Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. It is also a major cause of disability. There are many things that can raise your risk of heart disease. They are called risk factors. Some of them you cannot control, but there are many that you can control. Learning about them can lower your risk of heart disease.
Heart disease risk factors
Your risk of heart disease increases as you get older. Men age 45 and older and women age 55 and older have a greater risk.
Some risk factors may affect heart disease risk differently in women than in men. For example, estrogen provides women with some protection against heart disease, but diabetes raises the risk of heart disease more in women than in men.
Race or ethnicity
Certain groups have higher risks than others. African Americans are more likely than whites to have heart disease, while Hispanic Americans are less likely to have it. Some Asian groups, such as East Asians, have lower rates, but South Asians have higher rates.
You have a greater risk if you have a close family member who had heart disease at an early age.
How to lower risk of heart disease
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to reduce your chances of getting heart disease.
Control your blood pressure
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease which can include heart attack, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, but also many other symptoms. It is important to get your blood pressure checked regularly – at least once a year for most adults, and more often if you have high blood pressure. Take steps to prevent or lower high blood pressure like diet (check out the DASH Diet), exercise changes, and sometimes even medication, but check in with your doctor about these types of thing. What is high blood pressure? Normal blood pressure is 120 over 80 so higher than this is considered elevated. At home blood pressure monitors are an affordable way to keep tabs on these numbers. A healthy heart rate when resting is generally considered under 70-100 beats per minute and over 50-70 beats per minute.
Lower your cholesterol
High levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) can clog your arteries and raise your risk of coronary artery disease and heart attack. Lifestyle changes and medicines (if needed) can lower your cholesterol. Triglycerides are another type of fat in the blood. High levels of triglycerides may also raise the risk of coronary artery disease, especially in women.
Stay at a healthy weight
Being overweight or having obesity can increase your risk of heart disease. This is mostly because they are linked to other heart disease risk factors, including high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Controlling your weight and preventing weight gain can lower these risks. It is important, however, to pursue healthy weight loss that can be maintained in the long run.
Eat a heart healthy diet
What is a heart healthy food? Try to limit saturated fats, foods high in sodium, and added sugars. Eat plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. The DASH diet plan is an example of an eating plan that can help you to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, two things that can lower your risk of heart disease. Try these recipes for heart healthy meals.
Get regular exercise to lower blood pressure
Exercise has many benefits, including strengthening your heart and improving your circulation. It can also help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. All of these can lower your risk of heart disease.
Does alcohol raise blood pressure? Yes, drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. It also adds extra calories, which may cause weight gain and prevent weight loss. Both of those raise your risk of heart disease. Men should have no more than two alcoholic drinks per day, and women should not have more than one.
Does smoking cause high blood pressure? Yes, cigarette smoking raises your blood pressure and puts you at higher risk for heart attack and stroke. If you do not smoke, do not start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. You can talk to your health care provider for help in finding the best way for you to quit.
Stress is linked to heart disease in many ways. It can raise your blood pressure. Can stress cause a heart attack? Yes, extreme stress can be a “trigger” for a heart attack. Also, some common ways of coping with stress, such as overeating, heavy drinking, and smoking, are bad for your heart. Some ways to help manage your stress include exercise, listening to music, focusing on something calm or peaceful, and meditating.
Having diabetes doubles your risk of diabetic heart disease. That is because, over time, high blood sugar from diabetes can damage your blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart and blood vessels. So, it is important to get tested for diabetes, and if you have it, to keep it under control.
Make sure that you get enough sleep
If you don’t get enough sleep, you raise your risk of high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. Those three things can raise your risk for heart disease. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Make sure that you have good sleep habits. If you have frequent sleep problems, contact your health care provider. One problem, sleep apnea, causes people to briefly stop breathing many times during sleep. This interferes with your ability to get a good rest and can raise your risk of heart disease. If you think you might have it, ask your doctor about having a sleep study. And if you do have sleep apnea, make sure that you get treatment for it.
Source: Medline Plus, How to Prevent Heart Disease, Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/howtopreventheartdisease.html, on 2/8/2019
Business Health Trust (BHT) members enrolled in a medical plan through Premera Blue Cross have access to up to three in-person visits with a counselor through Wellspring EAP. For more information on the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) through BHT, view the plan summary.