Information About your Fitness

Factors Influencing Heart Disease Risk: Behaviors vs. Environment

Factors Influencing Heart Disease Risk

The heart is the hardest-working muscle in the body, beating every second to move blood through the arteries. Heart disease is the number one killer for both men and women. Gender, age, and heredity affect a person’s risk.

However, many heart disease risks can be changed or controlled. These are called modifiable risk factors.

Family History

Having an understanding of one’s family history may give clues about the possibility of developing certain medical conditions. A person needs to have this information when making decisions about lifestyle choices that could influence heart disease risk, such as diet, exercise, and smoking. Having an inherited condition increases the risk of developing heart disease because the genetic code that controls how the body functions is passed on from parents to their children.

A family health history is a record of a person’s close relatives and their medical histories, often arranged as a pedigree chart (family tree). The information in the record can include names, ages, relationships to the patient (sex), and any known medical issues that have affected the family members. This information can be valuable for healthcare professionals to detect potential genetic disorders.

The information from a family health history can also provide important clues about an individual’s risk factors, which are the behavioral elements that increase the likelihood of developing heart disease and stroke. Some of these risk factors are uncontrollable, such as gender and age, while others can be changed, such as an unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, and alcohol abuse.

When people talk about “family history,” they generally mean a history of their parents, siblings, and other first-degree relatives. Those with closer relationships, such as half-siblings or aunts and uncles, should be included when appropriate. A complete family history can take up to 30 minutes to collect.

Research suggests that many people do not accurately perceive their risk for a disease based on their family history. In the study cited above, 48-79% of those with moderate or strong familial risk for disease still perceived themselves to be at below average risk. This may be because of optimism bias or the assumption that they will be able to overcome the risk through other behaviors, such as losing weight and exercising more. Some studies have shown that presenting this information to patients can lead to changes in their risk perceptions and their subsequent preventive actions.

Diet

A heart-healthy diet can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases. A healthy eating pattern is rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and healthy fats from fish, nuts, and seeds. It also limits foods high in saturated and trans fats, sugars, and salt.

Eating too much salt may increase your risk for heart disease because it can lead to high blood pressure and high levels of cholesterol in the blood. High blood pressure and high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood can increase your risk of coronary artery disease, which is when fatty deposits (plaques) build up in the arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart and other parts of the body. The plaques can block the flow of blood and cause a heart attack or chest pain (angina).

Some factors that influence your risk for heart disease can be changed, while others cannot. These are called modifiable risk factors. They include smoking, high cholesterol and blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and physical inactivity.

The leading causes of death in the United States are heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases. These conditions can affect all racial and ethnic groups but are more common in certain groups. For example, people of African American ancestry have a higher death rate from heart disease than whites. Men have a greater chance of developing coronary artery disease than women. And men die at a younger age from heart disease than women.

CDC works to prevent heart disease and other chronic health problems by helping Americans manage their major risk factors. These include quitting smoking, following a heart-healthy eating pattern, being physically active, reducing their use of alcohol and lowering their blood pressure. CDC also supports programs that reduce health disparities between geographic, racial and ethnic groups. The more risk factors you have, the more likely it is that you will develop a heart disease or stroke. However, some risk factors can be controlled through lifestyle changes or medicine. Other risk factors cannot be controlled and are not related to a person’s choices.

Diet

Physical Activity

Physical activity is a great way to prevent heart disease, and even just two to three hours of moderate exercise each week can reduce your risk by improving your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and weight. Exercise can also improve mental health problems like depression and anxiety, which are often overlooked but are major contributors to cardiovascular issues.

Increasing your level of physical activity can be easier than you think. Rather than having to go to the gym or a sports club, regular exercise can be as simple as climbing stairs, dancing to your favorite music, and taking brisk walking or gardening breaks. In addition, you can get fitter by taking up a new sport or joining a local walking group.

Almost all forms of activity count, including housework and gardening. You can also get more active by taking up a hobby such as painting or photography, or by simply spending more time with family and friends.

Regular exercise helps you to burn calories and maintain a healthy weight, which in turn lowers your risk of heart disease by reducing your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and insulin resistance (which can lead to diabetes). It can also increase flexibility and strength and make your arteries more flexible and resilient, helping you to avoid a heart attack or stroke.

Research shows that even just two to three hours of moderate exercise per week can help to reduce your chances of having a heart attack or stroke, and it could save your life. In addition, there are many other benefits of being active, such as a healthier, happier, and more productive life.

There are some risk factors for heart disease that you cannot control, such as your age and gender. But there are also some risk factors that you can change, which is why it’s important to talk with your doctor about all of your risk factors.

These include a poor diet, high blood pressure and cholesterol, smoking, being overweight or obese, stress, lack of physical activity, and having diabetes. If you are worried about your heart health, book in for a Heart Health Check with your GP to see what lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk of heart disease.

Smoking

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) account for a major share of global death and disability. They also cause high economic losses in terms of healthcare services, drugs, and loss of productivity. Despite this, many adults fail to take preventative measures against CVDs such as diet, smoking, and physical activity. These factors lead to the occurrence of coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral artery disease. In addition, minimal engagement in these preventative measures leads to poor health perceptions, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and nonadherence to treatment (1-3).

Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke raises your chances of having a heart attack. It makes your blood vessels constrict, making it harder for oxygenated blood to flow. It may even increase the buildup of plaque — a waxy substance made of cholesterol, scar tissue, calcium, fat, and other materials in your blood vessels — that can lead to atherosclerosis.

In addition, the nicotine in cigarettes can cause a fast heartbeat, called tachycardia. It also can trigger cardiac fibrosis, which is a scarring of the heart muscle. Smoking also may contribute to paroxysmal tachycardia, which is a condition that causes the heart to beat irregularly.

Studies have shown that people who smoke are at a higher risk for heart disease, regardless of their weight. The risk of having a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems is almost twice as high for smokers as it is for non-smokers.

Moreover, smoking raises your risk of having peripheral artery disease, which occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries that carry blood to your head, organs, arms, and legs. The artery damage can cause serious pain and other problems including a heart attack and stroke.

It’s important to know that quitting can help reduce your risk of developing heart disease. But if you need extra support to quit smoking, you should talk to your doctor. They can suggest ways to help you quit, such as a cessation program or medications. You can also seek help from family and friends, a counselor, or a support group. And remember to be patient. It may take time for you to feel better after you quit smoking.

Smoking

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