Are You at Risk for Heart Disease?

Are You at Risk for Heart Disease?

A risk factor causes a person to be vulnerable to an unhealthy event or disease such as smoking and heart disease.

While the cause of heart and blood vessel disease is not fully understood, we do know that heart disease is a chronic illness that starts in childhood and progresses as we age. Through research, risk factors that contribute to the development and progression of cardiovascular disease have been identified.

Risk factors that cannot be changed or are uncontrollable:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Heredity or family history

Risk factors that can be changed or controlled:

  • Cigarette smoking and tobacco use
  • Diabetes
  • Excess body fat
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Lack of exercise
  • Stress

It is important to recognize which factors pertain to you and your lifestyle. While you cannot change uncontrollable risk factors, their presence makes it even more important that you do control the other risk factors with a healthy lifestyle combined with prescribed medications. Controlling these risk factors may slow, and in some cases, reverse the progress of heart disease.

Each controllable risk factor affects your health so it is important that you know what you can do to modify or eliminate them. No one is more in control of your health than you are. Be sure to talk to your primary care physician or family doctor about your risk factors. 

Signs and Symptoms Not to Ignore

When you have heart disease, physical activity, emotional stress, and even eating can sometimes bring on symptoms. The most common signs of a heart attack are:

  • Chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea or shortness of breath
  • Pain that spreads to the shoulders, neck or arms
  • Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back

Other less common warning signs of a heart attack may include:

  • Atypical chest pain, stomach or abdominal pain
  • Nausea or dizziness (without chest pain)
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing (without chest pain)
  • Palpitations, cold sweat or paleness
  • Unexplained anxiety, weakness or fatigue

Not all of these signs occur in every attack. If you are experiencing any of the above, it is important for you to get help immediately. Call 9-1-1 or your emergency medical services, so you or someone experiencing a heart attack can get to a hospital right away.