Physical inactivity. The American Heart Association says that lack of physical activity is as important a risk factor for heart disease as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. Health experts also say regular exercise reduces the risk for other diseases, such as high blood pressure, which can contribute to strokes. In addition to helping you control blood cholesterol, regular exercise can help prevent or control obesity and diabetes. Both of these are risk factors for heart disease.
Obesity. If you are overweight, you are at increased risk for heart disease. This is true even if you have no other risk factors. Being overweight can do the following:
- put a strain on your heart
- raise your blood pressure
- raise your level of LDL, known as bad cholesterol
- lower your level of HDL, known as good cholesterol
Obesity can also make you more likely to develop diabetes, a major risk factor for heart disease and a number of other serious health problems.