Facts about cardiovascular disease
Cardiovascular disease includes a number of conditions affecting
the structures or function of the heart, including coronary artery disease and
vascular (blood vessel) disease. Cardiovascular disease is by far the leading
cause of death in the United States.
Coronary artery disease (narrowing of the arteries supplying
blood to the heart) causes about one million heart attacks each year. Even more
worrisome, 220,000 people with heart attacks will die before even reaching the
Research about cardiovascular disease risk factors suggests that
making even small lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of coronary artery
disease, heart attack, stroke and other serious cardiovascular conditions.
Are you at risk?
Risk factors are certain conditions that increase a person’s
risk for cardiovascular disease. Nonmodifiable risk factors are risk factors
that cannot be changed, while modifiable risk factors CAN be modified,
controlled, or treated.
The more risk factors you have, the greater your chance of
developing cardiovascular disease. In addition, higher levels of each risk
factor mean there is a higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease.
Nonmodifiable risk factors
- Increasing age. Cardiovascular disease is more likely to occur as you
get older. About 85 percent of people who die of coronary artery disease are
age 65 or older.
- Male gender. Men have a greater risk of heart attack than women.
- Menopause. After menopause, a woman’s risk of cardiovascular disease
- Family history. Your risk of cardiovascular disease increases if your
parents, brothers, sisters, or children have the disease, especially if male
relatives were less than age 55 when diagnosed, or female relatives were
less than age 65 when diagnosed.
- Race. The risk of cardiovascular disease is higher in African-Americans,
Mexican-Americans, American Indians, native Hawaiians, and some Asian-
Americans. This increased risk is partly due to higher rates of high blood
pressure, obesity, and diabetes in these populations.
Since you can’t change any of these risk factors, it is important to focus on the risk factors you CAN change.
Risk factor goals
You, along with support from your family and friends, can work
to achieve the following goals to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. If
you already have cardiovascular disease, you can follow these guidelines to help
prevent its progression.
Stop smoking. Smoking is the most preventable risk factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Smokers (including cigarette, pipe, and cigar smokers) have more than twice the risk of a heart attack than nonsmokers.
Smoking is also the biggest risk factor for sudden cardiac death. Even one to two cigarettes a day greatly increases the
risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardio-vascular conditions. Nonsmokers who are exposed to constant smoke also have an increased risk.