Are You at Risk for a Heart Attack?
Your heart is one of the most important organs in your body. It pumps blood throughout your body to deliver oxygen and nutrients to your cells. Without a healthy heart, your body cannot function properly.
Unfortunately, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Every year, about 600,000 Americans die from heart disease. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in four adults in the United States has some form of heart disease.
Many factors can increase your risk of developing heart disease. Some of these factors, like family history, are out of your control. But there are many risk factors that you can control, like smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Making healthy choices and managing your risk factors can help prevent heart disease. This guide will help you understand your risks for heart disease and what you can do to prevent it.
Risk Factors for Heart Attack You Can Control
Obesity is a major risk factor for heart disease. It can cause high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and it makes it more difficult for your heart to work effectively.
There are many ways to measure obesity. One way is to calculate your body mass index (BMI). BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. A BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the leading causes of heart disease. It happens when the force of your blood against your artery walls is too high. Over time, this can damage your arteries and lead to heart disease.
High cholesterol is another major risk factor for heart disease. Cholesterol is a waxy substance that’s found in your blood. Your body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, but too much cholesterol can lead to heart disease.
There are two types of cholesterol:
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is often called “bad” cholesterol because it can build up in your arteries and lead to heart disease.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is often called “good” cholesterol because it helps remove LDL cholesterol from your arteries.
A blood test called a lipid panel can measure your cholesterol levels. A lipid panel measures your total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. Triglycerides are a type of fat in your blood.
Your doctor will use your cholesterol levels to calculate your cholesterol ratio. This is the ratio of your total cholesterol to your HDL cholesterol. A ratio of 5.0 or less is considered healthy.
You’re physically inactive if you get less than 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity on most days. Aerobic activity is any activity that makes your heart and lungs work harder. Walking is a good example of moderate-intensity aerobic activity.
Being active most days of the week can lower your risk for heart disease. It can also help you control your weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol. It also helps reduce stress and anxiety. If you’re not active now, start slowly and gradually increase the amount of time you’re active. You can do this by taking a 20-minute walk every day. Once this becomes a habit, you can increase your activity level.
Smoking damages your heart and blood vessels. It increases your risk of coronary artery disease—the main type of heart disease in the United States—and can lead to a heart attack.
Smoking also raises your risk of other health problems, including stroke, lung cancer, chronic lung disease, and many other types of cancer. If you smoke, the best thing you can do for your health is to quit. Talk to your doctor about ways to quit smoking.
It is important to be aware of the risk factors for heart disease, so that you can take steps to reduce your risk. These steps include eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular exercise, and avoiding smoking. If you have any of the risk factors for heart disease, make sure to talk to your doctor so that you can develop a plan to reduce your risk.
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