February is American Heart Month, and it’s an opportunity to shed light on common misconceptions about heart disease. One of the biggest misunderstandings people often have is that only older people are affected. However, young people are not necessarily immune, and many are negatively impacted by heart disease each year. In fact, up to 10 percent of all heart attacks occur before the age of 45. So there’s no time better than the present to examine your potential heart disease risk factors and start taking action now.
Heart Disease Risk Factors
There are several risk categories that many people may be unaware of that can increase their chances of developing heart disease. And many of them are linked to behaviors that can be changed by making health-conscious choices to potentially reduce those risks. The following risk factors can have a considerable impact on a person’s heart health.
One condition that can contribute to heart disease is high cholesterol. It is caused by the buildup of low-density lipids (LDL) in the arteries, which leads to the creation of plaque in the arterial walls. Smoking, diabetes, an unhealthy diet, and a lack of physical activity can all contribute to high cholesterol.
In addition to enhancing cholesterol risks, the nicotine in cigarettes causes blood vessels to narrow, which damages them over time. Our Commit to Quit tobacco cessation program offers medications and counseling to help you quit at your pace.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, harms the arterial walls and increases a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke. It affects over 100 million Americans and can have potentially fatal consequences if it isn’t managed.
Lack of Regular Exercise/Physical Activity
Another common risk factor that has likely become exacerbated over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic is a lack of regular exercise. Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity. This can keep the cardiovascular system healthier and better conditioned.
When a person is overweight or obese, it puts added pressure on the heart and circulatory system. An unhealthy diet, especially one rich in saturated fats, sodium, and processed sugars, can contribute to obesity. This, in turn, increases heart disease risk.
Diabetes can increase a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke. The high levels of glucose in the blood can damage blood vessels and the nerves that control the heart muscles. This is why the management of diabetes is a crucial part of reducing heart disease risk.
Reduce Your Heart Disease Risk
If you believe that you fall into one or more of the heart disease risk categories, it’s important to take action before it’s too late. And this is true for people of any age. You can start by scheduling an appointment with a heart health specialist at Cardiovascular Institute of the South. Find a location near you and call or schedule an appointment online to have your risks evaluated and get a plan to reduce them. It’s never too early or too late to begin taking your heart health seriously.