The leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. is heart disease. With that in mind, do you know if you have a healthy heart? While you may think that your habits and lifestyle arent’t that terrible, you may be surprised to find that you actually could be at risk for heart disease. There are factors you can control, and others which, well, you can’t. So how can you assess your own risk and in turn help the members of your community assess theirs?
While ultimately no one can predict with 100% certainty who will develop heart disease, research has provided some clues. About half of Americans have at least one of the three key risk factors of heart disease.
3 Key Risk Factors
1. High Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against artery walls that carries blood from your heart to other parts of your body. High blood pressure makes the heart work harder and damages arteries, resulting in a thicker, stiffer heart muscle and an increased risk for disease. Have your doctor measure your blood pressure.
2. High LDL Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that your body needs, but high levels of low-density lipoprotein (the bad cholesterol), can build up on the walls of your arteries and lead to heart disease and stroke. A simple blood test at the doctor’s office can check your levels.
QuickNote: Many people don’t realize they have high blood pressure or cholesterol because there are usually no signs or symptoms. Be sure to visit your doctor for regular checkups.
And last, but definitely not least…
This should come as no surprise. If you’re a smoker, you’re definitely familiar with this advice: quit smoking. The list of the harmful effects of smoking is lengthy, and quitting is one of the best decisions you can make to improve your health.
Other Risk Factors to Consider
While these three risk factors of heart disease lead the list, don’t discount other factors that could put you in peril. The more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to develop heart disease.
QuickStat: A staggering 735,000 Americans have a heart attack every year. If you have a first heart attack, you are more likely to have another one.
A Poor Diet
Eat a variety of foods from each food group and limit saturated fat, sodium and added sugars. For tips and advice, visit the USDA’s ChooseMyPlate.gov.
Being Overweight or Obese
Carrying around extra weight puts stress on your heart and body. There are ways to lose weight. For more on assessing your weight, visit the CDC’s Healthy Weight page.
Many of us are guilty of not moving enough. Leading a sedentary lifestyle can have devastating consequences on your heart health. For more on how you can fit physical activity into your life, read the CDC’s Physical Activity tips.
Having certain health conditions, like diabetes, can make you more susceptible to heart disease. Consult your doctor about your condition to properly manage your health. You can also read up on how to Take Charge of Your Diabetes.
Drinking Too Much Alcohol
This doesn’t mean don’t drink at all (unless you have a serious problem). The recommendations for men and women are different: Women should have no more than one drink per day, and men two. For more low-risk drinking guidelines and alcohol-related advice, visit the National Institute of Health’s Rethinking Drinking website.
You Can Lower Your Risk
The good news is that no matter what your age, you can lower your risk of heart disease. Help your community be heart-healthy by encouraging citizens to get regular checkups and by spreading awareness about heart disease prevention.
For more information on the various products available to purchase for your community, browse the QuickSeries® library of health guides, including Healthy Heart.