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Disease Prevention

Are You at Risk for Heart Disease? If So, Fight Back

The first step in the fight against heart disease is determining whether you are at risk.

Once you know the risks and how they effect you, you and you doctor can come up with a game plan. Among the risk factors, there are many that people have the ability to control or manage through preventive efforts. These modifiable risks are:

  • Smoking — Even for people who have smoked heavily, the risk of heart attack is cut in half if they stop smoking

  • High Blood Pressure — People who control their high blood pressure with medication may lower their chances of developing coronary artery disease and have less chance of dying from heart problems or a stroke.

  • High Blood Cholesterol — By lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, often referred to as "bad cholesterol," people can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, heart attack and other complications.

  • Diabetes — Controlling blood sugar can reduce the risk for heart disease in diabetics.

  • Overweight/Obesity — People who are able to avoid being overweight or obese reduce their risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.

  • Sedentary Lifestyle — Regular exercise has many protective effects on the body, including reducing total blood cholesterol, controlling blood pressure, stabilizing blood sugar and reducing body fat.

  • Personality Factors and Stress — Managing negative stresses such as anger, tension and frustration may lesson a person's risk of developing coronary artery disease.

  • Birth Control Pill Use — Women over age 40 who smoke and who have other risk factors for heart disease should carefully consider the risks and benefits of using birth control pills.

Some risk factors are entirely beyond control. Because the risk for heart disease increases with the number of risk factors a person has, it's a good idea to be aware of the ones that cannot be controlled. If a person has one or more of the following uncontrollable risk factors, they should devote even more energy to addressing their modifiable risk factors:

    Age — Heart disease is not caused by age, but the risk for developing heart disease increases as a person ages.

    Gender — Men tend to develop heart disease about 10 to 15 years before women do. Women are less likely to have heart disease than men are before the age of 60, but statistics equalize after that age.

    Family History — If a close relative such as a parent, brother or sister had a heart attack before the age of 50, a person's chance of also having one is significantly increased.

Physicians at recommend people meet with their doctor to identify any risk factors that may increase their chances of developing heart disease. If you have heart disease, your doctor will want to work with you to prevent future episodes and possibly reverse existing damage. Once risk factors are known a plan can be devised to help an individual reduce their chances of developing a potentially life-threatening heart condition. This plan will probably include lifestyle changes, regular medical checkups, and, in some cases, medications or other medical treatments.

You can find more information on the prevention and treatment of heart disease at

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