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Risk factors for heart disease

January 18th, 2011 by – Sue Barton

  How to assess risk for developing cardiac disease in younger adults?

According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease is the primary cause of death in both men and women in the United States.  Risk factors include obesity, high cholesterol, and hypertension.  Smoking is a risk factor because it decreases the amount of oxygen available to the body, as well as damaging blood vessels.  Diabetes and insulin resistance also predispose to heart disease.  A sedentary lifestyle and lack of regular exercise are contributing factors.

Both genetic and lifestyle factors can contribute to the likelihood of atherosclerosis developing with age.  A family history of early cardiac events ( younger than age 55) is a clue as well.  People with these risk factors should be especially aware of screening lipid levels and blood pressure.  While we cannot change family history and genetic factors, we can encourage our patients to modify lifestyle factors and comply with medications when indicated.  The AHA website includes an online tool for assessment of individual risk factors.  Click on “My Life Check Assessment”  for both an assessment and individualized action plan to help your patients evaluate and begin to make the changes needed for increase their heart health score.

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