Risk factors for heart health
Find out more about the risk factors for heart health.
What is heart disease?
Heart disease or cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a general term that describes different heart problems. The most common type is coronary heart disease, a condition in which the arteries that supply blood to the heart become blocked with plaque. This can lead to a heart attack.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one cause of death globally. Yet by making small changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can improve your heart health and quality of life.
By making small changes to your lifestyle, you can improve your heart health.
Risk factors for heart health
Knowing your risk factors is the first step in taking control of your heart health. There are many risk factors for heart disease and it’s important to take care of them all. A risk factor is a certain lifestyle behaviour, personal factor or environmental condition that raises a person’s chances of negatively affecting their heart health. The more risk factors you have, the higher your chances of negatively affecting your heart health. Some risk factors can be changed, while others cannot:
Your age is a key contributor to the state of your heart health. As you get older, factors affecting your heart health build up and your risk of heart problems increases.
Stopping smoking is one of the most important decisions you can make for your heart, even if you’ve smoked for years. Smoking cigarettes, even a few a day, can affect your heart health and could increase your risk of coronary heart disease by as much as 50%. But if you make the decision to quit, you will reap the benefits much quicker than you think, not only for your heart but also for your health in general.
Knowing your risk factors is the first step in taking control of your heart health.
High blood cholesterol
Raised cholesterol is not good for your heart health. It can cause the build up of fatty deposits in your arteries and cause them to narrow, making it more difficult for your heart to pump blood around the body. The only way to know your cholesterol is to have it checked. The good news is if you do have raised or high cholesterol, with simple changes to your diet and lifestyle you can make a positive difference to your cholesterol levels.
High blood pressure
Elevated or high blood pressure can be unhealthy for your heart, but it’s easy to detect and can be managed by moving to a healthy diet and lifestyle, and for some people, medication. You can help prevent high blood pressure by following a balanced diet and lifestyle. It’s worth getting your blood pressure checked regularly by your doctor, nurse, or chemist because although it’s easy to test, not everyone shows symptoms.
Diabetes has a significant negative effect on your heart health. It is also increases the effects of other factors such as smoking, unhealthy blood pressure or cholesterol, and obesity. However, with the correct treatment and by making positive changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can reduce this effect.
Some risk factors can be changed.
Family history of premature heart problems
Family in this context refers to if members of your immediate family i.e. your father, mother, brother or sister has developed heart disease. The age at which they developed heart disease is important in determining your risk: for fathers and brothers, it’s if they developed heart disease before the age of 55; for mothers and sisters, it’s if they developed heart disease before the age of 65.
It’s important to know if you have a family history, as there are many positive diet and lifestyle changes you can make to take care of your heart and maintain good heart health.
Being overweight is not good for your heart, as it increases your risk of factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Even small reductions in your weight can make a positive difference to your heart. It’s important to speak to your health professional about the right changes you can make to your diet and lifestyle to improve your weight.
Excessive alcohol consumption
Excessive alcohol consumption can be harmful to your heart health, as it can cause issues such as high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms and weight gain because alcoholic drinks are very high in kilojoules. Therefore it is important that when looking after your heart, you drink alcohol in moderation by keeping to the recommended of no more than 1 unit (for women) and 2 units (for men) per day.
The way you cope with stress, can affect your heart health.
Although stress may not be directly related to serious heart problems, unfortunately, the way some of us cope with stress, like smoking, eating junk food or drinking too much alcohol, can also affect heart health. Therefore it’s important to learn how to cope with stress in a healthy way, such as by keeping active, maintaining a healthy diet and learning how to relax.
This website is full of ideas and tips to help you make small changes to your diet and lifestyle to help make a difference to your heart health and quality of life.
It’s never too late to learn to love your heart!