There’s no shortage of frightening numbers regarding cardiovascular health in the United States, starting with the fact that nearly half of Americans have heart disease. Instead of focusing on that alarming number, we want to focus on a more productive one — 90% of heart disease is preventable.
When it comes to preventing heart disease, understanding (and mitigating) your risks is key. To help, board-certified cardiovascular disease specialist Dr. James Kim wants to focus on some of the more common risks of heart disease.
The big three
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites three key risk factors for heart disease, which include:
1. High blood pressure
Also called hypertension, high blood pressure refers to a condition in which the force of blood through your arteries is too high, which can weaken the vessel walls. In many cases, blockages in your arteries are to blame for the added pressure.
Unfortunately, 47% of adults in the US have hypertension, which places them at much greater risk for heart disease.
2. High cholesterol
When we talk about cholesterol numbers, we’re measuring three different things:
- Low-density proteins (LDLs)
- High-density proteins (HDLs)
Your LDLs are considered your “bad” cholesterol, and your HDLs are considered your “good” cholesterol as they’re responsible for carting off excess LDLs in your blood. Triglycerides are fats, so you want that number to be low.
High cholesterol means too much cholesterol and fat in your blood, which can form deposits that block your blood vessels. How you arrive at high cholesterol often stems from an imbalance in your HDLs (you have too little), your LDLs (you have too many), and high triglyceride numbers.
If you use tobacco or are exposed to secondhand smoke, you’re more at risk for plaque deposits in your blood vessels.
Other risk factors
While the three factors we list above are responsible for much of the risks for heart disease, there are others, such as:
- Genetics — you have a family history of heart disease
- Pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Poor diet
Many of the items on this list are related to the abovementioned risk factors. For example, if you eat a diet full of fats, the odds are good that you’re carrying extra pounds. Between the diet and the excess weight, you’re more likely to have hypertension and bad cholesterol levels.
Improving your heart health
If there’s one point that we want to reiterate, it’s that heart disease is preventable. Given the factors we reviewed, it makes sense that the keys to offsetting your risks for heart disease lie mainly in:
- Improving your diet
- Exercising more
- Losing weight
- Quitting smoking
We understand these recommendations are easier said than done, but we’re here to help.
If you want to do what you can to avoid heart disease, we suggest you schedule an appointment at one of our offices in Chula Vista or National City, California, so we can customize a heart-healthy plan for your needs.