Heart disease collectively refers to a range of conditions that affect the way your heart and circulatory system work. Also called cardiovascular disease, heart disease includes coronary and peripheral artery diseases, heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias), genetic heart defects (congenital heart disease), congestive heart failure, and more.
At Vein, Heart, and Vascular Institute, we want to help you avoid heart disease. Board-certified cardiologist Hesham Fakhri, MD, has extensive experience treating patients with heart disease and helping them prevent heart-related problems.
Some risk factors for heart disease aren’t under your control, such as age, genetics, ethnicity, and family medical history. But many risk factors and conditions that coexist with heart disease are modifiable, meaning you have the power to change them. Here are six you can take control of today.
1. High blood pressure
High blood pressure is also called hypertension and refers to an increased pressure in your blood vessels. Over time, this excess force against your blood vessel walls can weaken and damage your veins and arteries, leading to heart disease.
Fortunately, you can reduce your blood pressure with lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly (especially cardiovascular exercise, like jogging and walking).
2. High cholesterol
Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance that circulates in your blood. You need cholesterol for many bodily functions, but too much cholesterol, particularly LDL cholesterol, can increase your risk for heart disease.
High cholesterol is a risk factor because excess cholesterol can deposit on your blood vessel walls and clog them, leading to blood clots and weak vessels. Like hypertension, though, you can decrease cholesterol by eating a heart-friendly diet and engaging in daily exercise.
One of the most prevalent risk factors for heart disease, obesity is linked to several other factors that increase your risk for heart problems, including high blood fats, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and metabolic syndrome. Even being overweight, but not obese, increases your risk of heart disease. At this point, you probably aren’t be surprised to hear that diet and exercise can reverse obesity and excess weight.
Diabetes occurs when your body can’t produce enough insulin to remove sugar from your blood, or your body doesn’t respond to the insulin produced. This results in chronically elevated blood sugar, which can damage both your blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart and blood vessels.
People with diabetes often develop heart disease at a younger age than people without diabetes. They are also more likely to die from a stroke or heart attack than people without diabetes. Diabetes may require medical intervention to manage and cure, but some cases of diabetes (and prediabetes) can be treated with lifestyle changes.
You probably know that smoking can hurt your lungs. But what you might not hear about often is how smoking can hurt your heart and blood vessels. When you smoke, you put your body through a series of immediate and long-term physiological changes:
- Your arteries narrow, causing your heart to work harder
- Your blood fats and cholesterol increase
- The cells of your blood vessels become damaged
- Plaque builds up on your blood vessel walls
Quitting cigarettes and other nicotine products takes hard work, but the reduced risk of heart disease (and other health complications) is worth it.
6. Sedentary lifestyle
A lack of physical activity is a risk factor for the first four conditions on this list, as well as heart disease itself. Exercise strengthens your heart and makes it more efficient: It doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood throughout your body.
Regular exercise can also lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, fend off diabetes, and help you lose weight, all of which can reduce your risk of heart disease.
To learn more about heart disease or to schedule an appointment, call us at Vein, Heart, and Vascular Institute or use our online scheduling tool to request an appointment at our Tampa or Wesley Chapel, Florida, location.