Knowing yourself – Heart disease risk factors
Gather up a few people and ask them what the part of the body is the most important. You will probably get very different answers. For us, the heart is most important. It shamefully pumps the entire blood supply allowing the body to perform all of its functions. When the heart’s pumping function is impaired, the other bodily functions are impacted as well. It is important to educate yourself and those you care about of heart disease risk factors.
Heart disease risk factors – Prevention is key
As with other disease processes, prevention is key to remaining healthy. Some heart disease risk factors are preventable and managed by you!
- Weight. Maintaining a healthy weight by diet and exercise help mitigate your heart disease risk. Think of your body as a car; a 4 cylinder compact car engine isn’t designed to power an 8 cylinder-sized SUV.
- High Blood Pressure. Maintaining a healthy blood pressure helps to lower your heart disease risk. Diet and exercise, or prescription medication as directed by your physician, can help decrease your blood pressure.
- Tobacco use. No tobacco use is safe. It is well known that smoking is a large heart disease risk factor. The effect of smokeless tobacco, or “snuff,” is not as well known, however it does tend to elevate blood pressure. Electronic cigarettes or “vaping” effects are not well known either, and are not endorsed due to lack of evidence.
- Activity level. Being a couch potato, or sedentary, can lead to increased heart disease risk factors. Daily activity helps to keep your heart healthy as well as help manage other risk factors. It doesn’t have to be much – just keep moving!
- Diet. A healthy, balanced diet goes a long way. Modern culture does its best to prevent this diet. A poor diet can compound other problems, including cholesterol, blood pressure and weight. Moderation is key, and always consult professional advice for dietary needs.
Some heart disease risk factors aren’t as easily prevented. Some of these are genetic, or “born with,” heart disease risk factors.
- Diabetes. Being diabetic (or “pre-diabetic”) tends to elevate your risk factors for many disease processes. Diabetes causes changes in your vasculature, and your heart is not immune. Keeping diabetes well managed and controlled will help reduce your heart disease risk.
- Cholesterol. High levels of cholesterol in the blood is a large heart disease risk factor. High levels of cholesterol can allow deposits to form in the blood vessels supplying the heart. If these deposits break off, a heart attack can occur.
- Family history. Immediate, blood-related, family history of early heart disease is a large predictor of heart disease risk. It is important to inform your physician of this and other family history.
- Age. Getting older has its own set of challenges. The natural processes that occur as our bodies age also affect our heart. Women have a higher heart disease risk starting around age 55 due to the change in hormones. It is important to address all possible heart disease risk factors before they age with us.
Heart disease risk factors – How to manage them
It should be a personal goal to proactively manage your heart disease risk factors, should you have any. Always consult your physician before starting or stopping medications or diet plans. Recognition, awareness, and education of heart disease risk factors allows you to better prepare yourself to manage them. Moderation and keeping an active lifestyle can lead to longer, more enjoyed years!