Are You at Risk for Heart Disease

By: Andrew Bicknell

Knowing your personal risk for heart disease is the first step in prevention. Your risk is greatly increased if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. There is also hard evidence that certain ethnic groups including African Americans, Mexican Americans, Native Americans, Native Hawaiians are at an increased risk for this disease. It is believed that this increase risked among these groups is due to the higher rates of diabetes and obesity they exhibit.

There are many risk factors that influence the development of heart disease. If you have 2 or more risk factors, your risk is quadrupled. Three or more and your risk of heart disease is 8 to 20 times higher than if you had no risk factors at all. Many of these risk factors are interrelated. It is important to recognize the non-modifiable risk factors (risk factors you cannot change) and the modifiable risk factors (the risk factors you can change).

Being overweight and obese is a large risk factor for heart disease. This factor alone can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Chronic stress can also lead to high blood pressure or hypertension. A blood pressure reading over 140/90 is considered elevated and an increase risk for heart problems.

Over 18 million American have diabetes and 75% of all deaths related to diabetes are caused by heart disease. Diabetes is a disease that can damage artery walls, increasing the risk of developing atherosclerosis. Diabetes, which doubles the risk, is occurring at younger ages than in previous generations, mainly because of increasing obesity. Diabetes is a serious chronic disease that should not be taken lightly.

Cholesterol is a type of fat that is an essential nutrient for your body, but too much or not enough of the good type increases the risk for hardening of the arteries, which can lead to heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Cholesterol bound to low density lipoprotein, or LDL, is often referred to as the "bad" cholesterol, while cholesterol bound to high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is referred to as the "good" cholesterol. People with high blood pressure also frequently have high cholesterol. The good news: When you lose weight cholesterol goes down, triglycerides go down, high blood pressure goes down, and HDL cholesterol goes up.

The best way to reduce your risk for heart disease is to have a healthy lifestyle. But reducing the risk for heart disease is a lifelong process and we need to understand that heart disease is the number one cause of death by disease in the United States today.

Heart Conditions
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