Everyone is at risk for heart disease, but some people have more risk factors than others. Since heart disease is the leading cause of death among adults in the U.S., it’s important for us all to know what our risk factors for heart disease are, and what we can do about them.
There are two types of risk factors for heart disease: modifiable and non-modifiable.
Modifiable Risk Factors
Modifiable risk factors for heart disease are the ones most of us have heard about and they are largely influenced by our lifestyle choices. According to the American Heart Association, they include:
- Being overweight or obese
- Eating a diet high in fat and/or sugar
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle
- High blood pressure
- High LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol
- High blood sugar
Changing these risk factors for the better means making some adjustments in your lifestyle. This may seem overwhelming at first, but you don’t have to do everything all at once – going on a diet and starting an exercise routine at the same time may exhaust your mental and physical resources. Instead, divide and conquer! Changing just one lifestyle factor often leads to changing another. For example, if you choose to eat more healthy foods, you may start feeling like you have more energy, which may make you want to move around more or start an exercise routine. This often leads to weight loss, and possibly a reduction in blood sugar levels and high blood pressure, closing the circle for your healthier lifestyle and reducing your risk of heart disease.
Non-Modifiable Risk Factors
Although changing modifiable risk factors can have a significant impact on your overall health, some people are at higher risk of heart disease, no matter how healthy a lifestyle they enjoy. These are the non-modifiable risk factors:
- Having a family history of early heart disease
- Having a history of preeclampsia during pregnancy
- Age (55 or older for women)
Reducing Your Risks Overall
Even if you don’t have any risk factors – either modifiable or non-modifiable – monitoring your heart health is essential to preventing heart disease or catching it in its earliest stages. Some tests are routinely performed, such as checking your blood pressure and measuring your cholesterol levels. The results of these tests may identify the need for further testing. The results could also indicate you may need more aggressive management of your risk factors.
ADMA/SDMA is a newer test offered through Cleveland HeartLab (CHL) that may help you understand the effects that blood sugar and blood pressure are having on the delicate lining of your blood vessels which may affect heart health. The thin layer of cells that form the interior lining of your blood vessels is called the endothelium. In order to stay healthy, these specialized endothelial cells need nitric oxide which helps blood vessels to widen, allowing blood to flow more freely.
When your blood sugar and/or blood pressure are not well-controlled, your body produces ADMA and SDMA and these block your body’s ability to produce nitric oxide. So, when this test is abnormal, your doctor may want to take preventive measures to help heal your endothelium and reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke. The good news is that many of the preventive measures begin with small changes to your diet or lifestyle – choose foods with less sugar, exercise more and quit smoking.
Taking control of your heart health is a smart thing to do. Learn what your risks are and what you can do to stay as healthy as possible. Check out knowyourrisk.com and take good care of you! You’re worth it!