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American Heart Health Alert

Categories: Executive Health

Why Americans Need to Recognize Risk Factors for Heart Disease

Your heart is your body’s hardest working muscle. Four valves work 24 hours each day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to keep your blood flowing. A strong heart is essential to everyone’s health, but last year’s report card from the American Heart Association reveals that 94 percent of U.S. adults have at least one risk factor for heart disease1 . Our country’s population continues to gain more weight and exercise less and heart disease rates proportionally increase as well. In fact, heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S.2

There are 27.1 million American adults diagnosed with heart disease3. Obesity, which can cause the build-up of fatty plaque in your arteries, plays a significant role in this spike. As the pressure in the arteries increase, the walls become thick and stiff, weakening them over time4.

With the recent spotlight on our country’s obesity epidemic – due to studies reporting obesity levels will rise from 35% of the population to 42 percent in 20305 and the popular documentary series “Weight of the Nation”6 – there is no better time to examine the common risk factors of heart disease and arm yourself with the knowledge to combat this disease.

Risk factors of heart disease can be a result of existing health conditions, behavior or hereditary conditions7. These factors include:

  • blood cholesterol levels
  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • tobacco use
  • physical inactivity
  • obesity
  • alcohol use
  • history of heart disease in your family

The American Heart Association has a comprehensive list of warning signs for both heart failure and heart attacks and provides an excellent resource if you are worried about your own health or that of your loved ones. Fortunately, advances in medicine allow physicians to better diagnose heart disease when a patient arrives at their office beyond a traditional blood test or chest x-ray. More advanced methods, such as testing for specks of calcium on arterial walls, imaging studies to monitor the path of your blood8, using the VAP cholesterol test to evaluate the levels of specific types of cholesterol in your body and the Carotid Intimal Medial Thickness (CIMT) test to measure the thickness of the inner lining of your artery9, are all available gain more information about your body. With these tools and others, doctors can better evaluate both your risk for heart disease and recommend the most effective treatment.

Making the commitment to improve the health of your body and your heart requires dedication. This dedication applies to your health at home, at work and even during your commute to avoid risky behaviors or nutrition. Starting and maintaining good food and exercise habits early can improve your health and risk in the long-term. Choosing to snack on fruit rather than a bag from the vending machine at work, trading a water bottle for your daily soda from the nearby drive-thru on the way home and exchanging time in front of the television for a walk around the block are great first steps to improving your health overall and preparing your heart for a long and healthy life.

Written by Leeann Garms
[1] http://www.healthfinder.gov/news/newsstory.aspx?docid=659912
[2] http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
[3] http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/heart.htm
[4] http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/educational/hearttruth/lower-risk/what-is-heart-disease.htm
[5] http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2012/05/07/42-of-nation-to-be-obese-by-2030-study-predicts/?iref=allsearch
[6] http://theweightofthenation.hbo.com
[7] http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/risk_factors.htm
[8] http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hdw/diagnosis.html
[9] http://www.hoag.org/Services/executivehealth/Blog/pages/post.aspx?PostId=7