Top 5 Risk Factors for Heart Disease


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Lifestyle
If a cigarette-and-booze combo is your idea of a good time, your body's going to get its revenge.
If a cigarette-and-booze combo is your idea of a good time, your body's going to get its revenge.
Henry Horenstein/Getty Images

Unlike other causes of heart disease such as genetics, gender or age, you can help prevent one major cause of heart disease -- your lifestyle. If you smoke, try your hardest to quit. Smoking increases blood pressure and damages your heart's tissues. Obesity is a big contributor to heart disease, so eat a low-fat diet and get exercise as often as you can, ideally for a half-hour at least four times a week. Drink like Ben Franklin's advice, but not like Ben Franklin's habits -- in moderation. A daily serving of alcohol may in fact improve your heart's health [source: AHA].

Lack of exercise and poor diet can increase the amount of low-density ("bad") cholesterol in your bloodstream. This accumulates as plaque inside your arteries, causing them to harden and narrow. A good diet and exercise can simultaneously lower bad cholesterol and raise "good" (high-density) cholesterol, which rids the body of the low-density variety­.

High blood pressure strains the heart, but exercise, a low-salt diet and medications can help. Stress is no good for your heart, and it can nudge you toward unhealthy comforts like alcohol, tobacco or overeating. If life gets you down, clear your head, exercise or take a nice relaxing nap in some yoga pants. Women using birth control pills are also at higher risk of heart attack, especially if they smoke [source: Haynes].

A smart diet, exercise and good lifestyle choices are entirely within your reach. For lots more information on heart disease, see the next page.

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More Great Links

Sources

  • American Diabetes Association. "Diabetes and Cardiovascular (Heart) Disease." (Oct. 26, 2008) http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-statistics/heart-disease.jsp
  • American Heart Association. "Risk Factors and Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke." Jan. 30, 2008. (Oct. 26, 2008) http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=539
  • American Heart Association. "Your Heart and How it Works." (Oct. 13, 2008). http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=1557
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Men and Heart Disease Fact Sheet." June 6, 2008. (Oct. 26, 2008) http://www.cdc.gov/DHDSP/library/fs_men_heart.htm
  • Franklin Institute. "The Human Heart: An Online Exploration from the Franklin Institute." (Oct. 13, 2008). http://www.fi.edu/learn/heart/
  • Harvard Health Publications. "Gender matters: Heart disease risk in women." (Oct. 26, 2008) http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/Gender_matters_Heart_disease_risk_in_women.htm
  • Haynes, William, MD. "Risk Factors for Heart Disease: Frequently Asked Questions."
  • University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Division of Cardiovascular Disease. Jan. 2004. (Oct. 26, 2008)http://www.uihealthcare.com/topics/medicaldepartments/internalmedicine/heartriskfactors/index.html
  • Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. "Have diabetes? Stop cardiovascular disease in its tracks." May 4, 2007. (Oct. 26, 2008)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/diabetes/DA00052
  • Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. "Heart Disease." (Oct. 13, 2008). http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heart-disease/HB99999
  • Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. "Men's top 10 health threats: Mostly preventable." Feb. 21, 2007. (Oct. 26, 2008) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mens-health/MC00013
  • Med Care. "Heart disease and prevention: race and age differences in heart disease prevention, treatment, and mortality." Holmes, J.S.; Arispe, I.E.; Moy, E. March 2005. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15746589
  • Murray, Michelle W. "Heart Disease: Tips for Prevention." University of Maryland Medical System. April 19, 2007. http://www.umm.edu/features/tips_prev.htm
  • National Vital Statistics Reports. "Life expectancy at birth, at 65 and 75 years of age by race and sex, 1900-2004; Deaths: Final Data for 2005." Volume 56, Number 10, Table 8. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/lifexpec.htm
  • Roizen, Michael F. M.D., and Mehmet C. Oz, M.D. "YOU: The Owner's Manual." HarperCollins. 2005.
  • Science Daily. "Obesity In Middle Age Raises Heart Disease, Diabetes Risk In Older Age." Jan. 12, 2006. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060112022352.htm

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