Cardiovascular Diseases

Risks of heart disease

People can take steps to reduce risks of heart disease by changing the factors they can control. Many health conditions, lifestyle, age and family history may increase the risk of heart disease. These are called "risk factors." Some risk factors for heart disease (such as age or family history) cannot be controlled, but steps can be taken to reduce the risk by changing the factors that can be controlled.

Health problems that increase the risk of heart disease:
High blood pressure: It is a major risk factor for heart disease, and a medical condition that occurs when blood pressure rises in the arteries and other blood vessels. If uncontrolled, high pressure can affect the heart and other major organs in the body, including the kidneys and brain. High blood pressure is often called the "silent killer" because it usually has no symptoms, and the only way to know it is by measuring your blood pressure. Blood pressure can be lowered by lifestyle changes or by using medications to reduce the risk of heart disease and heart attack.

Unhealthy cholesterol levels in the blood: Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made by the liver or found in some foods. It can build up in the walls of arteries, including those in the heart. This causes the arteries to narrow and can reduce blood flow to the heart, brain, kidneys, and other parts of the body. There are two main types of blood cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is considered "bad" cholesterol because it can cause plaque to build up in the arteries, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which is considered to be a "good" cholesterol because high levels offer some protection against heart disease. High cholesterol usually has no signs or symptoms, and the only way to know if you have high cholesterol is to have a cholesterol test.

Diabetes: the body needs glucose (sugar) to obtain energy, and insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that helps transfer glucose from the food that was eaten to the cells of the body to obtain energy, but when diabetes occurs, the body does not produce an adequate amount of insulin, it can't use insulin as well or both. Diabetes causes sugar to build up in the blood. The risk of death from heart disease for adults with diabetes is higher than for adults without diabetes.

Obesity: It is excess fat in the body, as it is associated with high levels of “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides and low levels of “good” cholesterol. Obesity can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, as well as heart disease.

Behaviors that increase the risk of heart disease:

  • Eating a diet rich in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol is associated with heart disease and related conditions (such as atherosclerosis), and eating too much salt (sodium) in the diet can raise blood pressure.
  • Not getting enough physical activity can lead to heart disease, and can also increase chances of developing other medical conditions. Risk factors for heart disease, including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, regular physical activity can reduce risk of heart disease.
  • Drinking alcohol can raise blood pressure levels and the risk of heart disease. It also increases triglyceride levels (a fatty substance in the blood that can increase the risk of heart disease).
  • Tobacco use increases the risk of heart disease and heart attacks, as smoking cigarettes can damage the heart and blood vessels, which increases the risk of heart disease (such as: atherosclerosis and heart attacks), and nicotine causes high blood pressure, and the carbon monoxide from cigarette smoke reduces the amount of oxygen the blood can carry, and exposure to passive smoking can also increase the risk of heart disease even for non-smokers.

Effects of genetics and family history on the risk of heart disease:
When family members transmit traits from one generation to the next through genes, this process is called heredity. It is likely that genetic factors play a role in high blood pressure, heart disease, and other related conditions. The risk of heart disease can increase even more when heredity combines with Unhealthy lifestyle choices (e.g.: smoking cigarettes and eating an unhealthy diet).

Effect of age and gender on the risks of heart disease:
Heart disease is the number one killer for both men and women. Heart disease can occur at any age, but the risk increases with age.

Symptoms of heart disease:
Sometimes heart disease may be "silent" and not diagnosed until the patient feels signs or symptoms of a heart attack, heart failure, or an irregular heartbeat when these events occur. Symptoms may include:

  • Heart attack: chest pain or discomfort, upper back or neck pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea or vomiting, extreme tiredness, upper body discomfort, dizziness and shortness of breath.
  • Irregular heartbeat: a feeling of fluttering in the chest (palpitations).
  • Heart failure: shortness of breath, tiredness, or swelling in the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen, or neck veins.

Even when there are no symptoms, you may still be at risk of developing heart disease.

Reducing the risk of heart disease:

  • Check your blood pressure regularly.
  • Control diabetes around normal rates.
  • Talk to your health care provider about whether you should be tested for diabetes.
  • Quit Smoking.
  • Discuss checking cholesterol and triglyceride levels with your healthcare provider.
  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet, which includes:
  1. Reduce saturated fats found in foods (such as fatty cuts of meat, cream, cakes and biscuits) and try to include more healthy sources of fats (such as oily fish, nuts and olive oil).
  2. Reduce your salt intake, aiming for less than 6g (0.2oz or 1 teaspoon) per day.
  3. Reduce sugar intake.
  4. Increase fiber and foods made from whole grains.
  5. Increase fruits and vegetables, by eating at least 5 portions of fruits and vegetables per day.
  • Practice physical activity, as adults are advised to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week (such as: cycling or brisk walking), but when there is difficulty in doing so, it must start at a level in which the person feels comfortable and gradually increase the duration and intensity of the activity as fitness improves.  The doctor should also be visited for a medical examination if the person has not exercised before or if he returns to exercise after a long break.
  • Maintain a healthy weight by combining regular exercise with a healthy diet, preferably aiming for a BMI of less than 25.
  • Reduce the level of stress and look for healthy ways to deal with stress, such as:
  1. Play with children outdoors, if possible.
  2. Take a walk in nature.
  3. Meditation or yoga practice.
  4. Work in the garden or do a home improvement project.
  5. Go for a walk, run, or bike ride to clear your mind.
  6. Read a book, short story, or magazine.
  7. Meet a friend for coffee or a meal.
Last Update : 24 August 2023 10:57 AM
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