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Understand Heart Attack Risk Factors & How You May Be Affected

written by: BStone • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 8/24/2010

Are you at risk for a heart attack? Find out by taking a look at the heart attack risk factors and deciding what you can do to improve your cardiovascular health.

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    heart health Heart health is important for everyone. While it may seem that only middle-aged, type-A men who smoke and eat a lot of red meat are vulnerable, anyone, even a vegetarian, non-smoking woman, can have a heart attack. In fact, heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States today. In 2006 for example, one in every four deaths was caused by heart disease according to the CDC. Being aware of heart attack risk factors and then doing what you can to address controllable factors are powerful steps towards better cardiovascular health.

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    Controllable Factors

    While some factors are out of your control, there are many aspects of your life that you can change to greatly improve your chances of not having a heart attack. The following are all factors that are in your control:

    • High blood pressure
    • High cholesterol
    • Obesity or being overweight
    • Lack of exercise
    • Smoking
    • Stress and anger
    • Uncontrolled diabetes

    So how can you address these factors? Simple, eat a healthy diet to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol levels and to maintain a healthy body weight. This means reducing red meats, hard cheeses, processed foods, salty foods, and high-sugar foods. At the same time be sure to consume plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and nutritional oils.

    Do some form of physical activity at least four or five days a week to improve blood circulation, help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, and to help manage stress levels. Go for a thirty minute walk, bike ride, or swim. Join a community sports team. Sign up for a dance class. There are so many enjoyable ways to eliminate this risk factor.

    Find a way to deal with stress, tension, and anxiety, especially if you suffer on a chronic level. Simple solutions include meditation, walking, therapeutic massage, stress-relief baths, yoga, or simply setting time aside to do something that you enjoy.

    If you have diabetes make an extra effort to keep it under control with a healthy diet, exercise, and regular care from your doctor.

    If you smoke, try to quit. Smoking contributes to coronary artery disease and is responsible for as much as 20% of all deaths due to heart disease. Smoking less does make a difference as well.

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    Uncontrollable Factors

    The following are factors that are not in your control. They have to do with who you are. While no one can change their risk of a heart attack by altering their age, gender, or ethnicity, anyone can be more aware of the danger and take better care of their health because they are in a group that is more at risk. If you are any of the following you are more at risk for heart disease:

    • Male
    • Older
    • Post-menopausal
    • African-American, American Indian, or Mexican American
    • With a family history of heart problems

    Knowing what the heart attack risk factors are, you are able to evaluate your own personal risk and well-being. Heart disease is very serious. Taking control of your life by taking responsibility for your health will go a long way in preventing heart disease and a possible heart attack.

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    References

    Web MD <http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/risk-factors-heart-disease>

    American Heart Association <http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/HeartAttackToolsResources/Heart-Attack-Risk-Assessment_UCM_303944_Article.jsp>

    CDC <http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm>

    Women's Heart Foundation <http://www.womensheart.org/content/HeartAttack/heart_attack_facts.asp>

    photo by: Saxon (CC/flickr) <http://www.flickr.com/photos/saxonmoseley/166562085/sizes/m/in/photostream/>