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The Shawnee News-Star
A Matter of the Heart - Risk Factors that are Out of Your Control
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By Health Minute
Feb. 5, 2013 12:01 a.m.



Risk factors that you're born with and cannot be changed:

The more of these risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing coronary heart disease.

Increasing Age

About 82% of people who die of coronary heart disease are 65 or older. At older ages, women who have heart attacks are more likely than men are to die from them within a few weeks.

Male Sex (Gender)

Men have a greater risk of heart attack than women do, and they have attacks earlier in life. Even after menopause, when women's death rate from heart disease increases, it's not as great as men's.

Heredity (Including Race)

Children of parents with heart disease are more likely to develop it themselves. African Americans have more severe high blood pressure than Caucasians and a higher risk of heart disease. Heart disease risk is also higher among Mexican Americans, American Indians, native Hawaiians and some Asian Americans. This is partly due to higher rates of obesity and diabetes. Most people with a strong family history of heart disease have one or more other risk factors. Just as you can't control your age, sex and race, you can't control your family history. Therefore, it's even more important to treat and control any other risk factors you have.

Risk factors you can change:

Tobacco smoke

Smokers' risk of developing coronary heart disease is 2-4 times that of nonsmokers. People who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day have more than twice the risk of heart attack than people who’ve never smoked.

High blood cholesterol

As blood cholesterol rises, so does risk of coronary heart disease. Here's the lowdown on where those numbers need to be:





  • Total Cholesterol: Less than 200 mg/dL


  • LDL (bad) Cholesterol:



    • If you're at low risk for heart disease: Less than 160 mg/dL


    • If you're at intermediate risk for heart disease: Less than 130 mg/dL


    • If you're at high risk for heart disease (including those with existing heart disease or diabetes): Less than 100mg/dL






  • HDL (good) Cholesterol: 40 mg/dL or higher for men and 50 mg/dL or higher for women


  • Triglycerides: Less than 150 mg/dL




High blood pressure

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 several times.



Physical inactivity


An inactive lifestyle is a risk factor for coronary heart disease. Regular, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity helps prevent heart and blood vessel disease.

Obesity and overweight

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. But by losing even 10% from your current weight, you can lower your heart disease risk.

Diabetes mellitus

Diabetes seriously increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Even when glucose levels are under control, diabetes increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, but the risks are even greater if blood sugar is not well controlled. At least 65% of people with diabetes die of some form of heart or blood vessel disease.

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