In recognition of American Heart Month, it is important to take a moment to understand just how serious heart disease is. Every year, more than 600,000 people in the United States die of heart disease, which translates to about one in every four deaths. Of those deaths, more than half are due to coronary heart disease alone.
Risk Factors for Heart Disease
More than 730,000 heart attacks occur each year, and more than 500,000 occur in individuals who have never had a heart attack before. The following are some of the most common risk factors that can lead to heart attacks or heart disease:
The unfortunate reality is that some of the risk factors for heart disease simply cannot be altered. If anyone in your family has had a heart attack at age 55 or younger, the likelihood that you will have a heart attack at some point goes up significantly. For those who have a genetic predisposition for heart disease, it is even more important to reduce other risk factors as much as possible.
The risk of heart disease increases as you get older. This is another example of a risk factor that you can’t do much about. However, having an otherwise healthy lifestyle can help offset the risk of age-related heart disease.
Lack of Exercise
Your heart needs to be exercised regularly to stay strong and healthy. Individuals who fail to exercise on a regular basis have a significantly higher risk of heart disease. Even a small amount of exercise — for example 30 minutes three times a week — can make a major difference in your risk profile.
Being overweight increases the risk of a heart attack or general heart diseases. Typically, this goes hand in hand with a lack of exercise, but each one of these risk factors increases your chances of heart disease on their own.
Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
Unhealthy levels of blood pressure and cholesterol can be major risk factors. Sometimes, blood pressure and cholesterol are genetic, in which case, medication is essential to managing the risks. For those who are able to positively impact their blood pressure and cholesterol through lifestyle changes, it is highly recommended that you do so.