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Are you at risk for heart disease?

Heart disease is increasingly becoming one of the leading cause of death in the India. Coronary artery disease (narrowing of the arteries supplying the heart muscle with blood) causes about one million heart attacks each year. Even more worrisome, 220,000 people with heart attacks will die before ever reaching the hospital.

How do you know if you are at risk for this common killer?

Medical research has helped identify certain conditions, called risk factors, which place people at increased risk for heart disease. It is important to know:

  • Some risk factors, called "nonmodifiable risk factors," cannot be changed.
  • Some risk factors, called "modifiable risk factors," can be modified, controlled or treated.
  • The more risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing heart and blood vessel disease.
  • The greater level of each risk factor, the greater your risk.

Do you have any nonmodifiable risk factors?
(check which ones apply to you)

Male gender - Men have a greater risk of heart attack than women. After menopause, a women's risk increases, but does not reach the level of men's.
Older age - Heart disease is more likely to occur as you get older.
Family history (including race) - You are more likely to have coronary artery disease if your parents had it. Heart disease risk is also higher in African Americans, Mexican Americans, American Indians, native Hawaiians and some Asian Americans. This is partly due to higher rates of high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.

If you have any of these nonmodifiable risk factors, it is more important to control the risk factors you CAN change.
What are the risk factors you CAN change?
(check which ones apply to you)

Cigarette smoking

  • Smokers have more than twice the risk for heart attack.
  • Smoking is the biggest risk factor for sudden cardiac death.
  • Those who smoke pipes and cigars are at increased risk for heart disease. Even those who are exposed to constant smoke, but do not smoke themselves are at increased risk for heart disease.
  • Smoking is the most preventable risk factor.If you smoke, quit. Better yet, never start smoking at all.

Goal: Do not use any tobacco products. Stay away from other's smoke.

High blood cholesterol

  • The risk for heart disease increases with each increase in blood cholesterol, with a sharp increase in risk at levels of total cholesterol over 240.
  • Although there is no single right age to check your cholesterol levels, it is reasonable to check men at around age 30 and women around age 40. If you have a family history of heart disease or high cholesterol, or if you have other risk factors, you should be checked earlier and work more aggressively to lower your cholesterol.
  • A cholesterol profile includes more than just your total cholesterol. It should include total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL, the bad cholesterol,a major cause of heart disease), high-density lipoprotein (HDL, the good cholesterol that may help prevent heart disease), and triglycerides, another type of fat in the blood stream. The test should be performed after fasting.

Goal: The following values are ideal:

  • Cholesterol level less than 200 mg/dl
  • LDL level less than 100 mg/dl
  • HDL greater than 60 mg/dl
  • Triglycerides less than 150 mg/dl

High blood pressure

  • Over 50 million people in the United States, aged six and older have hypertension, or high blood pressure.
  • One in four adults has high blood pressure. Of those, more than 30 percent don't know it.
  • Of those who have high blood pressure, about 15 percent are not on any treatment plan, about 30 percent are not being treated adequately.
  • High blood pressure increases the workload of the heart and kidneys, increasing the risk for heart attack, heart failure, stroke and kidney disease.
  • High blood pressure is easy to detect and control.

Goal: Blood pressure of less than 140 over 90 is a normal reading for adults. Ideal blood pressure is 120 over 80. Control high blood pressure through diet, weight management and if needed, medications.

Physical Inactivity

  • People who don't exercise have higher rates of death, heart and blood vessel disease compared to people who perform even mild to moderate amounts of physical activity
  • Exercise should be done regularly and long term.
  • Exercise should be aerobic, involving the large muscle groups, and performed at a moderate intensity. This includes activities such as brisk walking, cycling, swimming, jumping rope and jogging.

Goal: Exercise at a moderate pace, 30 minutes a day, on most days. If you are unable to keep up with this vigorous pace, even mild to moderate amounts of physical activity performed 30 minutes each day, such as gardening, bowling, or walking, can lower the risk of heart disease. If you have heart disease or more than two risk factors, or are a male, over 40 years of age or a female over 50 years of age, you should consult your doctor prior to beginning an exercise program.See Exercise for your health for more information

Obesity and Overweight

  • The more you weigh, the harder your heart must work to carry and nourish the excess weight.
  • Obesity is defined as being very overweight (greater than 25 percent body fat for men or 30 percent body fat for women).
  • How your weight is distributed is also important. People who carry their weight in the middle have a greater risk of developing heart disease compared to people who carry their weight in their arms and legs. A high-risk waistline is more than 35 inches for women and more than 40 inches for men.
  • Over 100 million Americans are overweight.



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