Heart disease (often known as cardiovascular disease) is a general term encompassing several different heart and circulatory disorders. Broadly speaking, these include the following common health concerns:
- Heart attack
- Coronary artery disease
- Aortic disease
- Peripheral arterial disease
Though mostly preventable and manageable with medication and healthy lifestyles, heart disease has remained to be the leading cause of death, accounting for the more than 17 million annual worldwide death cases.
One proven fact is that lifestyle impacts heart disease. While you can’t control your hereditary disposition for heart conditions, you can choose to change lifestyle factors that contribute to heart health.
Today, we will focus on the primary risk factors which prove to be the major causes of poor heart health and the improvements you can make to slash your risk level.
The five most common triggers for heart disease include the following:
1 – High Insulin Levels
High intake of processed carbohydrates equals high insulin levels.
Refined carbohydrates typically elevate your blood sugar level, thus prompting the excessive production of insulin by the pancreas—a situation that makes you vulnerable to other conditions such as diabetes and obesity.
Eat a diet filled that’s high in fiber and low in simple carbohydrates like sugars to lower your insulin levels.
2 – High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, which your doctor might call hypertension, is one of the most challenging risk factors. This disease carries the label “The Silent Killer” because it frequently presents without noticeable symptoms.
Untreated high blood pressure may lead to an eventual heart attack as it strains your blood vessels and other vital organs like the kidney, brain, and the heart itself.
Over time, hypertension leads to the narrowing and hardening of the arteries. Thus, it hinders the smooth flow of blood to the heart or even the brain. Lack of sufficient blood flow to those vital organs may lead to a heart attack and or stroke.
High salt intake, lack of enough exercise, heavy consumption of alcohol, and lack of adequate sleep are some of the contributing factors linked to high blood pressure.
Get checked for high blood pressure every six months or so, especially if you are at elevated risk due to a hereditary struggle with the condition. You can help prevent hypertension through exercising for 30 minutes, four days a week.
3 – Smoking
Smoking raises your chances of developing heart conditions like stroke and coronary disease.
Consider why smoking is so addictive in the first place— the highly addictive chemical called nicotine.
Researchers have warned smokers about the increase in blood pressure due to nicotine use for years.
What’s lesser understood, however, is that the carbon monoxide present in the tobacco smoke also reduces the oxygen concentration in your blood. This lack of oxygen, in turn, puts more pressure on the heart to pump even harder to ensure the sufficient supply of oxygen to the body.
At times nicotine may also lead to a blood clot—all of which makes you more susceptible to heart disease.
If you require help with smoking cessation, talk with your doctor about your addiction. They may suggest support groups, nicotine patches, or even prescription medication that can help you kick the habit.
4 – Physical Inactivity
Lack of enough exercise puts you at an elevated risk of developing a heart attack as opposed to when you exercise regularly.
Exercise helps control cholesterol levels, manage blood pressure, control diabetes, as well as the burning of extra calories, which is crucial for weight management.
Regular moderate exercise can also help to keep your heart muscles healthy while ensuring the flexibility and efficiency of your arteries.
5 – High Blood Cholesterol
The liver produces sufficient cholesterol needed by your body for the formation of cell membranes and the production of various hormones.
However, when in excess, the cholesterol builds up on your artery walls hence narrowing the blood vessels. But what leads to this excessive cholesterol? The excessive consumption of unhealthy, fatty foods.
We call this build-up “plaque.” The presence of plaque means reduced blood flow to the heart, which can lead to chest pains. Furthermore, this frequently causes a heart attack when the blood vessel becomes completely blocked.
The Takeaway on Knowing Your Risk Factors for Heart Disease
Though heart disease can run in the family’s history, you can manage your major risk factors by adopting healthy habits. So what should you do? Try tips such as:
- Regularly exercising
- Quitting smoking
- Eating a healthy diet
- Maintaining a healthy weight
Making these positive life changes can impact your wellness in other ways as well. You’ll sleep better, reduce your risk of diabetes, and increase your stamina.
Remember, it’s never, ever too late to begin your heart health journey. Start by implementing the above measures and ask for support where needed. You’ll be on the path to a healthier lifestyle in record time.