Heart disease - risk factors
Heart disease - prevention
A risk factor is something about you that increases your chance of getting a disease or having a certain health condition. Some risk factors for heart disease you cannot change, but some you can. Changing the risk factors that you have control over will help you live a longer, healthier life.
Some of the things about you that increase your risk of getting heart disease that you CANNOT change are:
- Your age. Risk of heart disease increases with age.
- Your gender. Men have a higher risk of getting heart disease than women who are still menstruating. After menopause, the risk for women is the same as the risk for men.
- Your genes or race. If your parents had heart disease, you are at higher risk. African-Americans, Mexican Americans, American Indians, Hawaiians, and some Asian Americans also have a higher risk for heart problems.
Some of the risks for heart disease that you CAN change are:
- Not smoking. If you do smoke, quit.
- Controlling your cholesterol through diet, exercise, and medicines, if needed. See also: Cholesterol - drug treatment
- Controlling high blood pressure through diet, exercise, and medicines, if needed. See also: Controlling your blood pressure
- Exercising at least 30 minutes a day
- Keeping to a healthy weight by eating healthy foods, eating less, and joining a weight loss program, if you need to lose weight
- Learning healthy ways to cope with stress through special classes or programs, or things like meditation or yoga
- Limiting how much alcohol you drink to 1 drink a day for women and 2 a day for men
Good nutrition is important to your heart health and will help control some of your risk factors.
- Choose a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Choose lean proteins, such as chicken, fish, beans and legumes.
- Choose low-fat dairy products, such as 1% milk and other low-fat items.
- Avoid sodium (salt) and fats found in fried foods, processed foods, and baked goods.
- Eat fewer animal products that contain cheese, cream, or eggs.
- Read labels, and stay away from "saturated fat" and anything that contains "partially-hydrogenated" or "hydrogenated" fats. These products are usually loaded with unhealthy fats.
Follow these guidelines and the advice of your doctor to lower your chances of developing heart disease.
Gaziano M, Manson JE, Ridker PM. Primary and secondary prevention of coronary heart disease. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Braunwald E, Zipes DP, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine, 8th ed. Saunders; 2007;chap 45.
Review Date: 12/13/2008
Reviewed By: Larry A. Weinrauch MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Cardiovascular Disease and Clinical Outcomes Research, Watertown, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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