10 Common Risk Factors For Heart Disease – Are you at risk?

10 Common Risk Factors For Heart Disease – Are you at risk?

10 Common Risk Factors For Heart Disease – Are you at risk?

By knowing your risk factors for heart disease you can proactively take measures to ensure heart disease doesn’t become an inevitable part of your future.

  1. Your waist-to-hip ratio may be more important to know than your BMI.
    A global study of 27,000 participants in 52 countries published in the British medical journal The Lancet concluded that waist-to-hip ratio is a more accurate indicator in assessing a person’s risk of heart disease than Body Mass Index (BMI).1  It was found worldwide that people who accumulate fat around their middle have a higher rate of heart disease than people who are pear-shaped, or bottom-heavy. By reducing your weight and lowering your waist-to-hip ratio, you can reduce your risk of heart disease. Calculate your waist-to-hip ratio.
  2. High trans fatty acid intake increases your risk of heart disease.
    A 10-year study was conducted on a Dutch population aged 64 to 84 that consumed a diet high in trans fatty acids. This long-term study revealed that heart disease risk increases significantly with high trans fatty acid intake.2 The researchers concluded that lowering dietary trans fats has a positive impact on reducing heart disease. Trans fats are found primarily in processed partially hydrogenated oils. Due to mounting evidence that trans fats are bad for your heart, the FDA now requires food labels to list the amount of trans fats, so that consumers can make healthier food choices. Some types of fats are essential and necessary to your body, do you know the difference between good fats and bad fats.
  3. Men and women experience heart disease differently.
    There is mounting evidence that women experience heart disease much differently than men. Therefore, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of heart disease should be tailored to address specific gender differences.3 Women have smaller blood vessels than men. When atherosclerosis (blockage of the arteries) is present in women, the disease tends to be distributed throughout the blood vessels, rather than appear as isolated plaque buildups (as seen in men). Also, while pre-menopausal women have lower rates of heart disease than men, the rate of heart disease among post-menopausal women starts to match that of men. This is due to lower levels of estrogen after menopause.
  4. Low testosterone levels may increase heart disease risk.
    Low bone density, low lean muscle mass, depression, mood disorders, and cognitive problems have all been associated with low testosterone levels. Furthermore, low testosterone has been linked to metabolic disorders such as obesity, diabetes, and insulin resistance—known risk factors for heart disease. In fact, research has established that men with diabetes tend to have lower testosterone levels than men without diabetes. Low testosterone levels are also linked to erectile dysfunction, yet another risk factor for heart disease.4  Many health experts now recommend testing testosterone levels as part of a thorough medical evaluation.
  5. Your heart needs the sun.
    Vitamin D deficiency due to lack of adequate sunlight exposure may increase your risk of heart disease. Studies have shown that unrecognized vitamin D deficiency is a contributing factor of many chronic debilitating diseases, including heart disease and osteoporosis.5  Exposure to sunlight is the best way for your body to produce vitamin D naturally. Since very few foods contain vitamin D, taking a vitamin D supplement is recommended, especially for the chronically ill, homebound or hospital-bound patients who can’t get outdoors as much as they’d like to.
  6. Low cholesterol levels can be just as bad for you as high cholesterol levels.
    Cholesterol is crucial for hormone production and normal cell function. In order to best protect your heart, it is now recommended that total cholesterol levels be within the 180 to 200 mg/dL range. Cholesterol levels lower than 180 mg/dL are implicated in an increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke and heart attack. The key is to maintain a healthy HDL-to-LDL ratio.
  7. NSAIDS may stop the pain, but they may also break your heart.
    Prescription and over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS such as Bextra®, Celebrex®, Vioxx®, Motrin®, Aleve®, and others) are a quick fix to reduce the inflammation response, and relieve pain. However, while they stop the pain in the short-term, they may pose a significant threat to your heart. The FDA has pulled some NSAIDs off the market, and has issued warnings about the increased risk of heart disease and stroke associated with the use of NSAIDs.6
  8. Your heart needs Bs.
    Homocysteine is an amino acid produced by the body. High homocysteine levels causes cholesterol to turn into low-density lipoprotein (LDL or bad cholesterol), promoting arterial damage, or atherosclerosis. Studies have shown that those with high homocysteine levels have double the risk of heart disease. High homocysteine levels are caused primarily by vitamin B-6 and B-12 deficiencies. Supplementing your diet with a potent vitamin B complex may help reduce homocysteine levels, and potentially reduce your heart disease risk.7
  9. Systemic inflammation is a silent killer.
    When the body is continuously attacked by environmental contaminants, food intolerances, viruses, bacteria, fungi, and mold, C-reactive protein levels go up. High C-reactive proteins levels are an inflammatory marker that may indicate an increased risk of heart disease. By reducing systemic inflammation, your C-reactive protein levels go down, as well as your risk of heart disease.
  10. Your sexual performance may be more important than you realize.
    The American Urological Association has presented numerous studies that link heart disease to erectile dysfunction. More specifically, Austrian researchers have found a relationship between high homocysteine levels, erectile dysfunction, and heart disease.8  And, a study in published in the April 2004 Journal of the American College of Cardiology revealed that heart disease risk factors can predict erectile dysfunction 25 years later. Improving heart disease risk factors may not only reduce the risk of heart disease, but also prevent erectile dysfunction.9

Other well-known risk factors for heart disease that are within your control:

Talk to your healthcare professional about functional testing to accurately assess your heart disease risk and find ways to improve your heart health now, and for the future.

Cited Sources:

1) The Lancet 2005; 366:1640-1649
Yusuf, Salim et al., Obesity and the risk of myocardial infarction in 27?000 participants from 52 countries: a case-control study

2) The Lancet 2001; 357:746-751
Oomen, Claudia M. et al., Association between trans fatty acid intake and 10-year risk of coronary heart disease in the Zutphen Elderly Study: a prospective population-based study

3) American College of Cardiology Press Release, Dec. 7. 2003
More Evidence That Heart Disease is Different in Women and Men:  Study questions assumptions about prognosis and treatment

4) Diabetes And Low Testosterone, CBSNews.com
Accessed Feb. 2005

5) American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2004 May;79(5):890.
Holick, MF, Vitamin D: importance in the prevention of cancers, type 1 diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis

6) FDA Public Health Advisory
FDA Announces Important Changes and Additional Warnings for COX-2 Selective and Non-Selective Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
Accessed Feb. 2005

7) Busy B’s, Good for Your Heart, UC Berkeley Wellness Newsletter
Accessed Feb. 2005

8) Erectile Trouble May Signal Heart Disease, MedicineNet.com
Accessed Feb. 2005

9) Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Vol. 43, No. 8, 2004
Fung, Maple M. et al, Heart Disease Risk Factors Predict Erectile Dysfunction 25 Years Later: The Rancho Bernardo Study
Accessed Feb. 2005

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