Heart Disease: Is Your Lifestyle Putting You At-Risk?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006 - 11:26am

By Rose Giordano

Do gamblers, extreme sport athletes, or sky divers come to mind when you think of risk takers? What if I told you that living with uncontrolled risk factors for heart trouble also makes you a risk taker? According to estimates by the World Health Organization, every year approximately 17 million deaths worldwide can be attributed to cardiovascular disease. They predict that this number will grow if at-risk individuals fail to make preventative lifestyle changes.

People with a family history of cardiovascular problems must be especially careful to maintain their health. And even if you don't have a family history of cardiovascular disease, don't think you aren't at-risk of developing heart problems in the future. Your diet and lifestyle can act as a major contributor to the onset of cardiovascular disease.

Are you a risk taker?

To answer this question, we need to understand the "risk factors." There are two categories of risk:

1.   Non-modifiable heart risk factors

A non-modifiable risk factor is an aspect of your life that cannot be changed, such as:

    • advancing age
    • gender
    • a family history of heart disease

2.   Modifiable heart risk factors

Modifiable risk factors are those that you can take an active role in controlling and include:

The most interesting modifiable risk factor is cigarette smoking. The reason for this is that not only is the leading risk factor for developing heart disease, it is the easiest to control relative to the other potential risks. Yet it still remains one of the leading causes of heart disease.

Reduce your risk of heart disease

In addition to removing modifiable risk factors, dietary and lifestyle changes can lead to a reductionor completely removeyour risk of developing heart disease. One of the first changes that many people can make is increasing physical activity. This can begin with a brisk walk around the neighborhood in the evening after dinner, a quick run up the stairs instead of the elevator, or merely parking your car a little farther away from the shopping mall entrance. No gym membership required! The more active you are, the better you'll feel and the more motivated you'll become.