High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, and family history are all risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
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What are the major risk factors for heart disease? High blood pressure Dr. Amy Epps: Most common risk factor, number one would be high blood pressure. High blood pressure affects the arteries, it can damage the arteries long term, high blood pressure can cause your heart to have to work an overtime for years and years and years and eventually your heart gets out, it's just tired, it don't want to it any more pumping against the high pressure vessel system. So hypertension or high blood pressure is a very important risk factor, very important to know what your blood pressure is every time you go to the doctor, make sure you ARB all your blood pressure, for non-diabetics your top number or your systolic pressure should be 130 or less, for diabetics, your systolic pressure or your top number should be 120 or less. Now it'll be a little different for everyone but that's a good goal to just sort of keep in your head. Cholesterol Dr. Amy Epps: The second risk factor, very important is you need to know your cholesterol and not just your total cholesterol but your breakdown of your cholesterol. Cholesterol can be broken down into an LDL which I like to call lousy cholesterol, which is the bad cholesterol that clogs the arteries, HDL which is the healthy cholesterol which is a good protective type of cholesterol. And then there's there're triglycerides which are also damaging to the vessels as well. The reason why high cholesterol puts you at risk for heart disease is that's what clogs the arteries, cholesterol builds up in the arteries over time and that's what clogs the arteries progressively with time as well as that's what can rupture very acutely and cause the artery to shut down very abruptly as well. So you don't have to have a lot of cholesterol to have a heart attack, you could even a mild amount of cholesterol build up in your artery and have a heart attack just from that cholesterol, rupturing and blocking the vessel. Diabetes Dr. Amy Epps: The third risk factor, very important risk for heart disease is diabetes. When I see a patient with diabetes, in my mind I look at them already having a heart attack. I treat them that seriously so even if they haven't had a heart attack, I still look at them through that glance because diabetes is such a strong risk factor for heart disease. It damages, there's the aspects of the disease damage the blood vessels, make you more likely to deposit cholesterol inside your blood vessels, so they're very strong risk factor for heart disease. Smoking Dr. Amy Epps: Another risk is smoking; smoking is a huge risk factor for heart disease because it damages the arteries directly, can cause spasming of the coronary arteries on top of already diseased vessels and can cause a heart attack pretty abruptly. So smoking is another big risk factor and the final one, I think to keep in mind should I have given you about 5 total risk factors is family history. Family history Dr. Amy Epps: If you've had someone in your family in their, in their 30s or 40s or 50s or low 60s even who've had a heart attack already, then your risk is exponentially higher than someone who doesn't have it in the family, very strong risk factor even if you're a marathon runner and the best of health, if you have a family member especially a parent or an aunt or an uncle, also or siblings certainly who has already had heart disease heart attack and they're relatively young, then you need to get your risk factors checked down, you need to know your risk.