Half of all heart attacks in the United States occur in people who haven’t had a previous warning sign or symptom. This makes it even more important to understand your cardiac risk factors so you can take steps to prevent or detect heart issues before they become a problem.
There’s a natural tendency to think heart disease won’t affect us. People tend to think if they’re feeling good, they must be in good health. But the truth is, you can feel great and still be at a higher risk for heart disease.
Here are five of the most important cardiac risk factors:
- High blood pressure – You can get your blood pressure checked at your primary care physician’s office or do it at home. The American Heart Association recommends a blood pressure lower than 120/80.
- High cholesterol – Your total cholesterol score can be determined with a simple blood test at your doctor’s office. It’s calculated by adding your HDL (good) and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and 20 percent of your triglyceride level. In the past, doctors used specific ranges to determine your risk for heart disease. Today, doctors prefer to evaluate in context with other risk factors.
- Smoking – Even the occasional cigarette during social gatherings can increase your risk.
- Diabetes – With today’s fast-paced lifestyle, people are eating out more and consuming more processed and convenience foods. This can lead to weight gain, elevated blood sugar levels and eventually diabetes.
- Family history – Unfortunately you can’t change who you’re related to but knowing your family’s health history, and the role it plays in your risk for cardiac disease, can help reduce the chances of it resulting in a major health issue.
Of course, not having any risk factors does not guarantee you won’t get heart disease. That’s why it pays to check in with your primary care physician on a routine basis. He or she can evaluate your health and heart disease risk factors and, if needed, refer you to a cardiologist for further care.
Edward-Elmhurst Health was one of the first in the region to offer Ultrafast Heart Scans (a CT scan of your heart) to help diagnose heart disease. We also provide a team approach to heart disease prevention and diagnosis including cardiologists, primary care physicians, nurses, dietitians and more.