The hidden risks for heart disease
Heart disease is a leading cause of death for adults in the US, yet it is also one of the most preventable. Many of the risk factors can be reduced with lifestyle changes, but too many people don’t realize they are at risk. There may be several risks for heart disease you may not know you have. What are some of the hidden risks for heart disease?
Some medical conditions that increase the risk of heart disease can only be identified through regular health screenings. Taking time to complete a screening and to review your results with a doctor will help you be aware of your risk and potentially prevent heart disease.
- High blood pressure – A person with high blood pressure typically has no symptoms; measuring blood pressure is the only way to know whether it is in a healthy range. However, it is possible to lower high blood pressure with lifestyle changes and medicine.
- High cholesterol – If a person consumes more cholesterol than the body needs, it can build up in the heart’s arteries. When cholesterol builds up, the arteries narrow, decreasing the flow of blood to the body. Like high blood pressure, high cholesterol does not have symptoms, so it is important to get it checked regularly.
- Diabetes – People diagnosed with diabetes are at greater risk of death from heart disease, so it is important to monitor glucose and HbA1c, two measures of diabetes risk.
Some of the lifestyle choices that individuals make may unknowingly put them at increased risk of heart disease.
- Poor eating habits – Regularly eating foods rich in saturated fat and cholesterol may lead to an increased risk of heart disease. Additionally, eating too much salt can increase blood pressure.
- Sedentary lifestyle – Not getting enough physical activity can raise the risk of heart disease. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day.
- Excess stress – Everyone experiences stress, but stress that is not well managed may lead to high blood pressure, and it is possible for extreme stress to trigger a heart attack.
- Inadequate sleep – Not getting adequate sleep may increase the risk of high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes, all of which are risk factors for heart disease. Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night.
Some habits are known to be unhealthy, but why they are unhealthy may be less clear. Habits such as smoking or drinking too much alcohol can impact an individual’s risk for heart disease.
- Excessive alcohol use – Drinking too much may lead to high blood pressure and can increase an individual’s risk for heart disease. What is too much? According to the CDC, women should drink no more than one drink per day, and no more than 2 drinks per day for men.
- Tobacco use – Smoking can cause damage to the heart and blood vessels, and nicotine can increase blood pressure. However, if you quit using tobacco, your risk of heart disease begins to decrease right away.
There are numerous health factors that may contribute to heart disease risk. Some, such as smoking, are less surprising, while others, such as having high blood pressure, aren’t as easy to recognize. Understanding these factors is important so individuals can identify the potential risks they may have and make the lifestyle changes necessary to reduce them.
What is one heart disease risk that you can identify and take steps to reduce?