Heart disease is the number one killer in the world. Several factors that increase the risk for heart disease have been identified by the American Heart Association. Scientific studies have shown significant risk increases with some factors.
The risk factors that are listed are considered major risk factors and are those that medical research has shown to significantly increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. The more risk factors you have the greater the risk you have of developing heart disease. Some of us are at a much greater risk than others. Each factor itself can increase your risk depending on the amount of control you have over it. An example is your blood pressure or diabetes, both can place you at high risk, but if they are under control your risk becomes less whereas if they are uncontrolled the risk will increase even more.
10 Major Risk Factors for Heart Disease
Some of the factors that place us at a higher risk can be controlled, others cannot be controlled. These are considered to be major risk factors by the American Heart Association:
Your Age – According to multiple studies more than 80% of people who die from coronary heart disease or heart attack are age 65 and over. This is an uncontrollable risk factor.
If you are a Male – Men are at higher risk for heart disease and heart attack than women. Men usually have heart attacks at a younger age than women. A man’s risk of death is even higher than a woman’s after reaching menopause when her risk increases. This is an uncontrollable risk factor.
Family History – If you have a close relative, parents or grandparents, siblings who have heart disease you are at a higher risk of heart attack and coronary disease. This is an uncontrollable risk factor.
Race- Studies show that the risk for heart disease is higher in African Americans, American Indians, Mexicans, native Hawaiians and Asian Americans that it is in Caucasians. This is an uncontrollable risk factor.
Cigarette smoking – You increase your risk for heart disease by smoking cigarettes, as much as four times the risk. This is a controllable risk factor.
Sedentary Lifestyle – Lack of exercise or inactivity increases your risk for heart disease and heart attack. This is a controllable risk factor.
Being overweight – People who carry excess body fat especially around the waist area are at increased risk for stroke and heart attack. This is a controllable risk factor.
High cholesterol – Increases in cholesterol raises your risk of heart attack. All people who have total cholesterol of 240 mg/dl are considered to be at high risk of developing heart disease. This is a controllable risk factor.
High blood pressure – Elevated blood pressure increases the workload of the heart. This is a controllable risk factor.
Diabetes – Approximately three fourths of the people with diabetes die from blood vessel disease. Diabetes places you at an extremely high risk of coronary disease and heart attack. This is a controllable risk factor.
Compounding your Risks for Heart Disease
If you have any of the risk factors you are at risk. If you have more than one your risk increases. For example if you have diabetes, are overweight, have high cholesterol and blood pressure you are at a higher risk than if you just have diabetes. To further add to the risk the more out of control your risk factor is, the more at risk you are. Such as if your cholesterol is 300mg/dl you would be at a higher risk than someone whose cholesterol is 250mg/dl. If you are 100 pounds overweight, you are at higher risk than if you were 40 pounds overweight. The risk factors that you can control should be reviewed closely and efforts made to lower your risk of this deadly disease.
Are there other risks for Heart Disease?
Yes there are other risk factors for heart disease. Some of these include stress, the use of birth control pills and excessive alcohol consumption. These are all controllable risk factors.
The stress in a person’s life, their health and their social and economical status has been linked to coronary heart disease by scientists. This factor can also increase other existing risk factors. For example, when under stress some people smoke more, they consume alcohol or an overweight person may eat more.
The newer forms of birth control pills carry a lower risk than the older versions which had higher doses of estrogen and progestin. A woman with high blood pressure or who is over 35 or who smokes should not take birth control pills because this further increases your risk of heart disease.
Excessive alcohol intake can raise your blood pressure, cause irregular heart rhythms and cause heart failure. It can also contribute to obesity.