They say “knowledge is power”, and when it comes to heart disease, knowing your risk factors can save your life. The American Heart Association recommends beginning heart disease prevention early on in life, by assessing your personal risk factors and working to lower them. Prevention and early detection are essential to a heart-disease-free life.
Below are common risk factors for cardiac issues, broken out in modifiable risk factors and non-modifiable risk factors. Modifiable refers to risk factors that can be changed vs non-modifiable, which covers any risk factors for heart attack you cannot change, such as age or heredity.
Factors that You Can Control
Tobacco smokers have a much higher risk of heart disease than nonsmokers. The fastest way to protect your cardiac health is to go from being a smoker to a nonsmoker. Quitting is hard, but it’s worth it to know you are doing something good for your heart.
Obesity/ Physical Inactivity
Obesity and excess fat around the heart can increase your chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Obesity also increases your chances of high blood pressure, which causes the heart to work harder. The World Health Organization estimates that around 60% of the global population aren’t getting the recommended amount of physical activity in their daily lives. Just a few minutes of exercise a week can reduce your chances of cardiovascular disease by 30%.
As the cholesterol levels in your blood rise, so too does your risk of developing heart disease. Your cholesterol levels can be affected by diet, age, sex and genetics. While you can’t change the last three of those factors, you can control what you eat. Fill up on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and legumes for lower cholesterol.
Hypertension or high blood pressure forces your heart to work overtime. This will eventually cause the heart muscle to stiffen, the blood vessels to narrow and the heart will begin to work improperly. Hypertension can be caused by diet, lifestyle, weight or stress.
The best thing you can do to reduce your chances of cardiovascular disease and promote proper heart health is to eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, manage stress, quit smoking and take care of your body overall. Your body is the most precious home you have—be good to it.