Are You at Risk for Heart Disease?

February is American Heart Month, aimed at raising awareness of heart health, and it’s a good occasion for you to review your risk factors for developing heart disease.

It’s not simply a prudent personal health evaluation. Heart disease accounts for about 25% of all deaths annually in the United States, over 600,000 people every year, and well over half of those deaths are from a specific form of heart disease known as coronary artery disease, the most common form of heart ailment.

Over 700,000 Americans will have heart attacks this year, most of them for the first time. Here’s what you can do to evaluate your risk and prevent yourself from adding to the statistics.

Uncontrollable heart disease risks

There are some heart disease risk factors you can’t do anything about. These provide a baseline for your risk factors. If you’re male, for example, your chances for developing heart disease are higher than a woman’s. However, if you’re a postmenopausal woman, then your risk becomes greater.

If heart conditions run in your family, then by genetic connection, you have an increased chance of following in their footsteps. Finally, just getting older means you’re more likely to develop heart disease.

Remember that risk factors don’t guarantee that you’ll develop heart problems, but the more of these you have, the more diligent you may need to be about prevention.

Controllable heart disease risks

Cholesterol

The story about cholesterol and its function as a health risk has changed over time. Statistically, overall high levels of cholesterol, or an imbalance of HDL and LDL cholesterol components, increases your risk of heart disease.

Trying to address cholesterol levels through your diet makes less difference than was once thought, and some people can have high cholesterol and yet never develop heart disease. The safe bet, however, is to keep your levels as low as possible.

Hypertension

You generally can’t feel high blood pressure until you already have serious complications from it. However, running an average BP of 120/80 or higher is a significant risk factor for heart disease.

Diabetes

High blood glucose levels cause added wear to your blood vessels and organs. Uncontrolled glucose levels are a serious risk factor for heart disease, which you can reduce by carefully monitoring and moderating blood sugar levels.

Sedentary lifestyle/long periods of sitting

If you’re not getting about 30 minutes a day of activity that raises your heart rate, your heart disease risk is higher. Even if you are getting this level of exercise, sitting for long periods through the day, such as at a computer or in an office desk job, can contribute to conditions that increase heart risk.

Carrying extra pounds

Every added pound of body weight makes the heart work a bit harder than necessary. That extra weight adds to your risk factors for heart disease. Similarly, poor food choices, such as diets with high levels of fat and red meat, can contribute both to excess body weight and heart disease risk.

Tobacco use

It doesn’t matter what form of tobacco you use. When nicotine enters your bloodstream, your heart disease risk increases. Nicotine has a negative effect on the condition of the walls lining your arteries and heart.

The health care professionals at Family Medicine and Acute Care of Sandhills can help you more accurately assess your heart disease risk, as well as partnering with you to ease those controllable factors. Call or click today to arrange a personal consultation.

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