Coronary Risk Factors

When your physician told you that you had a heart attack, probably one of the first questions to cross your mind was “WHY ME?” Medical science has not yet discovered the answer to your question. Right now we cannot predict who will have a heart attack, nor do we know exactly why certain individuals have heart attacks and others do not. But even though we don’t have these answers, research has provided some clues about the occurrence of heart disease. For example, research has shown us that people with certain habits, attributes, and lifestyles have an increased risk of having a heart attack. These specific habits, attributes, and lifestyles are called “coronary risk factors”.

Now is the time for you and your health team to identify your risk factors and take steps toward modifying or eliminating the risk factors that you can control. Your goal should be to minimize your risk of future heart problems.

FAMILY HISTORY OF HEART DISEASE: Do you have close relatives (parents, grandparents, or siblings) who have had heart attacks, high blood pressure, or strokes?

MALE SEX: Males between the ages 35 and 55 have a greater risk than do women of the same age. After the age of 55, women quickly rise to the same risk level as men.

HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE: High blood pressure is called hypertension, and is defined as a blood pressure greater than 140/90.

CIGARETTE SMOKING: Smoking reduces oxygen in your blood and accelerates the development of plaque in your coronary arteries.

OVERWEIGHT: If you’re overweight, your heart has to work harder to pump blood through your body.

HIGH LEVELS OF BLOOD FATS: Elevated levels of cholesterol and triglycerides will predispose to earlier development of plaque in your coronary arteries.

DIABETES MELLITUS: Diabetes is an elevation of the level of sugar in your blood. Diabetes can damage your blood vessels and raise your blood cholesterol levels.

LACK OF EXERCISE: If you do little or no aerobic exercise, you may be more likely to have heart problems.

HIGH STRESS: When you’re under stress, your heart beats faster and raises your blood pressure.

Mid-Atlantic Surgical Associates: Cardiac, Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery and Medicine