According to the Mayo Clinic, heart disease generally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain or stroke. Learn about the risk factors that can cause heart disease and evaluate your own personal risk.
Why get screened?
Heart disease, or sometimes called cardiovascular disease (CVD), is usually caused by a substance called plaque that builds up in the walls of the arteries of the heart. Factors such as smoking, high levels of glucose, fat, and cholesterol in the blood, and high blood pressure contribute to the formation of plaque in the arteries. As the plaque builds up it causes the arteries to narrow making it harder for blood to flow through which increases the risk for a heart attack or stroke.
Who should get screened?
There are certain risk factors that can be controlled, treated, or modified that lead to the development of heart disease. Understanding your risk and taking steps to make changes to live a healthier lifestyle can help you to be healthier overall and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Understanding Your Risk for Heart Disease
There are steps you can take today to help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. The things that you can change to help lower your risk are called modifiable risk factors. These are some risk factors that can be prevented or managed:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Tobacco use
- Having high blood glucose levels (diabetes)
- Physical inactivity
- Unhealthy eating
- Having high cholesterol levels
- Being overweight or obesity
In addition to the modifiable risk factors as listed above, there are some risk factors that cannot be changed but contribute to your risk of heart disease such as:
- Age: heart disease becomes increasingly common as we age. As a person gets older, the heart muscles can become thickened or weakened, and advancing age also increases the risk of the arteries in the heart becoming damaged or narrowed.
- Gender: Males are at greater risk of heart disease than a pre-menopausal female. Once past menopause, a female’s risk is similar to that of a male. The risk of stroke, however, is similar for both males and females.
- Family history: A family’s history of heart disease indicates a person’s risk. If a first-degree blood relative, especially if it’s a parent, has had coronary heart disease or stroke before the age of 55 years (for a male relative) or 65 years (for a female relative), your risk increases.
Because there are risk factors you cannot change, it is more important than ever to change those things that YOU can control, to not only help reduce the risk of heart disease but to help you live your healthiest life!
- Eat a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as well as low-fat dairy and low-fat meat.
- Incorporate 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity into your schedule each week because physical activity helps to protect against heart disease. An activity can be anything you enjoy such as brisk walking, dancing, or gardening, just be sure to move each day.
- If you smoke, take steps to quit smoking. This increases your risk of heart disease! Click here for help.
- Be sure to manage your blood pressure. If you don’t know your numbers, check-in with your health care provider and get it checked, or visit your local fire department.
- Are you at risk for diabetes? If you are, you can make changes to help prevent getting the disease. Check your risk for diabetes here. If you have diabetes be sure to manage your numbers to help reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Maintain a healthy weight! If you need to lose weight, take small steps to start losing, because even 5 pounds can make a big difference in your health.
Have questions about your results?
Talk with one of our 9Health Neighbor medical professionals who can answer your questions or provide you with resources for further evaluation. Call 1-800-332-3078 #2005 to leave a message and one of our medical volunteers will call you back within 24 hours.
Remember to always share the results of your screenings at your next health care provider visit.