You are probably wondering if you are at risk of having heart disease. The short answer to that question is yes, most Americans have some risk of cardiovascular disease. Some of the risk factors are preventable, others are genetic, but in the right environment some genetic factors may not express themselves. Understanding your risk factors may empower you to take action and make a real difference in your cardiovascular health. The best way to tackle any problem is to get the right information first.
Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors
- Chronic or serious illnesses
- Dysfunctional lipidology
- Elevated homocysteine
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Structural defects
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Blood clots
- Certain nutritional deficiencies
- Cigarette smoking
- Diabetes – high glucose – HgbA1c greater than 6 leads to a process called glycation which causes arterial stiffness.
- Elevated C-Reactive Protein – an inflammatory by-product that damages the endothelium (lining of the artery) and accelerates the progression of existing atheroschlerotic lesions.
- Elevated triglycerides
- Erectile dysfunction
- Excess homocysteine – levels of this amino acid, when shown to be elevated in the blood, are linked to a higher risk of developing plaque in the arteries.
- Family history
- Gender and age – men older than 45 years or women older than 65 years
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol – excess LDL / low HDL
- Hypertension – high blood pressure
- Inflammation of the arteries
- Low blood levels of EPA / DHA (omega fatty acids)
- Low estrogen
- Low free testosterone – interferes with endothelial function
- Nitric oxide deficiency
- Physical inactivity
- Poor kidney function
- Race – 5 times greater for Hispanics & blacks
- Vitamin K deficiency – enables calcium to be deposited into plaque rather than into the bone where it belongs.
Preventable Risk Factors
Along with increasing the risk of lung and other cancers as well as other respiratory illnesses, smoking greatly increases your chance of developing high blood pressure and heart disease. Quitting smoking, likewise, can reduce blood pressure dramatically, and provides countless other health benefits.
Weight plays a large role in blood pressure, and in increasing your risk of heart disease. As your weight increases, naturally, the demand on your heart increases as well.
Leading a sedentary lifestyle puts you on track for heart disease. The heart is a muscle that needs cardiovascular exercise to work at its best.
An abundance of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) is directly related to heart disease, while the high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) is not linked to heart disease. If the lining of the artery is sticky, LDL will form plaque.
Often dubbed “the silent killer” because it has few, if any, recognizable symptoms, high blood pressure is usually a precursor to heart disease and other cardiovascular complications.
Not just a disease, diabetes is a syndrome and part of that syndrome is heart disease, especially if blood sugar levels are not controlled. If you are diabetic, explore diet (including low glycemic foods and cinnamon), exercise, and weight loss as your first line of defense.
Poor Kidney Function
The kidneys filter the blood and affect the thickness and flow of blood to and from the heart. If their function is impaired, so is your cardiovascular system.
Chronic dehydration puts your body into stress and can be the result of poor diet and/or high salt intake.
Often occurring in tandem with high cholesterol, triglycerides are a type of fat found in the bloodstream.
While many of the risks of heart disease can be minimized or eradicated, such as smoking and lack of exercise, others are simply genetic or part of our body’s composition. Even if heart disease runs in your family, your genes are not an automatic death sentence. Taking a proactive approach to diet and supplements, emotional health and exercise can create the right circumstances for you to take control of your heart health.
Risk Factors You Can Not Control
Aging is the number one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The number of people affected by heart disease increases with age in both men and women. About four out of five people who die of coronary heart disease are 65 or older. Because heart disease becomes more common as you age, it’s important to have regular checkups and watch your heart disease risk factors.
African Americans and Hispanics, due to a tendency toward severe hypertension, have a higher rate of heart disease than Caucasians.
Under the age of 65, men are more likely than women to have a heart attack.
Children of parents with heart disease are more likely to develop it themselves.