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Posted on in Heart Health

5 Top Risks for Heart & Vascular Disease That YOU Can Control

“Nearly everything in our lives has some effect on the risk of having a heart problem (cardiac) or disease related to our blood vessels (vascular),” says McLeod Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Fred Krainin. “The narrowing and hardening of arteries can lead to stroke, heart attack, kidney disease, diabetes or even dementia.”

Everyone is at risk for cardiovascular disease.  Some risk factors are beyond your control.  But others can be influenced by how we lead our lives.


Family History. If a parent, brother or sister has heart disease before age 55, your risk of heart disease is doubled.

Age. As we grow older, cardiovascular risk doubles about every 10-15 years, starting at age 45. 

Gender. In general, men are more at risk than women. After female’s menopause, the gender difference tends to fade.


Smoking.  The quickest improvement comes by quitting tobacco use. Smoking encourages the buildup of artery blocking gunk, called plaque. Quit smoking and, in less than a year, you cut your risk of heart attack in half. Carbon monoxide in smoke reduces the blood’s oxygen level, while nicotine raises blood pressure.

Blood Pressure.  Blood pressure that stays high can harm the heart and lead to clogged arteries.  High blood pressure can often be controlled by medication, diet and exercise.

What You Eat. Eating food high in fats – deep-fried fast food, for example – can speed the clogging of your arteries, leading to high cholesterol and blood pressure. Diets high in saturated fat cause 11% of stroke and 31% of heart disease around the globe. Using a lot of salt or drinking sodas with high sodium levels will also raise blood pressure levels.  For tips on healthy diets, click here.

Weight. Obesity leads to diabetes, which can lead to cardiovascular disease.  Overweight folks often get that way by eating a high fat diet and not exercising much.  There are a number of tests – like the Body Mass Index -- you can take to determine if you are overweight or obese.  But, frankly, that muffin top over your belt, wheezing after taking the stairs, and looking for a chair every time you enter a room are good indicators, as well.

Exercise. There is no magic to controlling your weight. No special diet works WITHOUT exercise.  Inactive people are twice as likely to develop cardiovascular diseases than people who exercise regularly. Walking is a very effective exercise for a healthy heart. No special clothes or equipment needed.  And 30-minutes a day can bring positive results.


Other factors that can increase your risk of clogged arteries are diabetes, stress and hypertension.  See your personal physician to learn about controlling these or any other risk factors discussed in this article.

To find a physician, click here.

Sources include:  McLeod Health, Society for Angiography and Interventions, World Heart Federation, National Health Service,, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, American Heart Association, National Institutes of Health

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services at McLeod Health. It should not be used for diagnosis or as a substitute for health care by your physician.
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