ProMedica Physicians cardiologist A. Vincent Songco, MD, shares information that you need to know to understand your risks for heart disease.
Heart disease remains the No. 1 cause of death for adults in the United States.
Most heart disease occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries around your heart. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol and calcium. As it grows, the plaque blocks blood flow to the heart muscle, which can lead to chest pain or angina.
Traditional risk factors include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Family history
Fortunately, many of these risk factors can be decreased through lifestyle modifications, including diet, exercise and smoking cessation.
If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, your main goal is to keep your number(s) within normal limits. If you are having trouble, your physician may prescribe medications.
Family history also plays an important role in your risk for heart disease. Having a positive family history, means you have a first-degree relative who was diagnosed with coronary artery disease at an early age. Your risk increases if you have a father or brother diagnosed before 55, or a mother or sister diagnosed before 65. Unfortunately, you cannot change your family history, but you can control your other risk factors.
Plaque can form in your arteries early in life and can worsen or improve depending on your lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly and avoiding tobacco can improve your overall heart health.