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Heart Disease Risk Factors

Introduction
Coronary artery disease causes roughly 1.5 million heart attacks each year, and one-third of those suffering heart attacks die. Even more worrisome, 250,000 people with heart attacks will die before ever reaching the hospital.

Because heart disease is so common and often silent until it strikes, it is important to recognize the factors that put you at risk.
What Are the Risk Factors for Heart Disease?
There are several risk factors for heart disease; some are controllable, others are not. Uncontrollable risk factors include:

   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Male sex
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Older age
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Family history of heart disease
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Post-menopausal
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Race (Blacks and Mexican Americans are more likely to have heart disease than whites)

Still, there are many risk factors that can be controlled. By making changes in your lifestyle, you can actually reduce your risk for heart disease. Controllable risk factors include:

   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Smoking
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) High LDL, or "bad" cholesterol and low HDL, or "good" cholesterol
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure)
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Physical inactivity
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Obesity (more than 20% over one's ideal body weight)
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Uncontrolled diabetes
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) High C-reactive protein
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Uncontrolled stress and anger.
What Can I Do to Lower My Risk of Heart Disease?
Making changes in your lifestyle is a proven method for reducing your risk of developing heart disease. While there are no guarantees that a heart-healthy lifestyle will keep heart disease away, these changes will certainly improve your health in other ways, such as improving your physical and emotional well being. Also, because some risk factors are related to others, making changes in one area can benefit other areas.
Here are some ways you can reduce your risk of heart disease.
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Quit smoking. Smokers have more than twice the risk for heart attack as nonsmokers and are much more likely to die if they suffer a heart attack. Smoking is also the most preventable risk factor. If you smoke, quit. Better yet, never start smoking at all.

   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Improve cholesterol levels. The risk for heart disease increases as your total amount of cholesterol increases. A total cholesterol level over 200, a HDL, or "good" cholesterol level under 40, or a LDL, or "bad" cholesterol level over 160 indicates an increased risk for heart disease. Of course, interpretation of cholesterol values must be individualized, taking into account all of your risk factors for heart disease. A diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat will lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk for heart disease.

   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Control high blood pressure. Over 50 million people in the U.S. have hypertension, or high blood pressure, making it the most common heart disease risk factor. One in four adults has systolic blood pressure (the upper number) over 140, and/or diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) over 90, which is the definition of hypertension. Like cholesterol, blood pressure interpretation should be individualized, taking into account your entire risk profile. If treatment is warranted, today's blood pressure medications are effective, safe and easy to take.

   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Get active. Many of us lead sedentary lives, exercising infrequently or not at all. People who don't exercise have higher rates of death and heart disease compared to people who perform even mild to moderate amounts of physical activity. Even, leisure-time activities like gardening or walking can lower your risk of heart disease.

   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Eat right and lower your cholesterol. Eat a heart-healthy diet low in fat and cholesterol. Try to increase the amounts of vitamins you eat, especially antioxidants, which have been proven to lower your risk for heart disease.

   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts significant strain on your heart and worsens several other heart disease risk factors such as diabetes. Research is showing that obesity itself increases heart disease risk. By eating right and exercising, you can lose weight and reduce your risk of heart disease.

   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Manage stress. Poorly controlled stress and anger can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Use stress and anger management techniques to lower your risk.

   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Control diabetes. If not properly controlled, diabetes can lead to significant heart damage including heart attacks and death.
Source: WebMD
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