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Is Your Heart Healthy? Here Are 5 Risk Factors For Heart Disease

Medical Health

According to the CDC, one in three deaths occur each year as a result of cardiovascular disease. That may seem like a big statistic if you don’t know anyone who’s suffered from heart issues, but the truth is that cardiovascular issues are both common and often progress undiagnosed for years until an acute heart problem arises. 

But First, What Is The Heart?

We all learn in school that the heart is a muscle that pumps blood around the body, but did you know the average heart pumps 2,000 gallons of blood a day through 60,000 miles of blood vessels? 

Your heart has the enormous job of pushing all your blood through your system along with the oxygen and nutrients your body needs to function healthily. The heart is also vital because it keeps your blood flowing in one direction, preventing a dangerous mix up of oxygenated with deoxygenated blood. If your blood flows backward, heart failure may soon follow.

All in all, the heart is vital to health and proper body functioning so knowing how to care for this crucial organ can mean the difference between long, healthy years and deadly cardiovascular issues. 

Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease refers to any disease that affects the heart or blood vessels, including heart attack, cardiac arrest, congestive heart failure, and stroke. Anyone with a beating heart is at risk for these diseases, but not everyone will suffer from one. Here are the top five risk factors for heart disease.

1. Stress

Stress is normal and healthy in small amounts; in fact, it’s our biological response against danger and predators. When experiencing stress, our adrenal glands pump adrenaline through the body which triggers the body to respond to a threat. 

Whether you’re facing off with a saber tooth tiger or an oncoming car, your adrenaline drives up your heart rate, lung capacity, and access to sugar stores in the body in order to respond to a threat. When you experience stress chronically, plaque deposits can build up in the arteries limiting blood flow and your blood can clot improperly, increasing up your risk of stroke. 

2. Smoking

According to the CDC, smoking causes one in four cardiovascular disease deaths, making it a major risk factor for poor heart health. Cigarettes contain chemicals that cause the lining of your blood vessels to become inflamed, narrowing the vessels and limiting the amount of blood that can pass through them. Additionally, smoking can thicken your blood and cause it to clot irregularly, so not only are your blood vessels narrower when you smoke, but the blood passing through those vessels is clotted and thick. This stress on your blood vessels can lead to a heart attack, and if blood flow within the brain is blocked entirely, a stroke may result. 

Obesity-Related Risk Factors

Obesity is a commonly-cited risk factor for heart disease because of the strain excess weight puts on your heart as well as the other heart disease risk factors that often accompany it. Below are heart disease risk factors that are more common among people who are obese.

3. High Blood Pressure

While genetics and salt intake are contributors to high blood pressure, excess weight causes your blood pressure to rise because your body will require more pressure to move this blood around. In turn, high blood pressure can damage your arteries by making them less elastic, and decreasing the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart. Over time, high blood pressure can not only lead to heart disease but you may also be at risk for damage to your brain, kidneys, and eyes.

4. Diabetes

Many people suffering from obesity are also at risk for developing diabetes, which increases their chances of developing heart disease. In fact, studies show that at least 68 percent of people aged 65 or older with diabetes also have heart disease. Among diabetics, higher prolonged levels of blood glucose can damage blood vessels and elevated blood sugar can even cause nerve damage. 

According to the CDC, diabetes makes you twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke than someone who doesn't have diabetes and the longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to have cardiovascular issues.

5. High Cholesterol + Poor Diet

Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in your blood and is necessary for the formation of healthy cells. But too much of it can pose a risk to your heart health. Foods like red meat, full dairy products, fried foods, and baked goods are high in cholesterol and an excess of it in your diet can lead to excess cholesterol. This excess can cause fatty deposits to build up in your blood vessels, making it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries. Over time, these fatty deposits can build up and harden, constricting the flow of blood through your arteries, and depriving your heart of much-needed oxygen. Sometimes, these deposits can break off and form a clot that leads to a heart attack or stroke.

It’s never too early or too often to assess your risk factors for heart disease. While it may feel easy to self-assess, we highly recommend getting evaluated by your doctor once a year and closely following their recommendations. Your physician will offer custom advice on the kinds of lifestyle changes that you need to help prevent heart disease.


Written by:
Davina Adcock

Davina is a native of Grenada and a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin. She's a content specialist with a passion for empowering women to thrive and reach their full potential. In her free time, Davina is probably painting, reading, or baking something unnecessarily sweet.

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