There is a range of factors that can raise your risk of developing heart disease and having a heart attack or stroke. The more factors you have, the greater your risk.
Although you can’t do anything about your age, gender, race and family history, there are factors you can modify, treat or control by making lifestyle changes or taking medication.
- Quit smoking. A smoker’s risk of developing heart disease is two to four times greater than that of nonsmokers.
- Lower your blood cholesterol. As blood cholesterol rises, so does the risk of heart disease. When other factors (such as high blood pressure and tobacco smoke) are present, the risk is even higher.
- Lower your blood pressure. High blood pressure makes the heart work harder than normal and makes your arteries more prone to injury.
- Get active. Regular, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity helps prevent heart and blood vessel disease. The more vigorous the activity, the greater your benefits.
- Lose excess weight. Excess weight increases the heart’s workload. People with excess body fat, especially around the waist, are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke, even if they have no other factors.
- Manage your diabetes. Diabetes seriously increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, even when glucose (blood sugar) levels are under control.
- Reduce stress. Too much stress over time, and unhealthy responses to it, may create health problems in some people. Find healthy ways to manage stress, exercise and eat right.
- Limit alcohol. Alcohol raises blood pressure, can cause heart failure and lead to stroke. It also adds calories, contributing to obesity and making it harder to lose weight. If you don’t drink, don’t start. If you do, limit yourself to one drink a day.
You are at a higher risk if your father or brother developed heart disease or a stroke before they were 55; or, if you have a mother or sister who developed heart disease or a stroke before they were 65. You can protect yourself by taking care of your heart.
By Dr. Thomas Jordan a board certified physician in internal medicine and cardiovascular medicine. He practices at Northside Heart’s Cumming, Roswell, Sandy Springs and Woodstock offices. www.northsideheart.com