Learning the risk factors of heart disease is the first step towards lowering your chances of having a heart attack, stroke or a related cardiovascular problem. Although you may have a genetic predisposition, there are many dietary and lifestyle changes you can implement to not only reduce the risk, but actually reverse the damage of heart disease.
The Major Heart Disease Risk Factors Can Be Found With a Simple Blood Test
Before we discuss what you can do to promote a healthy heart, let’s go over the 4 major risk indicators of cardiovascular disease. We are all well aware of one of the four, as high cholesterol is one of the most popular health topics these days. But you need to be aware of the fact that the other three are just as important, and often go overlooked. If you’re just focusing on cholesterol, you’re putting your health in jeopardy.
Here are four indicators that you may have a developing or current heart condition…
The first indicator is high cholesterol, specifically the LDL variety, which can clog your arteries and lead to a heart attack. Interestingly, only 20% of your body’s cholesterol comes from your diet…the other 80% is manufactured by your liver. So even if you follow a low cholesterol diet, you might still have high LDL, which is why you need to have your levels checked regularly.
Also, it’s not really the total you need to concentrate on, but rather the ratio of good cholesterol to bad cholesterol. You may have a total cholesterol over 200 mg/dl, which is considered high. However, if your HDL (good) levels are high, it’s much less of a concern.
You can read more about cholesterol and its effect on your heart here.
Just as important as cholesterol is triglycerides, or fats, which are directly influenced by what you eat, and are one of the major heart disease risk factors. Triglycerides thicken your blood, increasing the risk of clotting and blockage.
If your triglyceride levels are really high, your doctor may prescribe a medication called Lovaza, which is essentially a prescription fish oil. But in most cases you can simply change your diet and lower your triglycerdies.
You can read more about triglycerides and their effect on your heart here.
3.High Homocysteine Levels
Next there is homocysteine, an abnormal protein that can damage your arteries if not cleared out of your system properly. This risk of heart disease is caused by a lack of B Vitamins (Folic Acid, B6, B12) in your diet.
Most of us get an ample supply of B Vitamins, and needn’t worry too much about high homocysteine levels. However, vegetarians should be concerned about this condition, as B vitamins are found in high concentrations in meat products.
You can read more about homocysteine and how it affects the heart here.
4. Elevated CRP Levels
The last risk factor of heart disease is C Reactive Protein, known as CRP, which is a measure of inflammation in the blood. Studies show that CRP is a very accurate predictor of future heart problems, and may double your chances of having a stroke. Anti-inflammatories can treat elevated CRP levels.
You can read more about CRP and how it affects the heart here.
These are the four blood indicators you need to be concerned with, and all are important risk factors for heart disease. The next time you get a blood test, insist that your doctor also check your triglycerides, homocysteine and CRP levels in addition to your cholesterol…it could save your life!
How do you lower your risk of heart disease?
The first step is getting a blood test and checking the 4 major risk indicators we discuss on this page. That will give you a good indication of where you stand. High cholesterol on its own is not a major concern, but two or more of these indicators significantly increases your overall risk.
Next, try to incorporate as many of the dietary and lifestyle changes covered on this site as possible, especially if you have elevated levels of any of these indicators. Homocysteine and triglycerides in particular can typically be controlled with dietary modifications.
Try to improve your diet by limiting trans fats, fast foods, fried foods and refined sugar. All of these increase your risk of heart disease by causing buildup in your arteries over time. Incorporate Omega-3 fatty acids, a major heart health booster, via cold water fish or a fish oil supplement. Use extra virgin olive oil when cooking, as well as garlic…they can both lower cholesterol naturally.
Definitely start exercising regularly, at least 3-4 times a week, and get your blood flowing. This ensures that a fresh supply of blood is being circulated in your body, giving your cells the energy they need to function properly. Lack of exercise is one of the major risk factors heart disease.
Oftentimes we don’t get the nutrients we need from our diets, as manufacturing and processing methods deplete them before they even arrive at the market. As such you might want to supplement some of the important vitamins, minerals, Omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients you may be lacking.
Lastly, try to stop the bad habits. Smoking is one of the leading heart disease risk factors, second only to obesity. If you currently smoke, do whatever you can to quit and avoid second hand smoke as well.
Don’t drink excessively, as alcohol can cause cardiovascular problems. Try to reduce stress and anxiety as much as possible. Perhaps most importantly, keep your weight within recommended ranges. Obesity tops the list of risk factors for heart disease. The excess weight can really do some damage to your body!
You can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and other serious health conditions by following the recommendation on this site. A few small changes in your diet and lifestyle can mean the difference between life and death.
Before you begin any diet or exercise regimen, be sure to consult with your physician.