Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the U.S. Inform your community about what factors increase their risk for heart disease – and how to reduce the likelihood of becoming a statistic.
Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease in the U.S. It affects the blood flow to the heart – decreased blood flow can cause a heart attack.
1. Know What Puts You at Risk for Heart Disease
Your current health, lifestyle and genetics can increase your risk for heart disease. Some of these factors are out of your control – but there are some you can lessen.
47% of Americans either have high blood pressure, have high cholesterol or smoke – the three biggest risk factors for heart disease.
Risk Factors You Can’t Control
- Increasing Age: Men age 45 and older and women age 55 and older are at an increased risk.
- Gender: Men have an increased risk compared to women, and they have heart attacks earlier in life. After menopause, risk increases for women, but it is still not as great as men’s risk.
- Family History: People with a father or brother who developed heart disease before age 55, or with a mother or sister who developed heart disease before age 65, are more likely to develop the disease.
- Racial or Ethnic Background: Black people, Hispanics, American Indians, Native Hawaiians and some Asians are at greater risk than white people.
Risk Factors You Can Control
- Tobacco Smoke: Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood and speeds up the development of plaque in your coronary arteries.
- Abnormal Blood Cholesterol Level: High levels of low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) and low levels of high-density lipoprotein (good cholesterol) increase the risk of developing coronary heart disease.
- High Blood Pressure: High blood pressure makes the heart work harder and damages arteries, resulting in a thicker, stiffer heart muscle and an increased risk for disease.
- Physical Inactivity: Inactive people have an increased risk for heart disease. Moderate to vigorous physical activity on a regular and long-term basis helps prevent heart and blood vessel disease.
- Overweight/Obesity: People with too much body fat, especially around the middle, have an increased risk for heart disease.
- Diabetes: Diabetes is an elevation of sugar levels in your blood. It can damage blood vessels and affect blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood.
2. Improve Your Health for a Happy Heart
Take Charge of Your Medical Conditions
If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes, you can take steps to lower your risk for heart disease. Make sure to get regular screenings and know your target numbers.
Key actions include checking your:
- Cholesterol (every five years, or more often if abnormal).
- Blood pressure (every two years, or more often if readings are >120/80 mm/Hg).
- Blood sugar levels (every three years starting at age 45, or more often if there's a family history).
If you take medication to treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes, follow your doctor’s instructions and ask questions if there’s something you don’t understand. Don’t stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
Lead a Healthier Life
By making smart lifestyle choices, you can help keep your blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar in check – and lower your risk for heart disease.
Follow these important steps:
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Get enough physical activity.
- Quit smoking and using other forms of tobacco.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
For more information on various health and wellness products available to purchase for your community, browse the QuickSeries® library of guides, including Healthy Heart and Controlling Your Cholesterol.