In the United States, coronary heart disease (CHD) is the #1 cause of death for both men and women. Each year, more than 400,000 Americans die from CHD.
Certain traits, conditions, or habits may raise your risk for CHD. The more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to develop the disease.
You can control many risk factors, which may help prevent or delay CHD.
Major risk factors include:
- Unhealthy blood cholesterol levels. This includes high LDL cholesterol (sometimes called "bad" cholesterol) and low HDL cholesterol (sometimes called "good" cholesterol).
- High blood pressure. Blood pressure is considered high if it stays at or above 140/90 mmHg over time. If you have diabetes or chronic kidney disease, high blood pressure is defined as 130/80 mmHg or higher. (The mmHg is millimeters of mercurythe units used to measure blood pressure.)
- Smoking. Smoking can damage and tighten blood vessels, lead to unhealthy cholesterol levels, and raise blood pressure. Smoking also can limit how much oxygen reaches the body's tissues.
- Insulin resistance. This condition occurs if the body can't use its own insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that helps move blood sugar into cells where it's used for energy. Insulin resistance may lead to diabetes.
- Diabetes. With this disease, the body's blood sugar level is too high because the body doesn't make enough insulin or doesn't use its insulin properly.
- Overweight or obesity. The terms "overweight" and "obesity" refer to body weight that's greater than what is considered healthy for a certain height.
- Metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors that raises your risk for CHD and other health problems, such as diabetes and stroke.
- Lack of physical activity. Being physically inactive can worsen other risk factors for CHD, such as unhealthy blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, diabetes, and overweight or obesity.
- Unhealthy diet. An unhealthy diet can raise your risk for CHD. Foods that are high in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium (salt), and sugar can worsen other risk factors for CHD.
- Older age. Genetic or lifestyle factors cause plaque to build up in your arteries as you age. By the time you're middle-aged or older, enough plaque has built up to cause signs or symptoms. In men, the risk for CHD increases after age 45. In women, the risk for CHD increases after age 55.
- Family history of early heart disease. Your risk increases if your father or a brother was diagnosed with CHD before 55 years of age, or if your mother or a sister was diagnosed with CHD before 65 years of age.
Last updated February 11, 2013
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