Smoker's risk of developing coronary heart disease is much higher than that of nonsmokers. Cigarette smoking is a powerful independent risk factor for sudden cardiac death in patients with coronary heart disease. Cigarette smoking also acts with other risk factors to greatly increase the risk for coronary heart disease. Exposure to other people's smoke increases the risk of heart disease even for nonsmokers.
High levels of cholesterol in your blood can increase the risk of formation of plaques and atherosclerosis. If you do not know what your HDL, LDL and triglycerides are, please get a simple blood test. Lifestyle change might be all you need to get your levels within the guidelines.
(Reference Range: 100 mg - 199 mg)
Triglyceride is the most common type of fat in the body. Normal triglyceride levels vary by age and sex. A high triglyceride level combined with low HDL cholesterol or high LDL cholesterol is associated with atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty deposits in artery walls that increases the risk for heart attack and stroke. Read more about women's heart health signs of heart attack in women. (Reference Range: 0 mg - 150 mg)
High blood pressure increases the heart's workload, causing the heart muscle to thicken and become stiffer. This stiffening of the heart muscle is not normal, and causes the heart not to work properly. It also increases your risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and congestive heart failure. When high blood pressure exists with obesity, smoking, high blood cholesterol levels or diabetes, the risk of heart attack or stroke increases even more. (Reference Range: less than 120/80 mmHg)
An inactive lifestyle is a risk factor for coronary heart disease. Regular, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity helps reduce the risk of heart and blood vessel disease. Even moderate-intensity activities help if done regularly and long term. Physical activity can help control blood cholesterol, diabetes and obesity, as well as help lower blood pressure in some people.
People who have excess body fat — especially if a lot of it is at the waist — are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke even if they have no other risk factors. Overweight and obese adults with risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or high blood sugar can make lifestyle changes to lose weight and produce clinically meaningful reductions in triglycerides, blood glucose, HbA1c, and risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Many people may have difficulty losing weight. But a sustained weight loss of 3 to 5% body weight may lead to clinically meaningful reductions in some risk factors, larger weight losses can benefit blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose.
As we get older our heart disease risk factors increase. However, if you've had the condition, you should take extra care to try and control other heart disease risk factors. Now is the time to change, it is never too late.
Being post- menopausal does increase our risk for heart disease. After menopause, women are more apt to get heart disease, in part because their body's production of estrogen drops. Women who have gone through early menopause, either naturally or because they have had a hysterectomy, are twice as likely to develop heart disease as women of the same age who have not yet gone through menopause. I would have loved to have known this factor before I opted for a hysterectomy at age 42.
Having a family history of early heart disease definitely ups your odds for heart disease. If your father or brother had a heart attack before age 55, or if your mother or sister had one before age 65, you are more likely to get heart disease yourself. I give my family history 85% of the reason for my early heart disease. The other 15% is divided up with stressful situations that weren't changed for years, and being best at the Adkins diet.
You can make the changes gradually, one at a time. But making them is very important. Other women may wonder: If I have just one risk factor for heart disease—say, I'm overweight or I have high blood cholesterol—aren't I more or less "safe"? Absolutely not. Each risk factor greatly increases a woman's chance of developing heart disease. But having more than one risk factor is especially serious, because risk factors tend to "gang up" and worsen each other's effects. So, the message is clear: Every woman needs to take her heart disease risk seriously—and take action now to reduce that risk.