Heart disease is not only the leading cause of death in the United States, it’s also one of the most preventable health issues. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that each year in the Unites States, at least 200,000 deaths from heart disease or stroke are preventable.
Eye-opening statistics such as this one compel the team here at Upper East Cardiology to continue our efforts to potentially save lives. To that end, under the direction of Dr. Satjit Bhusri, we offer preventive cardiology, and at the heart of this practice is understanding — and mitigating, if you can — your risk factors.
Here’s a look at the top five risk factors for heart disease.
1. Family history
This first risk factor for heart disease is not within your power to change, but knowing that the risk exists can help guide your preventive care moving forward. When we refer to family, we’re referencing immediate family, which includes parents, siblings, and grandparents.
If you have a family member who has developed heart disease of any kind, it’s important that you let us know.
2. High blood pressure
Nearly half of adults in the US have high blood pressure, or hypertension. When you have hypertension, the force of your blood against the walls of your arteries is too great. Over time, this increased pressure can weaken your blood vessels and leave you more vulnerable to heart attack and stroke.
Hypertension is also known as a silent killer since there are few symptoms, which makes coming in for regular blood pressure checks with us is important.
3. Cholesterol issues
Often, people refer to high cholesterol as being a primary culprit behind heart disease, but the issue is a bit more complicated. Your cholesterol blood work includes your total cholesterol plus your levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), high-density lipoproteins (HDLs), and triglycerides. When your LDL and triglyceride levels are high, this can be problematic as fat can build up in your blood vessels. Conversely, may also be at risk for heart disease if your HDL levels are too low as these lipoproteins are responsible for helping rid your body of excess cholesterol.
When you have obesity, several other issues may develop as a result. First, if your obesity stems from an unhealthy diet, you’re more vulnerable to cholesterol problems. Second, the extra weight is forcing your cardiovascular system to work harder. Third, having obesity can also make you more susceptible to diabetes, which is a chronic disease that counts heart attack and stroke among its many complications.
5. Smoking (and secondhand smoke)
Exposure to tobacco smoke can wreak havoc on your cardiovascular system. To give you an idea, here’s what smoking can cause:
- Higher levels of fat in your blood
- Sluggish blood that clots easily, blocking blood flow
- Weakened blood vessels
- Thickened and narrowed blood vessels
All of these potential side effects of exposure to smoke are dangerous and put you on the path to heart disease.
There are other risk factors, such as lack of exercise, older age, and menopause for women, but the above presents the primary culprits behind heart disease.
The good news is that, with all but one of the risk factors we outline above (family history), there are steps (and medications) that you can take to reduce your risks.
The best way to find out whether you’re at risk for heart disease and how you can reduce these risks is to make an appointment for a full cardiology assessment at our New York City office on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Simply click here to get started.