6 Key Risk Factors of Contracting Heart Disease

In the media there’s a lot of talk about diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s and whatever disease is a current hot topic. The truth is that while these diseases are certainly frightening, none of them has the same impact on health and well-being that heart disease does.

Heart disease is the number one killer in America. Here are some shocking statistics provide by the Center for Disease Control.

  • About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year – that’s 1 out of every 4 deaths.
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States.
  • About every 25 seconds, someone in the U.S. will have a coronary event, and every minute, someone will die from a coronary event.
  • Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack.

(Source: http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm)

And almost everyone has a risk factor for heart disease. Before we take a look at those risk factors, let’s define what heart disease really is, and why it’s such a deadly disease.

Heart disease is an umbrella term for any type of disorder or condition that affects your heart. In most cases what happens is that your arteries are weakened. You may suffer from atherosclerosis, which is a condition that develops when a substance called plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries.

The buildup narrows the arteries and makes it more difficult for the blood to flow through. Clots can form, which can stop blood flow. The stress and strain on your heart can cause the walls to thicken. If a clot forms it can stop blood flow and cause a heart attack or stroke.

Let’s take a look at the risk factors. Chances are you’ll see yourself in some of these risk factors.

6 Risk Factors of Heart Disease

1) How Old Are You?

As you age, your risk of heart disease increases. Your arteries can become narrowed and damaged as you age. As this happens, it can cause your heart to work harder. Remember, your heart is a muscle and it never gets a rest. If it has to work harder to pump blood throughout your body, it’s likely to give out sooner.

2) What’s Your Gender?

Men have a greater risk of heart disease. However, once a woman goes through menopause, her risk of heart disease increases.

3) Family Matters

People with a family history of heart disease have a greater risk of developing heart disease. And if your parent developed it before age 55, then your risk increases even more.

4) Lifestyle Habits

A diet that’s high in fat, salt, sugar or cholesterol can contribute to the development of heart disease. If you’re overweight or live a sedentary lifestyle then your risk of heart disease also increases. And smoking is a serious risk factor. Smoking is a major cause of heart disease for both men and women.

5) Medical Conditions

People with certain health issues or medical conditions also have a higher risk of heart disease. For example, if you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes your risk increases. Interestingly, diabetes raises the risk of heart disease in women more than it does in men.

6) The Stress Connection

Stress has been connected to several medical conditions including obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease. The hormone cortisol is released during times of stress and can cause damage to your tissues including your arteries and your heart.

So stress, lifestyle, and some factors beyond your control are all risk factors for heart disease. You may be seeing yourself in several of these risk factors. Here’s what you need to know…

More risk factors equals more risk. Your risk for heart disease multiplies as your number of risk factors increase. Having just one risk factor doubles your risk for heart disease, but if you have two risk factors your risk of heart disease is now fourfold. If you have three or more risk factors then your risk for heart disease increases more than tenfold.

Some risk factors are more serious. For example, if you have diabetes or you’re a smoker you’re at greater risk for heart disease than others.

While many risk factors are beyond your control, and some start during childhood, there are many risk factors that are in your control. Because your risk increases as the number and intensity of your risk factors increase, it makes sense to take steps to reduce each risk factor. Early prevention is key.