Did you or someone you know wear red on February 1 to support heart disease awareness? During the month of February, you may have considered your heart health more than you typically do during the other eleven months of the year. Have you made any changes to positively impact your heart health this month? Do you know where to start?
This blog will outline eight major risk factors identified for Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). The take-home message is this: you can impact six of the eight risk factors for CAD! This is great news since CAD is the most common type of cardiovascular disease! Keep reading to learn how daily decisions to decrease your risk factors can have a major effect on your health.
- Age – Significant increases in coronary events (heart attack, bypass surgery, etc.) are seen in men ages 45 & older and women ages 55 and older. Everyone will reach this risk factor at some point, but making lifestyle changes to positively affect other risk factors is very important for those who meet these age criteria.
- Family History – Again, the health history that runs in your family cannot be changed. If you have an immediate male blood relative with a history of MI, bypass surgery, balloon angioplasty, or sudden cardiac death before age 55, or immediate female blood relative with these same type of events prior to the age of 65, you may be at increased risk.
- Abnormal Blood Cholesterol Level – While most people have a negative reaction to the word “cholesterol,” it is an important building block in the function of cell membranes, bile and certain hormones. Total cholesterol is made up of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL). It is important to know your LDL cholesterol level and note over 130 mg/dl is a major risk factor. You can decrease your LDL cholesterol by:
- Increase physical activity
- Decrease dietary saturated and trans-fat intake
- Increase soluble fiber intake
- Manage stress
- Control your diabetes
- Hypertension – Blood pressure is the force or pressure exerted on the arterial walls by the blood during contraction (systolic BP) and relaxation (diastolic BP) of the heart. Hypertension is defined as a resting systolic blood pressure greater than or equal to 140 mmHg or a resting diastolic blood pressure greater than or equal to 90 mmHg on two separate occasions, or when an individual is taking antihypertensive medications. Major links to hypertension include:
- Excessive sodium intake
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Inadequate intake of unrefined, plant-based foods
- Chronic stress
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Tobacco use
- Insulin resistance
- Tobacco Use – All tobacco products are considered a major risk factor for CAD and it is important to note nicotine is a highly addictive substance. Quitting smoking is the most significant lifestyle change a smoker can make. An individual must quit smoking for six months before tobacco use is no longer considered a risk factor.
- Prediabetes – A fasting blood glucose between 100 – 125 mg/dl on two separate occasions is classified as Prediabetes. Individuals with prediabetes typically are insulin resistant; meaning that they are producing insulin, but their body is resistant to its effects. The net result is a higher than normal blood glucose level, but not high enough level to be diagnosed as diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, all American adults age 45 years and older should have their fasting blood glucose measured at least once every three years. You can improve your blood glucose/insulin levels by:
- Increasing physical activity
- Decreasing percent body fat
- Emphasize a nutrient dense diet
- Sedentary Lifestyle – A sedentary lifestyle is outlined as a person not participating in at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on at least three days per week, for at least three months. Increase use of computers, cars, television, video games, elevators, and drive-throughs are a few of the major reasons for increased levels of inactivity in the population. The American Heart Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Surgeon General’s Office and the American College of Sport Medicine all consider sedentary lifestyle to be a major independent risk factor for coronary artery disease. Cardiorespiratory fitness has an inverse relationship to resting blood pressure, fasting LDL cholesterol, triglyceride, glucose, insulin levels, and body fat.
- Obesity – Obesity can be classified using Body Mass Index, waist circumference or body fat percent measurements. Since waist circumference is significantly correlated to levels of visceral fat (fat underneath the abdominal musculature, among the internal organs), it is an important marker for health. In fact, many studies show that waist circumference is a stronger predictor of chronic disease than BMI or percent body fat. A waist circumference greater than 35 inches in women or greater than 40 inches in men is defined as obesity. Inactivity, excess caloric intake, genetics and use of certain medications are the major causes of obesity.
If you are interested in learning more about any of the above topics, please reach out to the Center for Healthy Living at 765-494-0111 to learn more. A health coach would love to walk through each of these risk factors with you and map out a custom plan for lifestyle modifications. Six of the eight risk factors can be influenced by your lifestyle – start making healthy changes today!
Be well. Be kind. Boiler up!