Risk Factors

thumb_COLOURBOX2366084You 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

  • Age
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Chronic or serious illnesses
  • Dysfunctional lipidology
  • Elevated homocysteine
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Structural defects
  • Smoking
  • 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.
  • Dehydration
  • 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
  • Infection
  • Low blood levels of EPA / DHA (omega fatty acids)
  • Low estrogen
  • Low free testosterone – interferes with endothelial function
  • Nitric oxide deficiency
  • Obesity
  • 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

Smoking

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.

Obesity

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.

Inactivity

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.

High Cholesterol

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.

Hypertension

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.

High Blood Pressure – Did you know?

It is estimated that over 75 million people in the United States have high blood pressure; of those, 30% don’t know they have the condition and go untreated.

Your doctor should always check your blood pressure at any appointment. If you have not seen him/her lately, make an appointment to have your pressure checked! If you go to a doctor for any reason and they do not check your pressure, find another doctor!

Your blood pressure is a measurement of the force applied to the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood through the body. The top number, referred to as the systolic reading, is the force created when the heart contracts. The normal top number is 120. The second or bottom number is the diastolic reading and represents the pressure in the artery wall when the heart is relaxed. The normal reading is 80 or below.

  • A reading around 130/85 is considered pre-hypertensive. When blood flows with too much force, it can damage both the vascular system and the organs. You will most likely receive exercise and dietary guidelines from your healthcare provider.
  • A blood pressure reading of 140/90 is considered stage 1 hypertension.
  • You will most likely be prescribed medication to lower your blood pressure. Consult your doctor to see if the Cardio Crusaders Blood Pressure Support Program is a reasonable alternative for you.
  • A reading of 150/100 is considered stage 2 hypertensive.
  • This stage can be treated and reduced with a regimen of medication, dietary and life style changes.
  • A hypertensive emergency is a reading of 180/120.
  • Untreated, this hypertension damages the organs, especially the kidneys and eyes and can lead to death in three to six months.

 

Diabetes

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.

Dehydration

Chronic dehydration puts your body into stress and can be the result of poor diet and/or high salt intake.

Elevated Triglycerides

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

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.

Ethnicity

African Americans and Hispanics, due to a tendency toward severe hypertension, have a higher rate of heart disease than Caucasians.

Gender

Under the age of 65, men are more likely than women to have a heart attack.

Family History

Children of parents with heart disease are more likely to develop it themselves.

Women Are At Risk, Too

  • For every woman who dies from breast cancer, eight will die from a heart attack. Although the number of deaths from breast cancer are stabilizing and even dropping due to early detection and treatment, heart disease and the resulting deaths are increasing for women.
  • After age 45, the percentage of women with high blood pressure equals that of men. After age 64, a higher percentage of women than men have high blood pressure.
  • Each year, approximately 55,000 more women than men have a stroke.