How High Is Your Heart Disease Risk? Here Are 3 Things You Should Know

Do you know your heart disease risk?

Even though it’s the leading cause of death in the United States, many aren’t aware they risk developing the disease. A significant number of people who die suddenly from heart problems experienced no symptoms before it happened.

You’ve likely heard that eating certain foods and partaking in certain habits puts your heart in danger. And these things are both true and worth paying attention to.

But factors such as diet only make up a small portion of the elements that increase your heart disease risk. Here are a few factors to keep in mind when assessing your chances of developing the disease.

Your diet does makeĀ a difference

Healthy stir fried vegetables

Healthy stir fried vegetables | iStock.com/Mizina

What you eat often seems to take awhile to produce noticeable changes. If you’re trying to eat healthier, every pound feels like it takes a year to lose. And if you’re not eating well, the consequences are often so subtle and gradual you don’t realize what’s happening.

That’s why they call heart disease a “silent killer.” Eating large amounts of salt, sugar, fat, and calories might not bother you at first. But it will come back to haunt you — and it won’t be pleasant. Unless diabetes and obesity are your ideas of pleasant.

All these factors increase your risk of developing high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Such risky conditions, even though you can’t see it from the outside or feel it on the inside, increase your heart disease risk.

Even if you eat a balanced diet, not exercising is a problem

The National Institutes of Health lists physical inactivity as one of a handful of risk factors you can and can’t control. Even though you might not want to do it, staying active keeps your heart healthy and significantly reduces your risk of disease.

Also, even if you do meet weekly physical activity guidelines, some studies suggest sitting for long periods of time all but cancels it out. So even if you run a few miles every morning, if you sit on an hour-long train commute and remain in a chair all day, you aren’t doing your heart any favors.

Get up and move every once in awhile. A few hundred steps every hour or so, if you can. If you can’t take a walk on your lunch break, do some laps around the office, your living room, the grocery store — wherever you are.

Your age matters

Heart disease

Heart disease | Evryka23/iStock/Getty Images

In general, the older you get, the higher your heart disease risk. Men and women aged 55 and older face more of a risk of heart disease than young and middle-aged adults. There are many reasons for this, but in short, you’re getting older — and so are your blood vessels.

Your heart does a pretty good job of moving blood where it needs to go. But sometimes, other parts of the system get in the way. As the decades come and go, your blood vessels become less flexible. This makes it harder for blood to pass through effortlessly.

A heart that has to work harder to do its job is more susceptible to disease.

Other non-controllable heart disease risk factors include:

  • A family history of early-onset heart disease
  • Early menopause
  • Race/ethnicity (non-Hispanic black, non-Hispanic white, and American Indians face greater risk than Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Pacific Islanders).

Once you know your risk, you can take steps to decrease it. It doesn’t matter how small or slow those steps might be. Every effort counts.

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