/dL or greater.
- Your blood glucose level will also be checked from the blood sample. A normal fasting blood glucose level is between 70 and 100 mg/dL.
- Your weight will be assessed. A healthy weight is indicated by a body mass index of between 18.5 and 24.9.
Additional tests, such as an EKG and additional blood tests, may be ordered by a cardiovascular doctor as well, depending on your age, family history and other cardiac risk factors. Gathering as much information as you can regarding your risks for cardiovascular disease will enable you to be proactive in reducing those risks, which can result in a longer lifespan and a better quality of life.