What’s your risk for developing heart disease?
There are several factors that increase our risks for heart disease. Some of the risk factors cannot be changed while others can be.
Risk factors that cannot be changed are:
- Age: Our arteries get stiffer as we age which increases the risk for heart disease.
- Family history: If your parents have had heart disease then it increases your risk as well.
- Gender: Men are at higher risk for heart disease than women and they get it much earlier in life as well.
- Race: African American have higher rates of high blood pressure and therefore have a greater incidence of heart disease than Caucasians. There is also a higher incidence in American Indians, native Hawaiians, Mexican Americans and Asian Americans due to higher rates of obesity and diabetes.
There are many risk factors that can be changed and minimized by living a healthy lifestyle.
- Smoking: Smokers are 2-4 times more likely to develop heart disease. Second-hand smoking is equally risky.
- Exercise: People who exercise regularly reduce their risk of heart disease by 30 to 40%.
- Overweight/Obesity: People who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk for heart disease. Losing as little as 10 pounds lowers your risk.
- Diet: Eating a diet high in saturated and trans fat, high in sugar and cholesterol increases your risk. Avoid processed foods. Eat lean meats such as poultry, fish, and turkey. Eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- High blood pressure: This is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. Lowering your daily sodium intake, exercising regularly to maintain ideal body weight, avoiding alcohol, regular medical checkups and taking your blood pressure medications will help minimize this risk.
- Diabetes: Having diabetes doubles your risk for heart disease. Tight control of your blood sugars as reflected by your HbA1c levels is critical in lowering your risk. This can be achieved by adhering to a diabetic diet, regular exercise and taking your anti-diabetes medications as prescribed.
- High LDL (bad) cholesterol: LDL cholesterol causes plaque buildup in the arteries, clogging them and increases the risk for heart disease. Although genetics impacts your LDL levels, you can lower high levels by eating a diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol and exercising regularly.
Prevention of heart disease should begin early in life. See your healthcare provider and have a proper assessment of your risk. Remember the first heart attack can be disabling or fatal.
Disclaimer: The information is intended to provide general education for patients and their families. The information provided does not constitute medical or health care advice for any individual and is not a substitute for medical and other professional advice and service.
Dr. Mahesh Ochaney is a solo practitioner who has been practicing Internal Medicine since 1991. Dr. Ochaney’s compassionate primary care has been recognized several times over the years, including being named a 2018 Top Doctor by Baltimore Magazine and receiving a State of Maryland Governor’s Citation.