Risk Factors for Heart Disease

Some things in life you just can’t change. Your age. Your family history. Your ethnicity. All are risk factors for heart disease.

More than 80 percent of people who die of coronary heart disease are 65 or older, according to the American Heart Association. And, as people age, they are more prone to develop high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.

If your parents had heart disease, you are more likely to have it as well. Heredity plays a large role in who develops heart disease. African-Americans and Hispanic Americans are at higher risk of the disease than Caucasians.

Diabetes also increases a person’s risk for heart disease. About three-quarters of people with diabetes die of some form of heart or blood vessel disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fortunately, there are many risk factors you can control. The choices you make every day can determine whether you maintain good health or fall victim to disease.

Here are the risk factors you can change:

Weight

Statistics show that three out of 10 Solano County residents are either overweight or obese. Excess weight causes 75 percent of high blood pressure cases. Losing weight can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease.

Diet

Eating foods high in saturated fats and cholesterol can increase your risk of developing atherosclerosis (plaque deposits in the arteries). A diet high in salt raises blood pressure levels. A healthy diet includes lots of plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Small servings of protein will help you maintain a good weight as well as avoid heart disease.

Inactivity

Being a couch potato not only makes you vulnerable to heart disease, but increases your other risk factors, such as developing high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. Regular physical activity—just walking 30 minutes a day—can lower these risk factors.

Smoking

Tobacco use increases your risk of heart disease and heart attack. Cigarette smoking promotes atherosclerosis and increases the levels of blood clotting factors. Nicotine also raises blood pressure, and carbon monoxide reduces the amount of oxygen your blood can carry. Even exposure to second- hand smoke can increase your risk of heart disease.

Alcohol

Excessive alcohol use leads to an increase in blood pressure, and increases the risk for heart disease. Alcohol also increases the levels of triglycerides in your blood, which contributes to atherosclerosis.

Methamphetamines

This highly addictive, illegal street drug, known as crystal meth, is ruining hearts right here in Solano County. A central nervous system stimulant, crystal meth causes high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, and extensive heart damage.

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