When it comes to heart disease, there are some risk factors outside of your control. Fortunately, you can manage 90 percent of the risk factors that increase your risk for heart disease.
Some changes are about lifestyle. Others are about getting medical care for the health conditions that can raise your risk. Either way, there are many things you can do to avoid heart disease.
Risk factors out of your control
If you have one or more of these uncontrollable risk factors, it’s even more important to tackle the ones you can control:
Older age - For Men over 45, and over 55 for women.
Sex (men are at higher risk than women until women reach menopause)
Family history of a parent or sibling with premature coronary disease (men younger than 55 years, women younger than 65 years)
Risk factors within your control
Here are nine controllable risk factors for heart attack and what you can do to help them:
1. Cholesterol levels:
Get yours under control with diet, exercise, and medication if needed. Every 1% reduction in LDL (“bad” cholesterol) reduces risk 1 percent. Every 1% increase in HDL (“good” cholesterol) reduces risk 2-4 percent. Check with your doctor to see if you should have a cholesterol blood test.
Quit today! Smoking just 1-5 cigarettes a day increases the risk of heart attack by 38 percent, 40 cigarettes a day by a whopping 900 percent! If you stop smoking, the risk decreases over time, and after three to five years your risk is the same as a nonsmoker’s. Ask your doctor to help you quit, alternatively try the Australian Quit Helpline.
Identify and reduce sources of stress in your life, including depression, anger, and anxiety. Try weekly meditation or yoga classes, EFT, NLP or hypnotherapy sessions, in fact here is a whole list of tension tamers to help you on your way.
Find out if you have it and take action. Risk of heart disease increases two to four times when you have diabetes. New screening recommendations are being developed for when to begin testing, but if you have any signs of diabetes, talk to your doctor. The signs and symptoms of diabetes are listed here.
5. High blood pressure:
Everyone over age 18 should be screened for high blood pressure, make sure you have your doctor check your blood pressure at your next visit.
Check your waist measurement and get your weight under control with diet and exercise. Abdominal obesity is a risk factor for heart attack. Waist measurement is a better predictor of risk than overall weight. Fat around the belly can also lead to metabolic syndrome – a combination of hypertension, high blood sugar, and cholesterol problems that can double your risk of heart disease. If your waist measurement is in the chart below, check with your doctor about your risk.
Eat more fruits and vegetables. Eating lots of organic fruit and vegetables everyday can aid in digestion, assist to lower cholesterol and help maintain a healthy weight. You can read more about the health benefits of fruit and vegetables here.
Do it moderately (such as brisk walking) or strenuously (such as jogging), because lack of exercise is a risk factor.
9. Alcohol intake:
Drinking three drinks a week or so is better than not drinking anything at all. However it’s important to keep in mind that drinking too much can increase the risk of heart disease. So 3 drinks a week does not mean 4 beers a night. Moderation is the key when consuming alcohol. Alcohol intake is something you should discuss with your doctor.
The nine risk factors listed in this article are from the landmark study INTER-HEART: A global study of risk factors for acute myocardial infarction, published in The Lancet, 2004.