Heart disease: What increases your risk, tips to reduce it!

Heart disease is caused by plaque buildup in the wall of the arteries that supply blood to the heart.

Last Updated: Oct 26, 2016, 13:31 PM IST
Heart disease

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: Cardiovascular disease, also called heart disease, is the leading cause of death in the developed world, killing more than 17 million people per year, claiming more lives than cancer.

Heart disease is caused by plaque buildup in the wall of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. This is mainly caused by poor diets, lack of exercise, obesity, and smoking.

Some risk factors of heart disease, such as age and family history of early heart disease, can't be changed. For instance, age becomes a risk factor in women. After menopause, women are more prone to get heart disease, in part because their body's production of estrogen drops. At the same time, the risk of stroke also doubles every decade after age 55. These unchangeable factors significantly increase the risk of heart disease.

However, there are some major risk factors can be modified, treated or controlled through medications or lifestyle change. These include -

Smoking

Risks to health from tobacco use result not only from directly smoking, but also from exposure to second-hand smoke. Approximately 10% of cardiovascular disease is attributed to smoking.

Alcohol

Although studies suggested that low levels of alcohol were protective against CVD, there appears to be an increased risk with moderate or high levels.

Diet

A high intake of fat coupled with a low intake of fruits, vegetables and fish are linked to cardiovascular risk, although whether all these associations are a cause is disputed. Evidence suggests that a Mediterranean diet may decrease the risk of heart disease and may be more effective than a low-fat diet lowering cholesterol levels and decreasing high blood pressure.

The DASH diet (high in nuts, fish, fruits and vegetables, and low in sweets, red meat and fat) has also been shown to reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol and assist with losing and/or maintaining a healthy weight.

Frequent consumption of high-energy foods, such as processed foods that are high in fats and sugars, promotes obesity and may increase cardiovascular risk. There is evidence that higher consumption of sugar is associated with higher blood pressure and increases the risk of diabetes.

Physical inactivity

Insufficient physical activity, which is less than 30 minutes of moderate activity daily per week, is currently the fourth leading risk factor for mortality worldwide. Almost 40% of women over 15 years are insufficiently physically active. The risk of ischemic heart disease and diabetes is reduced by almost a third in adults who participate in 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week (or equivalent). In addition, physical activity assists weight loss, improves blood glucose control and blood pressure, and reduces the risk of heart disease.

High blood pressure

You're more likely to develop heart disease or a stroke if you high blood pressure. But the good thing is that high BP is manageable. You can control your blood pressure by adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle such as -

  • Eating a better diet, which may include reducing salt
  • Doing regular physical activity
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Managing stress
  • Avoiding tobacco smoke
  • not drinking/limiting alcohol intake
  • Taking medication if it is prescribed for you

High blood cholesterol

As your blood cholesterol rises, so does your risk of coronary heart disease. High cholesterol is one of the major risk factors leading to heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Lifestyle changes are important to keep your cholesterol controlled and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke -

  • Maintaining an ideal weight
  • Being physically active
  • Avoiding tobacco smoke
  • Adopting a heart-healthy eating plan
  • Knowing which fats raise LDL – the bad cholesterol - and which ones don't
  • Medication – taking cholesterol-lowering statin medicines

Besides, socio-economic disadvantage is another risk factor that contributes to heart disease. It is said that heart disease affects low- and middle-income countries even more than high-income countries. There is relatively little information regarding social patterns of cardiovascular disease within low- and middle-income countries. Within countries with generally higher-income, it can be concluded that low income and low educational status are consistently associated with greater risk of heart disease implying that there is cause and effect relationship.