Smokers are 2-4 times more likely to develop heart disease. However, your risk for heart disease and stroke can be cut in half in just one year if you quit.
Lack of Physical Activity
People who exercise moderately or rigorously regularly reduce their heart disease risk by 30 to 40 percent and their stroke risk by 25 percent. For each hour of regular exercise you get, you gain about two hours of life. Aim for a reachable goal such as 30 minutes of exercise a day. Get help finding a routine you'll stick with.
If you're overweight, your risk is higher - but losing as few as 10-20 pounds can lower your heart disease risk. Read these tips on how to get exercise that doesn't feel like exercise.
A Fatty, Salty or Sugary Diet
A diet high in saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, cholesterol, and sodium increases your risk of heart attack and clot-related (ischemic) stroke. Try adding more fruits and vegetables to your plate, while cutting back on processed foods and foods fried in oil. Decrease your portion size and be sure to drink lots of water. Learn about Heart Healthy Foods You Can Actually Enjoy.
High LDL (Bad) Cholesterol
LDL cholesterol clogs your arteries and puts you at risk. While genetics impacts your LDL number, so does a lack of exercise and a diet high in saturated fat, trans fats and cholesterol. Try eating more fiber and fish, and check out other heart healthy foods you might learn to love to help lower your cholesterol.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a leading risk factor for heart attacks and stroke. If you have high blood pressure, it can be managed by adopting a diet low in salt, saturated fats, cholesterol and alcohol. Physical activity, weight loss and stress management are also key in lowering your blood pressure.
When you think about stress, heart attack may not be the immediate connection you make. But the truth is that mental stress damages the protective lining of blood vessels, potentially causing inflammatory reactions that lead to fat and cholesterol build-up in the arteries. This can increase your risk of a heart attack.
“If you have a lot of stress in your life, it causes your blood pressure to go up and your heart rate to go up. When you're laughing, you release good hormones that make your blood vessels open up. We've been promoting this for a long time,” says cardiologist Annabelle Volgman, medical director of the Heart Center for Women at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, and member of the WomenHeart Scientific Advisory Council.
Even if your glucose levels are under control, diabetes doubles your risk of heart disease. With diabetes, it's important to monitor other risk factors. Improving your diet, losing weight, quitting smoking, exercising regularly, and taking medications can make a big difference. Learn more about managing heart disease risks as a diabetic.
Both young and old people have heart attacks, so heart attacks and age aren’t necessarily related. But age is a risk factor. The incidence of certain heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, increases with age.
If anyone in your family has had heart disease, you have a higher risk – but lifestyle still plays a role. For example, if your family member had a heart attack due to risk factors such as a poor diet or smoking, and you have a healthy lifestyle, your risk may be different.
While heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, there are some key differences between genders. Women tend to experience heart attacks about 10 years later in life than men. Also, women are twice as likely as men to die within the first few weeks after suffering a heart attack.
African-Americans, Hispanics, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and some Asians or Pacific Islanders all have a higher risk of heart attack. However, much like family history, treating or controlling the risks you can by making heart-healthy lifestyle choices plays a big role in helping manage your own specific risk levels.