In epidemiology, a risk factor is a variable associated with an increased risk of disease or condition. The risk factors for heart disease have been studied extensively and the evidence supports that although some determinants cannot be altered, most of the risk factors can be modified to prevent or lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Following a healthy lifestyle and limiting the complications of chronic disease can significantly lower the risk factors and promote a higher quality of life.
Uncontrollable Risk Factors
• Men over 40 years of age
• Women over 55 years of age
• Family history of heart disease
Although these factors cannot be changed, prudent living can lower the determinants of cardiac disease. It is recommended for people with a family history of early heart disease to have regular examinations to monitor cardiac status before they are symptomatic.
Extra Weight Around the Waistline is a Key Predictor of Heart Disease
Overweight and obese individuals are at a higher risk for heart disease. However, the amount of fat around the waist may contribute more to arteriosclerosis than fat on the hips, thighs or upper arms. Researchers have found that abdominal fat produces hormones and proteins that cause inflammation of the heart and blood vessels. Consequently, people of normal weight with excess fat on the abdomen may be at a higher risk for heart disease than obese people.
High Blood Pressure
Blood pressures in excess of 140/90 cause damage to the cardiac muscle and surrounding vasculature. Overtime, the heart can weaken and become susceptible to failure. Blood pressure is controllable with medication, diet and exercise.
Elevated Levels of Cholesterol
Serum blood cholesterol lines the insides of blood vessels with fatty acids that harden and form layers of plaque. Overtime, plaque can block blood vessels and induce a sudden heart attack. Plaque formation also produces inflammation of the coronary arteries, increases blood pressure and may damage other organs in the body.
Diabetes and Heart Disease
Diabetes is a very high risk factor in heart disease. Consistently high blood sugar damages the structures of the heart and may cause arrhythmias that lead to cardiac arrest. This condition causes changes to the heart muscle and may result congestive heart failure. The risk of diabetic heart failure can be lowered with a diabetic diet, appropriate exercise, and the strict management of blood sugar.
Smoking and Nicotine
Besides lung disease, smoking is a high risk for heart disease. The smoke contains nicotine that decreases oxygen to the heart and increase blood pressure. In addition, nicotine increases blood clotting and damages the cells that line the blood vessels in the heart and body.
Physically Inactivity and Heart Disease
The American Heart Association reports that approximately 35% of coronary heart disease is due to physical inactivity. The recommended amount of activity to maintain a healthy heart is 30-60 minutes of aerobic exercise a week.
Lower the Risks of Heart Disease
To promote a healthy heart, it is recommended to lower the risks of cardiovascular disease. Managing stress and avoiding chronic disease with a healthy diet and exercise routine can promote a high quality life and decrease the risk of heart disease.
What Are the Risks of Heart Disease?