Knowing Your Risk Factors
It is never too early to start reducing your risk factors for heart disease. Now is a good opportunity to remind everyone about controllable risk factors for heart disease. There are some risks factors that are inherited and these are generally beyond our control. These risk factors may include family history of early heart disease (a father of brother with heart disease before age 55 or a mother or sister with heart disease before age 65), and age (men 45 years or older and women 55 years or older). However, there are other risk factors that can be controlled. These include:
Making Lifestyle Changes
- Being overweight
- Excessive intake of alcohol beverages
- Having depression
- Having diabetes (people with diabetes are two to four times more at risk for a heart attack)
- Having high blood cholesterol (total cholesterol over 200, LDL (bad) cholesterol over 130, and triglycerides over 150); high cholesterol is the main cause of coronary artery disease
- Having high blood pressure / hypertension
- Not being physically active
- Not managing stress
- Smoking or being around others who smoke
Risk factors, such as high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and obesity often, start in childhood. This may be due to an individual's lifestyle and environment. But, you can make lifestyle changes. You can:
- Control stress, and learn to relax.
- Do some aerobic exercise each day (30 minutes at least three to four times a week).
- Don't smoke!
- Follow a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet
- If diabetic, keep your blood pressure under control.
- If you have high blood pressure, keep it under control.
- Limit alcohol use (men, no more than two drinks per day, and women, no more than one drink a day).
- Lose weight
- Stay positive
Regular exercise also has many benefits for your heart health. Exercise helps you to lose weight, build stronger bones, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and reduce stress to help you stay positive.
Walking is an excellent exercise that you can do any time. However, to make an impact on your health, it is recommended that you walk 10,000 steps each day. Use a pedometer to measure your steps and increase your steps each day to reach the 10,000-steps goal. You may be surprised at the number of steps you take each day. Pedometers are not expensive, prices range up to $50 depending on the model. You will also need a pair of walking shoes, if you plan to use walking as your exercise choice. Walking is fun and can be a group activity when you involve family and friends. It is recommended that individuals consult with their doctor before an exercise program is initiated.
There are several websites that offer information, online assessments, and healthy recipes. Here are a few:
For more information contact the Memphis and Shelby County Health Department at (901) 544-7600.