Heart Disease Risk Factors
Morgan Medeiros MSc
February 13, 2018

biggest heart disease risk factorsLearning about your heart disease risk factors can save your life. Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women alike? Each year, every 1 in 4 people who die, die from heart disease.

While it’s natural to assume you don’t have heart disease risk factors,  a problem typically associated with the elderly or morbidly obese, it can and does happen at any age.

The following factors dramatically increase risk for heart disease: read on to see if you’re in the clear, or have some work to do to create a healthier, heart disease free future.

Heart Disease Risk Factors Include:

Being Overweight

Being obese or overweight-even moderately so- increases risk for heart disease. Studies have shown that-even in the absence of High Cholesterol, Hypertension, or Diabetes, obesity acts as an independent risk factor for heart disease. This means that if someone thinks they are overweight and healthy, it’s likely not going to last.

In other words, obesity is one of the biggest heart disease risk factors, even if you don’t have the trademark conditions associated with the disease. This is especially true for women, although researchers are still not entirely sure why women in particular are so much more affected than men.

Overweight women are 30% more likely to develop heart disease than those with a BMI below 25, while women with a BMI of 30 or greater are twice as likely to develop heart disease. Use this BMI Calculator to determine if this is a risk factor you can reduce.

Having High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is typically caused by a mixture of lifestyle factors, including weight, nutrition, and exercise habits. Nutrition and body weight typically serve as the primary drivers of blood pressure, with high sodium consumption playing the foremost role in hypertension.

Even if you aren’t adding salt to foods, salt added in food production often sneaks by unnoticed on the palate. Restaurant foods, snack foods, and packaged foods are all high in salt, contributing to sodium consumption.

Having High Cholesterol

High cholesterol is typically caused by a combination of nutrition and bodyweight. However, in some cases, nutrition acts as the primary driver of cholesterol. Eating too much saturated fat and too much trans fat increases cholesterol, which acts to clog the arteries, leading to arterial stiffening and narrowing that are trademarks of atherosclerosis.

Having Prediabetes or Diabetes

Diabetes and heart disease go hand in hand: over time, high circulating glucose damages blood vessels and nervous tissues. Individuals with diabetes are 4 times more likely to die from heart disease than those without diabetes.

If you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes or Type II Diabetes, diet, exercise, and weight loss (if necessary) are crucial to controlling blood sugar, reversing diabetes and reducing heart disease risk factors.

Morgan Medeiros is a certified nutritionist, holding a both a Bachelor and Master’s Degree in Clinical Nutrition. Morgan completed her undergraduate education at Central Washington University, and her graduate education at Northeastern University. During her time as a graduate student, Morgan focused her area of expertise in health education, weight management, and behavioral change. Morgan has experience working in areas of nutritional neuroscience and disease prevention, obesity prevention, and weight loss. Morgan also works in areas of nutritional analysis and menu labeling for restaurants, where she is able to creatively bridge her interest in food culture and health education. In her free time, Morgan enjoys traveling, reading, writing, running, and spending time with her family and friends (including- most importantly- her dog, Clyde).


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