BHealthy Blog

Understanding Your Risk for Heart Disease

The scary truth is that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. That’s why it is essential to be well informed and understand what factors make you vulnerable to heart disease.

Understand your risk.

Risk factors are the conditions that increase your risk of developing a disease. Risk factors are either modifiable, meaning you can take measures to change them, or non-modifiable, which means they cannot be changed.

Non-modifiable risk factors include:

  • Age. At 65 years and older, the risk of developing heart disease increases significantly.
  • Gender. Men have a higher risk of suffering from a heart attack than women. However, the heart attacks women do experience are often more severe than in men.
  • Heredity. Heart disease typically runs in the family. People with a significant family history of heart disease are at an increased risk for developing an illness themselves. 

Modifiable risk factors include:

  • High blood pressure. High blood pressure, or hypertension, can increase your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. If you have high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about positive lifestyle changes, and medication needed to control your blood pressure levels.
  • High cholesterol. Too much “bad” cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) can cause the arteries to become clogged with plaque. This typically results in a heart attack or an increased risk of developing heart disease. To lower your cholesterol, you should eat a heart-healthy diet, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Tobacco use. Cigarette smoking can damage the heart and blood vessels, which increases your risk for heart conditions such as atherosclerosis and heart attack. If you smoke cigarettes or e-cigarettes, talk to your doctor about smoking cessation to improve your heart health.
  • Alcohol use. Too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure and increase the levels of triglycerides in the blood. To reduce your risk of developing heart disease, moderate drinking– an average of one drink per day for women and one or two for men– should be practiced.
  • Stress. Stressful situations tend to raise your blood pressure and heart rate. If you are experiencing higher-than-average stress, consider self-calming techniques to improve your mental health, and reduce your heart disease risk.
  • Physical inactivity. Living a sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk of heart disease. Regular, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity is encouraged to decrease excess weight and improve your overall health.

Know the symptoms.

Since heart disease can encompass a wide range of cardiovascular issues, the individual symptoms you experience will depend on the type of heart disease you have. General symptoms include:

  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Chest pain or discomfort in the center or left side of the chest – or a feeling of pressure, squeezing, or fullness
  • Pain or discomfort in the upper body – like the arms, back, shoulders, neck, jaw, or upper stomach (above the belly button)
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing (while resting or being active)
  • Feeling sick to your stomach or throwing up
  • Stomach ache or feeling like you have heartburn 
  • Feeling dizzy, light-headed, or unusually tired
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat

Get a BHeart Healthy Screening.

Screening tests are an important assessment tool to determine if you are at risk for heart disease. That’s why Baptist Health offers BHeart Healthy Screenings to patients between the ages of 30 and 85 who have not had a previous diagnosis for coronary artery disease.

Your BHeart Healthy Screening will include:

  • CT Calcium Score (CT scan to look for signs of blocked heart arteries)
  • Laboratory Blood Tests:
    • Lipid Panel: Total Cholesterol, HDL, LDL, Triglycerides
    • Diabetes Testing: Hemoglobin A1C
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Carotid Artery Ultrasound Screening
  • Abdominal Aorta Aneurysm Ultrasound Screening
  • Blood Pressure Evaluation
  • Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Overview of results with Baptist Health Cardiovascular Specialist

Preventing heart disease is all about knowledge and early detection. If you are at risk for heart disease, call Baptist Health Healthline at (888) 227-8478 to schedule your BHeart Healthy screening.