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Make Yourself Heart Attack Proof

By    |   Monday, 15 Dec 2014 05:42 PM

More than 200 risk factors have been identified as contributing to cardiovascular disease, but there are some primary factors that can be controlled.

Although there is no way to completely make yourself heart attack proof, there are actions you can take to significantly lower your risk of heart disease.

First, it’s important to understand the primary factors that feed into increased heart disease risk. Some things, like genetic predisposition and family history, can’t be controlled. But a study published by the National Institutes of Health said the main risk factors that lead to CVD are smoking, hypertension, and elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels. All of those can be impacted by lifestyle choices.

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Your lipid panel, or cholesterol test, gives readings for your total cholesterol and then a breakdown of low-density lipoproteins (LDL), high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and triglycerides, according to WebMD.

LDL is commonly referred to as the “bad cholesterol” because it is the main cause of plaque buildup, one of the leading risk factors for heart disease. Although WebMD said that the lower the number the better when it comes to LDL, it’s also just part of the risk assessment.

“For years, guidelines focused on specific target numbers for individuals to achieve to lower their risk. The most recent guidelines focus on a person’s overall risk and, based on that risk, recommend a certain percentage of LDL reduction as one part of a strategy for preventing serious heart and vascular problems,” WebMD said.

HDL, often called the “good cholesterol,” carries the LDL from the blood to the liver, where it leaves the body. It’s the opposite of LDL, in that the higher the number, the better, WebMD said.

Triglycerides are another type of fat in your blood, which is stored in fat cells in the body, and is linked to heart disease, WebMD said.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, creates a higher risk for heart disease because the force of the blood against the artery walls causes potential heart problems over time, Mayo Clinic said.

Exercise and diet are important to control those significant risk factors of heart disease.

“Your lifestyle is not only your best defense against heart disease and stroke, it's also your responsibility,” the American Heart Association said. “By following these simple steps you can reduce all of the modifiable risk factors for heart disease, heart attack and stroke.”


The AHA put “stop smoking” at the top of its list, followed by:
  • A good diet, which includes nutrient-rich foods, “which have vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients but are lower in calories — over nutrient-poor foods.”
  • Controlling cholesterol levels by reducing the intake of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol, and through exercise.
  • Lower blood pressure, with a goal of 120/80 mm/Hg, through diet, decreasing salt intake, and exercise.
  • Exercise. “Research has shown that getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity on five or more days of the week can help lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and keep your weight at a healthy level,” the AHA website said. “But something IS better than nothing. If you're doing nothing now, start out slow.”
  • Control your weight.
  • Manage diabetes.
  • Reduce stress. A relationship between coronary heart disease and stress has been found, which may affect heart attack and stroke risk, AHA said.
  • Limit alcohol intake. “The risk of heart disease in people who drink moderate amounts of alcohol (an average of one drink for women or two drinks for men per day) is lower than in nondrinkers,” AHA said. “However, it's not recommended that nondrinkers start using alcohol or that drinkers increase the amount they drink.”
One study found the biggest risk factor for heart disease in women is inactivity, coming in even more important than smoking, high blood pressure and body mass index, according to Women’s Health magazine.

Australian researchers tracked 40,000 participants and found that smoking was the most common risk factor for young women, but at age 30, inactivity took the lead, Women’s Health said.

This article is for information only and is not intended as medical advice. Talk with your doctor about your specific health and medical needs.

Urgent: Discover your risk for heart disease, take the test now!

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More than 200 risk factors have been identified as contributing to cardiovascular disease, but there are some primary factors that can be controlled. Although there is no way to completely make yourself heart attack proof, there are actions you can take to significantly lower your risk.
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Monday, 15 Dec 2014 05:42 PM
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