In the U.S., about 610,000 people die of heart disease every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That works out to about one in every four deaths.
Heart disease is one of the few afflictions that hasn't diminished over the years, perhaps because the very modern conveniences that have contributed to longer life spans in other areas have also made heart disease more likely.
Dr. Mauro Moscucci, Chief of the LifeBridge Health Cardiovascular Institute and Chairman of the Department of Medicine at Sinai Hospital, has identified seven major risk factors that could make it more likely you will suffer from heart disease.
The good news? You can do something about it.
The seven risk factors that Dr. Moscucci identied are:
- High Blood Pressure – When your heart has to work harder to pump blood through your veins, it becomes enlarged. It can also weaken blood vessels. Losing weight, regular exercise, and good nutrition can bring down blood pressure. Some medication may also be effective.
- Abnormal Cholesterol – High cholesterol can build up in blood vessels, leading to atherosclerosis. Diet and exercise are key to regulating cholesterol, but Moscucci says some patients may need medication as well.
- Diabetes – There's a type 2 diabetes epidemic in the U.S. caused by obesity, inactivity, and a poor diet. Scientists now believe diabetes can be reversed, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the best way to avoid this risk factor in the first place.
- Cigarette Smoking – Do we still have to explain this? There is a clear causative relationship between smoking and heart disease, meaning cigarettes cause heart disease and stroke. Those who cease smoking can improve survival rates for heart disease within two-to-three years of quitting.
- Obesity – For every two pounds someone is over his or her “ideal” body weight, there is a three percent increase in fatal and non-fatal heart attacks. Obesity is connected to most of these risk factors. Maintaining a healthy weight will take a lot of strain off your heart. It will also help take care of the other six risk factors.
- Physical inactivity – In many ways, a sedentary lifestyle can hurt your health. It's connected to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Get active and you improve your heart health; it's that simple.
- Unhealthy diet – Take a hard look at what you eat every day. What you eat and how much will make a big difference in heart health. Portion sizes have ballooned over the last several decades. Consider this – restaurant servings in the United States are about 25% larger than in France, and ice cream servings are more than 40% larger.
Moscucci says prevention is the best way to deal with a heart problem. If you have concerns with any of the seven risk factors, it might be a good idea to have a conversation with your healthcare provider.