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Heart Disease Risk Factors

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Knowing heart disease risk factors associated is your first step toward reducing your chances of developing it. Surprisingly, there are many lifestyle changes you can make that will not only help to slow down the progression of heart disease, but may actually prevent heart disease risk factors or reverse the damage caused by it.

Risk factors are certain conditions that increase your chances of developing heart disease. Some – called non-modifiable risk factors—you cannot do anything about. The other – modifiable risk factors—you can control or treat. Naturally, the more heart disease risk factors you have, the greater your chances of developing heart disease. That makes it even more important for you to focus on the things you can change to ensure a healthy heart.

Risk Factors You’re Stuck With:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Family History
  • Race

Risk Factors You Can Control:

Obviously there’s nothing you can do about your age, and unfortunately, the older you get, the more likely your chances are of developing heart disease. About 85% of people who die from heart attack are 65 or older. While it’s never too late to change, the best approach is to develop a healthy lifestyle early on. See that children in your life set good eating habits and regular exercise routines so that they can look forward to long lives free from heart problems.

Whether you’re male or female makes a difference, too. Men are at greater risk of having a heart attack than women, but that doesn’t mean women are risk-free. Heart disease is still the leading killer of both sexes. And after women go through menopause, their risk of developing heart disease increases almost to the level of men’s. Today, one of every two women in the U.S. dies of heart disease or stroke. Only one out of every 30 dies of breast cancer. Men usually have classic symptoms (family history, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking), whereas women have more atypical symptoms, such as shortness of breath, nausea or fatigue. A woman’s risk increases after menopause because estrogen provides a natural protection against heart disease by performing such tasks as increasing HDL (good) cholesterol and decreasing LDL (bad) cholesterol. After menopause, your estrogen level decreases, so your risk of developing heart disease goes up.

Your racial heritage has implications as well. The risk factors for heart disease are higher among African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, American Indians, native Hawaiians and some Asian-Americans. These groups tend to have higher rates of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, all of which can lead to diseases of the heart.

African-Americans also are at extreme risk for stroke, and are about twice as likely as Caucasians to have a first-time stroke. Nearly 45% of African-American adults have high blood pressure, one of the highest rates in the world.
Source: American Heart Association, Heart Facts 2007


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