Medically Reviewed by Gavin M. Leask, MD
Americans love numbers. We rate baseball players with a range of statistics. We rank golfers. We grade ourselves on everything from academics to attractiveness (“He’s a 9 out of 10.”)
Another set of numbers important to everyone are how much things we do (or don’t do) increases our risk of heart attack or heart disease – 200% (2x) to 600% (6x).
“It’s good to know how your lifestyle is affecting the possibility that you will suffer heart disease or die of a heart attack,” says McLeod Cardiologist Gavin Leask, MD. “The following list shows you which actions (or lack of) increase your heart risk.”
Obesity = 6x (6 times more risk of heart attack or disease compared to a person with a Body Mass Index of 25 or below). People who are overweight are also more likely to develop high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes – all of which are additional risk factors. Sadly, two-thirds of South Carolina residents are overweight or obese. What’s your BMI?
Diabetes = 3x. A person with this sugar/insulin-related disease has 3 times greater risk of dying of heart disease. As we noted above, obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are all interrelated as heart disease risks. Two-thirds of people with diabetes in South Carolina die of heart disease or stroke.
High Blood Pressure = 3x. Nearly two in five people in South Carolina suffer from this problem. One of the most significant risks of heart disease, blood pressure often can be controlled with medication, diet and exercise.
Smoking = 3x. Information about the increased risk from smoking is not new. In 1989, the American Medical Association officially announced the dangers to the heart of smoking. Yet, nearly 20% of South Carolina adults and high school students still smoke.
Couch Potato = 2x. Lack of physical activity roughly doubles the risk of coronary heart disease. Pushing back from your work space, and walking at a vigorous pace, can be just as effective at cutting your heart risk as robust exercise. Unfortunately, more than half of South Carolina’s residents are not engaging in even moderate exercise.
High Cholesterol = 2x. Four out of ten South Carolina residents have high cholesterol. In South Carolina we do like our fried foods and mac-and-cheese. Yet, increasing good menu choices – more vegetables and fruit, for example — will help you live longer and avoid heart disease.
Learn more about your personal heart risks with this Heart Risk Calculator from the American Heart Association.
FINAL THOUGHT: After reading this list are you concerned about your heart risk? Then, don’t hesitate to see a Heart Specialist for who can thoroughly test you to determine existing problems and discuss treatment options.
Sources include: McLeod Health, National Institutes of Health, American Heart Association, Journal of the American Medical Association, Patient.co (UK), American Heart Clinic, HealthCheckUSA, US Centers for Disease Control